Spring is Here!

Today we spotted bees bringing in pollen for the first time this season! We went into winter with 15 hives, and lost 3. This is below the average loss for this area, so we are pretty happy about it. Hopefully the remaining 12 will build up quickly so we can replace the hives that didn’t make it.

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At the Hive Entrance

Hiveentrance1While it is important to do regular inspections of your bee hives, you can also learn a lot about the state of the colony just by sitting and closely observing the front of the hive and entrance. Observing the hive from the outside minimizes the disturbance that occurs inside when they are opened up for an inspection. It is also a good way to do a “quick check” of the hive if you are pressed for time. Additionally, it is enjoyable to just sit and spend some time with my bees without having to interrupt their daily work!

While watching the hive entrance, the first thing I take note of is the reaction of the hive to my standing near them. A normal hive will take little or no notice of me, and will continue with its normal activities. If the guard bees approach me, or act in an aggressive manner, it means that there is a problem with the colony that should be investigated. It could be that problems with the queen are making them more “grouchy”, or that night time intruders such as skunks or raccoons are causing the hive to become more defensive. Scratch marks near the entrance are a sign that animals are the problem.

I then take a look at the bees at the hive entrance. A strong hive will have bees stationed at the entrance – the guard bees. These bees are checking the bees returning to the hive to be sure that they belong to that hive, and are not intruders from another hive. The guard bees also keep a look out for other intruders such as wasps, hornets, mice, etc.

The entrance of the hive should be a busy place – you should see many bees taking off from the hive entrance while others are returning with nectar and pollen. Speaking of pollen – sometimes it is possible to get an idea of what flowers the bees are visiting by looking at the color of pollen they are bringing in. It will vary in different areas, but in our area maple is pale yellow, blackberry and raspberry are grayish, and white clover is a dark yellow. By observing the pollen the bees are bringing into the hive, and being aware of what is blooming in your area, you can get a good idea of what plants your bees are visiting.

If you are watching the front of your hive in the late afternoon, you may see large groups of bees “hovering” in front of the hive. They may be moving up and down or moving in a “figure eight’ pattern. These are newly hatched bees that are “orienting” to the hive entrance. If a hive is producing many bees, it is a good sign that there is a healthy laying queen in the hive.

There are also a few things to look for that are cause for concern. One of these is robbing behavior. Robbing tends to become more common in fall when nectar becomes more scarce, and bees are trying to prepare for winter. Signs of robbing are bees wresting and fighting at the hive entrance, and bees aggressively circling the hive looking for ways to get in. If you see robbing happening, it is important to take steps to stop it immediately. The hive being robbed could be weakened to the point that it will not survive the winter. For tips on putting a stop to robbing, see my previous blog, “Honeybees and Robbing”.

Another concern is bees crawling in front of the hive, unable to fly. If you look closely, you may see that the wings are deformed. This can be caused by tracheal mites (if the wings seem to form a ‘K”), or by varroa mites. Again, if this is observed, steps should be taken to sample for and decide on a treatment plan for these parasites.

A third observation that could be cause for concern is large numbers of dead bees in front of the hive. While it is common to see some dead bees as the house bees clean out the hive, a large number could indicate that something is wrong in the hive and should be investigated further.

A valuable resource if you are interested in learning more about this subject is “At the Hive Entrance” by H. Storch. This book was originally published in German, and then translated to English and reprinted in 1985. It is considered to be “the definitive guide” to understanding what is happening inside the hive by observing the outside of the hive. It can be a little difficult to obtain a printed copy, but many libraries – especially libraries maintained by beekeeping clubs, may have copies you can borrow. I also noticed that it was available for download on several websites.

So next time you are itching to go inside your hives and see how Hiveentrance2the bees are doing, consider instead, pulling up a chair. A lot of what you would go into the hive to look for can be determined just by watching the entrance!

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Honeybees at Farnsworth Middle School!

