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Bee keepers?

 
                      
Posts: 25
Location: Sherbrooke, QC
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I have a desire to add bees to my sub urban lot (100'x120' )

I notice a couple little things about bees here, but are there any beekeepers on board. I'ld like to open a discussion!

Thanks
 
                    
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The Barefoot Beekeeper by a Mr. Chandler has been one of the better, small scale, no harm to the bees guides to keeping them that I've run across.  His website is www.biobees.com and has links to a natural bee keeping forum.

There is a bunch of information out there on how to keep bees for profit.  And Chandler says that many of these accepted techniques have exacerbated their diseases and brought about the supposedly modern "plight of the honey bee" that has just very recently been getting some press.  Actually these problems began around the same time people started keeping bees commercially - at the end of the 19th century! 
 
                      
Posts: 25
Location: Sherbrooke, QC
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Marina, Thank you.

I plan on keeping 1 hive for personal use...the pollinization aspect primarily.

I will check out the referenced site.

Thanks
 
                    
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No problem!    We're totally new to the whole thing too -  plan to buy a nuc or a few pounds of bees here in a few months.  I've been told to look for bees that live near to or similar to your particular climate, as they'll have the best chances of adapting to their new home if they're used to temperature and humidity levels of where you live.  Especially because of your cold zoning!  Might have to have an insulated hive....Chandler talks all about it, and his top bar hives (the PDF how-to is available at his site) are well designed and not that hard to build. 
 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 985
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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I might be a little help, as my ex has had bees for a long time and I've listened to him talk about them for hours on end.  I do want to get some myself, and so I've also been doing some research.  One thing I do know and that is that it's advised that you get two hives going.  That way if one of them needs a little help (such as a frame of brood to strengthen them, or a new queen) you may be able to 'borrow' from your other hive rather than have to mail-order new, or lose the one hive.

Kathleen
 
                      
Posts: 36
Location: Snohomish, WA
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I'm a beekeeper. We have had hies in urban areas and out here in the country. It is not impossible at all to do in the city. There are hives in Manhattan and Tokyo. Not knowing where you are located or what your weather is like, it is hard to tell what to share, specifically. I'm in Western WA. so I will advise based on our currently cool damp weather.
Some starter tips are:
Look for a Southeastern facing place for the hive(s)
Beware of used hives that might have bee infected with chalk brood(you would smell it) or some pest
Study hive styles- Top bar, Warre, Langstroth or others
Have a sturdy base that gets them off the ground (I like to have them a good 18" up since it is easier on my back)
It's nice to have a place to rest things on as you are "working" your bees
Be sure to have them in a nice sunny location
Be sure the hive is mostly level. I like mine to have a ever so slight forward tilt in case water gets in
Be sure there is nothing in the flight pattern to get in and out of the hive or bask in the sun on the "deck"
I like a screened bottom board
Cool, damp weather will do them in
Place a heavy stone on the lid to prevent animals from foraging for honey
Use an extra large cover over the lid or make a pitch roof with an overhang. This also worked well if you need to insulate in winter and/or add vents for summer.
When you get them, if you feed them (and you should if you don't have anything in bloom yet) add a couple drops of lemongrass essential oil to the syrup you give them
Use recycled printing plates for the roofing material to protect the wood
I find gloves and hat with a veil is minimal gear (I like my eyes protected)
Tuck your pant legs in to your boots or use hairbands to secure them
Light colored longsleeved shirts with the collar and sleeve cuffs buttoned down are good
Get all of the above ready before you hive your bees
Keep a spare jar of honey around In case a neighbor notices the hive. Give it to them to win them over before they complain.

This ought to get things started. I hope this helps!
 
                      
Posts: 25
Location: Sherbrooke, QC
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I guess my biggest concerns are:

1. Stinging the neighbors (and my kids)
2. Swarming.

I have read quite a bit, and most seem to say that honey bees are very tranquil and unless disturb dont really cause much problems.

As my propery is small, I guess neighbor relations are a huge part of beekeeping.

Permie Momma,

my lot is in a development area, meaning there are only 2 other new constructions for the moment, but a house down the street is a daycare.

I live in a climate similar to yours, however our summers are a bit more sunny than Washington, and our winters a bit colder. Winter insulation will likely be a must.

