Beginner's mistakes
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
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    Princess Anne, Maryland
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    263

    Default Beginner's mistakes

    It is that time of year that those who are getting ready to start beekeeping are hopefully doing research. So I thought it would be a good idea to start a thread with early on mistakes made so others may avoid the same ones. I myself have killed thousands of bees, I wish I could have avoided that.
    I think probably the number one mistake made is underestimating the Varroa mite. First year I was naive and thought I could get away with sugar dusting only. This past year I thought I was doing good by using hopguard. This year I will be sampling and using MAQS as needed. Packages are ok, but do a little research and try to find local nucs. Definitely start with at least two. Since you really should not count on getting honey the first year, I would let them build up and source some queens and split them. If average losses are 40%, then I would imagine that beginners losses are higher and more likely 60-75%. Why not try and give yourself a better overwintering chance. When spring comes and you do not want to have that many sell off extra colonies. As I said packages are ok, but from here on out I am treating them asap to knock down the mites to give them a better chance to tolerate mites. Breed is entirely up to the individual, after this year I will continue to use Carniolans. I feel they are more user friendly for beginners. They build up fast and make a lot of bees great for splitting. Make sure you feed your bees. Keep them fed during dearths and well fed going into winter. Along with feeding build robbing screens, they are very easy. A cheap investment that will save your bees. First year I did not recognize robbing soon enough, my colonies were already weak from varroa and it did not take much to kill off a few.
    I am sure I missed something. Read, read, and watch YouTube videos. Be prepared to treat your bees!!

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Algoma District Northern Ontario, Canada
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    4,577

    Default Re: Beginner's mistakes

    Decide very early on the trip if you are basing your moves on idealism or practical considerations. If you dither with idealistic quandaries in the face of problems you will commonly come to the point that even practical solutions are then too late.

    Basically this is what PyroBee is encouraging with his advice regarding being proactive with feed and pest control. Well fed, disease free bees with suitable winterizing for your climate will experience very few winter losses.

    Dont take for granted that all the advice you see proposed in books or the internet is good advice or the most practical.
    Frank

  4. #3

    Default Re: Beginner's mistakes

    I teach beekeeping classes and see a lot of the same mistakes over an over again. I wrote a whole blog post on it: http://beekeepinglikeagirl.com/10-mi...ekeepers-make/

    Some additional ones people mentioned after reading my post are:

    -Adding too much space for the bees to build in. This makes it hard for the bees to control their temperature. Or alternatively not giving the bees enough space and they then become overcrowded and swarm.

    - Using the smoker too aggressively.

    - Doing a full inspection (going through every single frame) when you usually only have to pull a few frames to find out what you need to know. (Is there a queen, is she laying well, do they have honey/pollen.) Doing a full inspection is unnecessary and it stresses out your bees.
    Beekeeping Instructor / Live Bee Removal / San Diego, Ca / 90 hives. Check out my new book: Queenspotting

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Mirabel, Québec, Canada
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    608

    Default Re: Beginner's mistakes

    Quote Originally Posted by Girl Next Door Honey View Post
    I teach beekeeping classes and see a lot of the same mistakes over an over again. I wrote a whole blog post on it: http://beekeepinglikeagirl.com/10-mi...ekeepers-make/

    Some additional ones people mentioned after reading my post are:

    -Adding too much space for the bees to build in. This makes it hard for the bees to control their temperature. Or alternatively not giving the bees enough space and they then become overcrowded and swarm.

    - Using the smoker too aggressively.

    - Doing a full inspection (going through every single frame) when you usually only have to pull a few frames to find out what you need to know. (Is there a queen, is she laying well, do they have honey/pollen.) Doing a full inspection is unnecessary and it stresses out your bees.
    Doing a full inspection is usually unnecessary, but it does help beginners get a hold of how the colony is organized and how it evolves. It does stress the bees, but they can tough it out and it's a worthwhile exercise for someone who is starting and only has very few hives, in my opinion.
    www.apisrustica.com Bee Breeding: Canadian nuclei & queens
    www.facebook.com/Apis.rustica

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Ojai, California
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    2,539

    Default Re: Beginner's mistakes

    Watching a 10-year commercial bee worker pointed out a lot of things to me. He watched hives for a few moments, then knew what was needed by their fly-out rates. He pointed out the hives that needed attention.

    The other guys opened those and did what ever was needed. He'd tilt up a box and look under the frames, take a frame out of the brood nest and look at the pollen barrier between the brood and the honey. That was what told him what was happening in the hive.

    These guys all knew the diseases to look for, but that foreman knew the mite loads at a glance. Most of them could guess which frame the queen was on before it was pulled, and if they were wrong it only took them 2 tries.

    They covered the entire drop quickly, actually doing very little work, and moved on to the next drop. Watching them work for a few hours really improved my game.

