I started beekeeping as a hobby spring of 2010. I had a tough time finding any bees that spring. I finally found a single package of Italians and starter hive from a beekeeper/supply a couple of hours away. This can get to be an expensive hobby quick, especially when you are obsessive about it
We are fortunate to be located in a wild forested area of the state with almost no agriculture within a 2 mile radius. I think we have been able to avoid the pesticide exposure many of you folks deal with.
I managed to get 30 pounds of honey that first year. But then, I fed them 30 or 40 lbs of sugar syrup before I set the supers. I was pleasantly surprised that it is a light amber honey. I think it may be due to large numbers of basswood trees?
We are near a small river with many swamps, and have to deal with bears. I built a heavy duty platform about 7 feet up on the south side of our two story house. I can watch the bees out my bedroom window. I've managed to not fall off yet.
I split my hive last year and let them figure out a new queen. Then I started reading about inbreeding and decided I probably shouldn't do that. There are no other hives within 6 or 7 miles so I suspect the only drones available are from my hive. A neighbor about 1-1/2 miles away said he saw the first honeybees in years when I got my hive.
So last week I did small splits off both hives in hopes of preventing swarming. At some point it appears they already did. There were three (old?) queen cells on the bottom of the lowest frames in the original hive.
I bought three MN VHS marked queens. You know what that means. I had to find the old queens. Until two weeks ago I had never seen my queens. I took a deep breath and gave it a go. It was really stressful! I hate crushing bees. First try I gave up and closed up for the day. Next day I tried again. I went through all the frames twice and was ready to concede defeat. As I was putting it all back together, and on the next to last frame there she was, in the top super! (Our winters are so cold I give them two hives and a super over winter.) What a relief. That was 2-1/2 hours of searching. I dug into the second hive and found that queen in an 1-1/2 hours. I suppose I am initiated now. Time will tell if they like the new queens.
My wife is starting to get worried about when I have to split hives again. 1 to 2, 2 to 4, 4 to 8, 8 to 16 ....