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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Location
    Smyrna, TN, USA
    Posts
    16

    Default Getting bees NEXT spring - how to become sustainable?

    So I finished the beginner beek class offered by my local club yesterday.
    It was pretty good - but of course I still have lots of questions.
    I also just saw another thread on here talking about number of hives that relates to my situation.

    I figured I'd start this thread and pick brains here. I will get my first bees next spring - 2016 - mainly to spread the cost of this new hobby out over this year!
    I have Michael Bush's book and have watched him on YouTube (along with many others). His suggestions make sense to me.
    I recently stumbled onto Michael Palmer - wow - lightbulbs went off. But with no beek experience the light flickers in the distance! I am reading (still in process) a huge thread on here that he started about his methods of overwintering and using nucs.

    Here is my basic plan: hubby and I have about 6.5 acres in a neighborhood - we know where we want to locate the hives - and I can get our truck to them plus I can give them a water source in their bee yard.
    I was planning to start with two hives - three might be do-able. Open to suggestions on two vs three.
    I would like to go foundationless and TF. I really like the Kelly F style frames.
    I think my back can handle running all 8-frame mediums at most - at this time I don't plan to use deeps - no way I can lift them. Plus I do like the idea of keeping everything the same size and interchangable.
    I am leaning toward getting bees from a place about an hour or so away from me - Wolf Creek Apiaries. They should be ok with our winters - but open to suggestions on this too.
    After watching Michael Palmer and hearing him talk about overwintering nucs, creating your own queens etc - I realize that will be something I need to figure out how to do. I don't want to order bees year after year! I don't want to do that to my pocketbook.

    My questions:
    My goal with bees is to keep this as a hobby. Space-wise - I would be happy to grow up to probably no more than 10 hives. I think I would be totally happy at no more than 5 production hives for several years.
    If I start out with 2 or 3 packages to become production hives.....how many nucs should I start with?
    I found out our main flow here in middle TN is from May - June. Fall flow is hit or miss supposedly.
    Since I am starting out new packages for my whole apiary - how/when (approximately) do I start these nucs? Seems like my production hives bees will have a big task just getting themselves going for the first year. I won't have so many hives that I can look at them and say "well this one here is healthy but not creating much honey - I'll split IT up into nucs".

    Since I really want to keep this as a small-ish hobby - I'm unsure how to balance using the nucs to support my regular hives without winding up with too many bees or lots of swarms (granted I know I have minimal control over this - nature will find a way).
    I know I'll suffer losses...hopefully my first winter will not be too cruel - but who knows.

    I guess it boils down to - my goal is foundationless and TF - I like MP's method of overwintering nucs and creating my own queens - but how do I do that small-scale to keep this in the hobby realm - particularly in the first year or so just trying to learn and keep my production hives alive?

    Fire suggestions when ready!
    Thank you all!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    hinesville ga usa
    Posts
    634

    Default Re: Getting bees NEXT spring - how to become sustainable?

    I'll let more experienced beeks weigh in on most of your questions but a couple of things stick out. I sell a few nucs, I do not sell packages because I've found a new beek will most likely kill them and then blame me. I suggest you go with two nucs from someone that has local survivors and uses soft treatments ( I consider OAV as soft treatment ) check with your club, someone there should have what you need.

    Speaking of treatments, check with the people that have had local survivor stock for several years and ask what treatments they use, some areas are worse than others for mites and they may have learned to use some soft treatments to keep their bees alive. It is better to start with the soft treatments "if needed" than to kill off all your bees in the beginning, you can later try to progress to total TF.

    How do you keep your hobby small,? good question, why don't you give us an update a few years from now, a lot of us would like to know.
    Last edited by stan.vick; 03-22-2015 at 11:43 AM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Cookeville, TN, USA
    Posts
    4,690

    Default Re: Getting bees NEXT spring - how to become sustainable?

