Anyone care to share their best rookie beekeeping learning experiences?
Anyone care to share their best rookie beekeeping learning experiences?
Keep in mind back when I started we didn't have internet nor cell phones. Opened a healthy booming hive in the spring and it had 20 plus queen cells in it so I cut them all out......not knowing they had already swarmed.
Red Dirt Apiaries
My mistake? This is like engineering, study, build, buy, insert, reap. Done. Well, then the little ladies arrived and the learning curve got real steep!! My three hives have made it one year this month and I have caught one old swarm. So far I have only reaped some great fun (and some costs) but there is hope for better times ahead!
Julysun elevation 23 feet. 4 Hives, 2 years.
I opened a hive with no smoke on a fairly chilly windy overcast kinda day, figured I'd get in and out and add a box, but that didn't work out too well, they poured out of there like a plague of locusts LOL Will always have the smoker on standby now LOL
For many a new beek, the most common one is not staying equipment ahead of the bees in a timely manner. In the spring-through-early-fall, you'd be wise to keep 2 to 4 hives ready to go if there are swarm calls. Another is only keeping only one hive - if it goes queenless, you could be out of luck in a hurry! (Much better to figure on keeping between 3 and 6 hives as a hobbyist).
Another common mistake is to think that you just get a box, add bees, then enjoy all this honey! HAHAHAHAHA! The learning curve is a bit steeper than that for most of us.
My ex-girlfriend's rookie mistake was getting stung under the veil, then taking it off and running! (Result? => 6 stings)
My first rookie mistake was getting vehicle trouble in LA the day before queens hatched in Ojai. (Result? => 2 live queens out of 32 cells)
My most painful one was not having all my hives on pallets and bolted, ready to move in my queen yard. A sudden, hurried move caused a huge die-off, including the loss of an AFB-resistant colony of very productive, well-behaved bees.
There was a big thread recently here on Beesource about stolen hives, so another is not branding your equipment! I'm at the point where I won't make anymore woodenware until I complete my branding irons. Face it, building hives and queen equipment is a lot of work and expense. START BY MAKING OR BUYING YOUR BRANDING IRON!!! You won't regret it.
The saddest mistakes often involve wintering. Hives must be strong - 130 lbs for a 2-box 10-frame deep Langstroth colony - with pollen and honey going into winter. Weaker colonies should go in a double-nucleus over a double screen board setting on top of a strong colony, or just newspaper combine them with a strong colony.
I did the same thing, only I didn't even have a veil on. I'm pretty smart (and have three college degrees to prove it), won't do that again.
I suspect the number one beginner beekeeping mistake is to fail to feed a new hive enough. I know at least four people who wanted to keep bees but insisted that they were supposed to be "all natural" and didn't feed them. Guess what? Most hives (90% or so) die if you don't feed them in the first year. I fed mine to start with, then failed to realized that Italian queen from Mississippi or wherever didn't respond to a lack of forage and kept laying until they ate all their winter stores. Died off in the spring after a failed supersedure attempt and a wax moth infestation.
Fed my swarms up almost too well the second year.
The other beginner mistake that is very common is to fail to provide the correct hive space in a timely manner, either by not giving them enough room and letting them swarm or by adding too many boxes and having wax moths make a mess.
Like every thing else in life, practice improves performance.
I'd say #3 is probably incorrect use of the smoker, either not enough smoke to calm the bees properly or sending billowing clouds of hot smoke through the hive and getting the bees really annoyed just before opening the hive. Takes a while to get the hang of smoke, I think. I've learned one long, slow puff in the entrance and a quick one under the cover is all I need with my current bees except when they start pouring over the tops of the frames and top edges of the box. Then another puff will run them right down out of the way. I usually just drift the cloud of smoke over the hive, I try no to puff smoke into the hive except into the entrance.
I've avoided most of the rest of the really bad things, I think, or maybe I just have bees that recover from my poor efforts at management well enough I'm not doing any real damage!
Thinking that you can just throw up bear proof a electric fence made with nothing more than a few T-posts and four strands of wire. It doesn't matter how healthy the hive is if a bear gets in.
Moving a hive without a bottom ranks as my worst rookie mistake, had the hive almost to its new location and a frame fell to the ground loaded with bees needless to say I paid a hefty price when they went up my pants. Upside is I'm not allergic to bee stings, down side is with that many it didn't matter.
