Hobbyist Beekeeper: Death, Swarms and new queens?
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
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    Bridgewater, NJ, USA
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    63

    Default Hobbyist Beekeeper: Death, Swarms and new queens?

    My question as someone that hasn't established my first hive...before I jump into this hobby:

    Should a hobbyist that will only have 1-3 hives, should I expect to need to buy/capture/acquire new bees every year, or every other year or with proper 'hive management' should my bees stay and reproduce and thrive and if they swarm - that only a part of the hive will swarm and I'll still have plenty of bees left behind?

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Knox, Pa. USA
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    5,400

    Default Re: Hobbyist Beekeeper: Death, Swarms and new queens?

    An individual with 3 hive should be able to overwinter at least two of them with little problem as long as they are managed properly. Splits can be made from the remaining hives to repopulate the third, these splits can also act as swarm management.

    As far as swarm Management goes I believe you will here a few different opinions on that subject. Here is Mine
    "It all depends on you location, Not geographical but in relations to dense population. As responsible beekeepers we Owe it to the public at large to manage our bees in a manner that poses the least risk to person and property. By not managing our swarms in some way we are increasing the possibility that others will have to deal with them. If you live in a remote area there is no problem, but if you live in an urban or even a suburban setting then you are being inconsiderate of your neighbors. Man made structures offer many attractive opportunities for honey bees. People with allergies to stings can ill afford to have them inhabiting locations close to their homes. The elderly and those with health problems likewise. As a result they may have to pay to have them removed or exterminated. At a time when so many are struggling to make it though with daily expenses to further tax them with the burden of bee removal is rather selfish on our part. Not to mention the bees themselves." IMHO

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Location
    Bellflower, Montgomery,Mo,USA
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    629

    Default Re: Hobbyist Beekeeper: Death, Swarms and new queens?

    Do you plan to only keep 1-3 hives on your property? Our club and others here suggest starting with 2. After a few years it's harder to keep the number to 3. At that point you may consider keeping your numerous (hopefully) hives in an out yard.

    Swarm control is something that you will learn in a few years if you spend time educating your self on your new hobby. But if your hive swarms you lose the ability to collect your rent from them (honey). Yes you still may have 1/2 your hive left to rebuild itself. tenbears makes some good points in his post.

    One of the biggest hurdles to new beekeepers is cost. Expect to pay $300 - $400 for the woodenware and bees. Horses are more expensive to keep but they don't give you honey.

    Read lots, join a local bee club and use the resources of Beesource to educate yourself. Most clubs and schools are having beginning beekeeping classes right now. Take a class and they should help answer most of your questions. Then next year you will have a whole new set of questions to ask.

    Good luck

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Baker, FL
    Posts
    470

    Default Re: Hobbyist Beekeeper: Death, Swarms and new queens?

    If you start with good stock you should not have problems beginning with 2-3. In fact, I've experienced quite the opposite problem, I planned on keeping only 2 but somehow I'm now up to 20. Of course the goal is to take actions to keep them from swarming...but it is possible to also catch the swarms that might still take place. Its all a great learning experience, enjoy the journey!

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Location
    Lake Forest Park, WA
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    632

    Default Re: Hobbyist Beekeeper: Death, Swarms and new queens?

    You may not need a new queen for a few years or you need to buy or raise or capture one every year. I have kept 2-full sized hives (plus a nuc) for two seasons and I already had 5 queens. I try my best to prevent swarms (successful so far) and manage varroa (not so successful). I live where only up to 4 hives are allowed, and decided to keep two full-sized hives and maybe a nuc or two as backup during winter.

    Year 1: Bought 2 packages in April (~$150 each), with Queen1 and Q2. Q2 disappeared (supersedure failure?) and Q3 (Q1's daughter) took over in August. Q1 and Q3 overwintered.

    Year 2: Q3 stopped laying in spring (poorly mated?) and Q4 (another daughter of Q1) took over in April, but her laying was somewhat slow. Q5 ($40) was bought from a local apiary in June to replace Q4. Q4 was kept in a nuc as a spare. Q1, Q5, and Q4 went into winter but Q4 perished two weeks ago.

