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Thread: Interested in starting to beekeep

  1. #1
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    Default Interested in starting to beekeep

    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!

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    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!

  3. Default Glad to hear . . . . . . .

    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.

  4. #4
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    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.

  5. #5

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    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.

  6. #6
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    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!

  7. Smile You are right . . . . . . .

    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.

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

    And Michael Bush, from www.bushfarms.com hangs out there.
    “Give a man a beer, waste an hour. Teach a man to brew, and waste a lifetime!”

    slàinte mhath

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    Blessed are the Bee Keepers!
    Making Mead With TLC since 2010

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheAlchemist View Post
    Blessed are the Bee Keepers!
    I thought he said "Blessed are the Cheese makers"?

    ... dear lord I went there :-D

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    Quote Originally Posted by hillhousehoney View Post
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by hillhousehoney View Post
    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!

    Quote Originally Posted by mmclean View Post
    If you haven't already, take a visit to 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.

  12. #12

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    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.

  13. #13
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    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mccann51 View Post
    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!
    Making Mead With TLC since 2010

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    Quote Originally Posted by tweak'e View Post
    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?)

    Quote Originally Posted by beeboy View Post
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheAlchemist View Post
    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.

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by mccann51 View Post
    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.

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    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.

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    Btw, I just found out about top-bar hives. Anybody have experience with these? It sounds a little overhyped, are there some major drawbacks or limitations?

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by mccann51 View Post
    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

    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.

  20. #20

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    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.

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