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mccann51
04-24-2011, 02:07 AM
I decided the other day I am very interested in trying my hand at beekeeping, specifically as a source of income (and honey for mead!). I'm really interested in social insects, as well, so this will certainly become an obsession-hobby for me; when I have the opportunity, I'm definitely going to get an observation hive.

I plan to start contacting apiaries in my area to see about apprenticing (I'd probably only be able to pull of a day or two a week) or simply being able to go check out their setups. I've reserved a handful of books at the library and I've been doing a bit of reading online. I am at this point at a kind of pre-planning stage. My hope is to get some knowledge - and some experience if I can pull it off - this summer and getting some hives together next spring.

I really don't have any specific questions at the moment, but was more hoping for some tips or things to keep in mind from those with beekeeping experience (as a hobby or profession). Thanks!

wildoates
04-24-2011, 04:45 PM
The more the better, sez I, although I know almost nothing about it. :)

But we were at the local Farmers' Market yesterday and there was a guy selling honey there--at $7 a pound I didn't buy any, though. Keeping bees sounds really good after that sticker shock!

He did have some really tasty very dark generic wildflower that I would have bought if he'd had larger amounts available, and I might go back next week and see if he'll make me a deal for a gallon or two of it. I surprised him by asking if it was the spring run or last fall, but he assured me it was too early for a spring 2011 run and that it was the fall. Very tasty.

So good luck!

hillhousehoney
04-25-2011, 04:44 PM
that you are interested in beekeeping. It is a very rewarding hobby. There are a lot of things to consider before you actually hive that first package. Books are good, and the internet has a wealth of sources. However you will need to decide upon your approach. This will determine everything you do. The first question I would ask myself is, " to treat or not to treat ?" Then focus your energy in that direction. It's easier to follow an experienced beekeeper if you intend on doing things his/her way. And it will be the luck of the draw as to which one you meet first. So I would research both camps and see what works for you. You need to work within what you feel your philosophy of keeping bees is. I chose to be treatment free, and have recently made the jump to attempting to make some money at this. It takes money to make money; and it takes money to make honey. I will be at 24 hives very soon, and the investment has been around $2500.00, and that's making my own hive bodies. So if you are handy with tools it's a great plus. Have fun researching, and best wishes.

beeboy
04-25-2011, 04:53 PM
Bee keeping takes a lot of work and going comercial takes a lot of work and a lot of expense. I'm not trying to talk you out of doing it but you really need to look at the cost of jumping into even 10-15 hives. Get yourself into a bee keeping class and see if you can find a bee club in your area. It will take 2 years to get a honey crop out of your hives if you are in the north with extended winters and you can expect winter losts. Going comercial is even worst because you will need an extraction house with packing equipment along with a food handling license. Marketing your honey means that it will be sold at whole sale for about 1/3 of what you can get retail. If you sale retail then you will be working the farmer's markets and flea markets on the weekends. Just giving you my thoughts on jumping in. Try starting slow and work up and good luck.

randrick
04-25-2011, 10:39 PM
Good luck! Start slowly. Beekeeping is a wonderful hobby that I really enjoy. As a hobby, it cost me about $300 to get started (and several hundred more this year to replace bees). I have the utmost respect for commercial beekeepers. They work very hard for their income.

To get bees for spring 2012, you need to order them in Nov/Dec of this year.

mccann51
04-25-2011, 11:07 PM
Thanks for the advice and encouragement (and caution!), guys!

Beeboy, I may actually be moving west soon, and was more considering offering pollination services rather than relying on honey sales, though the latter would be a definite goal for the future after the hives have established.

In terms of treatment or treatment free, what's the big distinction? I gather than it has to do with utilization of miticides and other pesticides? Would formic acid treatments be considered "treatment"? I'd imagine I'd be more in the treatment free camp, though.

Randrick, thanks for the info on buy-timing; I can't tell you the number of times I've set out to do something and discovered I've missed some important timing event by a month or two.

In terms of initial startup, about how many hives would be the minimum I'd want to start with as a "pollinator" as opposed to "honey producer"?

Thanks, all!

hillhousehoney
04-26-2011, 10:44 AM
regarding treatments. It involves chemicals to attempt to stop pests like the varroa mite; which is enemy #1. The chemical gets on the bees to kill the mites. The problem is that the chemical also kills bees, gets in the wax, which gets in the honey, which is eaten by us. That's what changed me to treatment free. Go the bushbees.com for all the answers you could ever want to know.

Oh, and yes, formic acid would be considered a treatment.