    One thing that was a repeated mistake was keeping bees at other people's orchards and not having a backup location already to move them to. The man wanted the bees there, the wife or girlfriend ordered them gone and commenced to destroying equipment, throwing bee gear in the trash, burning the wood, etc. Don't waste time with control freaks. Go to real orchards that want a beekeeper to succeed, or use your own land. Starting over is a PITA.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Location
    Sonoma County, Ca
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    488

    Default Re: Beginner's mistakes

    My mistakes from my first year (still in progress) that I will try to learn from and not repeat....

    1) When picking up a super or feeder, make sure there are no frames glued to the bottom with burr comb. I dropped a frame of bees while in a hurry when if fell from the bottom of the feeder on to the ground. I was lucky the queen didnt get lost. I now pull and twist to ensure everything is free.

    2) Don't be passive about mite treatment / assume I have mites and be proactive. I had a hive lagging big time last year, and blamed the queen. Once I treated with 3x OAV, the hive exploded and went in to winter with the most stores and best population.

    3) Go in to the hive with a plan and idea what to look for. I seemed to get lost everytime I would do an inspection last year, then when walking away from the hives wish I had looked for something or done things that I forgot. This year I am going to keep simple notes on each hive, that way I can get in, look for signs of a laying queen, and address any issues... and get out asap.

    4) Not worry so much... No less than 5 times last year I was sure my hives were doomed, the queen was gone, or there was a major problem. I need to do what I can to help them thrive, but leave my worries behind and trust that they are a very resilent species.

    5) Try to take honey. I think I could have taken a decent amount of honey this year, but wanted to be sure to leave them more than enough to get through the winter. While so far the hives have plenty of weight and seem to be okay (which makes me glad I did what I did)... I want to see a reward for my time/effort/money. I would really like to have honey for myself and give quite a bit to my friends.

    6) Expect major frustrations, but embrace them and learn from them. I am realizing that I am going to find dead/doomed hives and I am just going to have to deal with it and move on. I have been terrified to have a hive die, and while I hope for the best and will do whatever I can to prevent that, I can't let the idea of a deadout take the fun out of it for me.

  8. #7

    Default Re: Beginner's mistakes

    Good points Norcalkyle. I definitely worried too much in the beginning and messed with them too much. I am not sure if this really could have been avoided because it was my learning process. I started with one hive, I would recommend two for the reasons PyroBee stated. Also:
    -Keep an eye on growth and follow the rules, add boxes when 8 out of 10 frames are drawn.
    -It's very hard to tell superceedure from swarming when you are new. I think the difference between them is blurrier then most people think. When this happens don't freak out. You more then likely have a day to get some good advice, don't expect other new beekeepers to know anymore then you do. Go on Beesource and get advice if you don't have an experienced mentor.
    -Setting a box on it's side on top of the hive and looking at the bottom of the frames will allow you to see if any queen cells are filled with larvae or are capped. This can quickly tell you if you have a swarming problem without pulling individual frames. This is especially important in May and June.
    -Always wear a veil. The temperament of the hive changes based on a lot of factors. When you are rushed is when there are accidents and you might be sorry if your not suited up.
    6 years-8 hives-T
    brooklyn-queen.com

  9. #8
    Join Date
    May 2014
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    Castle Rock, Colorado, USA
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    1,699

    Default Re: Beginner's mistakes

    Yes - many good points.

    Quite often I read of beginners inspecting their hives every few days, or weekly. As soon as there are eggs & capped worker brood ( a viable queen), make that once or twice a month at most, especially with a new hive . Another mistake is splitting a small new brood nest ( putting a frame of foundation in the middle) in an attempt to help them build up faster. Wait at least until they are hatching out the 3rd brood cycle ( about 2 months).

    Don't mistake "checker boarding" as a technique for expanding the brood nest ( don't alternate foundation between brood combs to "give the queen more laying space".) Once you get a few years behind you, there are some brood nest manipulations that are successful, but leave it alone to begin with.

    If you want to see what's going on inside the hive - get or build an observation hive. It can be an emergency nuc, in the worst case. I ran one for several years, early on, and could surmise what was happening in the other colonies by what was going on in the OH. It eased my desire to go mucking around for no good reason, and let the hives build up naturally with minimal intrusion. I learned to watch and enjoy flight activity as an indicator - like KC mentions.

    You can probably never have enough bottom boards, covers and spare supers - try to get or build a few extra whenever you can. I was lucky in the beginning. All we had to worry about was tracheal mites and foul brood and nosema. There were usually more swarm calls than equipment.
    After 40 years of beekeeping, I've come to realize that the bees can fix most of my mistakes.

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Location
    Corning, NY
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    53

    Default Re: Beginner's mistakes

    Don't assume that being in the suburbs prevents bear from finding your hives. If other beekeepers report bear around you, take precautions before the bear eats one of your hives completely.

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
    Location
    Boston, MA
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    185

    Default Re: Beginner's mistakes

    Lots of really good advice here. I am also just a beginner, but here's what I've learned from my first year's mistakes (and successes) -

    1. Never go into the hive without a purpose and a plan. Every time you go into the hive it is a disruption, so make sure there's a good reason to do it. Yes, in your first year, one very good reason is learning, but still go in with a goal of what you're looking for - eggs, larvae, brood patterns, queen cells, etc.. And, as Yogi Berra used to say, "You can observe a lot by just watching."

