It’s been a while since I posted the status of our bees. Recently we decided as a family we needed to move them out of our backyard. It was a hard decision because we really liked them and our daughter Amelia really enjoyed looking at them and it has been fun to teach her about them. We kind of felt like we failed as beekeepers.
There were a couple of reasons why we got rid of them. First, our small backyard made it really difficult to go outside and be able to enjoy it without feeling like we were getting in the way of the bees, the hive had six boxes and with all of those bees, we felt like we couldn’t use a large portion of our backyard.
Second, McKay, Amelia, and our dog Winston got stung a couple of times. This is normal but it wasn’t until McKay would get stung every time was when he was mowing the lawn, I guess they don’t like lawn mowers. Result of getting stung a couple times he had a severe allergic reactions that left his entire arm red and swollen. Amelia didn’t have any bad reactions, thank heaven. Our dog Winston got stung once and was so traumatized by it he wouldn’t go outside because of it. We have a wimp dog.
Third, because we have a small backyard, they were getting a little overwhelming, more aggressive (that’s normal as the hive gets bigger and they produce more honey) and we didn’t want our daughter to get hurt.
So after housing them for almost five months in our backyard we had our beekeeper come and move them to a different location. I learned a lot. We felt like our garden, flowers, and all of our neighbors gardens benefited from our bees. We felt that we would feel more comfortable having bees with a larger backyard where they wouldn’t be in the way of our swing set, and gate, and garden.
I compiled the most common questions we got asked while we had our beehive and asked our Beekeeper to answer them, because he’s the expert. I hope in doing this you can decide whether having a hive on your property is going to be a good fit for you and your family. Like I mentioned above, we loved our experience, but felt with our small backyard with
50,000 bees, they were kind of taking over the backyard. The worst thing would be to spend a lot of money, time and energy getting your bees and feeling like it’s not a right fit for you. So read below.
1. What are some of the common misconceptions about bees and beekeeping? The biggest misconception I’ve experienced is confusing bees with wasps. Which makes people concerned that they or guests to their home may be in danger of being harassed or stung by the bees. Because they are always seeing wasps around picnic food and worry that if there’s a whole hive of bees near by there will be many more pests in their yard. But of course bees are not like wasps who seek meats and other things you have on the table.
2. What are steps to acquiring bees? 1st learn about beekeeping and what equipment you’ll need to get started and how to manage your hive and the pests and diseases they will encounter and how to manage them so they don’t weaken the hive. There are classes available in your local area as well as a lot of information online. It helps if you can find an experienced beekeeper to mentor you as well. It’s best to start a new hive in the spring, usually by purchasing a spring package or nucleus hive. Then the hive has time to grow and put away stores for the winter. Be cautious in buying used equipment without a hive in it. If the hive died there may be a reason. Some diseases you can’t get rid of and to spend money on a hive you might loose can be expensive. 2nd find a source of bees you need to order in February or early March as well as procuring the equipment you’ll need to set up your hive and take care of it.
3. What are the tools and supplies are needed to get started? You need a hive which includes 3 deep or 4 medium supers with 10 frames with foundation, top cover, inner cover, bottom board (screened is preferable). Bee hat with veil, gloves, hive tool, smoker, bee brush, inline feeder, squirt bottle.
4. What are benefits and cons of having bees? Some of the benefits are your yard and most of the neighborhood will experience better pollination in trees and gardens and flowers. You can harvest excess honey over what the hives needs to survive. Cons you may lose your hive to winter cold and or disease (can be costly). There is the possibility if getting stung. The bees want to divide and swarm, divide into two hives. You have to learn how to manage that impulse.
5. How do you know if your family and property are a good fit for honey bees? Sometimes that’s hard to know when you have no experience with bees and what to expect. I suggest finding an experienced beekeeper and have him help evaluate your property as to where to place the hive and ask questions. There are beekeepers like myself who will let you host a hive of theirs and do the management of the hive. If the bees become a problem the beekeeper can move the hive and your done, no financial loss or worry. If you decide you enjoy having them there and want take over he can sell you the hive and bees and you take over management of the bees. A nice win-win arrangement.