Not sure how many hives you would need for pollination services. I would assume the more the better. A commercial keeper could help you there. You would also need some type of flatbed transport to get them to where you want to go.

So many things to think about.

mmclean
04-26-2011, 11:08 AM
If you haven't already, take a visit to www.beesource.com (http://www.beesource.com/) forums. Not as friendly as the folks here, but a lot of good readings.

And Michael Bush, from www.bushfarms.com (http://www.bushfarms.com/bees.htm) hangs out there.

TheAlchemist
04-26-2011, 05:18 PM
Blessed are the Bee Keepers!

Loadnabox
04-26-2011, 05:22 PM
Blessed are the Bee Keepers!

I thought he said "Blessed are the Cheese makers"?

... dear lord I went there :-D

mccann51
04-28-2011, 10:45 PM
regarding treatments. It involves chemicals to attempt to stop pests like the varroa mite; which is enemy #1. The chemical gets on the bees to kill the mites. The problem is that the chemical also kills bees, gets in the wax, which gets in the honey, which is eaten by us. That's what changed me to treatment free. Go the bushbees.com for all the answers you could ever want to know.

Oh, and yes, formic acid would be considered a treatment.

I'd have to look into the formic acid more to decide if I'd be fully "treatment free", but miticides would be out of the question. I'm an IPM-man.



So many things to think about.

Ya know that saying, anything worth doing is worth doing right? I think it should be changed to anything worth doing is probably complicated as hell, haha!


If you haven't already, take a visit to www.beesource.com (http://www.beesource.com/) forums. Not as friendly as the folks here, but a lot of good readings.


I was recently browsing that forum and came to the same conclusion. I think GotMead has ruined all other forums for me, because none will ever be as cool.

tweak'e
04-29-2011, 02:16 AM
if you want to become a hobbiest beekeeper then great, go for it.

but commercially its a different ball game. sorry to burst your bubble here but most people that buy into beekeeping do not last. most give up fairly quickly.
our rule of thumb here is that 95% of beekeepers are ex hobbiests or are born into the industry (ie family). hence why i highly recommend you start as a hobbiest and see about doing commerically 5 years down the track.
one thing to remember that doing a hobby as a job tends to ruin a perfectly good hobby.

now i would not dismiss miticides straight off. use what ever system the commercial guys are all using. now this may be a bit insulting to you but there is a good reason for it. i get a LOT of people wanting to do bees organically straight away. most of the time they fail and end up buying in hives every year. mostly due to lack of beekeeping skill and that organic treatments complicates things a lot. learn to be a beekeeper first and leave the fancy stuff for latter.
perfect example is my neighbor who went organic on the 2nd season, lost 90% of the hives. simply down to poor treatment management. an extremely expensive mistake if your also trying to do it commercially.
another example is a part time beekeeper lost 150 out of 200 hives to AFB. now here we have to burn the hives, no simple drugs for it. we lost $20k worth of hives due to infection from his lot and many other beekeepers suffered the same.
all because he didn't check his hives and it got away on him.
trust me its not much fun burning all your hard work because someone else was to lazy to look after their small number.
thats the reality of beekeeping.

beeboy
04-29-2011, 09:38 AM
Gotta agree about starting small to get your feet wet and learn the ropes. One other thing you really need to think about is how do you react to a good bee sting? I just got popped under my left eye and currently look like I've gone a few rounds with Mike Tyson. It will take about 24 hours for it to clear up but in the mean time I look like something out of the Twilight Zone. As a bee keeper you will get stung, it is just part of the hobby. Good luck with what ever you decide to do.

TheAlchemist
04-29-2011, 09:59 AM
Ya know that saying, anything worth doing is worth doing right? I think it should be changed to anything worth doing is probably complicated as hell, haha!



There's a great thread in The Hive on this subject...feel free to chime in!

mccann51
04-29-2011, 08:52 PM
if you want to become a hobbiest beekeeper then great, go for it.

but commercially its a different ball game. sorry to burst your bubble here but most people that buy into beekeeping do not last. most give up fairly quickly.
our rule of thumb here is that 95% of beekeepers are ex hobbiests or are born into the industry (ie family). hence why i highly recommend you start as a hobbiest and see about doing commerically 5 years down the track.
one thing to remember that doing a hobby as a job tends to ruin a perfectly good hobby.

now i would not dismiss miticides straight off. use what ever system the commercial guys are all using. now this may be a bit insulting to you but there is a good reason for it. i get a LOT of people wanting to do bees organically straight away. most of the time they fail and end up buying in hives every year. mostly due to lack of beekeeping skill and that organic treatments complicates things a lot. learn to be a beekeeper first and leave the fancy stuff for latter.
perfect example is my neighbor who went organic on the 2nd season, lost 90% of the hives. simply down to poor treatment management. an extremely expensive mistake if your also trying to do it commercially.
another example is a part time beekeeper lost 150 out of 200 hives to AFB. now here we have to burn the hives, no simple drugs for it. we lost $20k worth of hives due to infection from his lot and many other beekeepers suffered the same.
all because he didn't check his hives and it got away on him.
trust me its not much fun burning all your hard work because someone else was to lazy to look after their small number.
thats the reality of beekeeping.

