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Author Topic: Newbie (or hoping to be anyway), but afraid...  (Read 4030 times)
OzarksFarmGirl
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« on: February 20, 2011, 11:27:28 PM »

I have been wanting to get bees for quite a while, but have been putting it off because I'm afraid.  Not of bees, mind you.  On the contrary...I LOVE bees and each year I have extensive gardens and fruit trees that are just teaming with bees.  What I'm afraid of is failure. I'm afraid that if I buy a hive, I will end up losing/killing them due inexperience and/or sheer ignorance.  Sad  Even though I have several books on beekeeping and have read them over and over again, I feel totally overwhelmed and even more confused then ever. Some seem to go overboard with the equipment requirements (full suite, gloves, veil, etc.) and a host of medicines and chemicals (my gardens and trees are all chemical free), and others not so much. But while I don't want to use anything that is not necessary or make things any harder than it needs to be, at the same time I don't want to not do enough and risk harming/killing the bees.

And as yet, I am still undecided as to the type of hive to buy. While I like the idea of an 8-frame garden style (it may be silly, but I like the pitched copper roof) and it would easier for me to handle, I have read from some that unless you keep buy from the same company that made the hive, it's hard to find frames and foundation that fit, and that even then it's subject to change. It seems as the 10-frame Langstrom is pretty much universal, no matter what company you buy from, but the 10-frame set up is heavier and would be much harder for me to handle.  Undecided   

Not only do I have to decide on the woodwork (8- or 10-frame, garden or standard, etc.), but I also have to decide on what strain of bees I should get. I really need your expert advice here, folks! And what about the bees that currently visit my gardens? They may be from a neighbors hive, but I don't know of anyone nearby that has any so they could even be wild, I simply don't know. What I do know is that they are very tame and they will crawl on my bare hands if I put my hand out to them when they are on the flowers. In the summer there are literally hundreds of them in my gardens and around the shallow water fountain I have set up. But what happens if/when I get my own hives, will they compete and fight? Will there be enough food to go around? I have a 5 gallon container of raw dark honey that I recently bought at an estate auction (the owner raised bees before he passed), and have that available to feed them if needed.     

What I do know is that if I'm going to get my own bees this year, I'd better get a move on before it gets to late to order. So I'd appreciate any and all feedback that would help me in my decision making.   Smiley
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FRAMEshift
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« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2011, 11:50:55 PM »

Welcome farmgirl.  So you're afraid you will kill your bees.  Well, you might kill some but even if you do everything perfectly, some hives will die anyway.  That does not constitute failure on your part.  Reading is good and you have come to the right place to ask questions.  You can't learn everything at once, and some things are hard to learn until you have some bees to bother.

It's a good idea to standardize on frames and box size.  We have long hives and use only deep frames.  But if I were going to use Langstroth hives, I would consider standardizing on 8 frame mediums.   You would outgrow a garden type hive before you got through one season.   grin
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Brian D. Bray
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« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2011, 11:51:53 PM »

Welcome to beekeeping.
I would be better able give specifics if I knew your location, cold weather, warm weather, north, south, east, west...?

Read what is posted in this forum especially those by Finski, Michael Bush, BjornBee, Trot, Myself (humbly), and a few more I can't recall at the moment.  Jointly we probably represent over 300 years of beekeeping experience.  Locate and read a minimum of 4 different books on beekeeping from at least 4 different authors.

My recommendation for a new beekeeper would be to use 8 frame equipment and medium boxes (narrower, lighter, and easier to manipulate), Screen bottom boards, vented top (over entrace--an Imirie shim works well for this), and start your bees on 5.1mm or 4.9mm small cell foundation (don't believe what it says about being only for experienced beekeepers).

For a feeder use the 2 frame wide internal frame feeder with cover and ladders. 

As for tops, either migratory or telescopic are fine.  Garden style, IMO, are too expensive unless you're into astetics.
Paint the outside and edges of the boxes to extend life.