    Make your own increase as soon as possible - you can always combine if you want to. How you want to go foreward will become more clear as you progress. Try to keep an open mind - it is likely that what sounds like a good plan as you are first starting will change as you acquire experience.

    One thing you may not understand - comb is the infrastructure of "production" hives, no matter what you are producing with bees. Your first year (unless you buy fully established hives) you typically don't have comb - so you don't really have "production" hives. But it's ok, you need to learn to keep bees before you concentrate on producing anything anyway. Concentrate on that.

    Good luck.
    Since '09-40H-T-Z6b

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Location
    Smyrna, TN, USA
    Posts
    16

    Default Re: Getting bees NEXT spring - how to become sustainable?

    Thanks Stan and David - I will keep an open mind.
    I know there are lots of ways to keep bees and what works for one sure won't work for all. I hope to keep as many of them alive as I can, learn from others, learn from the bees, learn from my mistakes and hopefully find what works for my bees.
    I will consider buying nucs.
    My plans are not set in stone. I see great value in being flexible in beekeeping!

    Looking forward to more thoughts too - thanks all!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    Talladega County, Alabama, USA
    Posts
    100

    Default Re: Getting bees NEXT spring - how to become sustainable?

    Welcome to the forum. I started by building some swarm traps. Got one swarm out of 9 traps.
    If you catch one that would save the cost of the bees which could be applied to boxes and frames. Building the equipment that you feel able to, will save you money. For me that is screened bottom boards and tops for 10 frame stuff. Nuks and their parts for them are easy also. Frames and 10 frame boxes are more economical to buy at this time for me.
    Search the forum. Read everything and sort it out to what applies to your location and your goals.
    Split and recoup the investment each spring. Or replace your losses. Nuks are your friend.
    Good luck and Have fun.
    mike

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Olympia, Washington
    Posts
    1,331

    Default Re: Getting bees NEXT spring - how to become sustainable?

    I think that you're on the right track.

    Treatment freevbeekeeping can be done successfully ( I have done it), but think carefully.

    Why don't you want to treat?

    Is it because you want a sustainable apairy?

    Mike Palmer has a sustainable apiary, and I've heard him talk about treating his bees.

    Is it because you don't want treatment residue in your comb, making your queen and bees less productive and possibly sick?

    Dead queens and bees are even less productive than sick ones, aren't they?

    They don't produce very good queens nor do they make much honey.

    There are treatments that do little if any harm to the bees and do not contaminate the hive by accumulating in comb.


    When I lived in New York, I collected bees in cutting them out of the wall of a derelict house.
    I.knew that they had been in that wall a few years, and no one had been treating them but they were doing well.

    I never treated them, and carefully ordered bees from folks who had a similar view as my own toward treatment, and my apiary thrived.

    Then I moved across the country to western Washington state and I wasn't able to take my bees with me.

    I started over with 5 frames and a virgin queen.
    I managed them the same as I did my bees in New York.
    They boomed through summer and mite-crashed in fall.

    The guy who I got the bees and queen from had run-of-the-mill commercial bees, and they were not suited well to treatment free beekeeping.

    Now I am starting over with bees from producers who treat only in exceptional circumstances or not at all, and I will be monitoring mite populations.

    Should a promising queen's hive experience an unusually high mite load I'll treat with OAV and keep an eye on them, culling the queen if the hive habitually needs treatment.

    I'll make queens from hives that do well without treatment.

    And I'll again have a couple or of lines of bees that thrive without treatment...it just is taking more work this time.

    I don't think a hard line, I'll-never-treat approach is wise.
    It's wasteful of colonies that have good genes for treatment free management but happen to be near a crashing, mite-ridden neighboring apiary that causes exceptionally high mite pressure as a summer's crop of mites move across the fence into it, for example.

    I think that an IPM program that treats promising genetic lines when they face unusual circumstances is wiser, and a lot lesss wasteful a path to beekeeping without chemical treatments.

    I have benefitted a great deal from listening to Michael Palmer and by overwintering nucs.

