How to start beekeeping


How do you become a beekeeper??

That is a good question and you will get different advice from every beekeeper you meet. Below entails some of the things I would say.

 

I would suggest you go to bushfarms.com and check what Michael has to say about starting beekeeping. 

Beesource.com has a whole section devoted to beginners starting up. The advantage there is that it is a combined advice column from many beekeepers put together.

When do you start?
 You will want to purchase package bees in December or January so that the supplier doesn't run out although you may be able to get them as late as april if you are lucky.  After you book your bees, I'd start reading.

How to get bees

1. Contact the local beekeeping club or bee supply store near you

  • This year I'm picking up at Long lane honey farm
  • There's a local beekeeping club near rockford You can contact the guy at raines and arrange for it.
  •  In years past I've used Dadant and son's in watertown WI (closest supply store with bees)  There's also a Lapp bee supply with good bees just 12 miles past Dadant
  • packages will cost around $95  They come with 3 lb bees and 1 queen.

 

2. If you don't have a lot of money and are not in a big hurry you can definitly swarm trap It may take a couple of years to get started though

-- I suggest starting with two packages because having two hives helps you understand if there is a weak one.  Any problems with the queen or buildup of honey or laying patterns will be more obvious if you have something to compare to.

Equipment --  Here's what I suggest you get for a hive

  • 5 medium boxes per hive (see making mediums)
  • 1 pull over suit with veil
  • 1 smoker
  • 2-3 hive tools (you end up losing them)
  • Foundationless frames
  • screened bottom board (optional)
  • escape screen for harvesting
  • 5 gallon bucket with cheesecloth for crushing and staining of honey
  • honey gate for bucket

 

Eqipment philosophy

  • I like 10 frame medium boxes rather than deeps because the parts are all interchangable.  You can take a frame from the bottom and move it anywhere.  You also only have one set of parts to carry around.
  • Building your own mediums is easy if you have a table saw.  It also keeps your costs a lot less
  • The escape screen allows you to harvest without chemicals.  Just put the medium you want to harvest in between the screen and the rest of the hive.  The next day it's mostly empty.  You can use a paint brush to move 11 or so bees left.
  • Screened bottom boards are nice for summer ventilation.  I suggest building your own with 2X4s
  • The pull over suit is easy and uncumbersome, although I suggest a full suit for later on down the road.  It's just nice to have the security especially when a hive falls over.
  • using foundationless frames makes each box cost $10 less plus when you harvest the wax it is all natural.  Plus the myth that it takes 8 pounds of honey to make 1 pund of wax it not true.  It doesn't slow the bees down much making their own foundation.
  • There's no need for an extractor.  Extracting would require you to wire all your frames or buy foundation to withstand the spinning.  It takes more time than it's worth.
  • You can build your own smoker out of cans and just buy the billows. I'd just buy a good one though.  It's so much easier and the smoker isn't something that you replace all that often.

 

  •  

Costs                                  Build your own                  Buy

  1. 5 medium supers            $15                            $90
  2. 1 pull over suit                  $45                             $45
  3. Smoker                              $5  (for billows)       $40
  4. 2 hive tools                       $10                              $10
  5. 5 gal bucket                     $5                                 $5
  6. Frames for 5 supers      $35                              $35
  7. foundation                        $3 ( popsicle sticks)  $50 (foundation)
  8. Honey gate                       $10                              $10
  9. Escape screen                 $5                                 $9
  10. Bees                                  $0 (swarm trap)          $95

 

  1. Total                                          $133                     $379

Discussion

  • Keep in mind my build your own section doesn't contain cost for bees or for a smoker which would bring the total up to $233 for start up on one hive
  • You should buy your eqipment when you pick up your bees or if you are doing the economy route take advantage of the free shipping.  Shipping is expensive
  • Brushy mountain tends to do free shipping in december
  • Mann lake has free shipping (some items are more costly)
  • Building your own equipment takes tools and a resonable amount of skill

 

Using Middle or top entrances

top and middle entrances help ventate hive in summer and winter, keep mice out better, and make less bee travel over your honey comb so it's better looking comb.

Making a top entrance is easy.  Close the bottom entrance and insert stick between boxes you would like them to enter from.  For reducing the entrance just get the stick to one side and use a smaller one.  Notice the second from bottom super is a dresser drawer.  It already had a handle so I didn't bother putting one on.

  • I have some hives with bottom entrances and some with middles.  It doesn't seem to matter where you put the entrance once the hive is established. 
  • Top entrances are best for winter because they are discouraging to mice moving into the hive and they allow better ventilation for moisture problems