We recently moved one of our beehives to the organic garden where we both teach. We are hoping that in addition to providing pollination for the garden, it proves to be an opportunity for the community to learn more about bees and beekeeping. Below is a link to an article that was printed in one of our local newspapers, the Spotlight, about the beehive and our first “open to the public” beehive inspection.

http://www.spotlightnews.com/news/2014/jul/23/buzz-farnsworth-middle-school-community-garden/?page=1

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Summer Brings Swarming!

In spite of our best efforts to prevent it, one of our hives swarmed this afternoon. Here are some thoughts and information about swarming I hope you find helpful.

What is Swarming?

I have mixed feelings about swarming. On the one hand, this is how honeybees in the wild expand their population. When a colony of bees is doing so well that they are growing too big for their current location they start to raise a new queen. After gorging themselves on honey for the journey, and having one or more capped queen cells in the hive, more than half the colony and the original queen leave and go in search of a new home. As great of an idea as this sounds, it has been determined that many swarms do not survive their first year in a new home. And, if it is MY honeybees that are doing the swarming, I’m really not happy. What was once a busy, productive hive has just lost more than half of its population. We probably will not get much, if any, honey from that hive this year. The best we can hope for is that a productive queen hatches from the remaining queen cells, leading to a strong hive that will overwinter well and produce plenty of honey next season.

Even though we try to prevent swarming, it is a pretty cool thing to witness. The first thing we notice is the noise. The normal background noise of the beeyard suddenly gets intensely louder – similar to the sound a jet makes upon take off. When we identified which hive was swarming what we saw is best described as a tornado of bees. Large numbers of bees are swirling out of the hive, spinning upwards. This goes on for about 5 or 10 minutes before the entire group settles on a branch or other location not too far from the hive. In a few days the “scout” bees will have found a location for a new home, and the swarm will move on. Scout bees do just that. They search for a good location for their colony to live. Many scouts explore the surrounding area for a shelter then go back to the swarm and try to recruit other scouts to the home they have chosen. If enough agree, off they go. Even though it can look intimidating, honeybees in a swarm are extremely docile. Because they are not in a hive, they do not have any honey or brood to defend. I have never been stung by bees in a swarm.

It’s all in where they land……

If the beekeeper is lucky, the swarm will settle on a branch, fence, or other object that is fairly low off the ground. We once got a call about a swarm that had landed on a trellis in a garden – about 2 feet off of the ground. We gathered an extra hive body, put pieces of plywood on the top and bottom, and went to pick up the start of a new hive of bees.

Sometimes swarms settle a bit higher than that – 20 feet or so off of the ground. It is a bit more difficult, but it is still possible to collect these swarms. Another call we received was from a neighboring beekeeper who had a swarm in a tree. We helped him to tie off the branch that the swarm was on, cut the branch, and gently lower it to the ground. The swarm could then be placed in a new hive. This was a little trickier, and I would recommend having at least one other beekeeper with you to help.

Today, we were not so lucky. This swarm landed about 50 or 60 feet off the ground on the branches of a beech tree. Maybe a braver beekeeper could try and get them down, but we decided to err on the side of caution. We did the only thing we could do in this situation and put out some “bait hives” around the area. A bait hive is a small box – usually half the size of a single hive body, which beekeepers use to start hives. We take an empty bait hive, add a few empty frames that once held brood, and some “bee charm”. Bee charm is a product sold by many beekeeping supply companies that has a smell that attracts bees – to me it smells sort of lemony. We rub a little inside near the entrance. We then put these up in trees around our property. The hope is that the swarm will decide that this is a great place to live, and move in! We can then bring them back to the apiary to start a new hive.

How to Prevent Swarming

There are some things you can do to try to keep your hives from swarming. It does take a little time, and a lot of vigilance, but it may turn out to be the difference between losing a colony and keeping it!

1. In the spring, when you notice hives that seem to be building up extremely quickly, you can try “splitting” the hive to create a second hive. You will need to add a queen to the second hive if you do not want to wait for them to raise a queen. Taking some bees from the existing hive will open more space up to the bees and make it seem less crowded.

