Friday, February 26, 2016

Tips for Aspiring Beekeepers

Last year was our first year keeping bees. We did pretty well (knock wood) and made it through winter with three out of three hives. We have two hives of Italian bees, and one of Carniolan.

We had four hives at the end of summer, but lost one to robbing in the late fall. Italian bees tend to rob a lot, and I learned from the experience, so won't let it happen again.

A number of people are interested in getting into bees it seems, so I put together this list of tips for the aspiring "beek."

In no particular order:

1) Order your supplies/hive components in late fall. This will allow you to assemble and paint etc. with plenty of time. If you haven't ordered things yet, do it right now, this minute.

2) Plan on having at least two hives. That allows you to compare them and their progress, which will help ensure your success.

3) Order your bees in Dec/Jan, depending on your location. Don't wait until spring when bee supply houses are crazy busy. Again, do it now if you haven't done it already.

3) Get at least one good book (I liked Beekeeping for Dummies.)

4) Watch videos on YouTube! You can't watch too many, really.

5) Join a local beekeeping club, take a class, see if you can find a local mentor. They will be invaluable when you have questions and need to see things hands-on.

6) Having done both, I suggest buying a nuc. Packages are slightly cheaper, but nucs will put you farther ahead in less time, and are more than worth it.

7) Plan your apiary location based on local weather. You want some basics: facing east/southeast, easy to work around, raised to keep predators at bay (skunks and the like). Far better to get the location right the first time than have to move the bees.

8) Learn when your local main nectar flow is. Ideally, get your bees well established before it is over, if you can.

9) Learn about what trees and plants provide nectar in your area. You'll want to think about planting some (especially trees) if you can.

10) There are a lot of good online groups and forums about bees, many of which are filled with helpful people. But also, be aware of the adage "Ask ten beekeepers a question and be prepared for at least twelve answers."

Good luck to you! I have found this a wonderful project, and bees fascinate me.