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Beekeeping Advice

 
Cassie Rauk
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I got my hive today (traditional langstroth with a plan for a top bar next year). And I am getting a nuc from a local natural beekeeper in the Spring.

Alright Beekeeper's what little tid-bits of knowledge can you give me that you wish you had known before you started?
 
tel jetson
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I wish I had known how little most conventional beekeepers really know about their bees and how dominant they are of most beekeepers associations.

I also wish I had known how much fun collecting a swarm is and how simple beekeeping can really be when the shysters that pass for experts are ignored, because I would have gotten started a lot earlier.
 
Cassie Rauk
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Thanks for the advise! I have been a bit leary of beekeeping associations in my neck of the woods. Everyone seems a bit to spray happy.

 
tel jetson
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Cassie Rauk wrote:Thanks for the advise! I have been a bit leary of beekeeping associations in my neck of the woods. Everyone seems a bit to spray happy.


that isn't the half of it. there are plenty of ways to harass bees without getting any chemicals involved.
 
Cassie Rauk
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Hopefully I don't accidentally do any of that stuff!

I see most hives are painted on the outside. What is the reasoning behind that and what are other options?
 
tel jetson
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Cassie Rauk wrote:I see most hives are painted on the outside. What is the reasoning behind that and what are other options?


painting seals the wood from the outside so it's impervious to moisture. preserves the wood. depending on the color used, it could also increase (dark paint) or decrease (light paint) solar gain. some folks paint each of their hives differently just for decoration or because they believe it helps the bees identify their own hives.

and the downside? a lot of paint, and especially exterior paint that will hold up to weather, contains some nasty solvents and other suspect substances that are likely to end up inside the bees.

another potential problem is that sealing the outside of the hive may contribute to moisture issues inside the hive. if paint prevents moisture from moving into the wood from the outside, it also prevents moisture from moving out of the wood toward the outside. because the inside of a beehive is a rather humid place, sealing the wood can cause a buildup of moisture on the interior walls, particularly if fairly thin wood is used as in most frame hives. there is some disagreement about whether this is a problem or an advantage. those in the problem camp believe it can cause moldy conditions and weaken the colony. those in the advantage camp believe it provides a source of water for the bees to drink inside the hive without having to go looking for it outside.


other options: if you decide you do want to paint, make sure you use non-toxic paint. there are more low- or no-VOC and non-toxic paints available these days, so it's not as difficult as it once was. you could also mix up your own milk paint.

other non-toxic options for sealing a hive include raw linseed oil, tung oil, beeswax, kakishibu, and probably a fair number of other drying oils. raw linseed oil and beeswax mixed together is commonly recommended around here. some folks actually immerse hive bodies in molten beeswax long enough for the wax to permeate the wood, but chances are good you don't have that much clean beeswax hanging around. boiled linseed oil can be OK, but you'll want to be absolutely sure that it isn't full of heavy metals and drying agents. the only boiled linseed oil I've found locally is pretty nasty.

if you want the wood to last longer, but don't care about sealing it, a periodic limewash should preserve it while still allowing it to breath. you could also build a shelter for your hives, or build roofs with large eaves to keep rain off.

my own hives are made of rot-resistant wood (Thuja plicata), have roofs with eaves, and are placed under a shelter that shades them from midday heat in the summer, but allows sun in all winter. to this point, I haven't treated the wood with anything. I'll be trying out tung oil, limewash, and kakishibu this year.

Cassie Rauk wrote:Hopefully I don't accidentally do any of that stuff!


when in doubt, leave them alone. because you've got a frame hive, there's a certain minimum amount of harassment you'll have to do to keep the frames free.

care to describe more specifically what you've got?
 
Cassie Rauk
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I got an 'essentials kit' it has a bottom board, entrance reducer, 2 8-frame boxes for the brood, and inner cover and an outer telescoping cover.
I am planning on getting some supers closer to the time I pick up my bees.
 
tel jetson
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Cassie Rauk wrote:I got an 'essentials kit' it has a bottom board, entrance reducer, 2 8-frame boxes for the brood, and inner cover and an outer telescoping cover.
I am planning on getting some supers closer to the time I pick up my bees.


