Does anyone keep honey bees? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 47 Old 11-16-2009, 02:10 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My husband has wanted to be a keeper of honey bees forever and I think if he gets out of the military (medically retired) he is sick and injured...it would really help him. Kind of theraputic in ways for him to handle and be gentle to creatures and take care of them with my help obviously. Anyway he has said he would really like to some day. I know that there are so many positives to having bees and I am hoping he gets a chance to do that. What sorts of resources or reading do you keepers of bees recommend?

 Jess mom to 5!!! 3 boys 2 girls and another girl on the way edd jan 31st! I have a Disabled veteran husband
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#2 of 47 Old 11-17-2009, 01:42 PM
 
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#3 of 47 Old 11-17-2009, 07:15 PM
 
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testing
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#4 of 47 Old 11-17-2009, 07:32 PM
 
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Sorry. I just wrote and rewrote 2 long posts that wouldn't post. aaargh.
very condensed version...

I started with Dadants First Lessons in Beekeeping. Pretty good starter- but my greatest resource was a mentor.
I found a couple of links that may be helpful for you...
http://www.chattahoocheebeekeepers.com/ This club is based in Columbus which I think is near you.
http://www.gabeekeeping.com/index.html Georgia Beekeeping Assoc
You might be able to get connected with a mentor through either of these groups.

A few cautions...
Hives can be pretty heavy and there is a lot of lifting and bending required to take the hive apart to check on the bees. If your husbands injuries are neck/back/shoulder-related, he may need to find some creative solutions with leverage or "beekeeping assistants". Also, as a beginner, I found some of my encounters with the bees to be pretty stressful. They get more aggressive as the season progresses. Got a bit dicey with a billion angry, protective bees swarming my suit, diving into my screen and trying to climb ender my ankle elastic. That was a fun day.... If your husband is experiencing any PTSD, that aspect of keeping may be a challenge. I'm probably not as brave as your hubby-- so it may not be an issue for him at all I got stung pretty badly early on and had difficulty avoiding dumping lots of adrenaline into my system each time after... Lot's of "flop sweat"...

I don't want to discourage you, though. I don't want to overemphasize the negative. Having the hive has been so rewarding and you can't beat fresh raw honey and beeswax. Just wanted to give you some things to think about.

Great luck to you both
Keep us posted

Sass
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#5 of 47 Old 11-17-2009, 08:24 PM
 
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We planned on having them last year but it didn't work out. We are going to try again this year.

The funny thing is *I* sorta "started it" I was the one that first brought up the idea but then started having reactions to stings. This will leave DH doing ALL the work since I now can't risk being anywhere near them LOL.
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#6 of 47 Old 11-17-2009, 09:15 PM
 
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Find an old beekeeper if you can! Most older folks who keep bees can help with the confidence and experience no book can give you, and someone close to your home can help you with the specifics of your climate and conditions.

Look for associations, clubs or co-ops in the area. All the reading is still essential! It's just great to learn from a mentor.
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#7 of 47 Old 11-18-2009, 12:54 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sassafrass94 View Post
Sorry. I just wrote and rewrote 2 long posts that wouldn't post. aaargh.
very condensed version...

I started with Dadants First Lessons in Beekeeping. Pretty good starter- but my greatest resource was a mentor.
I found a couple of links that may be helpful for you...
http://www.chattahoocheebeekeepers.com/ This club is based in Columbus which I think is near you.
http://www.gabeekeeping.com/index.html Georgia Beekeeping Assoc
You might be able to get connected with a mentor through either of these groups.

A few cautions...
Hives can be pretty heavy and there is a lot of lifting and bending required to take the hive apart to check on the bees. If your husbands injuries are neck/back/shoulder-related, he may need to find some creative solutions with leverage or "beekeeping assistants". Also, as a beginner, I found some of my encounters with the bees to be pretty stressful. They get more aggressive as the season progresses. Got a bit dicey with a billion angry, protective bees swarming my suit, diving into my screen and trying to climb ender my ankle elastic. That was a fun day.... If your husband is experiencing any PTSD, that aspect of keeping may be a challenge. I'm probably not as brave as your hubby-- so it may not be an issue for him at all I got stung pretty badly early on and had difficulty avoiding dumping lots of adrenaline into my system each time after... Lot's of "flop sweat"...

