I am, admittedly, stumbling into this forum to loudly shout out questions that are more than likely answerable from a search and study of previous postings. I apologize for that; I'm definitely going to invest more time perusing the forum and studying up on all of the shared knowledge that has been deposited here. For now though, I'm on a time crunch and just hoped to find some local or comparable opinion-givers who can offer up guidance and advice.
I just bought 10 acres of S.E. Texas land in Zone 8b that I am looking to develop into a future permaculture homestead - I have a thread over on homesteading (SE Texas Homestead) that I'm going to be keeping track of things on. I have to start agricultural usage right away for tax reasons, and of the various homestead elements I have in my plan, I believe bees would be the best suited to deploying in year one.
I have 3 acres of cleared land on the South of the property that I think would be good for the hives, and to seed with some local flowering plants. There's about five acres of woodland with a creek, and then another 2 acres to the North that has a pond and plentiful wildflowers. I'm not too sure of the local surroundings, as I haven't spent much time out there. I'm assuming that there's a limit to how far a bee will forage, and that I'll have to compensate for any lack of local supplies.
My questions are simply a) can this be done in less than a month, and b) what are the bare minimum requirements to proceed? I already plan to register with the Texas Apiary Inspection Service, and I know to retain all receipts and official documents as proof for the taxman that this venture is legitimate and was started on specific dates. I'm also meeting with the county agriculture extension office for a general chat about the land, and I'll bring this up. Beyond that, it's a mystery.
Any and all feedback is appreciated - thanks in advance!
might be a bit late for most nuc or package vendors, but who knows?
putting up a whole bunch of bait hives could conceivably get you to eight before the end of the month, depending on your local swarm season and honey bee population.
Krzysztof Plizga wrote:Get in contact with local beekeeper association or "bee club". They should know local sources for bees and equipment.
I've had mixed results with beekeepers associations. a really great beekeeper is (or was?) an officer of my local association, but the organization as a whole still clings to an outdated mechanistic model of beekeeping that perpetuates a lot of bad habits. other associations I've interacted with are open to practices that contradict their orthodoxy, but aren't exactly friendly about it. a few are full of really thoughtful people doing exciting work, but those associations are the exception.
that doesn't, of course, mean that your local club couldn't point you toward someone to buy equipment or bees from. it does mean that the equipment and bees you get will likely come with a whole lot of advice of dubious value. that equipment and those bees will also likely steer you toward management practices that, judging by your presence in this forum, you may not find to your liking.
or you could be lucky and have a great local BKA full of great folks.
With these replies in mind, and with some further research I did into local beekeeping groups and suppliers, I think I have a rough plan. It actually turns out my wife has friends who keep bees in the same county, so we may have some extra help getting to that 8-hive goal!
I'm going to invest money up-front ($1600) into Langstroth hives for convenience. I will hand-build as many bait hives as I can and distribute them around good-looking trees on my acreage, and also at my residential place just in case. I'll have to visit with the local bee suppliers to see how many nucs I can get at short notice (if any, and at $200 each), and sweet-talk the friends of my wife to see if they have anything they can give us. This is all assuming the county will require us to have 8 established colonies in place before April in order to qualify as an ag year - if they can accept just the infrastructure for 8, and a few colonies, we're in business. Even if I have to buy all hives and nucs for $3200, the ROI will break even after only 2-3 years of being classified for ag use taxes.
Also, we're thinking of using the local groups and contacts to find out if any established beekeepers in the locality would want to manage these new hives in exchange for most of the honey & wax produced; if I can get this deal, then year one can be us learning from pros while retaining a little personal honey stash at harvest time. I understand the differences in methods and philosophies that are out there, but we'll have to put out feelers and see if anything aligns with our attitudes. My thoughts on that are that we can always move away from the traditional Langstroth structures and methods as we introduce new colonies or (touch wood) replace any losses.
So, I'm now swimming in information about beekeeping and have many options to move forward with - I'll be closing on the land next week, then meeting with the extension office the next day, and spring break is going to be a flurry of activity as I get the foundations laid! Wish me luck, I'll post updates here and over on my main homestead thread as well!
First I would mention "Africanized honey bees" ... do your own research.
Moving forward, purchase 4 full sized hives, usually one hive cheaper than two nucs.
Try to buy 4 additional dead outs, or 4 more empty hives.
Enlist a beekeeper to help you make splits out of the 4 full sized hives, into 8 smaller hives.
www.beesource.com has a wealth of local info regarding laws, rules etc.
plenty of old stick in the muds, as well as wack-o tree huggers there on beesource.
Good luck! ... CE
Chris, good advice, we'll be attending a local beekeeping meeting next week and hopefully can make some connections that will facilitate something like what you're describing.
Bear this in mind when planning any land changes/plantings.
Any ideas how to more accurately evaluate the local "hive capacity"?
I wanted to do this more cheaply, but time is against me and I see it as an investment in my property's future. Five more years, and I'll qualify for drastically reduced property taxes! And of course, I won't be complaining about all the honey...
The attached photos show the hive site on day 1 (far from perfect), and then as I left it on day 2 after removing the package boxes and installing better syrup feeders. I also upgraded the stands from some spare bricks to a pair of cinderblock-mounted doors. This was driven by the fear of fire ants invading, so I set inverted grease-coated baking trays on top of the blocks to form ant barriers, then set the doors on top of those.
Also, on day 2, I found one hive almost cleaned out by some sort of predatory wasp. It had created a macabre pile of bee corpses inside the hive, and made a mud nest for its egg(s) in a corner - needless to say, that wasp is no longer with us. Thankfully, the queen survived, so I did what I could and "donated" a frame of healthy bees from my strongest hive to the casualty. I have no idea if it will work, but I had to do something.
I haven't had a chance to read your link yet, but I'll definitely add it to my bee reading list - I appreciate it!
Riley Walker wrote:I haven't had a chance to read your link yet, but I'll definitely add it to my bee reading list - I appreciate it!
here's the abstract, which might be all you really need to read:
When humans switched from hunting honeybee colonies living scattered in the wild to keeping them in hives crowded in apiaries, they may have greatly increased disease transmission between colonies. The effects of clustering colonies were studied. Two groups of 12 colonies, with hives crowded or dispersed, were established in a common environment and left untreated for mites. Drones made many homing errors in the crowded group, but not in the dispersed group. In early summer, in both groups, the colonies that did not swarm developed high mite counts, but the colonies that swarmed maintained low mite counts. In late summer, in the crowded group but not in the dispersed group, the colonies that swarmed also developed high mite counts. All colonies with high mite counts in late summer died over winter; all colonies with low mite counts in late summer survived over winter. Evidently, swarming can reduce a colony’s mite load, but when colonies are crowded in apiaries, this mite-load reduction is erased as mites are spread through drifting and robbing.