I’m now headed into my 5th year of beekeeping. Today I wanted to share some of my favorite beekeeping tips. Over the years, I’ve learned quite a lot and have had plenty of successes and failures. Some of those were expected and some of those were unexpected. That seems to be the course for keeping bees nowadays. These days it’s not an easy venture, as so many things can affect what happens inside the hive. Today, I thought it would be good to share my top beekeeping tips that I think every newbie should tuck in their back pocket. These tips range from keeping the hives healthy, saving money and learning how to help amazing insects.
I have been spending most of my time outdoors these past few weeks getting the yard in shape. I have mulched, planted the vegetable garden, and have been busy with the beehives. The chicken coop got an inspection and will need some reinforcements of the latches and some dabs of paint here are there. But this past week, most of my time was occupied with building a small garden fence to keep the bunnies out of the raised garden beds. I also wanted to add a small extension of the fence to keep the puppy away from the beehives. As of today, the only final touches left to put on the garden fence include trimming down the fence posts and adding the decorative caps.
|Bees clean honey and nectar off burr comb I scraped from between the deeps.|
Feed your bees. From most preliminary data gathered this year, it seems that most of my fellow beekeeper’s hives perished this winter from starvation. Bees need to eat and sometimes, we are located in places and climates less than optimal for them. All too often, Mother Nature does not provide as much as we would like. Be sure to check the feeders once per week. Try to keep them refilled on a regular consistent basis.
Become a believer in Honey B Healthy. This stuff works. It smells great and I believe really helped my hives to get off to a great start. It is also wonderful to mist on your bees instead of the smoker.
Keep more than one hive. Two hive are truly better than one. Keeping two hives allows you to make comparisons between the two and become aware of issues earlier, discover what is “normal” vs. “abnormal”, allows you to combine hives if one is not thriving come the colder seasons and also helps you to re-queen a hive absent of a queen and any brood.
Find a Mentor. If are lucky enough to find a mentor who has at least kept bees successfully for 3 years than consider yourself to have one of the greatest assets in the hobby. Treat them to lunch or dinner now and then and the relationship will grow and thrive. It is a nice way to return the favor of their time and expertise.
Never underestimate the supply of bobby pins at the local drug store come spring. Every spring around here there is a huge shortage because folks are building their frames and support the foundation with bobby pins. Watch all year round for sales and pick them up during alternative times. They will sell out.
Watch Sugar Prices. Hungry bees can gobble up to 5 pounds or more of sugar in a week. Look for sales and watch the club stores. Always keep an extra 10 pound bag on hand for those unexpected situations.
Check on your bees. Open your hives on sunny warm days when the bees are flying and the breeze is minimal. Take a quick assessment and be sure there are signs of the queen. It is not always necessary to find the queen. Just be sure she is there, laying a healthy pattern of brood. Be sure to assess for any pests, parasites or signs of disease.
Watch your bees. Get in the habit of watching your bees from outside the hive. See if they are returning to the hive loaded down with pollen. Monitor for robber bees. Watch for any signs of impostors entering the hives and be on alert for bee predators such as skunks.
Follow beekeeping practices as others do in your area of the country. Be sure that you are adapting practices of keeping bees that are appropriate for your gardening zone and climate. Some folks never deal with freezing weather. Some people harvest honey year round. Some beehives spend all winter covered in snow.
Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest
|Last, week the hives were covered in snow.|
Earlier this week I went to our monthly local beekeeper’s meeting. As always, it is so wonderful connecting with folks, checking in with them and hearing updates about their lives and the bees. Over the course, of chatting, I quickly learned that many folks had already lost their hives and were busy ordering nucs and packages to replace their lost colonies in the spring. As the temperatures were expected to warm up this week, I decided that I needed to take a peek into my hives sooner than later. Peeking at beehives in winter can be tricky.
|We rarely see honeybees in our gardens, only the large bumblebees.|
So as many of you know, I am starting out on my newest adventure, beekeeping. Finally the weather warmed up literally overnight and it was time this week to kick things into high gear. The bees are scheduled to come in May and I had so much yet to do. I had to finish building the hives, paint them and find a suitable place in the yard following the guidelines. The hives also needed time to “air out” after their painting. So, I have been busy as a bee these past few days. Proper placement of beehives is key to success as a beekeeper.