View Full Version : So you are thinking about keeping bees?

06-13-2006, 02:42 AM
Now that we have a dedicated forum here I though I would start a thread here for all you mazers who want to make your own honey for your mead. Here are some facts and some questions you may be asking yourself about this interesting hobby.

1. The bees don't want to sting you! They know they will die if they sting you. They only sting to defend the colony. In reality honey bees are very docile.

2. Is it an expensive hobby? Like meadmaking it is as expensive as you make it. Although you are going to spend about $200 to get your foot in the door.

3. Do I need a lot of room to keep bees? No, you only need enough room to put the hive and store extra equipment over the winter. Honey bees will thrive just about anywhere.

4. Honeybees are not native to this part of the world, they were brought here by setttlers. Native Amercians refered to them as White Man's Fly.

5. Honeybees are a primary source of pollination for agriculture. In fact in the last few years the state governments of North Carolina and New Jeresy have given away bees to people interested in keeping bees because the agriculture industries in those states were suffering from the lack of pollination for crops.

6. Is it difficult to keep bees? No it is rather easy, there is a learning curve, like any new hobby. Be prepared to do some heavy lifting at the end of the season. For the most part the bees take care of themselves with little work on your part but to keep an eye on their health.

7. What do the bees do during the winter? Honey bees make honey and store it for the winter. During the cold months they will cluster together to stay warm and feed on honey until the weather gets better. They don't hibrenate and if your lucky they don't all just die off..lol

8. Are there any special rules about keeping bees? This depends on your state. It is best to call your local agriculture extension or see if your state has a state bee inspector about these details before you begin. You may also want to check with local ordinances in your city or township.
These are just a few questions I could think of that newbees may be asking. So here is your chance to ask all you ever wanted to know about Beekeeping. There is more than a couple of us here who are more than happy to share our knowledge!

06-13-2006, 10:14 PM
You don't have to get stung if you are mindful of the bees mood, catch them on a cloudy wet day and they can be agressive, a warm sunny day and they are laid back. Reading the bees is a important part of being a bee keeper.

06-14-2006, 01:16 AM
Even from one colony to the next one in line.

06-14-2006, 12:21 PM
As far as equipment goes, should I buy new or would used equipement be sufficient??

And if used equipment would be ok, what are some key features I should check for?

The reason I ask, I was talking to my wife about keeping bees and she told me that a late uncle of hers kept bees and has no idea what condition the hives or any other euqipment are in. If the equipment is usable I would like to know the pitfalls of used stuff.

Thanks in advance for any advice ;D

David Baldwin
06-14-2006, 02:16 PM
OK, I'm no expert here. I just recently learned which end of my new bees is the pointy painful end!

Anyway, probably the greatest risk in using used equipment is the possible presence of Foulbrood spores. I've read methods of sterilizing hive bodies and frames, but as a new beekeeper I'm steering clear of any used wooden hardware. Used smokers, extractors, hive tools, etc are OK. You should be able to clean and sterilize anything metal.


06-14-2006, 03:21 PM
Just checked my city's municipal code, and found this wonderful little fact:

"(c) Livestock. Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, no person shall harbor, raise or possess within the City, either temporarily or permanently, any bees, fowl, cows, cattle, horses, sheep, swine, goats, chickens, rabbits, ducks, turkeys, geese, pigeons or any other domesticated livestock provided, however, that such animals or fowl may be kept at places approved by the Health Officer for educational purposes and circuses or similar recreational events."

Short of convincing them that my house is a circus (and it sometimes is) I think beekeeping is out for me. :'(

Of course it does not say anything about not keeping elephants. Hmmmm ::)


Muirghein Tarot
06-14-2006, 04:47 PM
It's just common sense that you shouldn't have pigeons with in city limits.

You could provide tours of the hives to local schools, that might would qualify as educational. Certainly the first one dumb enough to walk up and knock on the hive would get an education.

PS I saw a video of elephants eating fermented Amarula fruit. As big as they are having something that likes alcohol that much might not be a good idea.

