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Questions Beekeepers Aren’t Afraid to Ask (and LOVE to Answer)

Beginners

Questions;

  1. What are the needs in my yard if I want to start beekeeping?
  2. I have a neighbour who doesn’t like bees but I’m really passionate about having a hive. Any suggestions?
  3. How much equipment do I need to have (how many frames?) when I start?
  4. What is some essential equipment for beekeeping?
  5. Which is the most challenging season for a beekeeper?
  6. What do I need to remember?
  7. What about equipment maintenance, storage, and cleaning?
  8. Where can I learn more about beekeeping?

Responses;

  1. A hive needs sun exposure and bear proof fencing and/or electric fence. Need enough room and put a hive on stands or a small pallet for each hive to prevent vibrations upsetting another hive. Add roof system if possible.
  2. Check Bylaws, educate neighbours on how beneficial the bees are on our survival and their garden,
    Connect with your neighbours and bribe them with honey samples or full jars.
  3. 10 frames to start and a super box, for one hive $750 for equipment and bees and start with 2 hives If you decide to be a beekeeper, take a course, $250 (beginner).
  4. Smoker, PPE (suit & veil, may use gloves), hIves, hive tool, brush, wax melter, extracter, sieve, excluder…
  5. Winter because this is when you are most likely to lose them…. But all seasons have their challenges. Swarm season (April to August). Winter to ensure enough feed and that mite treatment was successful.
  6. You need space to maintain, repair and build new equipment. These are all winter jobs.
  7. Learn from other successful beekeepers, mentors, books and courses. Avoid the internet. The University of Guelph videos and the Fat Beeman on Youtube from Georgia are good for learning and for entertainment.. Attend meetings field days, visit the provincial website and explore other peoples hives with them. The Kamloops Club’s bee mentorship program for new beekeepers – very helpful

Honey Processing

Questions;

  1. How can I extract my honey?
  2. How do I know how much honey to leave for the bees?
  3. What about honey containers and labels?
  4. What do I do with wax to process and use?

Responses;

  1. Depends on equipment.  Extraction equipment is expensive ($0.55 per pound of honey) but you take into consideration your cost-effectiveness.  Some contract extraction can be really pricey. Co-op extraction is an option – when people share equipment – you could find a co-op through the club to be able to connect to those that are also extracting and make it easier.  Varying ways of costing that out.   Rental equipment from other beekeepers, or having to purchase, etc. Or take to another beek for extraction. Or self-scrape and drain (takes a long time). Purchasing equipment can be found new and used.  Beekeeping supply places are good for connecting on that. Do the research. Ask the club!   Not all beekeepers extract in their early years.  First year hive (nuc) will usually not have excess for harvest.  Allow a super of bees to have one super of honey to feed.  Some beeks keep honey to put on their hives for later feeding.  Some beeks will keep honey in their sheds as storage for nucs and queen-rearing. Mid-August or before, the conversation starts about watching hives for capped honey – majority capped means that you can start to take it off.  “Tap Test” by holding a frame upside down and checking to see if any honey falls out then it isn’t ready.  Margaret uses the toothpick test where if an inserted toothpick pulls out a string of thick honey then it is ready.  Some beeks use a refractometer to determine when it is 17% moisture then it is ready to extract.  18% is “too green” or “not ripe”.
  2.  We leave about 100 lbs. per colony. Only take extra honey.
  3.  We have a local man who does our labels. 
  4. We do our own labels, buying our own self-stick paper at Staples. Be careful not to get the extra sticky (security labels) – that look a little different, because they are hard to remove. Food safe rules say that you must not reuse jars. We always recommend to people who want to return them, that they use them for dry goods. We buy our honey containers from Richard’s Packaging or Ampak. Sometimes club members coordinate the pickup of those supplies. It takes effort to separate the honey from the wax. Some beekeepers use solar melters. You can take the cappings wax and put it into a large pot of water, and remove the wax when it cools. This process may need to be repeated many times. 
  5. If you don’t want to do the wax processing, you can give it to other members to do that. We make candles and beeswax wraps. Making candles can involve purchasing molds, or just using a cardboard milk carton, or other shape to make your own candles. It’s important to do some research about wick sizes. Wicks & Wax in Burnaby ( sells wicking, as well as. I purchased silicone molds online, but am disappointed with their sturdiness, as they have lost shape and stability. I make beeswax wraps from wax and cotton material.

MITE TREATMENTS AND RISKS FOR BEES

Questions;

  1. How often do I need to treat my bees for mites and how to check mites level?
  2. Why do we treat for mites and pull honey in mid August when the bees could still be bringing in nectar?
  3. What are natural methods of mite control?
  4. What is irradiation? and what does it do? And how well does it work   

 

Responses;

  1.  Set out wasp traps early in the spring to get the queens before they can lay more eggs, to reduce numbers of wasps (WHY = wasps, hornets, yellowjackets brand of wasp trap), monitor for wasps, entrance reducers (screen in opening, slatted bottom board). Holes in your hive will encourage wasps to get in.
  2.  Sugar shake/alcohol wash to get a ratio of mites in the hive (shake off the brood bees), oxalic in winter, spring apivar/formic, fall (MAQs = mite-away quick strips), springThymovar in nucs, summer kill drones.
  3.  honey is only for the bees in August (honey flow is over )
    15) Kill drones (drone comb) Put Dadant frames in deep brood boxes and let the bees build drone comb, then cut it off and feed it to the chickens, Hive splitting, cage Queens,
  4.  Irradiation is when we send hive boxes and frames through an electron beam down in Port Coquitlam. Hive boxes must be wrapped in plastic and have a minimum quantity of 40 boxes. Iotron in Port Coquitlam. Results have been very good. This treatment kills bacteria, fungus spores and AFB spores.

SEASONAL CHANGES

Questions;

  1. How and when to winterize the hive?
  2. When do I need to take the insulation off the hive?
  3. How and when to split my colonies in spring?
  4. When to feed pollen and when not to?
  5. Do I need to feed my bees in spring and how  

 

Responses;

  1. Depending on where you live, it may start in august. Entrance reducers. You may want rigid insulation. A box (quilt) on top, with shavings or some sort of desiccant to help alleviate moisture levels in the hive. Watch levels of food available to ascertain whether extra feed is required. Wrapping the hive in tar paper or insulation (if you do this). Building a wind break if necessary.
    Make sure they have lots of food and have been treated.Middle of August
  2.  April or when the temp is +5
    Once again, it is strictly dependant on location… and preference. But some wait until a mean temp of 10 is reached. Some wait for the dandelion bloom. Some wait until they feel it’s necessary… Marchish…
  3.  Make sure the hive is strong , shake bees off frames of brood, frames with eggs, frame of pollen and a frame of honey put above a queen excluder and leave them for 24hrs. Then transfer them to another box or nuc box.Done in the spring before swarm season. When I’m told to…. Once the numbers have recovered from the winter (April/May). It’s been done as above described. Or maybe different.
  4. When they are low on pollen they will need some. Don’ẗ feed too late in the fall or winter.
    Don’t feed pollen if you aren’t looking to expand (selling, ect…) Not in the fall/winter. If your hives are weak or struggling in February (ish), you may want to feed pollen as a boost.
  5. You might if they are low on food, sugar water or fondant. Depending on where you are, you may want to supplement with fondant or a sugar water solution (1:1), if your honey stores over winter are low. Watch your mean temperature, to ensure that it is warm enough to feed sugar water. Fondant is laid on top of the frames or inner cover. And sugar water is fed using a top feeder, frame feeder, pails (spring). Some may choose to use entrance feeders… After extraction, beeks put wet supers onto the top of their hives above the inner cover and another empty super in order to have the bees clean it out and to provide the bees a little food.

 

HIVE MANAGEMENT

Questions;

 

  1. What about hive records? Any recommendations for software or other techniques?
  2. How often should I conduct a hive check?
  3. What are the key warning signs that my hive might be in trouble?
  4. My bees used to be gentle but now I keep getting stung when I go in my hive. What’s going on? How can I fix this?How and when to replace the queen?
  5. I have an aggressive queen. I want to replace her but not kill her. What are my options? .

 

Responses;

  1. Keep a journal for each bee hive, mark the hive in trouble and note in journal what was the problem for next time you come back to deal with it.
    Use painting tape on top cover to write the problems of the hive.
    Fill an inspection form for each hive right after inspection and keep in folder.
  2. In winter: every 6 weeks check how heavy is the hive. If you can lift it, feed them with fondant or sugar cake.
    From May till winter: check every 10 days to 2 weeks
  3. Scattered brood,
    Low in bees,
    If bees come at you or are on top of frames in early spring than not enough food and you need to feed them,
    Foul smell from the hive
    Lots of supersedure cells
    Lots of wasps or ants.
  4. Hive might be  , hungry or bothered by other animals e.g skunk
  5.  Joe says to get rid of the queen if you have an aggressive one.