6. How much honey can I expect from one hive? It varies on a lot of factors like everything in agriculture. Weather by how wet or dry the season is. Where you able to manage the swarm instinct. I’ve had as much as 8 gallons from a hive and some weaker hives I didn’t harvest any and left it all for them to survive the winter. So on average 4 gallons or so has been my experience.
7. Are honey bees going go attack my family? Bees generally don’t attack you unless provoked. If you leave them alone they will leave you alone. So I have kept bees in subdivision back yards with only the occasional sting usually because you stepped on one. But you need to be aware of the Africanized honey bees that are causing problems in the southern states where winters are very mild. They tend to be a more aggressive and will chase you further than honey bees. I would be less likely to keep bees in a suburban neighborhood if I were in an area where Africanized bees are known to be. Africanized bees don’t do well in the colder winter regions of the country.
8. What do you do with the beehives in the winter? Some people don’t do anything during the winter and the bees will survive just fine by clustering up together for warmth. I do cover my hives with tar paper. Which acts as a wind barrier and does absorb the sun’s warmth when the sun does shine. I will also feed them fondant sugar patties in the early spring months to make sure they don’t run out of food before spring. Which is when most hives die.
9. How much money does it cost to get started? Depends how much work you are willing to do to assemble parts of the hive equipment. An assembled painted hive will run from $240 up to $500 depending on what type of wood and extras you want. The equipment you need to manage the hives hive tool, bee brush, spray bottle, smoker,gloves, hat and veil can range from around $90 on up depending on quality and style.
10. How many bees are in a hive? Any where from 3-5 thousand in a new package to over a hundred thousand in a strong established hive at its peak during the foraging season.
11. Is it required to get permission from neighbors or the city to have bees? It varies by city. You need to check the ordinances of your local city, but neighbors is always a good idea to let them know you are getting them and why and what the benefits are for them having bees pollinate their yard. It always helps to give them a little honey to sweeten the deal.
12. I don’t have a big backyard, can I still have bees? Yes but be aware that the bees need some space to land and takeoff. It gets a little busy, so as long as they have room to land and take off and not bother you or your family . Then your good to go. They don’t need a lot of room maybe 15 feet in front of the hive. You will hardly notice them other than in that 15 feet in front of the hive.
13. What got you started in beekeeping, and what has it meant to you? I am gardener and I used to love going out under my cherry tree in my front yard and listen to the bee symphony in my tree. It was a buzz with bees. A few years ago it was amazingly quiet. I then heard about the decline of bees across the country. It was quite alarming to experience what I was reading about in my own yard. I then learned I could get my own hive and in the process in my own way help out the bigger problem. I have become fascinated by them and now have 15 hives spread out across the city where I live. My small contribution to helping.
14. Explain to me the different bees in a hive. Their three different bees that make up the population of a hive. The queen (female) there is only one in the hive. Her sole purpose is to lay all the eggs and the future of the hive depends on her. The worker bee (female) comprises the majority of the hive. The progress to different duties as the age. Starting as housekeeping bees cleaning first their own cell after they are born as well as others preparing for another egg to be laid. They also clean and maintain the hive. They then start caring for the new larva and feeding them. They also groom and feed the queen and drones. They cool the hive if it gets to hot. They eventually forage for nectar and pollen to feed those new young and nursery bees that stay in the hive and store food for the winter. They protect the hive from intruders ie wasps, ants, people, raccoons, mice, bears, skunks. store food for the winter. The drone ( male) sole usually 5 to 10% of the population of the hive. Their only purpose is to mate with new virgin queens. There’s a mating area near the hive they go to daily and wait for the new queens to arrive and after mating once die. The worker bees then kicks them out in the winter because the serve no purpose during the winter and the hive can’t afford to feed a non performing hive member.
15. What is the best location for a beehive? I’ve found the best place is sunny all day or at least in the morning and most the day. Bees generate an amazing amount of moisture and the sunnier it is the less problems they have with some of the diseases from mold and bacteria. And during the winter there is condensation problems to be concerned with. So sun is good. Protection from wind is also good especially during the winter.
I hope this helped you to understand the great benefits of bees. McKay and I have decided that the next year or two we’ll try getting a beehive and putting it on his family’s cabin property, where they will have lots of room to buzz around. If you have any questions, or comment leave one below.
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