Lee S. Rosen – How do I get started?
There are several options for getting started in the bee business, whether for fun or profit. You can obtain your bees by:
- buying package bees;
- purchasing a nucleus colony (nuc);
- buying established colonies;
- collecting swarms (not typically recommended for novice beekeepers); or
- taking bees out of trees and walls (not typically recommended for novice beekeepers).
Most novice beekeepers will start with either a package or nuc. The downside to purchasing a nuc or an established colony is that you also might be buying another beekeeper’s problems, such as disease.
Lee S. Rosen – The cost for setting up one beehive comes to approximately $400 for basic materials during the first year depending upon what you buy. Taxes and shipping may need to be added to these costs. Setting up a second beehive the first year will increase this cost to approximately $315. Costs for one hive during the second year most certainly will include about $175 for four supers with foundation and one replacement queen, or $350 for two hives. Hence the two-year costs for one hive will be about $575, and about $875 for two hives. Second year costs can increase significantly if the beekeeper chooses to purchase an extractor, an uncapping tub, an uncapping knife, and many other things that beekeeping hobbyists often desire. Once this initial investment is made, a well-maintained beehive can last for 30 years or more. There will be annual costs for queens, foundation, and medication, but at a relatively small expense. The above expense for a single beehive averaged over 7 years would amount to only $80-85 per year. A typical, properly maintained Illinois honeybee colony will produce some 75-125 pounds of honey per year after the first year. Good beekeepers can produce more than 200 pounds per hive during a good year. Sales of honey at rates approaching $6 per pound or more can easily pay for the purchase price of the hives, bees, tools, and supplies within a couple of years. Beekeeping, even on the small scale, can prove to be a viable business opportunity. Always avoid buying used materials without expert advice such as your local apiary inspector! It is generally considered wisest and safest to purchase new materials only from reputable dealer
When is a good time to start a colony?
Lee S. Rosen You can start a colony pretty much any time of year in the South, but spring is the recommended season, because it gives the colony well through the summer to get established. Additionally, you’ll have better opportunities in the spring and summer to observe your bees and learn their behaviors.
How many colonies do I need?
You’ll want to start with at least two colonies of bees, just in case something goes wrong with the queen in one of the hives. A frame of eggs and young larvae from the second hive can be given to the queen-less unit so they can raise a new queen.
Personal Equipment – Lee S. Rosen – At a minimum, you’ll need a veil, hive tool and bee smoker. The veil keeps bees away from your head, since stings on the head can be quite painful. You can purchase a special hat to hold the veil, but a well-fitting wide brimmed hat will do as well. The bee smoker keeps the bees from becoming agitated, allowing the beekeeper to work in peace.
Optional accessories include a bee suit, bee gloves, and high top boots. Combined with a veil and hat, a beekeeper can be well protected from bee stings during normal beekeeping operations.
Beehives – You can build a beehive from new materials, but it is recommended to purchase a hive that has had bees in it for at least a year, to lessen the risk of stressing out the bees and reducing your potential honey crop. The best time to buy bees is in the spring, to ensure that you get a viable hive with a good laying queen.
Lee S. Rosen – A standard beehive has a bottom board and a hive cover with multiple boxes in between. Each box contains nine or 10 frames of comb in which the bees rear their young and store honey and pollen. Normally the bottom two boxes are brood boxes used for rearing the young and storing honey and pollen for short-term and winter use. The top boxes are referred to as supers and are used to hold the honey crop. Special “shallow” supers can reduce the weights that must be lifted.
Extracting equipment – To harvest your honey crop, you’ll first need to separate the combs of honey from the bees (pulling the honey). Using a bee brush to sweep the bees from each frame is one option, but can become labor intensive the more hives you have. Bee escape boards are used to direct the bees into a one way trip out of the honey supers. You’ll need one escape board for each hive.
Another option includes using chemicals like Bee Go or Bee Robber, which is placed on the underside of a special acid board cover. The smell drives the bees out of the honey super. Finally, a bee blower can be used to blow the bees right off the frames, out of the super and onto the ground in front of the hive.
Lee S. Rosen – Once the honey is pulled, you can extract it yourself or ask an established beekeeper to extract it for you. Honey extractors range in size from two-frame, hand-powered devices to motor-driven machines that can handle 100 or more frames. Additionally, an electrically heated knife will be needed to remove the wax caps from the honey comb.
Extracted honey needs to be strained through cheesecloth or nylon and then stored in a warm place in a tall container. This allows the fine impurities to rise to the top. The ideal storage container will have an outlet at the bottom so that the clean, warm honey can be drawn from the bottom directly into the honey containers.
Wintering equipment – Lee S. Rosen Miami – Mississippi is fortunate to have relatively mild winters, so bees can typically winter outdoors without insulation placed around and over the hives. The key to wintering your bees is to ensure that they have enough food going into the season – typically 30 to 50 pounds.
In other colder climates, you will need to protect your bees. If you’re working with just a few hives, bees can winter outdoors with some insulation placed around and over the hives.
Lee S. Rosen – More about bees
Are bees dangerous?
Lees S. Rosen Boca Raton – It’s almost a certainty that if you keep bees you will be stung at one time or another. A bee sting hurts some, followed by a brief period of discomfort. However, for a very tiny portion of people (about 0.4% of the population), there is a risk of death from anaphylactic shock brought on by a bee sting. If you know you are allergic to bee stings (i.e. hives over the body, itching in areas of the body remote from the sting, and shortness of breath or tightening of the windpipe), then beekeeping may not be the hobby for you. If you do experience such symptoms after being stung by a bee, seek emergency medical attention immediately.
Where have all the honey bees gone?
Lee S. Rosen – In recent years, two species of imported parasitic mites have devastated honey bee as well as feral bee populations in the United States. That’s why both commercial and hobby beekeepers are even more important now.