Common Questions about Bee Keeping

It’s important at least when you’re
trying to decide where to set up your bees, give it some thought you know. How
you use your property, relations to neighbors, the flight path of the bees. The bees are going to come out of that hive and generally gain some elevation but if you
put them right by a sidewalk or something and people have to walk by,
sometimes bees are a little defensive at the front door. So think about that
location ahead of time. The reason being is especially in urban situations or maybe
it’s on your farm and you put bees over here on this side. Here’s the barn, you put the bees on this side of the barn and you realize oh, I need to put my
tractor over there and I’m always hooking up implements and I’m getting
stung so or you put these on this side of your house and your neighbor on this
house is allergic to bees. You can’t just pick that hive up and move it 50 yards
away to the other side of the barn. Those bees imprint and dead reckon on the door of that hive and if you just move it one day you’re going to have thousands of bees
flying around lost in that old location. So it’s really important to decide on that
location, plan it out ahead of time. The only way you could solve that situation
if something arises after the fact, say you end up with a neighbor issue where
you have a neighbor with an allergy or the bees are causing them some irritation on
their walking paths or something. You have to take that colony, close it up
before daylight or after dark and move it at least three miles away and then it
needs to re-establish there for a few weeks and then close it up just before
daylight or just after dark and move it back to the new location. In that couple
of weeks the bees have forgotten where they used to live, they’ve learned their new
location, and they rarely travel much more than three miles so you can move a colony a short distance on your property. The other way would be to put the colony on a wagon or some
way move the colony five or six feet a day and the bees learn they see that
have move and they re-imprint on that new location. Every day or two you
can move it a few feet to get to a new location and then another reason to move bees might be to pollinate or to gain access to a particular type of honey crop. If you’re
trying to do that, which I do often, close bees just before daylight, we ratchet strap
the hive together, load twenty or thirty hives on the trailer and then haul the bees to the new location. You want to get those bees open as quickly as possible. If it’s
really hot, you want to have ventilated covers so they get a lot airflow and
get them there before it heats up too much. And then like right now we’ve got
bees in some sourwood locations. That’s about over, so we’ll be bringing
those bees home, and we’ll go, head out of here about three o’clock in the morning
and get there about an hour before daylight, start closing hives, relocate
the hives back home, get them open and flying as quickly as possible. So that’s more for our benefit than
there’s – taking them to those locations to make that surplus honey but I will
say that the bees who get the better honey flow later in the season by making the move tend to be in better shape. They’re more
invigorated, they’ve had more young successions of brood, so those bees tend to do better in the winter by taking them to get food sources. As far as wintering
hives here…the things I mentioned before about having a good queen, adequate food in the 50 to 70 pound range and low pest, parasite, and disease loads, those are your most important things. A honeybee colony, as the weather
cools below 50 degrees it begins to cluster. It tightens that cluster the colder
it gets. Those bees have to be in contact with honey to generate heat so
if they don’t have food they die and it can happen in a matter of minutes, hours.
The whole colony perishes at the same time. A complete egalitarian society.