8-frame. that's interesting. certainly a more manageable size for the beekeeper, and possibly friendlier for the bees. do you have foundation and what kind? and do you have a package or nuc reserved?

my experience with frame hives is limited, but I would strongly recommend avoiding a queen excluder. they're used almost universally by frame beekeepers, but they really do cause a lot of problems. you didn't mention that you've got one or plan to use one, but chances are pretty good that most beekeepers you talk to will recommend it. if they ask, say you've got one and it's working wonderfully.
 
Cassie Rauk
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Being a manageable size (and weight) is what I was thinking when I decided on a 8 frame hive. I have just plain wood frames, they came with the plastic foundation. But I am not planning on using the foundation. I have heard that it is better to let the bees make whatever size cell they want to.

I have a nuc reserve from a natural beekeeper, who lives about an hour away.

What is is about the queen excluder that is so bad? When I took my beekeeping class, which was from the same guy I am getting my nuc from, he said that you probably don't even need one, so I was not planning on getting one.
 
tel jetson
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Cassie Rauk wrote:I am not planning on using the foundation. I have heard that it is better to let the bees make whatever size cell they want to.


good call.

Cassie Rauk wrote:What is is about the queen excluder that is so bad?


they can tear up bees and sometimes get clogged up. seems likely to me that excluding the queen from any part of the hive is a bad idea. she puts out a lot of pheromones that are important for communication. a lot of folks have observed that workers don't seem interested in being where the queen can't be in a hive. queen excluders also restrict the movement of drones, and they can get stuck in an excluder.

after talking to a couple of frame beeks, it turns out they aren't unequivocally loved by conventional beekeepers, either. I had guessed that they're in wider use than they are.

to me, it's just one more insult to the bees. we force them into hives we design instead of letting them choose their own, we open up their private space periodically, and we steal their supplies. to shackle the queen as well doesn't seem right.

certainly not the worst thing folks use in hives.
 
edwin lake
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Hello. I am in the same boat. I just received the veil and white jacket, hive tool, smoker, and brush yesterday. It is interesting to read your analysis of the beekeeping venture.

My beekeeping research initially led me to prefer the Warre' hives. However, in North Carolina, where I am located, the laws require certification before sale of bees. The certification requires hive inspection of the brood. Warre' hives make that pretty much impossible. Thus, you are constrained to the black market for sale of bees. I'm setting up one Warre (building it myself), and one unassembled Lang (medium, 8-frame).

I opted for buying three 3# packages of small cell bees to start my colonies. I ordered the small cell bees from a family in middle Tennessee (Wolk Creek Apiaries). That means if I intended to use foundation in the Lang frames, I would've bought the non-standard, small cell foundation. However, I rejected the notion of foundation altogether because I didn't want to introduce plastic or chemically treated wax into the new hives. Thus, my 8-frame, Lang medium will have a wax starter strip and foundationless comb.

Have you given any thought to the wild-life in your area and what you will do for deterrence? I know we have a skunk around here. This summer and fall, that sucker decimated a couple yellow-jacket hives on my land. I also have some European hornets around here. Those things scare the crap out of me because of their painful sting. Imagine how the little bees feel when those things are biting their heads.
 
tel jetson
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Warre hives can be built with frames. that is actually more common in parts of France. additionally, if steps are taken to ensure that combs are built straight, it's fairly easy to remove individual combs in hives without frames. so don't rule out Warre on account of inspection laws.

there is, also, no reason bees have to be purchased. baiting swarms or collecting them are both fairly easy and rewarding endeavors. no sale, no money, no record.
 
Cassie Rauk
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tel jetson wrote: baiting swarms or collecting them are both fairly easy and rewarding endeavors. no sale, no money, no record.


So how would you go about baiting a swarm?

PS I want to thank you for all of your good advise!
 
tel jetson
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Cassie Rauk wrote:So how would you go about baiting a swarm?


here's a pdf put together by Seeley and Morse (a couple of big names in honey bee research). it's worth noting that the size they recommend for bait hives is very close to the volume of two Warré boxes.

the main idea is to try to simulate what the bees would be looking for: appropriate size, easy to see the entrance, facing south, high enough off the ground, smells like bees have been there before.
 
Permaculture isn't that hard to understand. Sometimes a little bump helps: richsoil.com/cards
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