    Don't miss miss the view of his three talks at the British National Honey Show.
    They are gold!

    (Search for "Keeping bees in frozen North America" on youtube)

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Location
    Smyrna, TN, USA
    Posts
    16

    Default Re: Getting bees NEXT spring - how to become sustainable?

    Beregondo - I like your style.

    I would like to keep things treatment free for pretty much all those reasons you listed.
    I'm a middle-of-the-roadist with many things. There is a time and a place for letting something run its course with minimal or no intervention (that cold I had a few weeks ago) - and a time to just flat out jump in and help out (the prescription pain killer I took months ago during a gallbladder attack after writhing in pain for a few hours - I just had to stop the pain).

    I am not 100% ruling out every treatment/intervention out there - I would try to stand back and think options over.
    OA or essential oils maybe. Not sure - would probably consider though.
    Putting an antibiotic into the colony - might be a bit more than I'd be willing to do....not sure at this point.
    I would not choose to treat without signs of a problem - ie - I'm not into preventative use of medicines - I think that just creates bigger issues with resistance (for us, bees, any animal).
    The above are just my opinion - I don't judge others for doing whatever they do.

    I know the bees will be great teachers - I just hope to do right by them.
    Beregondo - you are lucky you had such a good experience in NY! You already know what a "good strong colony" looks and acts like - THAT is the part I'll just get with experience.
    You made a good point about maybe one of your hives had genetics you thought were good enough to carry on - but are struggling with say - mites - and maybe you'd treat a few times - but past that the bees have to make it or not.
    That makes sense to me as well - and again - that's what experience will teach me.
    How to stand back, look at the hive in question and think "yeah - I'll try x here and if they make that - good. If not - might let nature run its course and they make it or not - it's on them".

    Thanks again everyone for the ideas and perspectives!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
    Posts
    1,541

    Default Re: Getting bees NEXT spring - how to become sustainable?

    The most sustainable beekeeping practice is one which keeps the bees alive from year to year. Focus, first, on learning to do what that requires. Then you can move on to some of the more esoteric approaches.

    Best advice I ever got in beekeeping was to do what pretty much everybody else in the area does with their bees. I have swarm-mutt bees; living in Langs; on ordinary (mostly) Pierco plastic frames; I feed them sugar when needed; I treat them for varroa mites, as necessary.

    And my bees (and queens) are soon to begin their third summer with me. And some of the queens may be a year older than that as they were swarms when they first came into my care. I live in a harsh, cold climate. I haven't had any winter losses.

    Few beekeepers could have started out more clueless and inept than I and y bees aren't particularly special. But I do spare no effort to learn about what they need and I lavish all kinds of attention and care on my four colonies.

    However, I have a clear-eyed appreciation for the current challenges they face and I will not let my bees suffer and die in the service of some kind of wooly human idea that requires the bees to solve their own problems, or die trying. They didn't bring the wretched mites here and they don't engage in agricultural business practices that spread the mites (and other bee diseases) around at the speed of tractor-trailers on the Interstates.

    Don't confuse treating for varroa mites (which almost all bees have these days) with broad-brush antibiotic "prevention" strategies. It's likely - almost certain - that your bees will have varroa mites. The question is whether you are going to let that run its dismal, and predictable, course or whether you're going to do something to stop it.

    Enj.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Nevada, MO
    Posts
    300

    Default Re: Getting bees NEXT spring - how to become sustainable?

    Lots of good advice above. I've only had bees two years, so I'm no expert, but since no one has said anything about the frames, guess I will. I started with the F frames. The hive I bought made an awful mess with them. My swarm bees did good. I'm only adding all plastic small cell frames from Mann Lake for now. When I have more drawn comb I'll try adding the type F between them. The are well-made, but required a lot of management for a beginner. I'm hoping someone with more experience will give us some input.

