Week three of the FBI’s beekeeping class was on getting started with bees. This class explained how to choose where to place a beehive, how to install bees into the hive, and the basic schedule for a beekeepers first year. Doyle Kincy taught this class.
Doyle is explaining how to begin beekeeping.
Doyle said that all beginning beekeepers should get two hive initially. This is important because then the beginning beekeeper will be able to compare what is normal in a beehive. This also means that resources can be shared between hives.
Things to look for in a location for beehives are how the sun shines on the location, where the nearest water source is, if there is a windbreaker, and how flat and dry it is. Beehives should be placed in a sunny location. The sun should shine on the beehives to encourage activity. If there is lots of morning sunlight, the bees are more likely to wake up early and get to work. A nearby water source is very important. Bees will go to the closest, strongest water source near by. Neighbors do not appreciate honey bees visiting their pools. The water supply should be monitored and kept full because on hot days the water will just disappear. Another thing the bees need in cold climates is a windbreaker. I live in Iowa and winters in Iowa are very cold and windy. We have a small woody area as a windbreaker. A tall fence or even a temporary windbreaker that is just put up in the winter would work as well. The windbreaker should be to the north of the beehives. The apiary should be flat and accessible. Beehives should sit on a somewhat flat surface. Leaning the beehives slightly so that water can drain out the entrance will help prevent moisture from building up in the hive. Hives should have sure, flat foundations.Concrete bricks, pallets, or hive stands bought from a beekeeping equipment suppliers are some of the more common foundations. An accessible apiary is important because it is easier to hull equipment to and from the apiary location. Avoiding damp, humid areas is incredibly important. Dampness is one of the bees worst enemy. If bees get damp, especially in the winter, they have a harder time staying warm and healthy. The front of the hives should face south. They should never be faced north because the cold northern winds will blow right into the hive, chilling the bees.
Three other things to consider when choosing an apiary location are neighbor concerns, pesticide concerns, and livestock concerns. Sometimes neighbors of beekeepers will have doubts about living near bees. It is the beekeepers responsibility to make sure that his neighbors know about his bees and try to make them okay that he has bees. One easy way beekeepers do this is by giving his neighbors a bottle of honey. Placing the beehives in out of the way, inconspicuous locations is a good idea if neighbors are uncertain about having bees nearby. Having a water source for the bees will help make sure that the bees will not go to the neighbor’s pool. Another concern is pesticides. This is an especially big deal in rural areas near farms. Just like with neighbors, beekeepers who live in rural areas like to talk to their local farmers. They tell the the farmers that they have bees near their fields and ask the farmers to give them a call the night before the farmers are planning to spray their fields. The beekeepers do this so that they can close up their bees the night before the farmer sprays. Some cities spray for mosquitoes. It is wise to contact one’s local government and ask to be called the night before they are going to be spraying to ensure that the bees will be protected. The final concern is livestock. If a beekeeper has livestock, the beekeeper makes sure that the beehives can not be knocked over by any livestock. Another animal consideration is if bears live nearby. If bears are in the area, it may be well worth the investment to buy an electric fence to protect the bees.
The time to order packages is early in the year, in January or February. Some suppliers will ship the package to the beekeeper, but others will require the beekeeper to pick them up. When we get our package we are going keep the bees in a cool, shady location such as a basement or garage until we can install them. Hopefully, we will be able to install our packages the day we pick them up. If the feeding can is low in the package, the bees should be sprayed with a 1:1 sugar syrup mixture. 1:1 sugar syrup is one part sugar to one part water by weight. If it is cold, it is unwise to spray them too much because the bees will get cold, but if it is warm this is not a concern.
When installing a package, a deep box should be set in the apiary location. The entrance reducer should be put on the smallest setting and put in the entrance. The entrance reducer creates a smaller entrance. This is helpful, because it creates a smaller entrance for the bees to defend. It is also important to wear a veil and to have a hive tool handy. A spray bottle of 1:1 sugar syrup and the feeder should be ready to use. This recipe is a good recipe for sugar syrup.
The temperature when installing packages should be around 50 degrees at the coldest. One deep box should already be set up and the feeder should be filled with 1:1 sugar syrup. First the bees should be sprayed with 1:1 sugar syrup. Then pound the package against something so that all the bees will fall to the bottom of the package. Now remove one of the middle frames of the deep. This space is where queen cage will be put. Next remove the feeding can. Cover the hole left by the feeding can with a piece of cardboard or wood so that the bees do not fly out. The next step is to carefully remove the queen cage. The queen cage will have a piece of cork stuffed in a hole on the bottom of the cage. If there is a candy plug behind this cork all that is needed is to pull out the cork. If, however, the cage does not have a candy plug behind the cork, the beekeeper will want to sit in a small enclosed area and carefully remove the cork and stuff a marshmallow in the hole. It is important that the queen is facing away from the cork when the cork is removed so that she does not fly out of the queen cage. After some sort of candy plug is at the bottom of the of the queen cage, the queen should be put in a loose pocket so that she stays warm. Next, the cover should be removed from the bees and the bees should be gently dumped into the box. Gently pounding the bees against the side of the hive to drop all the bees on the bottom of the package is a good way to clump all the bees up. It is not necessary to get all the bees into the hive. The package can be left tilted at the front of the hive so that the remaining bees in the package can crawl into the hive. The queen cage should be carefully hung between two of the middle frames. The wired part of the queen cage should not face the frame so that the queen will easily be able to breath.
The bees should be inspected in three days to see if the bees have released the queen. If they have not, put the queen cage back, check the level of the sugar syrup, and close up the hive. If they have released the queen, check for eggs, check the sugar syrup level, and close up the hive. If you do not see eggs, but they have released the queen, you should check the sugar syrup level and close up the hive. After ten days from installation, you should inspect the hive again. You should definitely see eggs during this inspection. If you do not see eggs, you should try to find the queen. If you cannot find the queen you need to order a replacement queen. During most hive inspection a beekeeper will use a smoker. To light a smoker one lights newspaper, place it in the smoker, and slowly add your fuel. Pine needles, wood shavings, twigs, and similar fuel works well. Once a good flame is going, the smoker should be tightly packed and a cool, white smoke should be coming out of the smoker. Hives should be inspected roughly every ten days. Eggs, the queen, brood in all stages, ample supplies of honey and pollen, symptoms of pests parasites, and diseases, and signs of overcrowding should be looked for during every inspection.
Here is a general calendar for any beehives first year. Because beekeeping is local, this calendar is correct for a beehive in the Midwest, but is most likely not correct for any other area in the United States. In April through May, spring maintenance should be done along with swarm control (which I will write about in a later blog post), and certain pests should be treated for (I will write about this in a later blog post). The bees will begin building up the colony. May through July is when a beekeeper should start adding supers. Additional boxes, whether deeps or supers, should be added when seven to ten frames in the top box are being worked on by the bees. August is when the honey supers are removed and harvested. The bees should be treated after the supers are removed and before the bees are fed. August through September is when the bees should be treated for mites, and when the bees should be fed. 2:1 sugar syrup is most commonly used to feed the bees for winter alone with a winter patty. November through March is the time to read books on beekeeping, to take a beekeeping class, and to work on maintenance of equipment or make new equipment. The bees should be occasionally checked when the temperature is around forty-five degrees Fahrenheit.