THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE GETTING BEES RESEARCH LOCAL ORDINANCES If you are in a rural area there is usually not a problem. However, if you are planning on keeping bees in town you will need to check your local ordinances to determine whether or not bees are allowed. READ ALL YOU CAN There are many books available for the beginning beekeepers to learn from. One might think that reading one How-To book on beekeeping would be sufficient. Each beekeeper/author has their own ideas on what works best. Reading as many of the ideas that work best will allow you to see the variety of options available and you can determine what works best for you. Ask 10 beekeepers a question, you will get a dozen different answers. Central Texas Beekeepers Association is hosting a Bee School on 4/16 at the Washington County Fairgrounds. Check their website for details. WHY DO YOU WANT TO KEEP BEES? There are many reasons people keep bees. Some keep bees for the honey. Others keep bees to help with pollination. Others keep bees to aid with the global honeybee crisis. Your answer may drive how you set up your hive and manage your bees. ARE YOU AFRAID OF BEING STUNG? As a beekeeper you will get stung no matter how many layers of protective clothing you are wearing. Yes, even in a full bee suit and gloves. Does this matter to you? Are you okay with being stung? ARE YOU ALLERGIC TO INSECT BITES OR STINGS? If it has been a while since you were last stung, you may be allergic and not even know it. You might consider getting tested by an allergist to determine your reaction to bee stings. If your reaction is mild, there are plenty of beekeepers that tend their bees with an Epi-Pen in their pocket and a cell phone just in case. If you are severely allergic, you might rethink your plans to be a beekeeper. BE A COURTEOUS NEIGHBOR Consider asking what your neighbors think. Do they mind you having hives near them? Is your neighbor allergic? Be ready to explain and educate them.
DO YOU HAVE A GOOD LOCATION TO KEEP HIVES? Hives should be placed in a level location, receive full sun during the day, and be sheltered from strong winds particularly from northerly winds. Hives should be in a location that is accessible year-round. CAN YOU LIFT A FAIR AMOUNT OF WEIGHT? An empty hive alone can weigh 20lbs. A full deep frame filled with honey can weigh as much as 10lbs. A standard Langstroth hive contains 8, 9 or 10 frames depending on your setup. Therefore, a deep hive body that is full of honey can easily weigh 100+ lbs. Most beekeepers use these deep boxes for their brood chambers, where the queen lays eggs and baby bees are raised. They will use what is called a super box for bees to store honey. Supers come in a few different sizes, all of which are smaller than the standard deep hive body. The smallest is about half as tall as the standard deep hive body, so it can still weigh 50+ lbs when it is full of honey. STILL WANT TO KEEP BEES? Read some more. Watch how-to videos on Youtube. You can never learn too much and the more you see and experience the better you will be at being a beekeeper. Join the local beekeepers association. The local beekeepers association can be your most valuable asset. The Texas Beekeepers Association has a page on their website that lists all of the local beekeeping associations in the state with contact information and meeting dates. REALIZE THAT YOU CAN NOT BE A BEE KEEPER There really is no such thing as a bee keeper. More accurately, we are bee helpers. Bees are wild animals that can come and go as they please. All you can do as a beekeeper is provide them with a safe habitat and assist them with their day to day issues. Hopefully at the end of the day both bee and beekeeper will benefit.
JOIN A LOCAL BEEKEEPERS ASSOCIATION
Join a local beekeeping association. The Texas Beekeepers Association is a good place to start. They offer a free membership to first year beekeepers. They also have a website and Facebook page that offers a considerable amount of information including a locator map for finding the local associations. Joining a local association is the easiest way to learn about beekeeping.
Timing in beekeeping is very important. Bee supplies are available all year long from a wide variety of suppliers. Honey Bees on the other hand are only available for a few short months at the beginning of the year. Orders are normally placed late the previous year for bees to be picked up or shipped the following spring.