Any advice on reducing swarming - can I just start with an extra super or 2 to ensure they have ample room?

How often do you check on the hive,

Can 1 hive be sucessful or is 2 really the standard.

The drawing here shows the Garden shed. I plan on putting the hive behind the shed facing Southeast. The little walkway looking thing is actually a ditch, so they will readily have acess to water. Because of the plum, trees on the other side, and the shed right there, I am hoping this will keep the flight path out of human contact. (although my lawn will be dwarf white clover) I imagine we will be sharing a lot of the same territory.

I dont know why I am so nervous, if this can be done in inner cities - I should be able to manage ok in the sub - almost country area we are building in.
 
                      
Posts: 36
Location: Snohomish, WA
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It's good to have the map, thanks.

It is hard to tell but it seems to me that the area behind the shed will be shaded. Is that right? In that case, you'll need a different spot. Also, I can't tell the distances between things as there is no key to the map but it seems that they will not have much space. I like my bees to have at least 6-12 feet of clear and open flight zone to go in and out of the hive. Is your shed roof flat? Can they go up there?

If you have white clover for lawn, you will likely have a sting or two while playing. Keep cantharis and apis on hand (homeopathics) as they will help. Bees would be there anyway but more likely with a hive nearby.

Let me know if I can help more.
 
                      
Posts: 25
Location: Sherbrooke, QC
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Its true that the distance between the shed and the outer canopy of the plums is just over 6 feet.

I thought bees needed summer protection from hot sun? - the Idea was that they would benefit from spring and fall direct sun when the branches are bare, but allow shade cooling in summer.

Also, the Canopy shown is for a full grown Plum, which wont be the case for about 6-7 years, I could also keep them pruned back to allow more light in.

The shed is yet to be build, so putting the hive on the roof is a VERY good idea..... Hmm, never though of it.

IS over heating an issue for you in Washington? do you just provide a shade cover during the hottest days?

What about wintering the hive.... Do you have special prep? Our winters can go down past -20F

 
                      
Posts: 36
Location: Snohomish, WA
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I am in Western Washington about 45 minutes from the mountian passes. My elevation is enough that I got almost 4 feet of snow last year but that was a freaky thing. We normally hit a ew days around zero or below but they usually dont hold long.

I leave my bees in full sun. Last year it was hot here in the summer, for us. We were over 100 for a few days. I just added popsicle sticks under the edges of my boxes to let in air and of course did not have a reducer on so the bees spent a lot of time on the deck fanning themselves. I would not shade them as they would d better with sun and ventilation, in my opinion.

If you put them on the roof of the shed, it is really nice to plan ahead on how you will carry full boxes of honey down. You can take them frame by frame or even move them to a rubbermaid with a lid and take a few at a time. The bees will be more aggrivated if you do it a little at a time and manouvering down a rickety ladder would be less than ideal. I would be thinking of a pully system or something.

Two years ago I had my hives in an area that would not allow for me to access with a car, cart or anything. I had to carry eight 85lb boxes of honey about 400 feet, through the woods, across a meadow and creek. It was really hard on my 5'4" body. I am strong but that was insense and I'm not getting any younger.

Thing sun, flight pattern, access for them and you.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 985
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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My ex gets stung once in a while when he's working with his hives (he has around twenty), and I got stung a few times by bees who came in the house with frames of honey -- he wouldn't be able to get all of them brushed off the frames as he carried them in, and of course the bees were upset at their honey being stolen.  Usually, though, my stings were from bees on the floor of the kitchen when I was barefoot!  We never had anyone stung other than that, and the bees were at the edge of our vegetable garden, so we were working around the hives a lot.  Also had a chicken run next to the hives.  One fall the black cherry trees that hung down over the hives were loaded with fruit and I spent a couple of hours working right around the hives picking black cherries, and the bees never bothered me at all.  You don't want to stand right in front of them, as you may get run into by bees entering or exiting the hives, but as long as you are off to the side or in back they should leave you alone. 

Bees don't like black, and they don't much like wool for some reason, so it's best not to wear these if you are going to be around the hives.  They'll be calmer in warm weather, and irritable if the hives are bothered when it's chilly and wet out. 

