Beekeeping

Raw_Nature(5 OH)March 19, 2013

Hello!

I would like to raise my own bees for pollination, honey,etc.. I talked to my local beekeepers association and they reccomended the beekeeping book for dummies, go figure! Any other advice you beekeepers got for me?

Appreciate it,
Joe

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cousinfloyd

I'm a beekeeper and I also worked several years on the retail end of a beekeeping supply business, and from my experience I'd say a heavy majority of beekeepers, even the ones that don't admit their intentions are a money-losing hobby, lose money at beekeeping. In other words, you will very likely be able to buy entirely comparable honey to what you'd make for significantly less in dollar terms (even counting your labor for nothing.) That's not to try to talk you out of it. There's a lot to be said for beekeeping as a hobby, but think of it as a hobby you're going to put money into; don't think of it as anything like a little sideline business. Especially with just a few hives, it will take you a lifetime to gain enough experience to be able to foresee what the bees are going to do, what their needs are, and how to really manage them well. On a small scale and in a mixed landscape I tend to think pollination benefits from honeybees are grossly over-rated, but even if you can justify placing real value on the pollination, I'd still recommend you think of it as a money-losing hobby. In any case, pollination and honey will go hand in hand: if your bees are strong enough to do any significant pollination, they'll make honey, too.

Another word of advice: watch out for pet theories and personal biases, etc. The world of beekeeping is full of people that will tell you their special way of doing things is the way you have to do things. They're mostly very nice people, but they'll put far too much weight on things that don't have much basis.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 5:13PM
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mrsg47(7)

Cousinfloyd, I envy your knowledge about bees and Konrad as well. I'm getting to the point where I thought about keeping two small hives, but my hands are full with my trees. For pollination I have turned to Mason bees. I have 'condos' for them and planted rows of sedum which they love. They are very hard workers! Mrs. G

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 6:59PM
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Raw_Nature(5 OH)

Thanks cousin! I think it's worth it just to know exactly how your honey is processed,etc... I was thinking about making my own hive, and catching a swarm... Not to sure... This year I'm focusing about getting my plants situated then next year ill worry about the nitty gritty.. I'll differently watch my wallet...

Appreciate all the help,
Joe

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 9:58PM
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glib(5.5)

Pollination happens. If you have a flowerbed with some long flowering daisy types, some goldenrods in some unused space, the pollinators will be around. a pile of leaves will produce bumblebee habitat. really, all you need is something blooming at all times. a small bag of wildflower seeds, if you have some space, is a lot cheaper.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 10:24PM
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Raw_Nature(5 OH)

Glib:

It's far more than just pollination... Thanks anyways!

Joe

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 10:49PM
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canadianplant

IF youre using them just for pollination, look for mason bees. They are native in NA, they pollinate when its cloudy and cool and just need some hollow tubes (kept dry) for homes.

The real trick is getting them to stay (mason OR honey). The conservatory here brings in bugs all the time, and cant figure out why they dont stay. They have lots of plants, but a severe lack of food. Make sure there is lots of places where they can find good pollen. IMO natives are best, but to each his own.

If youre thinking of honey.... Ive heard conflicting stories (im interested as well, so ive been reading up a bit). More or less ive read what cousinfloyd said. Some people manage to turn a profit, or at least break even, but everyone has their own way...

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 7:06AM
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austransplant(MD 7)

I got the impression that Joe just wants a few hives in his backyard and is not viewing this as a money-making enterprise. I've got four hives in my backyard here in Maryland. There is a learning curve the first couple of years and you'll probably have to lay out a few hundred dollars in expenses. In your second year you should be able to get honey. We sell our honey at the county fair through our local beekeepers club. A couple of good years of a honey crop will pay for most of your prior expenses. The best advice I can give is to join your local beekeepers club and go the meetings and ask more experienced people to help you.

If I were just concerned with pollination of my fruit trees, I would not bother with honey bees, but would instead go for mason bees, as others have recommended. There is little expense or effort required with these and they are far more effective pollinators and have a short range, meaning that they will focus on your trees. Honeybees in contrast may completely ignore your few fruit trees if there is another major source of nectar nearby (i.e. within a two mile radius). Here in MD, for example, when the Black Locust is blooming, the honey bees prefer it and ignore everything else.

I really keep honeybees because it is a fascinating thing to do, though I do appreciate the honey.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 9:44AM
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Raw_Nature(5 OH)

Thanks for all your input! Ya, just a few beehives in the back, not trying to make a life savings.. Like the rest of beekeepers, it's more for a hobby.. I like honey as well! I'm not to interested in selling honey or anything.. I would rather keep it for family.. The whole reason behind being doing it yourself is knowing you have quality... With the pollination, I'm not concerned... I live next to woods and a open field, I have plenty if pollinators, it was just a thought! It's more for the raw honey and being closer with nature, money has no value to me... Anyways... You guys recommend any books?