2. Make sure the hive does not get overcrowded. Add more supers prior to a honey flow to prevent overcrowding. You can also remove frames of honey and brood to create nucleus colonies, and replace those frames with empty frames. This method is also known as “checkerboarding”. It is important to not let them get to the point of overcrowding before taking these measures – if they begin raising another queen to swarm before you add more space for them, it will be too late, and they will swarm anyway.

3. Check for swarm cells! Swarm cells (as shown below) look something like a peanut, and hang from the bottom of the frames. A swarm cell means the colony is raising a new queen, and getting ready to swarm. You can remove the frames with the cells on them, and use them to start new hives. Unfortunately, the presence of swarm cells means the bees have already started preparing to swarm.

4. Tying in with the above step, you can also create an artificial swarm. To do this you would find the queen and remove her from the hive with a few frames of eggs, brood, honey, and of course bees, and put them into a new hive. Shake a few frames of bees in the new hive as well. By doing this you are making the bees think they have swarmed. Just make sure to leave any swarm cells in the existing hive, as these will be the new queen for the colony.

Further Reading

If you would like to read more about swarming, why bees swarm, and swarm prevention, there are many great books out there. A few I would recommend are:

* Honeybee Democracy by Thomas Seeley

* Swarm Traps and Bait Hives: The Easy Way to Get Bees for Free by McCartney M. Taylor

* Increase Essentials by Lawrence John Connor

* Swarming: Biology, Prevention, Control and Collecting. From The Best Of Bee Culture. 1997

I hope that this helps you to be able to better understand and prevent swarming. And, if your hives do swarm, I hope they land in a very low place for you!

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First Beeyard Inspection of Spring

I love spring, when we can finally get out to the beeyard and open up those beehives! This past weekend we had the right conditions to do the first full hive inspections of the year. Temperatures were in the 50’s and 60’s, nice and sunny, and not too breezy. Perfect!

We basically follow the same routine for each hive, which I will outline below.

1. First we puff a little smoke into the hive, wait a few minutes, then remove the outer and inner covers. For the hives we are feeding, we remove the hive top feeder. We take a peek in the top of the hive to see how the population looks. Some of the things we look for are the size of the cluster, the gentleness (or aggressiveness) of the bees, and signs of any pests such as small hive beetles.

2. We then start looking at the frames in the top hive body. We look for the queen, or if we can’t find her, eggs and brood. In most cases the brood, eggs, and queen are in the top hive body at this point. After we have inspected the frames, we take the top box off, and set it aside. We then take a look at the next hive body. In our stronger hives we tend to find capped brood in this box, but in some hives it was empty, with just some honey. We continue working our way down until we have removed all of the hive bodies. As we inspect each frame, we also scrape off any “burr comb” (comb that the bees have built above and below the frames). This will help us avoid crushing bees when we put the hive bodies back on later.

3. We then remove the screened bottom board, and brush it off outside of the beeyard to remove the dead bees and other debris that have accumulated over the winter. We also lift up the hive stand, and brush off any debris that have accumulated there. We then replace the hive stand and bottom board.

4. Now we put the hive bodies back, but not in the same order they were in. We take the top hive body that had the queen, eggs, and brood, and put that on the bottom. If there was a second box with capped brood, we put that on next. For the third hive body, we put a box that is a mix of capped honey, pollen, and empty comb. If any of the remaining boxes had mostly empty comb, we shake off the remaining bees into the hive, and remove that box. This way the queen has room to work her way upwards laying eggs. Later in the season we will add more boxes of honey supers.

5. Finally, we add a sprinkle of a pollen substitute such as MegaBee, to give them a boost in brood production, before replacing the inner and outer covers, (or the feeders if honey stores seem low and we think they need supplemental feeding).

For most of the hives, they are all set until we are ready to start adding honey supers. The majority of the hives had good laying pattern, calm bees, and a nice mix of brood, pollen, honey, and empty frames. However, we did run into a few problems that need our attention.

