Beekeeping 101: Getting Started Part 1—The Bees

April 28, 2012

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When it comes to raising honeybees, there’s plenty of buzz out there. Before you get started, be sure that you are ready to handle the task.

Read up on the pros and cons, including costs. Once you’ve done that, get started! Here are some preliminary planning considerations regarding where to place your apiary and what your bees will need.

Know The Laws

Be sure to check with your local laws. Your county or municipality may have restrictions on beekeeping, such as how many hives you may have (which can serve to provide a means for controlling bee diseases). There may even be an ordinance prohibiting beekeeping. In many sates, there is a regulation that requires beekeepers to register their apiary locations and pay a small annual registration fee.

Beyond the laws, it’s important to make sure that your neighbors are comfortable with and not seriously opposed to your keeping bees in the community. Find out if anyone has serious allergy issues—so serious that they would need to visit a medical facility if stung.

The Bee’s Path

We use the term “beeline” for a reason. Bees will take the quickest path from their food source to the hive. Sometimes, this results in disturbing humans or animals and pets. Also, bees defecate in flight on their way to food and water. This can stain car finishes and leave colored spots on everything below. If the bees will be flying across a pathway where people walk, consider installing fencing or tall plantings near the hives to encourage the bees to gain altitude quickly.

Location, Location, Location

Bees don’t like to be too hot or too cold. We’ll talk about building a hive in another post, but be sure to face the hive toward open country and where the entrance will receive plenty of sunlight.

If the hive is placed in sunlight, the bees will be more encouraged to leave during the winter. However, some beekeepers warn that placing the hive in a south-facing direction can warm the hive too quickly. This means that during cold months the bees will be deceived by the warmth and fly out into the freezing air and die.

Also, place your hives in a sheltered area. Try to avoid hilltops, as they tend to be windy. Also, avoid low spots that hold cold air for longer periods. Be sure that your hive area doesn’t have flooding issues so that you can always access the apiary.

As well as sunlight, bees need water every day of the year. Is water accessible?

Bees also need nectar and pollen. Will you have to feed the bees to ensure their survival? This brings us to food sources . . .

Know Your Flowers

Bees make their honey from nectar. This can be found in plants such as white clover, asters, dandelions, maple trees, citrus trees, etc. After some time, you will come to recognize when the heavy nectar flows occur and when the nectar flow is scarce. Be sure to use this information when calculating the honey output that you will receive at the end of the year.

Before owning bees, make sure that you provide them with a safe, natural habitat. Pesticides on flowers are a major cause of death for honeybees. Be sure that no large areas around you are being treated with commercial insecticides. If a worker bee is not killed on site by the poison, it is possible for her to bring it back to the hive, killing the other bees and even the queen.

Now that you know what your bees need, find out what you—the beekeeper—will need for clothing and supplies.

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Comments

I have honey bees living

By Tom Osterried

I have honey bees living under wood siding in a old house that must be torn down. Is it possible to relocate them to a commercially built bee hive, & will they stay there?

Yes, bee hives can be moved

By Almanac Staff

Yes, bee hives can be moved successfully. Here is a helpful article about moving bees:

http://agdev.anr.udel.edu/maarec/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Moving_Bees.pdf

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