My daughters thought it was fun to pet their dad's honey bees when they were gathering nectar; they were very gentle about it, and never had a sting.  I think that education is a large part of having children get along well with honey bees.  For one thing, most people can't seem to tell the difference between yellowjackets, other wasps and hornets, and honey bees!  It can be difficult to educate adults, but children seem to be very quick at learning to identify them once the differences are pointed out.  (Ditto for learning wild plants and so on, too.)  You might want to talk to the day care about having educational sessions on not just bees, but insects in general.  I doubt that you'll have any issues with children there being stung by your foraging bees, though. 

If you do get close neighbors, what you might want to do (unless you have the hives on the roof of your shed, which is a good idea) is to build a solid board fence around the corner where the hives are.  This will force the bees to go up over the top of the fence before they take off to go foraging, and this will reduce the chance of your neighbor inadvertently standing in their flyway and getting bumped, and thus stung.  Also make sure you have water on your own place (it sounds like you have that covered) so they don't go to the neighbor's birdbath or swimming pool for water. 

Kathleen
 
                      
Posts: 36
Location: Snohomish, WA
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Btw, I do like Italian bees. They seem to be gentler. I was told that in the beginning and have found it to be true for me.
 
                      
Posts: 25
Location: Sherbrooke, QC
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Thanks,

I have read that about Italians aswell....

I am not a big believer in antibiotics and etc.... I have been reading the top bar method, but there seem to be disadvantages to both.. As experienced beekeepers, what do you think?
 
                    
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Here's a picture of our halfway completed top bar hive:  We plan to make two. 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/fishermansdaughter/4314053490/in/set-72157605315077337/

I think the main difference and benefit (to the bees, not as much to people) of a top bar hive is that the bees are allowed to build comb to their own sizes and whims.  The pattern and size of comb on the framed styles are invariable and are supposed to discourage the creation of brood cells (because the goal is to make them make as much honey as they can) and so you end up finding random brood cells in any place they are able to make some comb of their own. 

Bees naturally make cells with varying sizes to accommodate different functions, and if they aren't allowed to express their instincts....well that seems like cruel treatment, to me.  I'm interested in allowing the "bee-ness" of a bee as much as the "chicken-nees" of a chicken; that is, the animal is given an environment wherein they can just "bee" themselves to the greatest extent possible.  A square frame with the comb pattern already defined definitely forces bees to conform to our idea of what a hive should look like. 

I feel that top bar hives allow the fullest natural expression of the bees, while allowing us to carefully steal a bit of their food stores.  I'd rather have healthy bees who take care of my plants than another gallon of honey at the end of the year. 

Chandler says that Italian bees like warm climates and won't produce as much as hardier types in cold wet weather. 

He also mentions that, if you obtain a foreign bee species, and they swarm/leave and cross with honey bees naturalized to your area, there's a good probability of that new strain of bee being HIGHLY aggressive. 

Generally the more "domesticated" the original strain (bees aren't really domesticated, only been bred by humans for a few centuries, and from what I can tell, these efforts are actually inbreeding) the worse the temperament of the cross strain they create with other bees.  So, again, looking for someone who offers bees that have been living in your area for generations and are proven to be friendly to work with will probably really pay off in the long term. 
 
                      
Posts: 36
Location: Snohomish, WA
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I would like to try a top bar and a warre hive. They make sense to me. For the time being I am using what I have. I do believe that the bees need to make their own comb to help combat the varroa mite issues.

I just don't have the time to do it all.

Addressing local bees, honeybees are not native to the U.S. Where one might be able to find some available wild or what have you in different areas, you would be hard pressed here to find any. There are swarm lists that one can get one but those are just other peoples bees that swarmed so they are usually from the Apiary Supplier. Swarms are not difficult to catch except that you have to be at the right place at the right time and have a way to get them if they are really high.
height is the biggest challenge to me.

I'd like to know if anyone had been able to get access to honeybees bees that were wild from their area and where you are.
 
                    
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I didn't mean "from the wild."  I meant find a supplier in at least your region or something similar to your climate.  I wouldn't buy bees raised in florida, for instance.  Jiggy lives in a particularly cold place, I thought it might do him well to find especially hardy bees. 

Maybe because I live in the BIZ-AG state, there are several small scale apiaries within a hundred miles that have nucs and pounds of bees available. 
 