    Swarm trapping is fun. You could put out a few this year. No much expense unless you get a swarm. It'd be worth having to buy a hive fast for free bees.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Bells, Texas
    Posts
    85

    Default Re: Getting bees NEXT spring - how to become sustainable?

    If you want to try to be as treatment free as possible, survivor stock, if you can get them, may be the way to go. If I were in your situation, I would continue on the current plans, but at the same time, I would talk with a few exterminators in the area. They probably have a person or persons that they work with to remove bees from structures. There is a pest company here in my area that usually try not to mess with honeybees. They refer the owner to a guy who wants the bees. If you could find someone like that, you might could get him to sell you those bees and you would have some survivor stock this year. Then you could keep them, over winter them and maybe get some honey next year. Meanwhile, when your packages come in, you have some insight and experience that you can use. Also, our county ag extension agent has a list of beekeepers that can be called for removals or swarms. They might can help you get some good bees acclimated for your area.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    proctorsville, vermont
    Posts
    186

    Default Re: Getting bees NEXT spring - how to become sustainable?

    OK here is what I did. notice I said DID. I started with a nuc and caught a swarm. spent my first summer opening them almost every day to see what was going on. hey I learned a lot. they were not ready for winter and where dead by jan.but hey I learned a lot and also not to check them every day.
    i have since learned to keep bees and show up every spring with a hand full of hives, yes with some losses. my philosophy is this.
    to split ,make as many queens and nucs as i possibly can. and to try and fill all of my equipment with bees. which is 12 to 15 hives.
    knowing that i will only have 2 maybe 3 hives that produce extra honey for me to take.
    the rest are there for nucs and support and help ensure that i show up in the spring with 2 or more hives.
    never stop learning, trying new things, and asking questions.
    thats the way i roll.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Bloomington, IN, USA
    Posts
    82

    Default Re: Getting bees NEXT spring - how to become sustainable?

    SalsaMom, I wish I had started with three hives. Having resources to spare and share can be key to success, as well as having more opportunities to study and learn as a bee-ginner from more colonies. They each have their own rhyme and reason. With three, you stack the odds even more in your -- and the bees -- favor. I have had good luck with nucs and packages. You might try a mix.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Jacksonville, Florida
    Posts
    1,970

    Default Re: Getting bees NEXT spring - how to become sustainable?

    You can defiantly go without treating with antibiotics.

    I would try to go ahead and start with three hives if you are thinking about 10 down the road. The difference between 2 and 3 is miniscule. Work on building up your packages in to 2-3 medium boxes. Once they get there I would go ahead and try to split them in to a couple nucs using mated queens. Set your goal to have 3 full hives and 2 nucs going in to winter. If your willing to use OA or Thymol when needed I think you would be well on your way to having a sustainable apiary. That goal is not too far fetched if you can get your package started early enough and you feed them.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Location
    Smyrna, TN, USA
    Posts
    16

    Default Re: Getting bees NEXT spring - how to become sustainable?

    Thanks for all the thoughts everyone. Lots of good ideas and good points.
    I'm going to try to remain flexible and always keep learning.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Location
    Isle of Wight, VA
    Posts
    1,076

    Default Re: Getting bees NEXT spring - how to become sustainable?

    I would suggest getting a local nuc this year from a bee club member in June and use it as your learning hive. Then next year, you can go with the 3-4 hives. Hopefully the one from this year would still be alive and would really take off, and give you some of the resources to help the packages jump. 2 years ago, I got my first TB nuc from a local beek. I opened it up every 5 days to poke around. The bees got real used to me and I learned a ton. They made it through the winter and then decided to supersede the queen in February. I got a package in April of last year and by the end of last year had 5 hives and was making my own queens from emergency cells. All 5 hives made it through this winter. All treatment free. All Topbar hives. I will say going to multiple hives was a game changer. I'm not so sure that most people are ready for multiple hives their first year. The best advice I got from the bee member who I bought the nuc from was "expect to lose this hive this first year, just learn all you can".