    2. Take photos of everything and record everything. It is amazing how quickly you'll forget what you just saw - which hive was doing what, what frames had brood, nectar, honey, how drawn out which frames were. I love Michael Palmer's duct tape method, quite advanced for me, but adaptable to anyone - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9Qnzf-2BAU

    3. Do not buy every bee gadget in sight. Carefully consider what makes sense for your reality, not possibilities, projections, and fantasies.

    4. PAY ATTENTION TO MITES!! Regardless of your beekeeping philosophy, attend to the mite issue in accordance with that philosophy. Treatment-free, natural, organic, chemical, whatever - none of that means do nothing. Do not ignore mites and their impact.

    5. Don't go it alone. Go to bee school, join your local beekeepers' club, sign on to your local bee field day, get a mentor.

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Placer County, CA
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    442

    Default Re: Beginner's mistakes

    Bring a camera with you for inspections. I can't tell you how many times I've closed up a hive and come inside and thought, I should have looked at _____. If you have pictures, you can look at them to see things you may have missed while in the hive.
    On my 5th year with bees, 2 hives.

  13. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Location
    Smithfield va
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    49

    Default Re: Beginner's mistakes

    Know what orientation flights look like and understand the huge numbers that can be involved in these flights. I mistook this for robbing and mistaking intervened, when nothing was wrong. I inadvertently set back my hives by at least a month.

  14. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
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    Princess Anne, Maryland
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    Default Re: Beginner's mistakes

    I wish that I could have my first year over. I killed so many bees. I would have treated for mites and would likely be further along. Definitely addicted and want.to continue to learn.

  15. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2015
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    Rosebud Missouri
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    3,931

    Default Re: Beginner's mistakes

    Don't open feed. Even if "you" only have one or two hives. Promotes robbing. Ask me how I know.
    Cheers
    gww

  16. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
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    Egg Harbor Township, NJ
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    67

    Default Re: Beginner's mistakes

    Make sure as a new beek that you know the difference between a wasp and a honey bee. Don't sit outside your hive killing drones because you think they are wasps, LOL

  17. #16
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
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    Placer County, CA
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    Default Re: Beginner's mistakes

    Quote Originally Posted by mdohertyjr View Post
    Make sure as a new beek that you know the difference between a wasp and a honey bee. Don't sit outside your hive killing drones because you think they are wasps, LOL
    Oh, that reminds me. Drones have a different "buzz". Don't freak out when you hear a different buzzing sound.
    On my 5th year with bees, 2 hives.

  18. #17
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    Derry, New Hampshire
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    2,234

    Default Re: Beginner's mistakes

    invest straight away in oav treatment setup. don't try to do treatment free till you have ten hives to lose.

    if you are going into this solo get a go pro chest mounted camera. its invaluable at looking at what happened a month ago or what it looked like a 2 weeks ago. also when starting out and you drop a full frame of bees trying to get a camera shot its kinda scary.

  19. #18
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
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    Milw, WI
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    276

    Default Re: Beginner's mistakes

    Quote Originally Posted by Norcalkyle View Post
    My mistakes from my first year (still in progress) that I will try to learn from and not repeat....

    2) Don't be passive about mite treatment / assume I have mites and be proactive. I had a hive lagging big time last year, and blamed the queen. Once I treated with 3x OAV, the hive exploded and went in to winter with the most stores and best population.

    I second this 1000 percent! I had lagging hives and treated too late, they never made it to winter...
    Technology is great.....when it works.

  20. #19
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Kinder, Louisiana, USA
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    244

    Default Re: Beginner's mistakes

    In addition to the camera, or if you don't have one convenient, put a voice recording app on your phone and talk your way through the inspection. Talk about everything you see/notice. Old school dictation.

  21. #20
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Location
    Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, USA
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    505

    Default Re: Beginner's mistakes

    The largest mistake I made last year (last year being my first year) was not having a written agreement with a landowner over the placement of my apiary. Worst part was, he is/was family.

    There was also some confusion on my part- between using small cell foundation, foundation in general (wax or plastic), or whether to utilize natural comb. I made several mistakes on ordering equipment. Not understanding that there is a difference in equipment needs based on my specific climate was the main issue there. I bought a lot of different styles of feeders to discover that half (the most expensive ones) were allowing too many bees to drown. I also didn't know that 99% of equipment suppliers favor bottom entrance hives, while my initial research had me liking top entrance configurations.

    Yes, I made a lot of mistakes last year but that also set me on the road to 'hands on' learning which isn't a bad thing. Reading scores of books and hundreds if not thousands of posts here and there taught me a great deal about 'beekeeping theory' and general rules of thumb. But beware, there's a fair amount of bad information out there as well. Find a mentor in your area if at all possible.
    Year 2 Zone 6a

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