I take no insult from your post and appreciate the perspective. I guess I was a bit too definitive on the matter, especially since I am yet rather uninformed about it. That said, I freely admit that I'm going into this with a bias against chemical treatments, but I will genuinely keep what you've said in mind.

In regards to the AFB infection your neighbor got, how was it that it affected your hives? (I'm asking this seriously, it sounds like you're recommending antibiotics, so wouldn't this protect your bees?)


Gotta agree about starting small to get your feet wet and learn the ropes. One other thing you really need to think about is how do you react to a good bee sting? I just got popped under my left eye and currently look like I've gone a few rounds with Mike Tyson. It will take about 24 hours for it to clear up but in the mean time I look like something out of the Twilight Zone. As a bee keeper you will get stung, it is just part of the hobby. Good luck with what ever you decide to do.

As an entomologist, I take a sick pride from insect stings, haha! But yes, I will be moving slowly with this venture, I just can't help thinking down the road a ways.


There's a great thread in The Hive on this subject...feel free to chime in!

Which thread is this? I looked around and nothing popped out to me.

tweak'e
04-29-2011, 10:44 PM
I take no insult from your post and appreciate the perspective. I guess I was a bit too definitive on the matter, especially since I am yet rather uninformed about it. That said, I freely admit that I'm going into this with a bias against chemical treatments, but I will genuinely keep what you've said in mind.

In regards to the AFB infection your neighbor got, how was it that it affected your hives? (I'm asking this seriously, it sounds like you're recommending antibiotics, so wouldn't this protect your bees?)


actually it wasn't neighbor who got AFB. neighbor lost their hives from PMS (mite damage) due to failures with organic treatment.

the AFB....... over here we are not allowed antibiotics. only treatment allowed is burn the hive.
AFB (and other disease as well as mites) is picked up when your bees rob out infected hives. infected hives get weak or die leaving it unprotected from invaders and then its free for all to any bee that finds it.
our hives simply found the other beekeepers dead hives. now the hive generally takes a long time to die so such diseases have gone unchecked for quite some time. also to have so many hives die at once means it was spread through out his hives, through robbing out infected hives from previous years and swapping gear amongst the hives. eg reusing gear from dead hives and extracting honey from infected hives and boxes go back onto another hive.
so basically hes had infected hives for a number of years and failed to pick up on it.
also because its a bacterial infection its stored in honey and gear for years. so you can get reinfections from the wild bees for years and years after the beekeeper has moved on.

when you have large amounts of hives in a fairly small area, outbreaks of disease spread rapidly. its not something you really comprehend until your on the receiving end of it.
when your dealing with commercial quantities things can go bad very very quickly.

because bees don't have boundaries, your relying on all the other beekeepers to keep on top of their diseases. it only takes one poor beekeeper to causes massive amounts of problems.

mites are not to bad, at least it doesn't infect the gear or honey. however if your bees rob out dead hives they bring back large amounts of mites. this can be a major problem if it happens after your treatments. this allows mites to breed uncontrolled in the off season.
once a hive gets PMS its a 50/50 chance of it getting back to full strength. i find most just end up swarming out.

mccann51
04-30-2011, 12:22 AM
Why are you not allowed to use antibiotics? What kind of densities are we talking? Sounds like a shitty situation, sorry it turned out so poorly.

mccann51
04-30-2011, 12:25 AM
Btw, I just found out about top-bar hives (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top-bar_hive). Anybody have experience with these? It sounds a little overhyped, are there some major drawbacks or limitations?

tweak'e
04-30-2011, 05:32 AM
Why are you not allowed to use antibiotics? What kind of densities are we talking? Sounds like a shitty situation, sorry it turned out so poorly.

its illegal to use antibiotics on bees in New Zealand. our honey is antibiotic free :cool:

densities vary. during pollination time theres hundreds if not thousands of hives in very close range. every 100 yards is another lot of beehives.
similar for some of the popular honey sites. some places theres beehives every 500 yards and its like that for miles.
but even in low density areas theres usually another beekeepers hive within a bees flying range not to mention wild hives.
theres always someones hive around which is why you have to keep on top of diseases.

top bars is nothing to fancy. its just beekeeping without frames, just like bees do in the wild. put a swarm/nuc in an empty box and they will do the exact same thing.
over here we can't really use that approach as the frames have to be removable for disease inspection (legal requirement). with a top bar hive you would just smash the brood trying to inspect the comb.
also when you extract honey you smash the comb, so they have to make new comb each year. not necessarily a bad thing but it does waste honey.

tweak'e
04-30-2011, 05:51 AM
i should add you should really stick to the standard commerical gear when starting off.
if for some reason you quit you have gear thats easy to sell. very few beekeepers will touch odd sized gear as its not compatiable with their existing gear.
we have some and it drives me nuts !

for a beginner stick to the basics. doing anything fancy just complicates things and slows down your learning. so start with standard hive, learn all the standard methods. that gives you a lot of people you can learn off and go work with to gain experience.
experience is a BIG thing. you will learn more in a day helping out a commerical outfit than in a year on your own. on your own you tend to forget because you only do a certain task a few times and when next season rolls around you have forgotten. but do it 100 times a day you tend to remember it ;)
you can try fancy things after 3-4 seasons when you have some skill and experience. by then you know what is normal and how to fix things when they go wrong.

mmclean
04-30-2011, 08:07 AM
top bars is nothing to fancy. its just beekeeping without frames, just like bees do in the wild. put a swarm/nuc in an empty box and they will do the exact same thing.
over here we can't really use that approach as the frames have to be removable for disease inspection (legal requirement). with a top bar hive you would just smash the brood trying to inspect the comb.
also when you extract honey you smash the comb, so they have to make new comb each year. not necessarily a bad thing but it does waste honey.

This is simply not true. Top bar are removable and therefore are legal in this country.

Top bar and crushing your comb is not the way to go if your commerical, but are great for the hobbyist.

You can't just throw a bunch of sticks across a box and call it a top bar hive. :rolleyes:

I would suggest you read up on types of top bar hives from people who actually uses them. Michael Bush, again is a good source.

tweak'e
04-30-2011, 08:27 PM
This is simply not true. Top bar are removable and therefore are legal in this country.

Top bar and crushing your comb is not the way to go if your commerical, but are great for the hobbyist.

You can't just throw a bunch of sticks across a box and call it a top bar hive. :rolleyes:

I would suggest you read up on types of top bar hives from people who actually uses them. Michael Bush, again is a good source.

before you jump up and down, have a look what country i'm in :o

top bar itself isn't illegal here (in debate at the mo and possible move to ban them outright), but the fact is that you have to inspect combs twice a year and you pretty much have to break your brood combs to be able to do this, renders it somewhat pointless.
add in a beginner who wants/needs to get in a see whats going on also makes it not suitable.

no matter what country your in, its not an appropriate system to learn beekeeping with.

mmclean
05-01-2011, 07:14 AM
you pretty much have to break your brood combs to be able to do this, renders it somewhat pointless.
add in a beginner who wants/needs to get in a see whats going on also makes it not suitable.

no matter what country your in, its not an appropriate system to learn beekeeping with.

I don't care if your on the moon, the above statment is misinformation and inappropriate.

If not, could you please reference your statment

mccann51
05-01-2011, 07:07 PM
This will be something I'll look into thoroughly before making any decisions. Luckily I am meeting with a beekeeper in a few weeks who has both types of hive setups, so I can pick his brain about it.

tweak'e
05-02-2011, 03:21 AM
I don't care if your on the moon, the above statment is misinformation and inappropriate.

If not, could you please reference your statment

so whats is misinformation and inappropriate ???

top bar do not make perfect straight, easily accessible comb that is easy to remove and replace without damage. thats why they are looking to ban the practice here (report in National Beekeepers' Association of New Zealand magazine), as people with top bar hives are less inclined to do disease checks to avoid damage to brood combs. (and i personally have dealt with hobbiest over this issue)

a beginner with a non-standard hive will have very few local people he/she can call onto for help. there will be very few, if any, people that are familiar with that setup. also it limits their ability to go work on other peoples hives that are different. that limits how quickly they can learn skills and gain experience.

its just a LOT quicker to learn and gain experience with standard hives and the local standard methods. theres plenty of local beekeepers to call onto for help and to work for to gain experience.
they are more than welcome to do alternatives later one once they know and understand bees.

perfect example here was the guy who poisoned a fair few people with tutin poisoning. thats simply because he read info out of a book (probably written for another country), did not join any bee clubs and did not seek any advice from other beekeepers. sold the honey illegally and very nearly killed quite a few people (only saved by a quick thinking nurse).
being a beginner and doing things out of the loop is a recipe for disaster.

TheAlchemist
05-02-2011, 05:34 PM
Which thread is this? I looked around and nothing popped out to me.

In The Hive:
http://www.gotmead.com/forum/showthread.php?t=17769

Just for fun...

tweak'e
05-25-2011, 02:35 AM
top bar do not make perfect straight, easily accessible comb that is easy to remove and replace without damage. thats why they are looking to ban the practice here (report in National Beekeepers' Association of New Zealand magazine), as people with top bar hives are less inclined to do disease checks to avoid damage to brood combs. (and i personally have dealt with hobbiest over this issue)



update: the report in the latest NBA mag is that they have classed top bar hives as illegal in NZ.

mccann51
05-26-2011, 11:03 PM
update: the report in the latest NBA mag is that they have classed top bar hives as illegal in NZ.

Does this mean even amateur beekeepers can't use top-bar hives? Seems a bit over-regulatory, if so.

tweak'e
05-27-2011, 01:02 AM
Does this mean even amateur beekeepers can't use top-bar hives? Seems a bit over-regulatory, if so.

rules apply to all, ESPECIALLY amateurs !

i don't see it as over-regulatory, its common sense to check hives for disease.

the rules have been in place probably close to 100 years now (don't quote me has i don't know exactly when it came in, its was well before my farther was born!) so its nothing new. the requirement is for removable frame hives, primarily so the two mandatory disease check per year can be done. most beekeepers check more than that as it such a big advantage to stop the diseases early on.

mccann51
05-27-2011, 09:11 AM
Top-bars have removable frames; I don't see how having a top-bar dissuades disease checks (I'm not arguing, just trying to understand).

mmclean
05-27-2011, 10:16 PM
They don't. :confused:

tweak'e
05-28-2011, 01:42 AM
Top-bars have removable frames; I don't see how having a top-bar dissuades disease checks (I'm not arguing, just trying to understand).

i'm not sure on the legal wording on the act so i don't know that side of things. but roughly speaking, legally they don't regard top bars as frames.

in practice from what i see in the field with foundation-less frames and starter foundation (ie not full foundation) in frames and top bars (eg broken frames, cut comb frames etc) is that bees don't always follow the bars when drawing comb. they often curve around inside the box and criss cross multiable frames.
this means you have to break the comb to get it out to inspect the cells.
also there is the risk of weak comb breaking off especially after you have broken the bridging.

the problem is that some beekeepers are reluctant to disease check as they don't want to damage brood comb.

i have enough trouble getting amateurs to do disease checks, mite treatments etc as it is, without them being worried about killing the hive off by breaking the brood comb.

funny enough i had two amateurs today that are three months late on inspection and mite treatments :eek:

tycoon
06-23-2011, 09:10 PM
My making mead also has led me recently to try my hand at (super hobby) beekeeping. I bought five hives a few months ago from a beekeeper I know. So far, it has been extremely interesting opening up the hives and seeing all the work they do. I have bought 4 (inexpensive) books on my Kindle on beekeeping (I also have the Langstroth classic book) and also read like 15 scientific and diffusion papers on varroa treatment (including a very interesting one from NZ comparing different treatments). Here, many beekeepers have very outdated practices (according to my books, that is....) but some people are using "natural" treatment for varroa using oxalic or formic acid. Thymol has started to be used, but a lot of people use stronger chemical stuff.

As the winter started two days ago, now there is little activity in the hives. I just hope they will winter well. they had a lot of honey and pollen three weeks ago, but I plan on feeding them sugar syrup further down the winter. I have to keep reading and asking questions, though...... :)

If this works, I will make mead with my own honey in the summer!! :cool:

tweak'e
06-23-2011, 09:43 PM
good to hear.

i havn't seen a lot useing organic acids. i have know plenty of peole using thymol with large amounts of failures. our humidity and temp range makes it difficult for it to work correctly. but just remember varroa is not the worse bug bees have to deal with.

hopefully you get a good crop and be able to make your own mead with it to :)


just a bit about he top bar hives.....the NZ NBA was looking for some feedback from pro top bar hive users. seams none have put their case forward for top bar hives.
i hope its not yet another underground movement thats going to infect everyones hives.

mccann51
06-24-2011, 01:32 PM
Hope your hives do well, Tycoon! I can't imagine how gratifying it's going to be brewing mead with honey from your own hives; cheers!