Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Bees Knees!

My new project for this summer is going to be keeping bees. I'm so excited. I thought I would document the process just in case anyone else is interested. So in all it took me about $300 to get started. That included the cost of the bees, the queen, the hive, and all of the equipment: smoker, gloves, hive tool, hat with veil, bee brush, and my license. I plan on just wearing white clothes which I already have. White clothes help to keep the bees calm and less aggressive.

Initially I thought I would buy my hive first and then order my bees, but I quickly realized that if I wanted to have bees and pick them up locally I needed to order them quickly before they were all sold out. Generally speaking you can start to order your bees in February to early March for an April pick-up, but check with your local suppliers. If you can't find them locally it is easy to order them online. All you need to do is notify your post office that you will be receiving some live bees. You can then schedule to pick them up when they arrive. I ordered Italian Honey Bees because they are known for being good honey producers and also because they are known for being very calm.

Next step was to get my hive and get it ready. I bought mine preassembled, but needed to paint it, so I decided why not make it pretty? I painted each super and the top and bottom with three coats of varying shades. So the top layer of green has 3 different shades of lime green, etc. I fully expect there to be some weathering and I thought it would be fun to see all the colors poking through. The reason for painting your hive is to protect it from rotting. The bees could care less :) Although most are just painted white. Light colors will keep your bees cool in the summer. I have read that if you live in cold climates it can help to paint the hive darker colors. You also want to position your hive facing South East in dappled sunlight. Too much direct sun light and your bees will have to spend all their time trying cool the hive and not have as much time for honey production.

I'll be picking my bees up on April 18 and I can't wait. I am somewhat nervous about actually getting them in the hive, but I have been doing lots of research and I think it will be an adventure! Here is a video that I found to be particularly helpful.

From what I have read when you first get your bees they are very docile and in want of a new home. They are happy to have a new hive to get settled into. Honey bees have only one sting and it is much more mild than a wasp sting or a bumble bee sting. Most Beekeepers will tell you that they can avoid being stung all together so long as they are not too aggressive or clumsy while working in the hive. If you do happen to get stung remain calm, scrape out the stinger, and puff some smoke near the area where you were stung. When a bee stings they leave behind a chemical that lets other bees know that you are a threat to the hive. Once stung it is not uncommon to recieve more stings on the same site, but using a puff of smoke around the site minimizes the chance of getting stung again. The reason why you want to scrape off the stinger is to reduce the amount of venom that is injected. Most people pinch the stinger and then pull it out. But, by pinching the stinger you pinch the venom pouch, releasing the full dose of venom. But, if you scrape the stinger out with a credit card or your hive tool you lessen the venom dose, thus the reaction to the sting is minimized as well.

For this first year I will not be collecting any honey. The bees will need it to get through the winter. collecting too much honey and not leaving enough for the bees to winter over will starve them out. If there are not enough bees to keep the hive warm they will freeze. So I won't be collecting honey until the summer of 2015. 

Helpful Links:
Ordering Your Bees
What You Need To Get Started

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