I don't want to discourage you, though. I don't want to overemphasize the negative. Having the hive has been so rewarding and you can't beat fresh raw honey and beeswax. Just wanted to give you some things to think about.

Great luck to you both
Keep us posted

Sass

Thank you :-) . I will have to do most of the lifting which I am ok with totally...his is a back thing. Basically he has a bunch of issues with it but we think his pain is from benign tumors and such which can be fixed supposedly. We arent sure if thats the only thing but we're still working on a complete diagnosis.
He said that he really wants to do this for many reasons but we will also have crops at some point which I know how handy bees are to have around for that too. I'm probably going to be doing a lot of the work myself but I am on board too when the time comes.

 Jess mom to 5!!! 3 boys 2 girls and another girl on the way edd jan 31st! I have a Disabled veteran husband
breastfeeding,cosleeping, non vax,no circ,and nature loving family!

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#8 of 47 Old 11-20-2009, 09:25 AM
 
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Good timing on this thread!

I have now read one book on beekeeping and I plan on going to look at some used equipment in a couple days. I don't want to invest a lot of money, but I think this something I really think I would enjoy doing.

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#9 of 47 Old 12-02-2009, 11:19 PM
 
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#10 of 47 Old 12-03-2009, 09:22 AM
 
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Anyone on here using a top bar hive? I'm looking into that and it looks like it would be more reasonable for me. I love the idea of it being cheap, no heavy lifting, and more natural. I keep hearing from people that plan on trying it, or love the idea of it, but not many that are currently doing it. I saw it in the last issue of Mother Earth News and I want to know more about it. I guess I'm just going to have to break down and buy The Barefoot Beekeeper.

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#11 of 47 Old 12-04-2009, 12:02 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by atobols View Post
Anyone on here using a top bar hive? I'm looking into that and it looks like it would be more reasonable for me. I love the idea of it being cheap, no heavy lifting, and more natural. I keep hearing from people that plan on trying it, or love the idea of it, but not many that are currently doing it. I saw it in the last issue of Mother Earth News and I want to know more about it. I guess I'm just going to have to break down and buy The Barefoot Beekeeper.
yes the top bar hive is what we are considering as well whenever we leave here and have a new place. The only thing stopping us from starting at this point is our neighbors are close and I know for a fact people would kill our bees here with pesticides etc. they kill everything here @@.

 Jess mom to 5!!! 3 boys 2 girls and another girl on the way edd jan 31st! I have a Disabled veteran husband
breastfeeding,cosleeping, non vax,no circ,and nature loving family!

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#12 of 47 Old 12-05-2009, 08:00 PM
 
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The only thing stopping us from starting at this point is our neighbors are close and I know for a fact people would kill our bees here with pesticides etc. they kill everything here @@.
We have about 8 acres so I'm not too worried about the neighbors even though he did build a deer stand on the top of his kids' swingset

I ordered my book today, so hopefully I'll learn a lot over the winter. I think we're going to try and bait the hive(s) the first year in hopes of catching a wild swarm. If that doesn't work, then I'll go ahead and buy a package of bees for the following year. Can you tell I'm trying to do this as cheaply as possible?

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#13 of 47 Old 12-05-2009, 09:56 PM
 
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Subbing! I am taking a class this winter and hope to start BeeKeeping in the spring! I am also interested in TopBar Hives! <3
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#14 of 47 Old 12-12-2009, 03:50 PM
 
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This is the first winter for my husband's bees - he has one top bar hive that he built and one conventional (Langstroth) hive. I think the top bar hive does make for easier observation, etc with less heavy lifting.

He is also allowing his bees to build their own comb from scratch (using frames but no foundation) which is going to make harvesting more challenging but allows the bees to build their own natural cell size which, in my understanding, makes them generally healthier and leads to less varroa mite infestation.

Anyway, we think they went into the winter with enough honey, but we are new at this so we're crossing our fingers that they survive the cold season.
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#15 of 47 Old 12-14-2009, 01:54 PM
 
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Originally Posted by 1jooj View Post
Find an old beekeeper if you can! Most older folks who keep bees can help with the confidence and experience no book can give you, and someone close to your home can help you with the specifics of your climate and conditions.

Look for associations, clubs or co-ops in the area. All the reading is still essential! It's just great to learn from a mentor.
Call the county extension office. They usually know older beekeepers. One time we had a swarm in the Fall, and I was concerned. I knew they were probably scouts, because the wild hive in the woods got to full. I called the extension office and they put me in touch w/an elderly gentleman who came right out w/some buddies and took the bees to his place. He gave the kids a homeschooling lesson and left us a jar of honey.

Now I'm going back to read the other replies since I last checked this thread.

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#16 of 47 Old 12-14-2009, 01:56 PM
 
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Ok, here's a question....We built a cabin in the woods and a wild swarm made a home under the floor boards. Should we call in our beekeeper guy, or should we leave it alone and build a hive and hope that they go in it? My hubby is VERY interested in raising bees.

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#17 of 47 Old 12-17-2009, 01:40 PM
 
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Do both. Build the hive. Because you'll want a hive anyway. So, if the bees don't move in, you can buy a colony, or maybe said bee guy can come and try moving these bees into the hive for you?
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#18 of 47 Old 12-18-2009, 06:01 PM
 
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Beekeeping is always a rewarding hobby. have you considered building your own top bar hive? Top bar hive beekeeping is much easier than most people think.It's definitely cheaper to get started with.
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#19 of 47 Old 12-22-2009, 01:40 PM
 
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That top bar hive is interesting!

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#20 of 47 Old 12-27-2009, 02:47 PM
 
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Subbing, because I am very interested in keeping bees but somewhat afraid of being stung. It also seems expensive to get started! I'm just at the collecting knowledge stage...

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#21 of 47 Old 12-27-2009, 07:36 PM
 
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IMO, it is expensive. Bees themselves are $$ and seem to go up a lot each year. If I didn't already have all the equipment and supplies and I were about to try bees, I'd probably build a top bar hive, too. They look pretty simple, people-friendly, inexpensive, and don't appear to require a ton of accessories. Also, we still have not bought our own extraction equipment. That will be another $400+ if we do go there...They are as expensive as any livestock, I find. Hopefully, if smallholders and city folk can raise more, and bees can come back from the brink some, prices will even out?

I have been stung a few times now, and the anticipation is worse for me than the sting. I don't know whether the last few stings have been actually smaller (as in, less venom) or if it's possible I am becoming resistant. I'd sure prefer that to the allergic reaction.

Our bee loft seems to be doing all right so far this winter. I tried to feed them well this fall, early enough so they could cure the sugar water...and I actually took very little honey from them, leaving probably about 80# per colony. I just pray all my hives make it through winter. They seem to be doing their housekeeping...

Around us, almost everyone reported seeing more honeybees this summer than last year. Anyone else find this? I'm in WI, and lots and lots of people said they saw honeybees and bumbles more than they can remember in recent years. Here's hoping they're on their way back.
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#22 of 47 Old 12-27-2009, 08:26 PM
 
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I'm on my second year of keeping bees in a top bar hive. I love it! The hive is beautiful and very simple to work with. I have developed my own way of working with the bees, though I read several books at first.

Our bees are kept in town, in our back yard. They have forage nearly year round (northern california, inland) so we never feed them and also we leave plenty of honey through the winter so for the few months when there is no forage they have stores to fall back on.

This hive was caught as a feral swarm, coming out of a feral hive in an olive tree. It has been strong and thriving. I would encourage anyone interested in keeping a top bar hive to go for it. You may lose bees a few times, but don't be too sad, just keep learning and observing the bees to know how to work with them.

We harvested 7 quarts this year! What a sweet gift from the bees. And we found out that if harvested at the right time and with mindfulness, no bees are harmed and the hive is not compromised.

One way I work uniquely, is that I don't go into the brood section of the hive, ever. This is the sacred heart of the hive and rightfully so is highly protected by the bees. I leave it alone and only go into the honey stores and observe the bees from a window in the hive. The window has a cover, so the hive is all dark, like a womb, except when I occasionally open the window. It is a great way to share this treasure with friends and especially children.

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#23 of 47 Old 12-28-2009, 09:08 AM
 
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How do you go about getting a feral swarm?

