Introduction to Beekeeping

April 01, 2022 Angela and Mandi Season 2 Episode 4
Introduction to Beekeeping
Show Notes

Season 2: Introduction to Beekeeping

Why Keep Bees

Increase pollination for fruit and vegetable crops, contribute to the honeybee population, production benefits of honey, pollen and wax

The Members of a Hive

Queen (only hive member capable of laying eggs)

Workers (female, worker bees who play the roles of guardians, nurses, foragers, comb builders, honey creators, undertakers, etc.)

Drones (male, sole job is to mate with the queen)

Sourcing Bees

Common Honeybee Breeds in the US (not exhaustive list)

  • Carniolan - generally more docile disposition, moderate disease resistance, good chance of overwinter
  • Italian: moderately gentle, low disease resistance, good chance of overwinter
  • Saskatraz: generally docile, known for overwintering ability
  • Russian: High disease resistance, good for overwinter, generally aggressive
  • Africanized: resistant to varroa, highly aggressive, high disease resistance, poor overwintering ability
  • Other races: caucasion, buckfast, german, etc.

Nuc vs Package

Sourcing local is best. They will be successfully overwinter stock (if that applies to your region) and a local beekeeper can assist with treatment and behavioral questions. 

Nuc: A 5-frame working colony with a queen, workers and drones. Frames often include capped brood (eggs and larvae) and honey/pollen.

Package: A package is a collection of bees including one queen, workers and drones compiled into a box or shipping container. They are not a working colony and do not come with frames or food stores. Typically shipped from warmer climates to cooler areas where bees have no experience with overwintering.

Place orders for bees in December-February. Usually nuc pick-up and package shipment is in early spring.

Equipment Needed

Langstroth Hive for Beginners

  • Most common hive set up. Includes a landing/bottom board, a brood box (where the queen lays her eggs and where the bees “live”), a honey super (a box dedicated to honey stores), frames, a queen excluder (optional), an inner cover and outer cover
  • Bee suit, veil, gloves, hive tool, smoker, entrance reducers, feeders (optional)
  • Hive stand: a set of cinder blocks and 4x4” posts, a pallet, a built table, etc]

Hive Site Selection

A dry, flat location with morning sunlight and afternoon shade is ideal. Avoid slopes where the hive could fall, floodplains, high traffic locations and areas where the bees will often be disturbed.
Bees will travel up to five miles in search of forage. They will travel ¼ mile for water.

The Role of the Beekeeper

  • Facilitate hive health. The entire beekeeping season is an effort to prepare for the next winter.
  • Treat hives if you feel that falls within your moral code
    • Varroa
    • Small Hive Beetles
    • Wax Moths
    • Mice/Shrews
    • Roaches
    • Spiders
    • Ants
  • Conduct inspections regularly (generally conducted monthly) to observe the following:
    • Queen health (her size if you can see her, laying patterns)
    • Frames of larvae
    • Frames of pollen stores
    • Frames of honey
    • Are there lots of workers and drones?
    • Is there capped brood?
    • Signs of swarming (queen cups, supercedure cells, etc.)
    • Signs of pests/disease
  • Feed the bees if that aligns with your methodology
    • Sugar syrup in warmer months
    • Sugar cakes in colder months