                      
Posts: 36
Location: Snohomish, WA
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Oh, I see what you are saying. Sorry for the confusion.

Yes, if he should find bees that work in his climate. Italians do well here in Western Wa. I don't know where Jiggy is.
 
Michael Hansen
Posts: 27
Location: NW Michigan
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If you're not particularly interested in the honey, you should check out Mason Bees.  My Aunt has kept them for years at her house in the city.  She loves them because they are easy to keep, extremely docile and are very good pollinators.
 
                      
Posts: 25
Location: Sherbrooke, QC
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Oh, I am definately interested in the honey, wax and pollination.... Just not more than I would ever use/need. And fewer hives, means less work...

Back to the top bar method.... How to you harvest the honey, without damagin too much of the colony (not sure if thats the right term)

From what I read, the brood is usually kept in the middle, how do you harves the honey without damaging the brrod chambers.

Does this also become a issue when filtering?

And what about winter prep, Modern hive means you can cleaning remove the desired amount of homey, and still leave the required amount to survive winter. If in top bar, you remove the honey gradually, how do you ensure that the needed reserve is built back up in time.

I really like the top bar theory, but I need some clearing understanding of harvesting.
 
                    
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They do make most of the brood combs on the middle bars, and you harvest a bar or two from one end of mostly (there will be a few brood cells in there but not enough to hurt the hive) honey comb in the spring, after they've gone through winter and won't need those honey stores to survive.  You only take what's leftover from their winter stores - there is no "guess work" as to how much they might need.  The goal in this system is to never feed sugar water. 

You crush the whole comb to strain the honey and then separate the wax by melting and separating the two, or keep the wax in the honey for "honey in the comb" style honey.  So with top bar hives, you get to take less honey, but you keep the wax also.  With Langstroth systems, you spin the honey out of the comb (with a fancy comb spinning machine) and replace the mildly damaged comb back in the hive so they can fix it up and fill it again (well you put the empty frames outside for them to clean the honey remains, then place it back in the hive).  More honey, no wax. 

Although it can seem like a terrible thing to destroy a comb, I'd rather have the bees build their comb according to their natural instincts with variable cell sizes.  The Lanstroth cell sizes discourage the formation of brood and encourage honey cell making, resulting in an artificially large store of honey and an unnaturally small number of brood.  It's common practice among commercial keepers to kill drones as they are seen as useless "honey eaters", but there is suspicion that they are essential for the hive because of their ability to help stabilize temperature and pheromones. 

Another reason I like the top bar hive design is that you can peek at the hives without disturbing them very much.  You remove the roof of the hive box but the bars act as the "roof" of the hive itself, and just move one of the follower boards back from the edge of the hive a bit.  You can easily place another bar or two on the end if it looks like they need more space.  Chandler says normally you can do this without disrupting the hive, as you aren't actually moving any combs around, and then when you do, it's just one or two off the end, the middle of the hive doesn't need to move at all.  The goal of the TBH system is to disturb the bees as little as possible.

I've helped investigate hive health and harvest honey from Langstroth hives, and when you start taking the supers off the top they get very agitated because to the bees their world is ripped open to the heart of the hive with one or two of the boxes on top gone.  Completely alters the temperature and humidity levels they work hard to maintain in the interior of the hive.  Also, a super full of honey is really really heavy.  There is no heavy lifting of any sort with the TBH. 
 
                                    
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BTW, every state I've been in within the US has a state beekeeping organization (or sometimes more than one) which gives beginner beekeeping "schools".  Many of them give the classes in many parts of their respective states.  Great resources, access to vendors, and plenty to look at before you start.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 985
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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I want to do the top-bar hives because I want the wax as much as I want the honey.  With the Langstroth hives you don't get very much wax (just the cappings, and you need a special tool for uncapping the comb, too).

I talked to my ex a couple of weeks ago, and he mentioned that the Heifer Project may have bees available to low-income rural people so they can get started with beekeeping.  He said that the beekeepers, at least in his area, donate some bees to this so that they can help new beekeepers get going.  It would be worth checking out -- he thought you probably would still have to supply your own boxes and so on, it's just the bees that they provide.