One hive was extremely aggressive. As soon as we took off the outer and inner cover, the bees began flying directly at our veils. We closed them back up, and will try them again on another day. If this aggression continues, we may have to look at ordering a new queen for them. I like to be able to relax and enjoy my bees, and these bees did not seem happy at all!

Two of our hives had very low populations, with a cluster that is only about the size of a softball. While they do both have queens who are laying eggs, it seems as though there is not a lot of eggs and brood. For these hives we reduced them to just one medium hive body that had brood, honey, pollen, and some empty space for the queen to lay eggs. We gave them the pollen substitute, and will continue to feed them. We talked to some other beekeepers about the problem and got several suggestions.

1. Just leave them alone and see if they build up. They may have just had a hard winter, and need more time to build up to the same levels as the other hives.

2. Since there are not many eggs or brood, the queen isn’t doing her job. Kill the queen, and combine them with other hives. We can then order more queens to make splits from the hives that are doing well later this summer to replace these hives.

3. Since they did lose many adult bees during the winter, it may not be that the queen is not performing, but that there are not enough adult worker bees to care for the brood. Take some frames of brood and nurse bees from other strong hives, add them to the weak hives, and see if that helps them build up.

As it turns out, we are going to try a combination of these methods. Right after we did these inspections, it got cold again (in fact, it snowed this morning). So, we will need to leave the weak hives alone until at least the following weekend. At that point we can check them and see if they are doing any better. If not, I would like to add the brood from another hive, and see if they take off. If they still don’t look good after another week, we will kill the queens and combine them with another hive. I don’t like the idea of killing a young queen, but if the hive isn’t going to make it, it is better to save the worker bees that are left than lose them all.

One more thing I want to mention – make sure you take a moment to enjoy the time in the beeyard! For me it is so gratifying to get back out in the beeyard and spend some time with the bees. I hope you enjoy it as well!

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Appreciating Honey!

It has been very cold here in the Northeast and in many other parts of the country as well. One way to enjoy a little taste of summer in the middle of the winter is to take some time to appreciate the varied tastes of regional honeys.

Honey is an amazing product of the hive. A worker bee will make just 1/12 teaspoon of honey in her entire lifetime. It takes a lot of bees to make that honey you are stirring into your tea or spreading on your toast! The worker bees must collect nectar from flowers, and return it to the hive. The nectar mixes with enzymes in the “honey stomach” of the worker bees. The nectar is then placed in the honeycombs, and fanned to reduce the moisture content. When it is ready, it is sealed with beeswax to preserve it until it is needed by the bees, or harvested by the beekeeper.

A term you may come across when purchasing honey is “raw” honey. While there is no one definition of raw honey, it generally means that the honey has not been heated to above 118 degrees. This honey retains all of the natural enzymes, vitamins, etc. that would otherwise be lost by heating. Raw honey will also crystallize, or become more solid, with time. This is a natural process, and does not mean the honey has gone bad. If you wish to reliquify the honey, you can gently warm it in a bowl of warm water. Honey that stays liquid indefinitely, such as what is commonly found in commercial grocery stores, has been heated to a high temperature. This keeps the honey in a liquid state, but also destroys the beneficial enzymes. In my opinion, while still sweet, this “super heated” honey is bland in taste in comparison to raw, minimally heated honey, and leaves a bitter aftertaste.

Another consideration when purchasing honey – I would encourage you to buy local, when possible, and from a reputable source if purchasing honey from outside your area. The news has recently been filled with stories about illegal honey imports from questionable sources. Find out the source of the honey you plan on purchasing!

The taste of honey varies with different locations, seasons, and weather conditions. At Bees of the Woods Apiary, we produce two types of honey. Our Spring Wildflower honey is light colored and delicate, and mostly derives from alfalfa, clover, and a variety of spring wildflowers. Our Fall Wildflower honey is a medium amber color, and has a slightly stronger taste. It is produced from the nectar of asters, goldenrod, and other summer and fall wildflowers. That being said, our honey is never exactly the same from year to year.

To expand my honey tasting repertoire, I began keeping an eye out for different types of honey that I could try. Friends and family caught on, and I now often receive interesting types of honey as gifts.