Good Luck!
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applebwoi
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« Reply #3 on: February 20, 2011, 11:52:58 PM »

If there is a bee club, join it.  Find a mentor if any are available.  I never had a mentor and no  bee clubs in the area so I just used these forums and jumped in.  Been going now for 5 years and still learning alot and using the forums. Don't fret about failing. You'll have successes and failures. Try and start with two hives cause it gives you a bit of flexibility.  I use all mediums and am happy I've gone that way.  When I started I had a collection of deeps mediums and shallows and I've never regreted using all mediums.  Bees seem to do fine and overwinter well, but I'm in an area with a relatively mild winter.  Good luck.
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OzarksFarmGirl
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« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2011, 01:06:43 AM »

Thanks for the warm welcomes! I'm in the only place in the Missouri Ozarks where the winters occasionally drop to -20°F with wind chills even colder, and with sweltering summers of high humidity and heat indexes that often exceed 110°F.   Most of the state is a USDA hardiness Zone 5b-6b, but there's a tiny section of the Ozarks that is a Zone 5a (think Iowa), and that's where I happen to live, surrounded by valleys and hills, woodlands and small farms. grin

I have a windbreak of trees and a 50' long x 6' tall board fence on the north side in order to protect my more tender perennial plants and my heeled-in young fruit trees that will be transplanted to their perm. location when they get a bit bigger. There is plenty of room for the hives to go against the fence (the fence shielding them from the north wind), although it gets very hot there in the summer as the position of the summer sun causes the shade of the trees to fall on the other side. I'm thinking the south side of the barn might be better as that area is shaded by a redbud tree in the summer, yet sheltered from the north wind in the winter and there is honeysuckle all along the woven fence that is connected on the west side of the barn, so would provide somewhat of a windbreak from westerly winter winds there as well.  Or maybe in the corner of one of the herb/flower gardens...       

I like the aesthetics of the garden style, and I don't mind paying a bit more for looks since I'm only planning on a couple hives for now. But if the migratory or telescopic tops are better for the bees, then that's what I'll go with. I just want whatever is best for them.   
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WPG
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« Reply #5 on: February 21, 2011, 01:34:31 AM »

Welcome,

You'll do fine. Bees survive uphere.

I think your location by the barn might be best for your heat in the summer and cold winters.
Afternoon shade works best in the summer.

I also recommend the 8-frame mediums.
Telescoping tops w/inner covers.
The garden top is just a fancy telescoping top, they are a lot heavier tho.
You could build your own sometime.

Don't feed the honey to the bees. Use it yourself. It might be bad for the bees but not for you.
The wildbees and yours won't fight each other on the flowers, just at the hive if a dearth is on and your hive is weak with lots of food.

Goodluck and have fun.
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OzarksFarmGirl
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« Reply #6 on: February 21, 2011, 02:28:45 AM »

8-frame on the south side of the barn it is, then.  Smiley
And now for the bees....Carni? Italian? Russian? I don't know what others there are.  But I have children, pets, and small livestock (not to mention a citified bee-wary hubby), and therefore gentle, non-temperamental bees are a must.  And if they are good honey producers, that would be a plus.  grin

 
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lenape13
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« Reply #7 on: February 21, 2011, 04:06:12 AM »

Welcome to the wonderful world of beekeeping.  Don't worry too much about killing your bees.  You could do everything correctly, and still lose them.  There are too many variables to take into consideration.  You simply do the best you can and hope for the best. 

As for bees, I have mainly italians and feral bees.  I prefer my feral ones, as they are more adapted to my specific climate.  With your winter temps, you may want to consider carnis or russians.  Italians are the most common, but the others are gaining in popularity.  I have one carni hive and it is gentle, as are all of my other hives.  I have no experience with russians.  If you could find some feral ones in your area, that would be the best, but you might not want to attempt this your first year.

Temperment depends on more than simply genetics.  You could have the calmest girls on the face of the earth, but if something starts bothering them, like skunks, their temperment can turn to the darkside.  Yes, it can be a real adventure, but I wouldn't give up my girls for anything.  It's cheaper than therapy!

This forum is a good place to gather information and ask for help.  Bear in mind though, if you ask 50 beekeepers the same question, you may get 50 different answers.  We all have things we do differently, and many problems are area specific, whice is why you should try to find a bee association and a mentor in your area.  Ultimately, it will be up to you to decide what's best for your girls.

