Tips/resources for raising Bees.
July 22, 2013 11:50 AM   Subscribe

My Fiance and I will be raising bees. I have a few questions, but mainly would like to hear input on tips/tricks and resources that you have used. Any books, online resources, preferred equipment, and ANY tips/lessons learned you have.

Our location/back story:
I have wanted to have bees for some time and Ms. Device has recently started a garden(I say started, as I have the green thumb and keep the stuff alive), so I managed to talk her into bees using the "but they pollinate your garden!" and "I have local flowering allergies, so the local honey helps" (and also "NATURRRE"). I am not allergic to bees(only pollen, dust, cats, etc). I have been stung a number of times, but had no severe reaction.

We live about 10 minutes from a major city,in a suburb, but are directly next to a nature preserve and quite a bit of flora. Honey bees are legal here (and only require a free registration with the county every 3 years) .

I do want to harvest honey from these, though mainly for personal use(though I may sell/gift some if it)

What time of year is it best to start a colony? Is it to late for me now? (We live in the South East United States.

What books or online resources do you recommend?

Any prefered equipment (smoker, Bee hive brands, etc)?

General Tips/tricks?

Any help is greatly appreciated. I will be around for any follow up questions (I'm sure I missed important details)
posted by Twain Device to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
What time of year is it best to start a colony? Is it to late for me now?

Pretty much, yeah. April is when I'd do it. Assuming you could even find a package of bees now, they wouldn't be able to build themselves up enough to last the winter. (You COULD buy an established hive at this point in the year but those are hard to come by.)
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:54 AM on July 22, 2013

If you are near the city start looking for beekeeping classes. Seriously. Google: Beekeeping yourcityname. Many extension services though universities offer such things.

the reason I say this is there are a lot of semi-professional beekeepers who HATE amateur beekeepers because of the many serious mistakes and poor hive upkeep that goes along with it. So I would recommend doing something more than reading a book, or getting some tips. You are undoubtedly not alone in your area. Tap into the local community and find people already doing it so you can learn hands on. Book learning is great, but it pales next to hands-on experience and people you can access directly.
posted by edgeways at 11:58 AM on July 22, 2013 [6 favorites]

Best answer: But! That's great, because it gives you time to accumulate equipment and learn your stuff. Here is a guide put together by my old beekeeping teacher.

Other good blogs I read include:

Linda's Bees

Honeybee Hive

Diary of an Incompetent Beekeeper

I also just began subscribing to Bee Culture and American Bee Journal.

And, I agree that a class would be great.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:59 AM on July 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Edgeawys, Ms. Device has required me take classes. I like the idea and we have found a group near by that offers them. So I will certainly be attending some of those.
posted by Twain Device at 12:02 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am not a beekeeper, but my municipality just legalized beekeeping about a month ago after several months' debate. I attended the city council meetings and so was exposed to a lot of discussion. Our licensing requires that beekeepers take a class and maintain Dept. of Ag. certification. A class is probably a really good idea. (On preview, I see you're already convinced)

At one of the meetings I asked a guest speaker how much honey a single hive would produce annually. His answer was that it depends, but maybe sixty pounds.
posted by jon1270 at 12:03 PM on July 22, 2013

Warre hives.
posted by sonascope at 12:49 PM on July 22, 2013

Best answer: N'thing your local association for a couple of reasons:

- you'll get tuned into the calendar for the local nectar flows. It may be that there's a big enough autumn flow to get some buildup before winter hits, but this is a sort of chancey.

- you'll find out who has nucs, queens and maybe complete hives for sale

- classes, and whatnot. Also deals on equipment. If you intend to harvest honey, many associations have extraction equipment you can rent for a pittance. You can also get discount subscription rates to the bee magazines. I'd recommend you read both (ABJ and Bee Culture) for a year. There's a lot of overlap, but they have slightly different vibes and you can probably drop back to one subscription after that.

- there's a wealth of local information waiting to be tapped, and staying in touch with other folks in your immediate area can be very useful for figuring out if your problem is everyone's problem.

Regarding equipment...I got started with a kit from Kelley Bees which included a couple of deep bodies, frames, foundation, smoker, fuel, veil/helmet/jacket combo, gloves, feeder, hive tool and a couple of books. There are startup kits like that available from a variety of sources online. I've since gone foundationless.

I'd spend the remainder of this year getting ready, and plan on getting started in the early spring. If at all possible, I'd highly recommend purchasing a nuc (frames with bees, brood and a laying queen) from someone in your area instead of a mail-order package. By then, you'll have made plenty of contacts including, hopefully, a local mentor who can step you through your first inspections. You can also use the time to explore the different hive types and approaches to beekeeping (like the Warre hive mentioned by sonascope above). Your association is likely to strongly favor bog-standard Langstroth hives, but don't let that deter you from looking at the other designs and methods out there.
posted by jquinby at 12:53 PM on July 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

(I'm also in the southeastern US if you want to chat via e-mail, btw)
posted by jquinby at 12:54 PM on July 22, 2013

GOOD FOR YOU! I am in my third year of beekeeping and have thoroughly enjoyed, felt defeated by it, learned a great deal from it and overall am so happy to have made the decision to keep bees.

I agree that despite your temperate location, you should wait until the spring, and this is good! This gives you all of the fall and winter to educate yourself through various means on beekeeping.

This is a cool place for additional education resources.

Also, join the Beemaster's Forum for message boards on just about everything bee related. It is also worth checking out their Facebook group.

A lot of folks get equipment from Mann Lake, which is great and they offer free shipping!
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 12:59 PM on July 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

My mother is crazy active with her local county beekeepers association. They are truly the path for the amatuer beekeeper to get going. She does everything from teaching classes, to helping people pick out queens, showing folks how to make supers, and generally being a gateway into the world of beekeeping.

If you're near Knoxville, message me and I can get you her information. Seriously, these local beekeeping associations, or at least the three counties near my mom, are delighted to help get folks started with the bees and will do everything to help you out. On the flip side of the coin, they'll also do almost anything to help you out of the beekeeping life if you discover it's just not for you.
posted by teleri025 at 2:37 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses everyone. These are some great resources.

I am located in Nashville, and there appears to be a very active Beekeeping community here but Knoxville is certainly not too far away, so thank you for the info teleri025.
posted by Twain Device at 2:44 PM on July 22, 2013

IANABeekeeper, but I have friends who are and I thoroughly enjoyed the book, Letters From the Hive. Hopefully you will too.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:51 PM on July 22, 2013

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