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Starting from Scratch

Posted: Wed Sep 30, 2015 8:08 pm
by muss02
I’m both a newbie and a veteran when it comes to keeping bees, but I guess I can go into that in an introduction thread. As for this post I am basically starting from scratch which makes it a great chance to do things the right way by going treatment free. I have been reading/watching/listening to as much as I can from informed and experienced beekeepers on how to manage my hives, but I am a bit confused about how to get to the manage/expansion portion of beekeeping.

1. Let me start with a semi-random question about hive placement. I know the answer is almost always it doesn’t matter where you put your hives the bees will be fine, but I don’t have the typical options for my hives. I have about 2 acres of land that has a lot of trees covering it. There really isn’t anywhere that I could put a hive that would give it more than a few hours of direct sun light per day. The current plan is to clear out a bunch of brush in the back of my property and stick the hives there, but there will still be trees around them offering shade throughout most of the day. Will it be an issue if there isn’t that direct access to sun?

2. If I am starting out with new equipment that means empty foundationless boxes. I am still trying to connect with other beekeepers in the area, so I am not sure if I will be able to get treatment free bees to start out or will be forced to use whatever I can buy in a package. Will the expansion model even work in the first year if the bees have to make their own comb, or should I wait until year two to make splits? I was hoping to be able to buy 1 set of bees and then split them to make 3 strong hives going into the winter, but with no existing comb it doesn’t seem like that would be a wise decision.

3. I was originally planning on only having one hive as a hobby, but after some reading/thought that probably won’t end well. Would it be advisable to have only 3 hives? I know that the more hives I have the better chance of surviving the winter, but I have had a hard enough time talking my wife in to a couple of hives. Maybe I can look into wintering nucleus colonies to combine with weaker colonies or start new ones at the beginning of the spring in order to maintain those three hives.

I have the fall/winter to prepare and hopefully come early spring I will be ready to jump in. So expect more questions in the coming months.

Re: Starting from Scratch

Posted: Wed Sep 30, 2015 8:33 pm
by Michael Bush
>1. Let me start with a semi-random question about hive placement.

http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfaqs.htm#locating

>2. If I am starting out with new equipment that means empty foundationless boxes. I am still trying to connect with other beekeepers in the area, so I am not sure if I will be able to get treatment free bees to start out or will be forced to use whatever I can buy in a package. Will the expansion model even work in the first year if the bees have to make their own comb, or should I wait until year two to make splits?

The bees will answer that question. It will depend on many things including the weather that year, the motivation of that colony and the genetics of the colony.

>3.Would it be advisable to have only 3 hives?

2 1/2 is probably minimal. I'd say try to keep between 1 and 7 with 3 or 4 being the goal.

>I know that the more hives I have the better chance of surviving the winter, but I have had a hard enough time talking my wife in to a couple of hives.

After you have had a couple of hives she will realize it's not what she thinks...

Re: Starting from Scratch

Posted: Thu Oct 01, 2015 10:51 pm
by lharder
I started with one nuc last spring and ended with 8 going into winter. However, I brought in queens with some mite resistance, so essentially the first colony donated brood, but not very involved in queen production. Good thing too as my original queen from Hawaii didn't survive the winter. It does open up options and speeds things up if you aren't trying to raise many queens the first year. It is probably easier to find mite resistant or tf queens than finding tf nucs depending on where you are, so you can buy a generic nuc then import some interesting genetics suited for your area.

Once you have a few hives operating then the risks of splitting etc go way down as you have donor hives that can bail out a failed split with some eggs. I had 6 overwintered nucs this spring and have 28 queen right nucs going into this winter, 4 with imported queens. The 6 produced lots of comb and honey and are going into their 2nd winter.

Re: Starting from Scratch

Posted: Wed Oct 07, 2015 1:09 am
by muss02
That sounds very reassuring. I have contacted an ad on craigslist that claims treatment free nucs within 15 minutes of my house. I figure if I can get a nuc then that will give me a quicker start than starting with just a package. It sounds like I will just have to hope for good weather to make some splits or maybe catch a swarm or two. As for the location, I was wondering if anyone has had any experience with having hives in wooded areas? It appears that one of the issues might be with disease and pests as I have read elsewhere about small hive beetles being a bigger issues with less sun exposure. I might try cutting down some trees to see if I can get some additional exposure.

Re: Starting from Scratch

Posted: Wed Oct 07, 2015 1:47 pm
by Michael Bush
> I might try cutting down some trees to see if I can get some additional exposure.

I hate to see trees cut down...

Re: Starting from Scratch

Posted: Wed Oct 07, 2015 10:48 pm
by waspkiller
An admirable sentiment, but what would we make our bee boxes from?

I am sure Muss02 will be a good steward of his land.

Re: Starting from Scratch

Posted: Wed Oct 07, 2015 11:14 pm
by lharder
If there are some ferals in the area, swarm traps should catch some without cutting down bee habitat. I've thought of setting up some feral bee boxes in trees to provide additional habitat for them and the landowner in my area is all for it. There are bears though...

Re: Starting from Scratch

Posted: Fri Oct 09, 2015 8:00 pm
by JasonBruns
Lharder I'm running some pseudo - feral hives. 3 deep hives that I don't super and catch swarms off of. I did a couple this year. Next year I'm shooting for 10-12. Caught 4 NICE swarms off of 1 of them. Will be seeing what happens next year.

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Re: Starting from Scratch

Posted: Fri Oct 09, 2015 10:10 pm
by lharder
Jason, sounds very cool. Was the source stock feral? Do you inspect them ever? I've been told that feral bees haven't made a comeback here yet. I'll try setting up some swarm traps this spring though. Hopefully I'll catch something besides my bees. The one swarm I did catch probably came from a domestic hive, judging by how they built on my 1 1/4 inch space frames.

Re: Starting from Scratch

Posted: Sat Oct 10, 2015 5:59 pm
by JasonBruns
All my stuff is caught. I take all comers and let everything sort itself out. I inspect if I think something is wrong. Otherwise I leave them alone.

I was told there were no here ferals too. Don't give up if you have trouble finding them. Once located they usually repeat yearly. If they come from someone's kept hive and can live in my stuff I'll call them mine. :)

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Re: Starting from Scratch

Posted: Tue Nov 07, 2017 11:52 pm
by ARairwolf
I'm no expert. But I hear they have hives on roofs in the cities.
Does your house get much exposure to the sun?
Do you have any out buildings?

Re: Starting from Scratch

Posted: Wed Nov 08, 2017 12:42 am
by ARairwolf
I'm no expert. But I hear they have hives on roofs in the cities.
Does your house get much exposure to the sun?
Do you have any out buildings?