OT- Bee keeping!

kasha77November 15, 2011

Hi Folks! I've been wanting to start raising bees for years now. Hubby agreed that this spring will a great time, so I'm studying and hoping to find someone close by to mentor me. Anyone out there raising bees? I also read a post on here of someone who had angels trumpets that his bees visited, and he said all of his bees died. He didn't have the dead bees tested to see why. I am also concerned about the possibility of toxicity of honey that is made from brugs- anyone have any thoughts about this? My brugs were covered with honey bees this fall, they loved them! Any thoughts are appreciated!

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I raised bees off and on for many years. I sold the hives in 2006, when we sold the family farm. At that time I had 24 hives.

Your best bet is probably to contact the North Carolina Beekeepers Association. (Are you in NC?) http://www.ncbeekeepers.org

They have county chapters, which have meeting and contact information. You can often buy hives and equipment from members at reasonable prices. Hopefully, you can also find a mentor.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2011 at 6:45PM
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This same question was brought up somewhere else. Honey produced from bees feeding on brugs and dats is not toxic. I have a few friends that have apiaries and produce their own honey but they're all in MD. Isn't there a forum on GW about bee keeping?

    Bookmark   November 16, 2011 at 1:47PM
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Hi Snooker-
We actually attended our first meeting with a local chapter of beekeepers- some folks were sleeping, others were eating. No one recognized us as newcomers. They spent the whole time quietly sitting there while one man (the chairman) said he couldn't keep doing everything there all by himself. No discussion of bees at any time. Felt like I was in Hooters ville! (No offense to anyone!))We got up and left half way through. I felt very disappointed, and won't be going back again! I've inquired at several bee forums and haven't gotten any real info, that's why I posted here, because you all know how dangerous Brugs and Dats are. I'm going to contact the NC entomologist lab in Gastonia and ask them about it. I'll let you know when I find out! Thanks guys!

    Bookmark   November 16, 2011 at 5:14PM
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I have found that bee keepers to be very enthusiastic and helpful. I have a couple of hives and enjoy them a lot. I think you just happened to find a bunch of duds. One on one they would have probably talked your ears off.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2011 at 10:35PM
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I'm with Bill on this one. The local meetings may not be worth your time, but I am certain there is someone nearby that would be happy to help you out. I have a couple suggestions for using the association, but you may need to expand your circle beyond the local county group to follow through. Check the state association web site.

1) The more active associations offer beekeeping courses. 2) Sometimes the association or an individual member will form a group to purchase package bees. 3) Often there will be someone that manufactures hive components. 4)The people that run those activities can be excellent sources, and there may be a newsletter that points to some of the above.

Beyond the association there are other sources. The state agriculture department will have an apiary inspector for your area. The inspectors can be a good source of information. In my experience, they are easy to talk to, and they know every beekeeper in the area.

Finally, you can check the local stores and farmers markets. If the beekeeper is not present, the phone number will be on the package.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2011 at 12:33AM
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Thank you Bill and Snooker for the encouragement. I registered for a beginners beekeeping class over in the next county in Jan. (None being held in mine) After this course I can take a state test to become certified. During the course I will be handling a real bee hive and collecting honey. I can't tell you how excited I am! And yes- I'm sure I will eventually find a very knowledgeable beek who will take me under his/her wing and mentor me- I can't go it alone- especially with all that could go wrong with bees. Bill- do you have a lot of Brugs? Are you concerned about the honey from them being toxic? I've emailed a lab in my area to pose that question. If it means not raising brugs because of their toxicity, I won't raise bees. Brugs are way easier! :) By the way- do you two raise bees treatment free? I'm concerned about pesticides and am really considering an IMP approach.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2011 at 6:57AM
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Wishing you all the luck Kathy! I think bee keeping is so wonderful. Wish I had the land to do this, but with my small lot, it is illegal to have hives.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2011 at 8:52AM
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I suspect that maintaining colonies without chemicals might be difficult. In years past (last century), I never used chemicals, and seldom had problems, but recently that has changed. There are routine preventative measures that are recommended. The link below describes the potential problems, and recommended controls. In practice, the treatments to maintain a healthy colony are fairly easy to apply. You will hear about that in your beekeeping course.


    Bookmark   November 17, 2011 at 9:12AM
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It will be very interesting to get a report on what you find about toxicity. There is little doubt that brug nectar and pollen will contain the alkaloids that make the plant dangerous. However, I do not see bees visiting my brugs, of course, I only have a few, and even fewer flowers.

As you have observed, bees will visit brugs, so while I suspect they will avoid brugs when possible, they will visit if there is no alternative nectar source.

Nonetheless, I don't think toxic honey will be a problem for your honey production. As you will discover, the honey you take from the colony will come from the "supers" you put on the hive during the main honey flow in your area. I think you will find that the bees will not visit the brugs during that time, even if the brugs are flowering.

The more interesting question will be what happens to the bees themselves. Once bees start visiting a flower type, they tend to focus only on that flower. In that case, it is possible that the bees visiting the brugs might be poisoned. Also, as the colony prepares for winter, honey will be stored in the hive body. To survive the winter, the colony will probably need around 40 pounds of stored honey. If a portion of that honey contains alkaloids, the bees might be intoxicated enough that they won't behave properly, and the colony will fail.

Let us know what you find.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2011 at 10:22AM
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I had 38 Brug plants beside my bees. I really doubt that the bees will make toxic honey from Brugs. They visit many other flowers that are deadly poison, like foxglove, with no ill effects. I'll be able to tell you for sure when I try my honey from beside the Brugs. My bees visited the Brug blossoms but they aren't their favorites.
I don't medicate my bees. I did loose one hive last spring but that comes with the turf. I just bought another package of them and set them up. Don't get into bees to make money, though, as it is very unprobable.
A lot of ladies are getting into beekeeping. Most people are afraid of getting stung but it isn't a big deal. It stings a little for a few minutes but not like a yellow jack or a hornet, though. I got crazy and opened up my bees when it was getting ready to rain. Not a good idea and I knew better. I just had a vail on and was in a teashirt. They got me about eight times before I could get the hive back together. It didn't hurt much but since I haven't ever gotten stung much, the stings itched for a week or so. If you get stung a few times, you don't get the itching any more. I think having bees is a lot of fun. You will really enjoy it.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2011 at 5:59PM
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Snooker- that website is AWESOME! I need some quiet time to be able to read through it all. I would like to buy 2 nucs and be able to set up 2 hives this spring. I had hundreds (maybe thousands) of visiting bees - like one every 6 inches, in all of my brug flowers. They loved the pollen. They were so busy working, they were constantly bumping into me and never threatened me once. So they belong to someone's hive, I wonder how that will affect them. I am more focused on hive health and haven't really thought of the honey- I was told not to even think of harvesting in the first year. I want what's best for the bees! Have you heard of sifting powdered sugar on the bees and in between the frames to combat varroa mites? It's supposed to encourage bees to clean themselves more thourghly and remove the mites. I've been watching this older gentleman on you tube-
OJ Blount -
he uses natural ways to promote his beekeeping. Check it out!
Thank you Eloise- it's been a dream of mine for years!
Bill- I was wondering how the bee stings are- I'm allergic to yellow jackets but not sure about honey bees. Guess I'll have to go buy that epi pen now. ($150 for 2!) I would love to work amongst the bees with just a veil, it get's hot here in NC! I'm in a tank top and shorts all the summer. I can't see me in total cover up for this! I have also decided to go with the medium frames because of the weight of them when they are full of honey. I don't want to depend on my husband to lift them every time I have to look into the hives. Well guys, thank you so much for all of your great info and suggestions. (wish you all lived nearby!) I'd like to keep in touch and see how things are going for you in the spring if that's ok!

    Bookmark   November 17, 2011 at 8:36PM
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On the question of toxicity, I fully agree with Bill that any extracted honey will be completely safe. The issue of toxic compounds is more theoretical than practical. I have limited experience with brugs, but I suspect that what you have observed is the answer. The bees probably visit brugs primarily for the pollen. They may not even be able to reach the nectar, without the help of gravity. If you want to read more about nectar production in Daturas take a look at: http://ijprb.com/Vol%2003%20(1)/05%20agnes%20farkas%20et%20al.pdf. If that doesn't put you to sleep, you can follow up on some of the literature cited. The article I linked is dated 2011, so the citations are up to date. The most relevant article is probably Detzel & Wink.

The issue of chemical treatments is a matter of personal choice. There are a number of non-chemical approaches, including sugar dusting. That technique was described in the American Bee Journal in 2000. Here is an article on the technique that may supplement your video: http://www.westsoundbees.org/beekeeping_articles_sugar.htm
Whatever non-chemical approach you use you will probably want to install a varroa screen to improve the effectiveness of your treatment.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2011 at 10:38PM
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