The idea of using 8 frame mediums is a good one.  You only need one size frame and boxes.  I use telescoping covers, but that's because I'm cheap.... If you want the garden hive, go for it.  It's only money.  I bought one for Pam, and she loves it.  Yes, it's heavier, but then again, you don't need to put a brick on it to keep it from blowing off!   grin

Good luck with your girls!
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FRAMEshift
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« Reply #8 on: February 21, 2011, 07:54:02 AM »

The garden top is just a fancy telescoping top, they are a lot heavier tho.
You could build your own sometime.
Yes you could build a copper topped garden type roof for one of your standard hives to have in an aesthetic location.  And you can get Brushy Mountian ( and probably other suppliers) to build copper topped migratory covers. 
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teezbees
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« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2011, 08:40:24 AM »

Welcome!
 
Like the others mention, don't worry about losing colonies. This happens despite using best practices. You may want to consider setting up two hives in your garden. It will take more investment, but not much more effort to work two; just a thought. I only use 10 frame equipment, but in your case, just starting out, I'd go with the weight benefits of an 8 frame setup.

Regarding the gentleness of the bees that visit your garden. This is not uncommon. Remember, honey bees die when they sting, so attacking is generally reserved for defense. People look at me like the "Bee Whisperer" when I let honey bees crawl around on my fingers outside Lowes when they put out the spring flowers for sale. They aren't defending the hive, so why attack? Most honey bees act this way when out foraging, so there is probably nothing special about the bees visiting your garden.

Russian bees have quite a deal of benefits, especially for chemical free bee keeping, but I don't think they're a good choice for beginners. They can have a tendency to swarm. I'm trying my first nuc of Russians this year. As a beginner, I'd stick with the Italians or Carniolans.

Regarding the honey you purchased, I'd avoid feeding it to your bees. The only honey I feed back to my bees is their own. Otherwise, I feed them sugar syrup. The honey you bought may be fine, but I'd save it for the biscuits.

Good luck!
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Bee-Bop
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« Reply #10 on: February 21, 2011, 10:32:30 AM »

OzarkFarmGirl;

We have all lost a few, either beginners or old timers.

I notice in your first post you mention buying 5 gallons of honey to feed with, most bee books and beeks caution against that !

 Yes it can get cold in the Ozarks, lowest I remember was Christmas Eve. -28 degrees, stayed below -5 for 10 days, then 6 weeks of below freezing, winter of 1982-83.

Matter of fact, I lost five 12-31-10, right here in the Good Ole Ozarks by a tornado, any thing can happen.

Join a Bee Club, find a mentor.

Bee-Bop
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« Reply #11 on: February 21, 2011, 11:44:27 AM »

one additional rec. that i might have missed as i skimmed:  start with more than one hive.  two or three if you can stand the cost.  that way if one is weaker or you need to combine hives, you have the resources. 

bees are living things.  all living things die.  you may or may not kill them.  they still die.  with bees, you just hope they don't die all at once  grin

if you would go back into your profile and put your location, you won't need to keep reminding us of where you live, later on.....

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« Reply #12 on: February 21, 2011, 11:52:58 AM »

Yep - extra hives for sure. And if woodworking doesn't bother you - you can use your first hive to get the measurements you need to build more. (frames can be a lot of work, but some people on here build those too)
I think this theme has already been touched on, but in just about anything you can do everything right and still have it blow up in your face - but you're guaranteed not to succeed if you don't try.
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« Reply #13 on: February 21, 2011, 01:04:48 PM »

Hi and welcome!

Ditto on the multiple hives...you can always split and recover a dead hive that way.  In fact I'd go so far as to say 3 or 4 hives.

There's going to be ups and downs.  Beekeeping success or failure can't be judged on one or even two years, since like farming it is so much out of your control.  The failures are heartwrenching and will occur, but nothing beats a warm sunny day sucking on the fresh pure sweetness of some burr comb while surrounded by tiny angry angels trying to kill you with their venomous butt-swords!!  grin

Rick
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indypartridge
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« Reply #14 on: February 21, 2011, 01:21:24 PM »

I feel totally overwhelmed and even more confused then ever.

It can easily be overwhelming, but don't let that scare you away. It can be as simple or as complicated as you make it.

Start with a couple of hives. If you like the copper roof - go for it, the bees don't care.  8-frame equipment is becoming very popular, so no worries there. You don't need a lot of equipment, a veil, a hive tool, a smoker, some old white shirts from the resale shop.

Lots of newbies fret about what kind of bees. Again, it doesn't make that much difference. I always recommend LOCAL bees. Find a beekeeper near you who will sell you a nuc. I believe it's better to get bees which are acclimated to your particular climate.

Find a local club. Clubs often offer beginning beekeeping classes, and are great places to find mentors and get connected with nearby beekeepers. Hopefully one of these is near you:
http://www.mostatebeekeepers.org/local_associations.htm

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FRAMEshift
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« Reply #15 on: February 21, 2011, 02:42:37 PM »

Some seem to go overboard with the equipment requirements (full suite, gloves, veil, etc.) and a host of medicines and chemicals (my gardens and trees are all chemical free), and others not so much. But while I don't want to use anything that is not necessary or make things any harder than it needs to be,

I would suggest you get an epipen, even if you are not allergic to bee venom.  Someone who visits you may be allergic or you could develop an allergy later. 

The minimum you need as far as clothing is long sleeve shirt and pants. Gloves are good.  You might get away without a veil in the springtime when the bees are not so defensive, but you will want a veil in the late summer, fall, and winter when the bees will be defending their honey.  Bees know where your face is and they will sting your face if provoked enough. 

If you want to  raise bees without using synthetic chemicals, you can do that.   We use powdered sugar for mites and sugar/vinegar/vegetable oil traps for small hive beetles.  Most folks here will tell you that you will have better luck going chemical free if you don't use large cell foundation.  Both cell size and genetics seem to play a role in success with chemical free beekeeping. 

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Acebird
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« Reply #16 on: February 21, 2011, 03:11:58 PM »

Quote
It can easily be overwhelming, but don't let that scare you away.

Many people are telling you to start with multiple hives and I know why they are saying that.  However you are trying to make up your mind if you should keep bees at all.  In order to not become overwhelmed I think you should start with one hive.  I have one now (new beek) and I want to get a second one.  I also know what would happen if you went with two hives and you lost them both the first year.  I have a local friend that went hog wild the first year and got 6 hives.  He made it through the first winter loosing two hives.  He just told me Saturday that he lost 5 hives and only has one hanging on.  He was so distraught he was thinking of throwing in the towel.  So I say don't set yourself up for failure.  Try one hive.  I know you will grow to more next year.

Quote
Lots of newbies fret about what kind of bees. Again, it doesn't make that much difference. I always recommend LOCAL bees. Find a beekeeper near you who will sell you a nuc. I believe it's better to get bees which are acclimated to your particular climate.

I think this is good advice for any newbee.  The closer you can find a bee source to your location the better.
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iddee
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« Reply #17 on: February 21, 2011, 06:07:17 PM »

In order to not become overwhelmed I think you should start with one hive.

Of all advice I have seen on many forums, I think this is either the worst or second worst piece of advice I have ever seen. The only thing I have seen that even compares with it is, "remove all queen cells". One of them has to take the booby prize for worst.
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« Reply #18 on: February 21, 2011, 06:19:00 PM »

Welcome to a very addictive hobby!

I started with three book and an order for two complete hives. Everything else I've learned was from right here! Everyone on this forum is so very helpful! I'm a certified complete idiot when it comes to this, and I'm barely holding my own when it comes to this. But, these guys and gals are top notch at helping you along. One thing I did learn was to ask questions, no matter if you think it might be ridiculous or not. Had I asked earlier last fall, I still might have two hives running strong instead of the one  Sad

When I say it's addictive, I mean it; I even added a camera near the entrance of one of my hives just so I can watch the girls come and go! This time of year, it's not really active, but your welcome to have a look at: http://www.appalachian-weather.com

Jim



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greenbtree
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« Reply #19 on: February 21, 2011, 06:24:19 PM »

Hey, jump in.  This is my first year.  At one point I was up to eight colonies (I was picking up swarms).  Right now I am down to two.  Discouraging, but I have learned a LOT and intend to forge ahead.  I would start with two.  With two you have a back up and you can learn a lot by comparing the two.  I live in Iowa, in a landscape similar to yours (I am in a small, hilly patch that looks nothing like most of Iowa.)  Be warned, my husband considers beekeeping a mania.  From your desires I also would recommend 8 frame, mediums as light and easy to handle - bees do fine with them.  My bees are (or were rolleyes) local mutts and I have had no problems working them.  I console myself with the fact that the survivor rate of swarms in nature is pretty low to begin with and I will improve with time.  Find a mentor if you can.  Join a club. Read books.  Watch the Brushy Mountain Webinars (boy do I wish I had known about them last Spring!)  Have FUN!

JC
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