Hi, I am enchanted with the idea of keeping bees... but know very little about it. I have ordered some books on the topic, but thought I'd ask for some quick input from the members of this board.
(1) What is the ideal site for a hive?
(2) Can you buy a queen and comb, set it up in the frame, and away you go?
(3) Reading posts here, it seems there are different breeds of Queen bee available. What would people recommend for Minnesota for hardiness? Where would I get the bees? Note that honey production is, for the first year at least, a complete non-issue. I am interested in the bees.
Glad to see you interested. The ideal sight, well, mine are slightly shaded, facing south on the side of a hill, protected by the west wind.
There are alot of bees available. Go to the links and I'm sure you will find what you are looking for. I have starline and "smart"/SMR bees. However, I raise my own queens, and it becomes a combo of those and whatever she mates with.
Package bees come with or without a queen, and you can also get a "nuc" or small starter colony from somebody else. I purchased two nucs from a beekeeper with the SMR queens in them. My reasoning was to see how the brood pattern was and other questions were answered from what I read. The nuc can't tell you everything, but at least it is established somewhat, and they are alive! Package bees, you get what they send you, sight unseen. I have never been disapointed, but I like to see what I'm getting.
Foundations, frames, boxes, are sold in alot of catalogs, or would can make alot of stuff by yourself. Smokers, suits (if you want to use one), gloves ect. are available.
Everything you need is out there. Dadant, Mann Lake, Walter Kelly, Brushy Mountain to name a few.
I suggest you read alot, understand the process somewhat, get your bees, and then get your feet wet. Alot of good info is available here. If you don't know something, just ask!
Some of what you want for a starter depends on your physical strength. A deep super full of honey is a real back breaker. A medium super full of honey is very heavy. A shallow super full of honey is pretty heavy. I tend to prefer to stay with a standard 10 frame Lanstroth for the reason that it's standard. You can buy everything for it. A screen bottom board, a slatted bottom board etc. In other words, every new thing to come down the pike.
On the other hand, Brushy Mt. Bee supply has all of those kinds of things available for 8 frame hives. They recommend 8 frame medium boxes for beginners or hobbyists that are not that worried about production. The nice thing is they are light and they are uniform.
It is nice to stick with standardization. If you buy medium supers for both supers and hives then all of your frames and boxes are the same.
A lot of places have starter kits. Most any will work. I would recommend a simple starter kit and an observation hive. You can get a cheap observation hive (minus the glass which you can get at the hardware store) from Walter T. Kelly for under $20 or there are a lot of furniture grade fancy ones available for about $400 (expensive hobby, but mom might like it better in the living room that way). The nice thing about an observation hive, even if you keep it outside, (and mine is in the living room) is you get to see what's going on without opening your hive. You can tell if there's a honey flow, if there's pollen, you can see eggs, larvae etc. and see then every day. If I were starting out again, I wish I had an observation hive. You can learn so much about what goes on and how bees think from watching their every move.
I guess I didn't say anything about placement, but I'd face them away from the prevailing storms. (Mine are faced east. The summer storms here come out of the south and the winter ones come out of the north and west). I prefer some morning sun and afternoon shade, because it gets the bees going earlier in the morning when the sun hits it and saves them hauling water for cooling in the hot afternoons.
Thanks! Books came yesterday, I'm drilling in...
I've been researching this subject also.I'm gonna start my first hive this spring.When I looked at the actual components of the starter kits I noticed several differences.Some had 2 bodies and 2 hives and some only one each.Some were missing what I considered essential tools in beekeeping.I noticed that ordering parts separately I could pay $5.00 more for the good hive tool or bee smoker.
I think you should write all components of the kits you're looking at down on paper and compare closely.I'm certain that the differences between stater kits from the three or four companies will surprise you.
Hope this helps
Just another footnote. While I think it's good to think things through and you certainly need to pay attention to how the bees respond to what you do, don't overthink everything. Beekeeping is much more an art than science. There are so many variables that the bees respond to, like nectar flow, pollen flow, heat, humidity, rain, sunshine etc. You need to get a "feel" for all of that. What you put them in is not too critical as eveidenced by the many different things people use.
Personally I've kept bees in top bar hives, langstroth hives, DE hives, and just plain boxes. I've pulled them out of trees and walls and soffits. I've caught swarms out of trees and put them into whatever I had handy. If you listen to the bees you won't go too far wrong. Most of the concepts of what kind of hive stand, what depth of brood boxes etc don't matter that much to the bees. There are things I've found make my life (and the bees life) easier, but the most important thing is just jump in and get some experience.