To keep bees you will need to acquire a few items; a suit, tools, a hive, and bees. Costs of each will vary depending on what you want. SUITS There are beekeepers that do not wear suits. This is not recommended. Other beekeepers will wear a veil, long sleeve shirt or light jacket, and gloves only. This is the minimum I would recommend. Most beekeepers wear a full head to toe suit. This includes a veil, a suit, gloves, and boots. Depending on the suit you decide on, some come with a veil that attaches with a zipper. Others require a separate veil. Most beekeepers gloves a full arm length gloves. Whether you wear boots or regular shoes, it is recommended that some sort of strap is used to bind the cuff of your pants to your leg. There are Velcro straps that can purchased. Duct tape works just as well. Veil only with long sleeve shirt Full suit with zipper veil
Bees have a habit of gluing everything together. They use a substance called propolis which they make from tree sap. Hive tools are used to separate hive parts that have been glued together. They come in different sizes and shapes but all are basically a mini pry bar. Bees communicate primarily through smells, odors, pheromones. Smoke disrupts their ability to communicate. Smokers also come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Make sure your smoker has a cage guard. The surfaces of the smoker will get extremely hot. Bees normally will not move the way you want them to. A bee brush can be used to gently persuade them go where you need them to. Gloves should come up as high on the arm as possible. Some have vents. The vents really serve no purpose since you will be wearing long sleeves under them.
BEE HIVE A bee hive is a man-made structure that bees live in. Components include a bottom board, a reducing bar, a brood chamber, a super, and a cover. Depending on the type of cover, an inner cover may also be necessary. As with everything in beekeeping there is a variety to choose from. Langstroth hives come in both 8 frame and 10 frame. 8 frame hives are somewhat lighter. Bottom boards are be solid board with an edge around three sides. The fourth side would be the entrance to the hive. Others have screens on them, sticky boards, and even trays for catching pests. A reducer bar is used on the open, fourth side of the bottom board. It can be turned to increase or decrease the size of the entrance of the hive. A deep brood chamber, also referred to as a hive body is where the queen lays eggs and baby bees are raised. Some beekeepers use what is called a queen excluder. This is a device that has spaces large enough for worker bees to go through but small enough to keep the queen out. These are used to keep the queen from laying eggs in the honey supers. Supers, or the superstructure is where honey is stored. These come in a variety of sizes. If a deep hive box is used as a super, it can weigh as much as 100lbs when full of honey. Most bee keepers use a shorter hive box for their honey supers. Both brood chambers and supers have frames placed in them. If you have an 8 frame hive then each box will hold 8 frames. 10 frame hive boxes hold 10 frames each. Frames are wooden rectangular structures that the bees build their comb on. Some type of foundation is normally placed in the frame to help get the bees started. Foundation can be a sheet of wax or a plastic sheet that is covered in wax. Once the comb is built the queen can lay eggs and workers can pack them with pollen and honey. The two common covers are referred to as a migratory cover and a telescoping cover. The migratory cover only overlaps the top super in the front and back. A telescoping cover overlaps the top super on all four sides. Since bees will glue all of these pieces together it is difficult to get a hive tool between a telescoping cover and the top super. Therefore an inner cover is used to keep the bees from being able to get to the telescoping cover.
BEES Once you have finally decided you want to get bees, learned a bit about them, bought a suit, tools, and a hive, now its time to get some bees. The cheapest way to get bees is to catch a swarm! However, this is definitely not the easiest and probably not the best way to get bees for your first hive. Bees can be purchased in Packages. Packages of bees are wooden boxes with screened sides. The box will contain approximately 15,000 bees or 3 lbs of bees. It will also include a feeding can which contains sugar water. There are small holes in the bottom of the can that allows the bees to drink from it. The package will also contain a queen cage.
When you get a package and before you put them into their hive, spray them down with some sugar water. Sugar water should be mixed 1:1. This will calm them down and take their attention away from you for a while. To install a package you will need to first remove the feeding can. Obviously