06-15-2006, 02:22 AM
David is right about used equipment and foulbrood. My first year out I aquired some used equipment for free. Broguht it home and brought American Foul Brood home to my bees. They never made it through the winter. AFB is the worst thing you can give your bees.
But there is another side to this.
1. After confirming my bees had AFB and talking to the bee expert at MSU I boiled the wooden ware, everything but the frames I just burned them. Reused the equipment with no problems.
2. There is a new anibiotic treatment on the market that works well, but is expensive. The strain of AFB my bees had contracted was immune to the older anitbiotic treatments used for AFB.
3. A good sign that there was ever AFB in that hive is. Old timers would scorch the inside of the hive to kill the AFB spores if it was infected. If the inside of the boxes look like they are burned up, I would guess that the previous owner suspected AFB and scorched the boxes.
AFB spores can live in woodenware for up to 70 years!
I have since obtained used wooden ware for free that had been scorched but had recent colony activity and felt safe using it as is, so far so good.

My advice is. If it looks like it is in decent shape and you have the means to boil the wooden ware(I did so in a 55gallon drum on a fire) than it should be ok. But you will have to replace frames, which are realatively cheap. Otherwise buy a beginers kit so you get a veil, gloves, hive tool, and smoker along with the basic woodenware.

I have read simmilar stories about elephants in AFrica that raid small villages when they have there annual fermentations. I have also read of elephants that knock over certain trees, cactui??? At a certain point in the year becaus the sap in this vegetaion will ferment on its own. Or something like that.
Guess that is why that old saying about remebering things like and elephant exists.

Know of anyone with a location you could place bees? Or use as a back up location in case the neigbors throw a fit over the bees in your yard?..lol >:D
I'm not exactly telling you to go out and break the law but if you educate your neighbors and they are ok with it you could prolly get away with keeping a colony.

As for the local schools and educating the kids. I had thought of that before but I am not willing to take the risk of the liabilities involved with that. One kid who has a severe allergic reaction to a sting and bye bye meadmaking and the good life outside of prison walls!

David, I was wondering where you have been how are things going for you?

06-15-2006, 07:41 PM
I've got to agree about not using second hand equipment even if you know where it came from. I ended up burning two hives and scorching the supers back in the mid 90's cause of AFB. The equipment was my dad's which had sat in his garage for 15 years before I got it. It is easier to just purchase a beginner setup and work from there. Even building your own supers isn't real cost effective when you add in the lumber and time involved. Once you start mixing different manufacturer's equipment you can end up with all types of bee space problems. I'm dealing with that right now, changing over from Root double bottom bar frames to Mann Lake single bottom bar frames which are stronger and easier to assemble. The girls do funny things if you mix up the two types of frames in one super. Looks like my problem hive accepted the new queen but still need to check over the weekend to see if she started laying. Really looking forward to my first batch of honey, maybe next weekend I'll open the hives and pull all the full frames. I'll take some pictures if it looks good.

06-16-2006, 01:20 AM
Do you like the Mann lake frames beeboy. I bought some deep frames and don't like them at all. I found that I would have to soak the top and bottom bars for a little while or they would split while nailing. The wood is much more sturdier than the ones I get from Kelley's, but a bigger pain to assemble.

I very much agree about the problems that occur when mixing hive parts from different manufactorers.
Newbees stick with one supplier and save yourselves the mess when you open your colony for inspection.

06-16-2006, 01:45 PM
I don't like the mann lake frames either. The wood is too hard and brittle splitting easily. I like the frames from Humble Abodes myself (out of Main I think). I buy them from Simpsons Bee Supply because they are a bit more local. Assembled 1200 last year without soaking with a staple gun and had 2 end bars (total) split.

You would think by now they all would be able to stick with a standard. They are close, but slightly different. The biggest problem I've seen is the space between boxes, ie. the bee space at the top and bottom of the frames. Some put it at the top, all at the bottom or half at the top and half at the bottom (getting 1 bee space when stacked).


06-16-2006, 07:32 PM
Haven't decided if I like the Mann Lake frames yet and I have had problems with the end bars splitting while nailing them up. Ended up using a electric stapler and lots of glue for assembly, so far so good. 1200 frames is a lot of work, a couple dozen frames is all I'm good for. Only reason I switched was because I ran out of the Root frames and was ordering from mann lake anyways.

06-17-2006, 02:56 PM
1200 frames what a tedious work out. Fortuenatley I haven't the problem of assembling that many frames at once. But I have a feeling that day is coming.