Some types of honey can be found locally at farmers markets or other local shops. In the northeast this may include Buckwheat – a rich, very dark honey, that reminds me a bit of molasses, or Maine Blueberry Honey, with a mild, fruity taste, just to name a few. We have also been able to sample honey from further abroad. Some of our favorites include Hawaiian Kiawe Honey (raw and organic). This is unlike any other honey I have tasted. It is pure white, and incredibly smooth and creamy. It has a very mild, lightly sweet taste. I also enjoyed Scottish Heather Honey – similar in color and sweetness to our Fall Wildflower Honey, but with a distinctly different taste that I assume must be the heather!

My husband recently bought me a gift set of varietal honey from “Grampa’s Gourmet”. This included everything from a dark, rich Tamarisk Honey to the very light Clover Honey.

It is also fun to try honey in different forms. Comb honey is just that – honey still in the comb. It is cut directly from the frame, and is the most natural form of honey you can eat! Some beekeepers claim that this is the only form of raw honey. Creamed honey is available in many flavors – two of my favorites are lemon and ginger!

After you are able to find some different types of honey, consider hosting a honey tasting for your friends or family! All you need is a variety of honey, and sampling sticks. You can also experiment with paring honey with different foods. We recently discovered the very delicious combination of local blue cheese with honey drizzled over it.

If you are interested in learning more about honey, a great resource is a book called “The Honey Connoisseur – Selecting, Tasting, and Pairing Honey with a Guide to More than 30 Varietels”, by C. Marina Marchese and Kim Flottum. Another great resource is “The Fresh Honey Cookbook” by Laurey Masterton. Both books have information about honey, varieties of honey, honeybees, and recipes and food pairings.

If the winter blues get you down, be sure to take some time to enjoy honey in all its delicious forms, and thank the bees who work so hard to make it!

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Dealing with Winter Honeybee Withdrawal

It’s that time of year again. When the bustle of the holiday season dies down, I start to really miss going out and working in my beehives. So, what to do when honeybee withdrawal sets in? Here is a sampling of a few ideas to occupy your time until spring arrives!

Bundle up and visit the hives in spite of the cold! I don’t open them up, but if I press one ear against the side of the hive, I can hear a steady hum that tells me the bees are doing fine in the cozy beehive. No hum? I listen on different sides – sometimes you can’t hear them if they are against the opposite wall. If I don’t hear a hum at all, I make a note to open that hive on a warmer day to see what is going on. If the hive has died, I do a “post-mortem” to try and figure out what went wrong. This can tell me if I need to address any problems prior to winter.

Start getting ready for spring. My last blog (Start Planning Now for Bees in the Spring) was all about how to get ready to start keeping bees in the spring. However, even if you are an experienced beekeeper, there is a lot of work that can be done now to get ready. Inventory equipment – decide what needs to be replaced, what you might need more of, what is in need of repair, etc. Check over your records from last season. Is there anything you would like to change for the coming year? Anything new you want to try?

Try out some beehive related crafts. Candle making is a lot of fun, and not very hard. There are a wide variety of candle molds available to suit every taste – from tapers and pillars to trees, bears, and beehives.
Homemade beauty products made from beeswax are another fun craft to try. These can range from fairly complicated to quite easy. I haven’t tried out soap making yet, although I would like to someday. But, with a fairly inexpensive kit, I made enough beeswax lip balm for my friends and family in just a few hours.
If you enjoy wine, you may also want to try out mead making. I have managed to make a decent orange blossom honey mead, and a very nice apple cider mead. Local wine supply shops are a great place to get started.
If you enjoy baking, try out some new recipes that use honey. Friends and family are usually eager to help taste test any new recipes.
I plan on writing future blogs that will explore some of these ideas in more depth. In the meantime, if you take a look through a beekeeping supply catalog, you will find lots of ideas for interesting crafts and projects, and the supplies to get started. There are many resources on the web as well.

Another idea is to catch up on your beekeeping related reading! Winter is a great time to learn about or refresh your memory on beekeeping. A few that I have found helpful and informative are Beekeeping for Dummies by Howland Blackiston, Bee-Sentials by John Lawrence Connor, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beekeeping by Dean Stiglitz and Laurie Herboldsheimer, Natural Beekeeping by Ross Conrad, and The Backyard Beekeeper by Kim Flottum.
There are also many books out there that are just plain entertaining! Here are some of my favorites when I am just looking for a good read.

The Beekeeper’s Lament – Hannah Nordhaus
This is the story of beekeeper John Miller, and the challenges facing all beekeepers today. It is informative, entertaining, and written in an engaging manner. I found it hard to put down once I got started.
Confessions of a Bad Beekeeper – Bill Turnbull
Made me laugh out loud, and feel a lot better about the mistakes I’ve made in beekeeping!
Bees Don’t Get Arthritis – Fred Malone
A lot of great information about the health benefits of honey and products of the hive, and also an entertaining story!
Honeybee: Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper – C. Marina Marchese
Great information about getting started in beekeeping, but told as a story as the author is learning the art of beekeeping. A fun read!
Following the Bloom – Douglas Whynot
I honestly never thought I would be all that interested in a book about migratory beekeeping. This book proved me wrong – a fascinating story with a lot of great information!
Bees Besieged – Bill Marks
Stories of beekeepers, the challenges they are facing today, and why they still love keeping bees. Full of information, it was another book that once started, I couldn’t put down.
Letters from the Hive – Stephen Buchmann
This book really has it all! History, mythology, stories, science, and recipes. Something for everyone!
A Book of Bees – Sue Hubbell
The story of one beekeepers’ adventures in beekeeping told through the seasons. This book reminds me of why I love beekeeping, even on the most frustrating days.

Or, how about watching a good movie about bees or beekeeping? One of my favorites is Sister Bee by Laura Tyler. Sister Bee is not your usual “how – to” beekeeping video. It is a documentary – a series of interviews with six women beekeepers, interspersed with general information about bees, and some beautiful musical background. These beekeepers share what they enjoy about beekeeping, what they find frustrating about beekeeping, and why they love keeping bees in spite of those frustrations. The musical score and the visual images are amazing. It is one of my favorite videos to watch when I can’t go out and get into my beehives myself! Some other videos that I have enjoyed watching are The Monk and the Honeybee: Brother Adam and the Buckfast Superbee, NOVA’s Bees in the Hive, and Vanishing of the Bees.

I hope these ideas help with any honeybee withdrawal symptoms you may be experiencing. Have fun, and remember, only a few more months before you can get back into those beehives!

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Now is the time to get ready for bees in the spring!

The beginning of winter may not seem like the time to start thinking about becoming a beekeeper. However, if you are considering starting beekeeping this spring, now is the time to begin planning.

First, it is a good idea to get as much background information as you can. There are several ways to do this. Check out your local bee club – if you haven’t been attending meetings, this is a good time to start. See if they offer any sort of mentoring program or classes for beginning beekeepers. There are probably lots of people in the club who would love to talk to you about getting started in beekeeping. We were lucky enough to join a very active bee club when we first started beekeeping. We got great advice, had people to call when we had questions, and even got to attend a “beeyard visit”, where experienced beekeepers showed the “newbees” how to do a hive inspection.

Some colleges, universities, and beekeeping supply companies offer beekeeping classes. My husband took a beginner’s beekeeping class through Betterbee, a beekeeping supply company that is local to us, and I took a two day beekeeping class offered by Cornell University. If you are lucky enough to live close to one, this is another way to learn more about beekeeping.

Start reading! There are many great books on beekeeping for beginners out there. Two of our favorites when we were getting started are Beekeeping for Dummies by Howland Blackiston, and The Backyard Beekeeper by Kim Flottum. These books are both full of great information on getting started in beekeeping, and are still a valuable reference for us.