Jack Moore ~ Sticky Bear Apiary
Zone 7a ~ Elev: 4840ft. ~ https://www.facebook.com/StickyBearApiary
Good info guys , I really appreciate all the knowledgeable beekeepers that take the time to answer all of the newby questions posted here . I know with all the info here us newbs stand a much better chance of success . I think for me learning how to read the hive and what the bees are doing will be the hardest part to learn.
Great thread !!!!
Number one mistake: not having a plan when opening the hive. Whether it's cold, and one is too hasty when the hive needs a quick peek for whatever reason, or it's warm enough for a slow, let's not crush any bees, frame by frame inspection, have a plan (including, as mentioned above, a lit smoker even if you don't PLAN to use it). Personally, mine was not having the zipper on my veil/jacket all the way closed on a cold day when the bees were a little testy. Amazing how many angry bees can find a two inch opening. Twenty two stings to the head and face later, I missed a day of work with one eye closed shut and one side of my face so swollen, it looked like I had suffered a stroke. Also, while I agree with psfred about not feeding a new package at all, the opposite is true as well. I fed a new package by the "feed until they stop taking it" method right into a syrup backfilled brood chamber and swarm cells (and "they" say a first year package won't swarm-yeah, right!!!).
Worst mistake was not taking time to go home to get my veil before capturing a swarm. It was getting dark, and cold when I got there and they were much more testy than expected. Took 20-30 to the back of the neck, 15-20 to the forehead/eyebrows. I looked like the hunchback of Notre Dame. My buddies in the ER still have my picture posted in the break room. Needless to say I now have a spare veil in every vehicle I drive.
My most recent mistake,,,, letting my wife go out to the beeyard and stand a little ways away from me while I was intalling 4 packages. Usually would have not been a problem but this time we had just come home from church and she had on hair spray and perfume. They went to her like a fat kid to cake. She got two tangled in the back of her hair (stung twice) and several on her back and back of her legs (no stings). Felt so sorry for her I left the hives open to rescue her. Made sure she was alright, she never showed any emotion (crying, yelling or anything). After seeing she was alright I went back and finished. The next day I asked her if she would go out to the beeyard and help me to which she replied, "NO, I will help you extract, melt the cappings, clean frames and equiptment or anything else." I told her she was a sissy. You know sleeping on the couch really isn't that uncomfortable.
Deciding that it might be a good idea to move a couple of large hives with honey supers a box at a time at night by carrying each box to the new location.
...or maybe trying to get a swarm out of a fir tree that was about 30 feet up in the tree. I backed my pickup up to the tree, put my extension ladder in the back of the pickup against the cab and went to the top of the ladder. The swarm was about 8 feet out on the limb so I decided to slowly cut the limb and when the limb would slowly bend down I would scoop the bees into a bucket. Also it was raining.
I remember a trip across the town of Cheyenne, Wyoming with a recent swarm of bees in 1977. I put them inside a pickup topper and did not tie them down or secure the hive in any way (I had seen dried propolis on the edges of the hive body and shallow super, so thought that was enough to stick it together). In the middle of town I went around a corner and the hive body and super became disarticulated Of course my veil was in the back with the bees...In traffic....I can only plead a case of temporary insanity. Gentle bees, no stings.
I try to learn from my mistakes, and from yours when you give me a heads up :)
Is that why you left here? Bad memories, eh? Just kidding. 1977 is a little while ago. I'm sure it was better back then, maybe, huh? Next time, the best thing to do is drop the swarm to me. PM me for directions.
Benjamin Schneider - http://prairiewindbeesupply.webs.com/
Listening to people who said not to feed unless you just had too. Can a beginner really judge when they really need to feed? Better to have fat bees that swarm than malnutrinioned bees that don't.
A rooky mistake I did not make was failing to split and make increase. Two small hives are way better than one big hive any winter.
Last week had a hive I thought was a dead out in one of my outyards (no activity on a blue bird day when all the other hives were flying.)
Short on time wearing just a T-shirt and shorts I muscled it in to the back of my pick up, unloaded it the same way at the house.
Went to clean it out yesterday and saw a few bees going back and forth, popped the lid and it was chalkfull of bees. Not a sting one even though I jostled the heck out of them. Makes up for some of the stings I've taken when I was just walking by.
Biggest rookie mistake I made was getting talked into bees to begin with. Should have stuck with horses, booze, and women.
A most common mistake….beginner and experienced beekeeper alike….is impatience.
I’ll get countless calls every season asking for queens. The beek is sure their hive is queenless. I’ll advise that they wait a little longer…but they don’t listen. When they go to install the storebought queen….they find a small patch of new brood…or worse…they install the new queen only to discover, a couple of weeks later, a laying, unmarked queen.
Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards