Bee keeping?

Anyone have any great resources on bee-keeping? I’d like to setup a hive and dip mh toe in this, in the interest of pollinators, my own flower proliferation, and bonus of fresh honey.
I’ve been researching, but if COTH has any tips I’d love to hear!

Bee keeping and chemical fly control on a horse farm are mutually exclusive endeavors. Just my 2 cents worth of advice.

I board… we live on a 3 acre rural property that has an alfalfa field across the street, and a fallow meadow on the other side. We do not use chemical pest control at all. I know the fallow meadow isn’t sprayed either. Not sure what chemicals are being used across the street.

I have a couple hives! For much of the season they find resources off of my property, but dandelions, clover, and birdsfoot trefoil have the yard literally crawling with bees. They’re truly fascinating.
SO and I don’t really eat much honey, so I sell some and give some away. I submitted a couple jars to be judged at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto, results will be posted next Friday (a little cheaper than competing with horses :sweat_smile: )

Beekeeping for dummies was a good resource for all of the basics and beekeeping terms. If you can find a local mentor or club, or even a local beekeeping Facebook group it will be a big help. The Beesource forums can be helpful as well.
It is often recommended that you start with two hives so that you can compare, which also allows you to pull resources from a stronger hive if the other is weak.

I keep my bees in a single deep and medium for the brood boxes. Mine get through Ontario winters with those stores just fine. Most resources will tell you to use double deeps, but they get very heavy.

Varroa mites will likely be the biggest threat to your bees. Staying on top of testing via alcohol washes and sticky boards is imperative. If mites get out of control the hive is doomed. Get familiar with the different treatments for Varroa, some have temperature restrictions, and some can’t be used while honey supers are on.

Anyway, highly recommend. I have a lot of fun with my bees. During spring you may need to get into the hives as often as every 10 days if they’re wanting to swarm. But during the rest of the season they can go a 2-4 weeks between inspections. I’m just getting ready to wrap mine for winter and do a final mite treatment. Won’t do another full inspection until at least April.

Thank you! This is so very helpful. Those “Dummies” books do come in handy on a variety of topics. Our local Ag society has some resources and I’m tied in with the extension agency to some extent so I figured I’d look there too.

Do you have any recommendations as to where to buy the equipment from? I coming across a variety of sources on the internet and not sure if there are better places than others.

If you can find a local beekeeping supply that would be the best. Woodenware is heavy and I imagine most places will charge for shipping.
Otherwise the big American suppliers are Mann Lake, Dadant, Better Bee, and Dancing Bee.

I got my suit and some smaller things from Amazon.

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Check with your state agricultural department or extension agent if you have one. In my state, Arkansas, the State Plant Board had an Apiary division. Tractor Supply has beekeeping supplies.

Not me directly, but a family member started with bees this season on their acreage. For 2 hives they set up a mutually beneficial “shared profits” approach with a local “commercial” beekeeper. Essentially found a local beekeeper and went into an agreement with them where the beekeeper provided guidance and stewardship for the first 2 seasons, family member paid for all the hive needs / equipment, and beekeeper gets a good share of the first couple seasons of honey production for the original 2-3 hives they put on the land.

I think family member is planning to add another hive or two next year and apply skills learned in this first year more independently.

I’ve had almost no involvement, but family member is really enjoying it!

Agreed. I live near Better Bee and not only do they have all the stuff you need, but they offer all kinds of classes which are really worthwhile. I did one of their open hive inspection classes and it was really great; it can be very intimidating when you’re on your own, and they make you take out frame after frame after frame to practice.

My bees did not winter through last year and I didn’t replace them yet. There is some effort necessary and I am still overwhelmed with honey, so I decided to give myself a break. I did enjoy them though.

Where about to you live?

PS alfalfa honey is awesome!

I’ve been checking out the information on the Better Bee site - wish I were closer to it! I am in north-central Indiana.

We have a County Beekeeping Association. Does a great hands on clinics for new beekeepers every spring and meet a couple of other times a year. Perhaps you have a similar resource? We had 5 hives on our old farm but haven’t gotten back into it on our current property. My neighbor has bees that help out my veg patch tremendously.

They have videos as well on YouTube, not sure if they are linked to their website or not. My good friend worked there for a while and I think her daughter still does too. They have excellent customer service support so when in doubt - call them!

Some beginner tips – best advice I got was to place your hives carefully. When they are full, they are very heavy, and you will not be able to walk frames of honey back to your house. So, think about what you can get to/from the hive – a vehicle, golf cart, or even a big wagon on wheels will make the job much easier.

Also, if your hives are close to your house you are more likely to check on them frequently, and they are more used to your presence. The more you open your hives, the easier it is for them and you. When a hive gets opened only once or twice a year, the bees are disturbed and tend to be more angry/defensive. The hives at Better Bee get opened all the time, so those bees are hardly disturbed when you pull out the frame. So it’s a plus plus – if you can see their behavior daily, you will notice changes quicker, and they will behave better for you.

10 frame hives are big and heavy; maybe better to start with smaller ones - I went with 10 thinking the bigger the better, more honey! And I still have tons of honey from last year…even after giving away a lot of it. You will get the honey, don’t worry about it! Make the job less onerous by not being as heavy.

Order your nucs early! If you miss that deadline, you’ll probably have to wait until the next spring, so get your order in early.

Have fun!!

The Research Centre at the University of Guelph has some great videos as well. They are also fairly active on Instagram.

Well this gives me pause as I thought I had the perfect location for them…but now I’m not so sure as it is quite a distance from the house…and uphill. I will think that thru more. My husband has been wanting a 4 wheeler or Gater type ORV. Maybe I can go along with that now. :joy:

Thanks so much for all the resources! So much to digest out there!

Yeah think it through – at my last honey extraction I had two supers of 10 frames, each weighed about 6 lbs if I recall - so about 60lbs per super. It was heavy. And, because it’s full of honey, time is of the essence. You can keep the bees off the frames for a short period of time while you move them, but not long. You don’t want to take multiple trips if you can avoid it.

My friend has them right in her backyard. About 30-40 feet from the house. They face away from the house, so the flight pattern is not across any walkways, so they aren’t obtrusive, but they are very convenient. Mine were a little further away but an easy 4wd Gorilla cart away.

I also toyed with the idea of a 4-wheeler/Gator. Not a bad idea, but again, make it easy to check them while you’re learning. It’s a lot to bring to the hive for a basic inspection (hive tools, smoker, gloves, etc.) I have a bucket of essentials, plus a few other odds and ends to bring with me. It was easy to use the cart.

Another recommendation when you’re starting out is to try to source docile Queens. I’ve got one Queen whose daughters are friendly, they rarely act defensive. The other hive that I have right now is always on edge, as soon as I take the cover off the buzzing takes a higher pitch and guard bees will start flying at my face. I always wear a suit and gloves when working this hive. I plan to requeen this one in the spring.

I have my hives at my house, about 60’ from the back deck. We built a garden along the 30’ fenceline of the chicken area. The hive entrances face south towards the chickens. They share the garden with a dwarf lilac, rhubarb, and bee balm. The fence that they face is just no-climb, the bees can fly through it, but they tend to leave the hives and go straight up 10’ before heading off. They don’t seem to bother the chickens or my dog.

Starting back in the in the 1960s my father kept 1 or 2 bee hives in the front garden, about 20 feet from the porch. (We had horses in the adjacent pasture.) They never caused any trouble.

The only thing that was a bit awkward was mowing the lawn, which tended to disturb them. So we started the (self propelled) lawnmower on the path in front of the bee hive(s), then walked around the back, and rejoined the lawnmower on the other side.

We had a white cat (who was deaf, but I don’t know if that was relevant) who would sit or lie patiently on top of a hive, and eventually swat a bee out of the air. She did that for several years without getting stung. Eventually she stopped doing that- I don’t know if she finally got stung, or if she stopped for other reason.

They produced more honey than we regularly consumed, so there were usually several frames of honey in the freezer.

Contrary to what the uninitiated might think, wildflower honey is usually quite strongly flavored, while honey from fruit trees is often milder and more subtly flavored.

After a few decades, he stopped actively managing them, but the colonies continued the thrive for several more years.

If you ever have a chance to go to a honey store, it’s a lot of fun to compare the tastes (and colors) of different types of honey. There is one in Saratoga NY, if anyone is ever there for the track…take some time to go downtown and check it out.

My horse having friends down the road have 3 or 4 hives and have had no problems in the last 10 years with bee/horse cohabitation. And we’re in NM where most horse properties are small.

I will say, honey shmoney, they make MEAD and it is AMAZING!!! Keep bees, make booze!

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I have mead aging in my basement as we speak! I would like to try making a Cyser next.

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