My DH is on vacation for the next week, so I'm hoping that he will get a couple of hives made. We have a big pile of old barn wood that's sitting out back, so that's what he is going to use to make a couple top bar hives.

Last night we went up to MIL's house and her partner mentioned that he has kept bees for years. He also told me that he has a wild swarm living in a tree that I could get. I have no idea how to do that though and I'm not sure how helpful MIL's partner would be.

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#24 of 47 Old 01-18-2010, 03:54 PM
 
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We have been keeping bees for several years now. If you start from scratch you may need to buy a NUK. Now is the time to reserve those, they run out quickly. When you already have combed frames, you can start with packaged bees, that is cheaper and easier to get.
Beekeeping is relaxing for us, you have to stay calm in order to keep the bees calm (you learn to be calm). Sometimes the bees are in a bad mood, then we just stop working with them that day. We are not focused on getting much honey from them, that reduces the amount of work (lifting) that is needed by a lot.
It is indeed not cheap. Where we are (NJ) bees have a hard time surviving the winter, then it becomes expensive replacing them every year. But since we are taking less honey from the hives that has helped them survive better (otherwise you have to feed them sugar water which is inferior food for them) I think.
I second finding an older beekeeper to mentor you. They sometimes can provide you with an old hive and some bees (bee populations are often split up manually in spring, to avoid swarming) for you to start low cost. Many beekeepers are also interested in having extra place to keep hives, maybe someone can keep some hives on your property to start out.

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#25 of 47 Old 01-18-2010, 03:58 PM
 
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He also told me that he has a wild swarm living in a tree that I could get. I have no idea how to do that though and I'm not sure how helpful MIL's partner would be.
If it is an established population it is hard to get them into a hive. If it is a swarm you can relative easy get them into a hive. They have scouts looking around to find a good home, so if you place a nice hive close to them they'll find it and move in.
Swarms only occur in spring though, don't think you will have swarm right now.

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#26 of 47 Old 01-18-2010, 04:02 PM
 
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Also, we still have not bought our own extraction equipment.
To start out you could use equipment from the local beekeepers club.
Also in the beginning we just uncapped comb let it drip out and then hang it back in the hive, the bees will top it off and cap it again. That way you don't get a lot of honey, but still plenty for yourself and you don't need to have extraction equipment.

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#27 of 47 Old 01-19-2010, 01:08 PM
 
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I'm so excited, I'm officially signed up for a Basic Beekeeping course in March

My husband is still working on making 2 top bar hives. I have asked around and was told that a NUC was not a good idea because we're going with a TBH. Has anyone done a successful conversion from a NUC to a TBH, or is a package the best way to go?

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#28 of 47 Old 01-19-2010, 10:27 PM
 
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I am new to TBHs. I googled it, that prob. won't work with a NUK/NUC indeed. The NUKs I have seen only have the frame type comb.
Packaged bees could work. But they will need to do a lot of work at first, they first need to build comb before they can do anything else. So you need to feed them first, otherwise they might starve. For example swarms always take a lot of honey with them. Packaged bees only have a little bit of food for the Queen.

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#29 of 47 Old 01-19-2010, 11:13 PM
 
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Hi all. I am also a relatively new beek. I have one Langstroth and one TBH.
I only have bees in the lang atm. We will order two pkgs. this year and will put a package in the TBH this spring. If my colony makes it through the winter (so far so good) we will have three colonies!

We use the crush and strain method for honey extraction. I used one food grade 5 gallon bucket on top of another fg 5 gallon bucket. The top one has a million tiny holes in the bottom of it to use as a strainer. The bottom one has a "honey gate" in the bottom side for filling our smaller jars. I just scrape the honeycomb off of the frames (or push it out in the case of my few foundationless frames) and toss it in the top bucket. When the bucket is full, or when I run out of frames, I mash and crush it all around and throw the lid on. Just leave it. You can pour up smaller ones as needed. The 5 gal. makes a fine storage container. Make sure it is summer/warm room. Stir it every few hours (or days) until you are pretty confident you have drained as much as you can. For only one or two hives, that's probably all I will ever do.

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#30 of 47 Old 01-19-2010, 11:14 PM
 
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yep, definitely get the package. they will do fine!

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