Some of them don’t say, okay, you young bees go over here and protect the queen and
we’ll all go die while you have this little bit of food left. They pass food
mouth to mouth, to the bitter end until they all perish at once. So starvation is
your biggest worry. As you get into northern latitudes, there’s
setups that would vary, you know in the deep South, folks may run a hive body
which is a box about this deep and a super, a shallow super which is about four and a half, five inches and that might be adequate for getting through the winter. As you get
further north, more folks run two deep boxes. That allows the bees more room for winter stores, more weight of honey for the winter. So
having the setup that fits your latitude and environment is important, and then as you get further north in extreme climate some folks do wrap the hives. They’ll wrap a hive with tar paper, create windbreaks on the north and west side, the
prevailing side from where the prevailing winds come but here I don’t do any wrapping. I’m on a
mountainside. We’ve got a bank here that kind of breaks the wind and the woods as
well. If I have a colonies out in an open area, a windbreak’s good and a
natural wind break of bushes or shrubs is probably a lot more practical to
maintain but some folks will do stack hay bales or put up a fence panel to
break the wind as well. Ventilation is probably as important as
windbreaks. I think where some people actually make a mistake in trying to
wrap a hive and insulate a hive to protect it from winter, they end up
trapping moisture and bees can survive extreme cold. That cluster I mentioned, they just heat the cluster. They don’t heat the whole accommodation. They don’t heat the whole hive and so as they consume food and respirate, moisture condenses on
the lid of the hive and if you don’t allow that moisture to move through the
hive with some upward ventilation, for instance a notch in the top your hive where air-flow can move through the hive, moisture builds up. When it gets cool, it rains
back down on the bees and soaks the bees and they can’t be wet and cold but it
doesn’t matter if it’s a hundred and two degrees under a cactus in Arizona or
twenty below in North Dakota, those bees can maintain a 92 degree temperature in that cluster give or take a degree as
long as they have food and enough bees to do so. If a cluster’s sick or weak and gets down to this size, a lot of times they can’t maintain those temperatures and it perishes. Obviously
the best feed for your bees and honey. That’s what they eat. What you don’t really
want to do is go and buy honey off the grocery store shelf to feed your bees. The
reason being is that honey comes from oftentimes an amalgamation of large
commercial beekeepers and there’s a potential of introducing foul brood to
your bees through foreign honey, but if you have two hives in the yard just like I
mentioned, this is a management strategy and one hive makes way more honey than it needs, say it’s got ninety pounds of honey and you’re about to harvest but the
other hive, say it had a poor queen in the spring and it didn’t produce the numbers so they never stored enough honey. By now it’s you’ve given it a new queen or it’s
raised a new queen and it’s back on top and healthy but lacking food, rob from
the rich and give to the poor you know. Go in that strong hive borrow a few frames of
honey or super of honey and give it to the hive that needs feed. That’s your number one way to feed. The second best option, believe it or not, is plain white sugar
mixed in a syrup, one part water to one part sugar. Sucrose table sugar is very similar to the
structure and sugars in nectar and so the bees can easily work with it, digest it, ripen it
and store it in the hive for winter and they winter well on it. Back to what I said though, feeding should be a tool and not a crutch. You don’t want to take all
their honey and expect them to survive well on sugar syrup but it’s a necessary thing some
years. How do you anticipate growth and I think this is one of the common mistakes
I see beginners make. They don’t realize how quickly a colony can grow, especially a
nucleus colony. As brood hatches, I mentioned the more bees there are, the more brood they can cover and the more food they can forage for and more pollen they can bring
back and so as they get a certain number of bees, they grow exponentially. It just
happens really fast. So my rule of thumb if you’re running 10 frame equipment
when the bees have made comb on seven or eight of those frames, I add the next box. I
actually rotate the outer undrawn comb and the drawn comb inside rotate those on
both sides of the box and add the next box. Same rule there – seven to eight frames of
drawn come with either resources pollen, honey, or brood in there, rotate
the frames on the outer wall, add the next box and as you can see you can do that
for quite a ways. Hives can get really tall as they produce honey, but if you don’t give space in time, they begin to put honey into the brood nest as brood hatches and it triggers a swarm impulse. Swarming is not necessarily a bad thing but it
poses some risks for the parent colony that they may not recover from which may result in you having to feed a lot later, or get another queen, or it may give pests and disease opportunities to take hold while the colony is trying to recover. So
anticipating growth is really important so that they don’t become crowded
and start producing swarms because I guess the old adage you can’t
get yesterday’s honey tomorrow if you don’t give the bees somewhere to put it and I think it’s a bit of a misconception that is if there’s flowers everywhere
that your bees are happy and fine. It takes certain plants to actually produce
a surplus of nectar to where bees can grow, stimulate the wax glands so they can
draw come and grow their nest and then store a surplus for the winter. They can’t do
this on just that little patch of daffodils or that patch of mint in your
garden. They need massive quantities resources and that’s where this forest
really comes to play. One of the beautiful things about honey from the
mountains is most of it’s coming from the trees and the woods. It’s not coming off
of large agriculture in most cases here. In the spring it’s that locust and popular
and then summer it’s basswood and sourwood and then there’s some some wild
plants as well, all the berry blooms and the sumac which produce a lot of nectar and those are all wild things out the words
so I’d say it’s probably as organic as it gets.


  1. This series of videos on beekeeping is hands down the best series I have found yet, and I doubt if they can be touched in any aspect! I feel you have set the bar to unattainable heights for all other instructors/educators!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *