Every year there are new people entering the field of beekeeping – an honorable endeavor I believe. If you’ve been following along you know that I have the chance to establish a new apiary at a lavender farm in a very mild climate and I’m quite excited about it. I’m including a link to the web site for the Meadow of Lavender for those who are curious about where the bees are going to be located. http://www.themeadowoflavender.com/ And if you want some hands on experience, you might consider signing up for their class.
For those of you who are starting up this year and that new package of bees is about to arrive, or if your thinking about it for next year, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Bring along buddy and go to a local beekeepers meeting. Beekeeping clubs can readily be found in most locations. Once there, don’t sit in the shadows at the back of the room because your new and don’t know anyone. Instead, tell them your new and ask to be coupled with an experienced beekeep. Immediately you will gain more confidence simply by allowing yourself to be led by someone with experience. If you cant find a bee club to join or if it simply works better for you to go it alone, below are some things to keep in mind that are good for the bees and for you.
First off – involve a friend! Even if they don’t want to gear up and “play with the bees” they can be great moral support and most people develop a real interest once they understand more about bees. Then – READ READ READ READ. I can’t emphasize that enough. There is a lot of information out there and each person has their own approach. You need to decide what is best for you and your bees and the only way to do that is to educate yourself. “Beekeeping for Dummies” is a great place to start for the Newbee.
Next – When you consider a location for your apiary you want a place that is easy access for you, the beekeep. A southeastern exposure will warm the hive and get the bees out flying early in the day and you also want a ready source of water for the bees. Otherwise they will find it at your neighbors and once focused on a pool or hot tub you will likely get complaints. A strong hive will keep people out of the pool. Establish your own water source (a tub with rocks in it is what I use) early in the season and once the bees find it as a reliable water source they will keep coming back. Just don’t let it go dry!
The location for an urban apiary should be out of the way of major traffic areas. If you are walking through the flight path (beeline) of bees traveling from the hive to their food source, it is likely some of them will get caught in your hair or in your clothes. This can happen to your neighbors as well so be sure to locate your hives away from property lines. Most cities allow beekeeping but with restrictions and often times you will find that a 6 foot fence or barrier of some kind is required around the beehives. This gets them up in the air and away from people. For those of you in the country you likely wont have a need to create any sort of a barrier.
Now for the exciting part. Your new bees have arrived and both of you have a date at the new hive. There are plenty of video’s out there that show how to install a hive and plenty of folks doing it without a veil or protective clothing. I would not suggest this for the new beekeeper. Wear your gear so you can be comfortable and relaxed around the bees the first time you are exposed to them. You will need to move calmly around them in the future and now is the time to learn to do this. Packaged bees are pretty mellow as they have no resources and are focused entirely on getting their brood nest established. They must build comb and collect pollen and nectar from the field and they simple aren’t going to take much notice of you because protection of the hive is not a priority.
Awe but let that hive get established and the guard bees will be working hard protecting the area in front of the hive. You see as the hive gets strong they have more bees to spare for protection. First thing you will notice is the “head-butts” you get when you approach the hive. Don’t let me mislead you. I sit on a stump and watch my hives from only ten to twelve feet away all the time. I enjoy watching them and observing how much pollen is coming into the hive. But I also know when my veil is on and I’m about to open up the hive (remember this is a strong hive) that at least one or two guard bees will almost immediately thump the front of my veil. Right now, with low numbers in the hives, this does not occur, but in the summer with 50,000 to 60,000 bees in the hive you can be sure the guard bees will be doing their job.
All that to say that the mellow little package you installed in the spring will not stay that way when they have an established hive to protect. If you take measures in the spring as described above to minimize incidental human interaction, you will all be happily living together by fall.
The plight of the honeybee is a serious one. Neonicatonoids used on GMO crops are having a devastating effect on our bee populations. More and more countries are banning the use of this poison, but with Monsanto in charge of the FDA, the US lags far behind. You can help! Invite a friend to this blog – in fact invite more than one friend to visit this blog. Some of them will become interested and you can begin beekeeping together. The great thing about individuals keeping bees is that many of us are located away from commercial farm fields where other bees are being poisoned. YOU can create an isolated hold of strong bees as a reserve against the losses taking place elsewhere. If you have the interest and the time I encourage you to take the plunge. No, its not cheap, but few hobbies worth your time are. There is still time to order up your bees for this season and I hope to see some newbees commenting on here. There plenty of resources out there, but I am always willing to answer your questions here and assist in anyway I can.
I hope to see some stories posted here about your new beekeeping adventures.