Thanks,
Joe

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 12:48PM
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brookw_gw

Another thing to consider is finding a beekeeper to set up on your property and observe him and his operation before plunging into a huge commitment. I contacted my county extension service and found a list of beekeepers. After calling several of them, I found one who was interested in setting up a couple hives on my operation for free. He supplied everything, and I just keep an eye on things for him. He gets the honey but shares some with me. It's worked great for both of us. Be aware though that most beekeepers will charge you. Still, it's another alternative to consider.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 1:02PM
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austransplant(MD 7)

The best book on beekeeping in my opinion is:

The Beekeeper's Handbook by Diana Sammataro and Alphonse Avitabile

Make sure you get the 4th edition.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 3:19PM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

I think the way you learn is important in learning to keep bees. I found that watching various videos on You Tube helped me really see the bees in action. I read several books too, but just watching the process helped me get the "feel" for it.

I encourage you to learn to do whatever it is you want to learn. The beauty of learning something new is that you in turn can pass it down to your children and grandchildren (or whomever). What you learn as a child seems second nature as an adult. Learn to keep bees and then teach someone else!!!

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 4:28PM
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Raw_Nature(5 OH)

Thanks guys!

Brook - that is neat! Do you pay him or does he just get the honey? So he set it up on your property free of charge an he does all the work? Interesting... I have several of people around here that sell honey, an I few I even buy off of... I'll see what I can do...

Astransplant - thanks for the boom, that's what I was looking for!

MileHigh - yes, we think alike my friend! I would like to think I am wise for my years! Can never learn enough!

Greatly appreciate Everyone,
Joe

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 5:03PM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

I'm in it for 8 years now,..around 5 hives. Agree with the above,...it's a hobby and a hobby cost money, in a good year you'll make some money,..don't count labor, it's a lot of work if you want to do it right. Looks like I lost all bees this winter, [first time].

A jug of honey from a hobby keeper is worth every penny!

Here is a link that might be useful: Show & Tell your Hive

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 9:56PM
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mrsg47(7)

Oh Konrad this is very bad news. I am so sorry you lost your bees. Too cold? Mrs. G

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 10:23PM
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wildforager(5b-WI)

I've heard from lots of other beeks its been a hard winter for hives. I went into it with 20 hives and I'm down to 9. With all that winterizing I saw Konrad do in that other thread I would seriously doubt that he lost bees to the cold. Mites have been pretty bad from what I hear.

Better luck this year,
Little John

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 1:08AM
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Kippy(SoCal zone 10. Sunset Zone 24)

Bees.....

I know they are one of the "new" things to have for people with small orchards and gardens. Can anyone explain why?

My dad started with bees back in the 70's through the 90's-a few hundred hives. We processed the honey, comb, pollen and sold it. Did the various placements for flavors. Kept bees on a couple dozen large ranches and a few at home. A wildfire burnt up most of the business and old age took care of the rest. But it is a lot of work for that honey (and money)

And bees sting....nothing like taking a drive in your car with a few dozen angry bees. Or processing honey in your kitchen with them (we had a separate processing building but they still followed us to the house)

I am happy to buy a very expensive bottle of local honey from a local bee keeper, cause I know how much work that took and am thankful some one else did it!

(we interplant companion plants for our veggies now)

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 1:18AM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

Thank you MrsG47
I haven't opened any to thoroughly investigate, ...wait for a warm day.
My guess, winter started early and hard, from mid Oct. to mid January,..3 month without one day above freezing. Bees cluster up for too long and starve. Hardly any day's of sunshine, it's so important, then the hive warms up, even when cold, sunshine warms up the black plastic, bees get active, move around and eat.

I always check for varroa mites, ..haven't done any treatment the last two years because I simply couldn't find any. This was confirmed by the health of the bees last year, every hive have produced allot of honey like never before.

This post was edited by konrad___far_north on Thu, Mar 21, 13 at 1:43

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 1:40AM
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brookw_gw

Joe, it works great for both of us. He does not charge me, and he gets the honey. I get my crops pollinated. It's good for him because I have a great diversity of assorted flowers for his bees. Here in corn and bean country, most acreage is a monoculture. I have woods, an orchard of assorted trees, 3 ponds, a creek, berries of all kinds, a 4 acre vegetable patch, and a huge planting of bulbs, bushes, wildflowers, and herbs--everything a bee could want.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 4:47PM
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