The Honey Farmer
06-18-2006, 12:00 PM
I switched to the Polystyrene hives and Dadant plastic frames about six years ago. NO regrets. A bee keeper I know in N. Cal has been switching over to the plastic frames for about 10 years now at a rate of 5000 frames a year. He has 9000 colonies and only God knows how many supers. You do the math. Anyway, back to moving, Dennis

06-19-2006, 11:48 AM
It gets tedious, but isn't too bad with just an inexpensive 1" 1/4" crown staple gun. Must be a glutton for punishment though, just got in another 1300 for this year. Probably won't need them all this year, but it was a price break, and the way the plastic prices jumped compared to last year it will probably earn more money than if I had left it in the bank account with the low interest rates now ;)

I like the plastic foundation with wooden frames, but just haven't had much luck with all plastic frames. I had one case of them (deeps), and after 3 years still have some the bees won't draw out correctly. Plus I find the top bar a bit to flexible. Of course it would save a lot of time and I could understand going that rout and not giving the bees any choise if I were commercial.



06-19-2006, 07:54 PM
I'm using two deeps with plastic foundation and wood frames, took a while for the bees to draw out the foundation but they are using them with no problems now.
Anybody using queen excluders? Just started to use them and am having trouble getting the girls up into the honey supers. Any tricks beside using drawn comb in them to pull the bees up?.

06-20-2006, 01:53 AM
I used an excluder last year. I put one on this year and just took it off last week.
1. The frames in the bottoms super wouldn't sit right and I was getting lots of burr comb I guess I would call it. Bascily they were building their typical pancake shape comb between the frames.
2. I was pulling a lot burr comb out of the excluder its self. I got mostly new foundation so they were just expending energy the wrong way.
3. I just wasn't seeing as many bee's in the supers as I wanted. I pulled the outer cover off yesterday and both the feeder holes on the inner cover was full of bees.

So I am going with out the excluder this year. My mentor doesn't use any excluders and the queen's occasionally lay in the lower half of a few super frames in the lowest super.
He says the girls do a pretty good job of keepin her low in the colony so they have room for their winter stores. If they only knew that their witner stores was going to keep me busy making mead all winter..lol Maybe I should share some mead with them huh?

Still hoping to get a nuc but time is running out for me. Not sure if I can get a nuc in and have them draw out all the brood comb and get the honey in they will need for winter.

06-20-2006, 10:05 AM
Drawn comb or a frame of brood placed above the excluder seems the easiest, another reason why I'm switching to all medium frames, interchangability of parts. You could bait them by simply putting the queen in the bottom box, excluder over that followed by the supper and then your second deep (with brood).

Crowding them also works. Shake them down into one deep and put the exluder and comb above (typical method for cut comb or section honey production).

It also seems less of a problem if you have the bees using primiarly an upper entrance since they'll return to the hive above the exluder.


06-20-2006, 10:52 AM
Ya know I am leaving my outer cover ajar with some sticks proping it up so they can enter that way and they are not using it as an entrance. >:(

06-20-2006, 09:56 PM
This is the first time I've used excluders and am not real happy with them so far. I'll keep them on for another week or so and see if the bees are in the honey supers. They seem to be bringing in a lot honey in the bottom deeps, hoping when they get full the bees will move up into the shallows, don't want to crowd them too much and kick them into swarming mode. Finally got that problem hive to accept a queen, opened the hive Sunday evening and spotted a lot of fresh brood. The hive is a couple months behind the others but should build up enough for the winter.

06-21-2006, 04:09 AM
Well chat disappeared but forum is back!!!

Did an inspection on my colony today. First one since I removed the excluder,prolly about a week, although I didn't go into the brood chamber.

Wow what a difference. Had 4x(at least) as many bees in supers as when the excluder was in + things have been getting really dry around here.
I had to sort out some burr comb and other crap comb from the supers from when I had an excluder in there. Ended up putting another super on 3 total now(shallows). Guessing I already have about 40# in those two and they aren't even full. They are just starting to cap some of the honey.

No more excluders for me, that was Pepsi challenge enough for me.
I am wondering how much farther along I would have been if I would have never put an excluder in. Seems the girls like it excluder free better. Plus they aren't wasting energy making wax I will just pull out when they have comb I want them to build on foundation.

06-21-2006, 08:31 PM
Think I'm pulling the excluders this weekend, first and last time I'll use them. Peeked in the top of one of the hives and there still isn't a lot of bees in the honey super.
Something wierd is going on with one of my new hives, started out with all three hives looking the same, orange/yellow Italian bees and queens. Now one hive seems to of gone dark. All the bees out on the hive front are dark brown while the other hives have orange/yellow bees on the front. I wonder if the hive made a new queen, need to open it up and see what's going on.