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    49,250

    Default Re: Getting bees NEXT spring - how to become sustainable?

    Part of the secret to success is have reasonable goals and let the bees adjust those goals. If they are strong enough (and it's early enough) you may be able to do a lot of splits. Sometimes they are not strong enough, or it's too late in the year. Of course, the problem with being a beginner is judging those things (strong enough and early enough) and even an experienced beekeeper can be fooled by a strange year where winter comes early or the fall flow fails.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Corner, Al
    Posts
    37

    Default Re: Getting bees NEXT spring - how to become sustainable?

    I am in no position to give advice so Ill just tell you my experience thus far.

    Three years ago I bought four packages. I kept feeders on all four hives because I had read that packages would not survive if they were not fed all summer. It wasn't long and I had swarms going everywhere. I tried to manage them as all the Pro's said it should be done, then finally gave up and walked away for about three weeks. They fixed everything I screwed up. I went into winter with eight strong hives.

    All survived and I sold $1k of honey last summer. My hives always have two hive bodies on them. I do not touch any stores in those two boxes. Anything above those two deeps is mine. All eight came through the winter fine with plenty of honey in the hive. Two weeks ago I checked my bees and reversed my boxes. One hive had an empty queen cup so I knew it was coming. Today was the first day It has been warm enough and not raining for me to check their status. That hive swarmed while I was standing in front of it, landed about fifteen feet away and stayed there long enough for me to get an empty box and a queen cage. Now I have nine hives.

    I have not treated any of them for anything. As a nurse, I just cant treat without first having an indication to do so. Might not be the best philosophy with bees but its how I have done it. Last summer they had an outbreak of deformed wing virus. They tossed out all the infected bees then started tossing out pupa. I lost about thirty days worth of bees. All maintained adequate populations and I have not had any other problems. My turning point was realizing bees are much better at beekeeping than we are. Do not over manage or micro manage behavior - it wont work. Keep an eye on them. If they need help then help them. If they do not need help, grab a lawn chair, sit back and enjoy the show.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Concord, CA
    Posts
    4,458

    Default Re: Getting bees NEXT spring - how to become sustainable?

    Don't start with too many you're first year, just learn how to be a good beekeeper. After that you can be sustainable with under 20 hives.
    Of course it all depends on you're ultimate goal.
    Dan

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    creek county oklahoma
    Posts
    99

    Default Re: Getting bees NEXT spring - how to become sustainable?

    Getting local "survivor" bees is the best advice of all. I think three is a good number to start with.

    I recommend you volunteer with a local beekeeper. Do the lifting, offer to clean and rewire their frames (ugh!) but might help you decide on your equipment.

    Re: all mediums.. that sounded like a really good idea to me because of the weight issue. I bought a bunch of mediums. Here's the problem I ran into: I can't lift a full medium, any more than I can lift a full deep. So I have to move a few frames out to lighten the load before I lift. It works. But with mediums I am moving nearly twice as many frames and boxes and for an equivalent size colony, getting the bees twice as upset. I have nearly twice as many nasty old frames to recycle. The cost of mediums is only a little less than deeps, and you have to buy more so it costs more.

    So I recommend you work some colonies and see what kind of lifting you can handle, and offer to do some equipment maintenence for your mentor. That experience will teach you more than any class or book.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Location
    Charlotte, NC
    Posts
    1,370

    Default Re: Getting bees NEXT spring - how to become sustainable?

    Michael Bush does not seem to want to brag on his own book, so I will. For someone who doesn't want to lift deeps or 10 frame mediums, his system is close to perfect.

    If you are using 8 frame mediums you probably do not need nucs. An 8 frame medium is almost the same as a 5 frame deep (nuc).

    The only real problem with a package is that you get an un-related queen and no comb. Just buying a nuc to start with may be better. If you do want to buy a package though, re-read the section on getting started in the book. He explains how to start with a couple of packages and wind up with 3 hives.

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