Monday, April 9, 2012

Introducing a New Bee Colony, Part 1

My Mister with the packaged bees and their traveling cage.

For our anniversary, we bought a second beehive. Some people might think we're nuts, but in my book,  harvesting honey from your own hive ranks right up there with meeting Joel Salatin. Last fall, we pulled 4 gallons of the sweet stuff out of our hive. It was our first harvest and we didn't expect much, but were thrilled with those 4 gallons!

To put things in perspective~To buy 1 gallon of raw, unpasteurized honey would cost approximately $45/gallon. That would be a total cost of $180 for 4, if we could find it. Once our hive was set up, our only expenses have been in sugar (for late winter feeding) and some mite medicine. (This is a must. Mites can settle in and take out an entire hive before you even know there's a problem.) An established hive can produce 5-6 gallons of harvestable honey and still leave plenty in reserves for winter feeding.

For our first hive, we purchased a nuc kit. This is a hive that has already been established. The beekeeper introduces the bees into the hive and allows them time to set up their "home" before transferring them to the new owner. This was a great way to go as beginning beekeepers since we didn't have a clue as to what we were doing.

And, we were a little scared if truth be told.

With hive #2, we decided to go with packaged bees. This is what a person would do if they already had all the equipment, or needed to replace a dearly departed colony. (Swarming or loss to illness.) Even though we've had a little experience now with our bees, buying packaged bees was a new experience.

And yes, it was a little scary too.

If you are planning on starting hives, now is the time to pick up your bees. Most bee supply companies require a pre-order, but sometimes there are extras available. Check to see what is available in your area. Packaged bees are available now, with nuc hives coming soon-after. If you get your hives set up now, you'll be able to start harvesting honey next year! (The bees need time to build comb and get their winter food supply in.)

~How to install packaged bees~

Day 1:
Before picking up your bees, make sure your hive is painted. Because it is out in the weather, it can leak (as we learned the hard way!) into the hive and cause mold.

Use an outdoor latex paint and stick to light colors.
Make enough sugar syrup to fill your feeder. We also fill up a spray bottle and squirt the bees while we're working with the hives. It keeps the bees from flying around and doesn't cause an asthma attack to the beekeeper like the smoker does.☺Use a 2:1 sugar/water ratio for the feeder and a 1:1 ratio for the spray bottle. Heat the syrup on the stove until the sugar is dissolved, usually an hour or two before you need it.

Beekeeping in the dark~NOT the way it's supposed to be done.☺
Make sure there are at least 5 frames in the hive (this will depend on the type of feeder you use). The queen bee is in her own little box that will need to be tacked in the middle of the frames. To remove the queen cage, bounce the box of bees on a hard surface to knock the cluster to the bottom of the cage. Remove the feed can and the queen cage. Replace the feed can to keep the bees in their box while you settle the queen.

They like her!
The queen nestled down in the box for night 1.
 Once the queen's box is tacked in place, shake the bees down again, remove the feed can and pour a handful of bees over the queen cage. Place the package of bees into the hive with the top up and feed can removed.

Setting the bee cage into the hive
Before placing the lid on the hive, be sure that the feeder is full of sugar water. If you have a pollen patty, now is a good time to add that too.

Then walk away. Even if you want to stay out in the dark all night to make sure none of the bees try to fly away...

Introducing a New Bee Colony, Part 2

*This post is linked to The Homestead Barn Hop.


Heidi said...

Congratulations on your 2nd hive. What mite meds do you use? I am a bee newbie. Thank you for this helpful post.

Mountain Home Quilts said...

Oh, and my hubby and I do things like that too...our last anniversary present to eachother was a subscription to Mother Earth News. Hey, we're simple and I like it. :)

Rae said...

How fun! We just set up our first hive this weekend and installed our bees. Given that your instructions are exactly what we did, I'm digging the reassurance that we did it correctly! :)

Valerie said...

Very cool! I've wanted to get bees for a long time. It is on the list....I'd love to learn more! Where did you purchase your bees? Oh, so many questions. LOL Did your bees pay for themselves the first year with the established colony?

Kim said...

Heidi~We use a product called Mite-a-thol. It's a menthol crystal treatment that is lethal for mites, but not humans or bees. The mite meds are given in the fall after the supers are removed. If you live in a colder climate, this treatment might not work. We found a recipe for a grease patty that is supposed to be very effective in any climate~we'll be trying that this fall.

Heather~Don't you just live the simple things? My birthday gift this year is another trip to the Mother Earth News Fair! :)

Rae~Yay!! Congrats on your new hive!

Valerie~We bought our packaged bees from Ruhl's Bee Supply in Gladstone. Our first hive came from a private bee supplier who is no longer in business~they became allergic! (I've heard there is another private supplier in the Scappoose area, but I don't know the name.) We didn't take any honey the first year because it takes time for the bees to build comb and fill it. They have to fill their brood boxes for their supply before we can add the supers, which is where our honey comes from. Seems more confusing than it actually is! :)

Anonymous said...

now that's a great anniversary gift! i am asking for a cow!!

Candy C. said...

How fun to have your own bees! I'm glad the first ones are doing well and congrats on adding a second hive!
P.S. I think it is a GREAT anniversary present! :)