Kathleen
 
Ardilla Esch
Posts: 198
Location: Northern New Mexico, Zone 5b
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You can use Langstroth hives and not use foundation and completely dispense with uncapping and extraction of honey.  I have all Langstroth hives but don't use foundation and I harvest the exact same way as with a top bar hive.  The bees are free to build whatever size comb cells they want and there is quite a bit of wax to be harvested.

Several of the perceived differences between top bar hives and Langstroth hives are really about management style.  I do not advocate for one style of hive over another except to say there are low-impact ways to manage bees in Langstroth hives and there are ways people manage bees in top bar hives that are quite disruptive. 
 
                    
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You can use Langstroth hives and not use foundation and completely dispense with uncapping and extraction of honey.  I have all Langstroth hives but don't use foundation and I harvest the exact same way as with a top bar hive.  The bees are free to build whatever size comb cells they want and there is quite a bit of wax to be harvested.



Do the bees attach comb to the vertical sides of your hives?  In my understanding the main difference in a true top bar hive is that the sides are sloped to get narrower at the bottom, helping the bees recognize it as something they shouldn't attach comb to. 

I agree that management style is very important, in regards to ANY animal a person purposefully keeps around their house/land. 
 
Ardilla Esch
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Location: Northern New Mexico, Zone 5b
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No, they don't attach the comb to the sides of the boxes, but they do attach comb to the sides of the frames.  Basically,, the frames are empty but have a comb guide on the top bar.  The bees fill in each frame.  Typically they don't attach the comb to the bottom bar right away but eventually they will.

It works pretty well.  I usually put one drawn frame in an empty box so they will fill in the rest properly.  Occasionally, a hived swarm will make some wild comb no matter what you give them as a template.  Darn if those bees don't read the books.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Just pondering here -- one of my concerns with the top-bar hives has been that it would be easy to break the unsupported comb as you handled it, but using the whole frames from the Langstroth hives would offer a little better support.

Kathleen
 
                    
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That's a good point Kathleen.  I haven't read anything in the literature to suggest that a naturally built comb can break off at the connection to the bar, but that doesn't mean it's impossible!  I'll let you know how ours go.  Both of our hives are pretty much finished and waiting for the ladies and drones who will make them their home.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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I was just going on my experience with my ex's hives -- especially when the wax is warm (on a hot day in the summer!), it does break easily if handled.  Of course the bees don't build for that!

Kathleen
 
Ardilla Esch
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Location: Northern New Mexico, Zone 5b
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The freshly built comb with top bars or foundationless Langstroth frames is fairly fragile.  It isn't that big of a deal though.  You just can't flip the bars/frames on their sides until the comb gets firm.  It takes a few months for the comb to get firm enough to fllip them sideways.  Until then you just lift them vertically and rotate the comb so it stays vertical.

 
Susanna de Villareal-Quintela
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My son became interested in honeybees when he was 10.  He found an excellent mentor through the beekeeping group in our State and reads anything he can find on the topic of bee culture.  He is in his third year of beekeeping, now, and has 4 hives.  He is using Langstroth hives with Italian queens.

He does use frames with foundations.  However, unless he believes there is a problem with the queen or an illness, he does not disturb the queen's brood boxes (what he considers the hive's nucleus) because he believes it unnecessarily stresses the colony.

My son was rewarded with his first crop of honey, 60 pounds, which he took from 2 hives this past week (he's a spring harvester, too).  He does have a honey extractor but uses one of my good bread knives to uncap the comb.  After extraction, he harvests some of the wax from the frames and returns some wax to the hive.  He believes returning this wax to the hive will help the bees recover from harvesting because a colony must produce 5 pounds of honey to make one pound of wax.  In his mind, he is respecting the colony's natural inclination to reuse resources. 

My son is wondering why honey is not harvested in smaller quantities a couple of times during the summer rather than one big raid in the fall.  It seems as though doing so would keep hives a more managable size and the colony from being stressed before winter.  Does anyone have an opinion the viability of harvesing a few frames during active honey production season? 


   
 
Seth Pogue
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What's the latest time of year one should start a new bee colony/project at 45 degrees north, 300 feet in Montana?
 
Robert Ray
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Location: Cascades of Oregon
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Has anyone had any success in raising bees at high altitude?
My discussions with local beekeepers suggest anatolian/caucasian cross or an anatolian bee since they become active at cooler temps.
 
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