Also consider subscribing to a beekeeping magazine such as Bee Culture and/or American Bee Journal. These are great resources as they have articles with current information for beekeepers on many different aspects of beekeeping and products of the hive. They also have question and answer sections, and calendars of events to keep you up to date on workshops, seminars, and other events that are taking place. You may also want to contact some beekeeping supply companies and request copies of their catalogs, this can help you to get a feel for what kind of equipment you may need, and how much you will need to spend.

While you are doing all of this background research, take some time to make sure that you have the right location to keep bees. Check into local ordinances to make sure beekeeping is allowed in your area. When deciding where to position hives, some factors you will need to consider are amount of sunlight, how windy or wet the location is, and how easily accessible it is for you. It’s also a good idea to keep the neighbors happy – make sure you can position your hives so the bees flight path isn’t right across your neighbors front yard. The books mentioned above have a lot of information on selecting a good location for an apiary, and keeping the neighbors happy.

Now is also the time to begin ordering and assembling your beekeeping equipment. You will need to decide what kind of safety clothing you would like to have. Some beekeepers use only a veil, while others prefer a jacket with an attached veil, or even a one piece beekeeping “suit”. Depending on your comfort level, you may want to consider ordering some sort of gloves, although many beekeepers prefer working without them. I also recommend Velcro straps to seal off the bottom of your pant legs. When I first started beekeeping, I had more than one bee make its way up my pants or into my boots! You will probably also want to order hive tools, and a smoker. The hive tool allows you to pry apart the boxes on the beehive, and to remove the frames when the bees glue them together with propolis. They are also handy for removing a stinger if you happen to get stung. A smoker helps to keep the bees nice and calm while you are working in the hive, which makes everyone happier! You may also want to consider purchasing entrance reducers to help the new bees defend the hive entrance, and a sugar syrup feeder to provide them with food while they get established.

You will also need to purchase the hive bodies, stands, and frames. You will have a choice of wooden or polystyrene hives. We have some of each in our apiary, and find that each has pros and cons. The polystyrene provides more insulation, but in our area the wooden hives are cheaper. You will also need to decide if you are going to use deep hive bodies for the brood, or use all medium hive bodies. We started out using a deep on each hive, but quickly realized that the deep hive bodies can also become extremely heavy. We now use all medium hive bodies, as they are much easier for us to lift. Again, a lot of this is personal preference. Talk to people, check out their hives, and get an idea of what you would like to try. Remember that these hives will need to be assembled and the outside painted or finished to protect them from the elements before you can install bees in them.

And finally, don’t forget the bees! Again, you have many different options for purchasing bees. Bees can be ordered as packages or as “nucs” – short for nucleus colonies. Packages of bees arrive in a small, screened box with a queen, several thousand workers, and a can of sugar syrup. Packages tend to be cheaper than nucleus colonies. Nucleus colonies, or “nucs”, are a small hive. When you buy a nucleus colony, you get a queen, several thousand workers, and around 5 frames of honey, pollen, and brood. Nucleus colonies are more expensive, but they build up very quickly, as they already have a head start on building comb and raising brood. Our experience is that our nucleus colonies tend to build up much faster, and have a much better survival rate, than the packaged bees we have purchased. We also buy our nucleus colonies from local beekeepers whenever possible. The bees have been raised in this area and are adapted to local conditions tend to have a better survival rate for us. However, in our area, nucleus hives tend to sell out by January or February, so we really need to plan ahead.

Getting started in beekeeping does take a lot of planning and preparation. Waiting until the last minute to get ready can lead to a lot of frustration and unnecessary mistakes. By getting started now, you will be better prepared and confident for a successful start to beekeeping!

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Christmas Specials!

Just in time for Christmas, we have a few special items on sale. 100% beeswax evergreen tree candles, and our own honey in vintage, 1 pound “muth” jars. Contact us if you are interested!trees and muth

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Thanksgiving Turkeys for Sale!

Well, the beeswax variety, anyway! Just in time for Thanksgiving – homemade Turkey Candlesturkey candles made from 100% beeswax are now available. Add a turkey or two to your centerpiece. They’re sure to brighten up your table! Contact us if you are interested

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