    Good luck!

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
    Posts
    5,536

    Default Re: Hobbyist Beekeeper: Death, Swarms and new queens?

    I started with three colonies from swarms in 2013 and I still have all of them (all three successfully re-queened, themselves in either 2015 or 2016) And I also have eight daughter (or in one case, a granddaughter) queens descended from those first three queens. I caught another swarm in 2015, which is still doing fine and I have a daughter from that queen. And I caught another swarm last July. All 14 colonies are alive and doing well (I just looked in at them on Monday afternoon to give them a little snack.) In addition, I've made more than dozen other colonies using queens raised here on my farm which I have given away since my biggest management problem is keeping my hive numbers from getting out of hand.

    I treat for varroa and I make it my business to prevent swarming.

    Starting with two and learning to keep those really well gives almost all the advantages of having three and limits your initial costs for equipment. (There's a lot things you need to buy to get started -more than it appears when looking at the "starter kits" in catalogues.) It's also possible you may discover you don't actually like taking care of bugs and doing the needed tasks on their schedule. In your second year you can make as many as you can handle because a well-managed colony emerging strong and healthy from winter is ripe for splitting. I wouldn't have started with three except for the fact that three swarms arrived in my first year.

    Losing a colony in your first year, while unfortunately not uncommon, isn't a given. No one could have had less experience or been less prepared than I at the outset. (I had the bees hived on a whim.) But once the bees were in my boxes I was simply determined they weren't gong to die in my care. If you can make that kind of commitment to learning what they need and providing it, I think you'll have success. If you just get the bees, put 'em in boxes and figure they should take it from there, you'll probably be buying bees pretty regularly.

    Enj.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Location
    West Jordan, UT, USA
    Posts
    1,166

    Default Re: Hobbyist Beekeeper: Death, Swarms and new queens?

    As a new beekeeper your probability of hives dying is, unfortunately, rather high. Replacing them is expensive. But splitting colonies and trapping swarms are both cheap replacements for your deadouts. And once you learn to keep your bees alive, they can also lead to some hobby income to help pay for what can be a rather expensive exercise.

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Concord, VT,USA
    Posts
    143

    Default Re: Hobbyist Beekeeper: Death, Swarms and new queens?

    When I started I wanted just one hive to keep things nice and simple. It turns out that a sole hive makes things complex. Two is the minimum and three is your best bet for sustainability.
    7 years; 3 colonies.

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    Location
    Bridgewater, NJ, USA
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    63

    Default Re: Hobbyist Beekeeper: Death, Swarms and new queens?

    Thanks everybody - I appreciate the outpouring of info!

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
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    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    53,948

    Default Re: Hobbyist Beekeeper: Death, Swarms and new queens?

    If you want three, it's a good idea to be prepared for some fluctuation. They are about to swarm, so you do a split. You get a swarm call so you catch a swarm. You lose some over winter. You combine a weak hive. etc. I would say having the equipment for four hives and getting three packages/nucs of bees is a good start and be prepared to end up with the equipment for seven hives or so.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
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    Great Falls Montana
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    7,888

    Default Re: Hobbyist Beekeeper: Death, Swarms and new queens?

    Yes you can if you stay away from fads that don't work or are added degrees of difficulty. The basics are these. You must test for mite levels and kill them with whatever it takes not what you wish you could use.

    Use foundation preferably hard plastic coated with wax. All the commercial beekeepers must know something!

    Feed the bees until the first hive body is full then feed them while they fill a second. Then put on a super if there are flowers blooming and quit feeding. That is enough for them to winter in NJ. It will not make them lazy, it will help make you successful.

    BTU makes bees. No faddish Screened bottom boards or huge multiple entrances. Bees can ventilate just fine and a 1inch round hole or equivalent in dimension will supply all the entrance they need until it looks like a firehose with bees coming and going. Bearding is normal, don't worry about it if they have supers on not packed full of bees.

    You need to be a beekeeper. Go into your hive to see what is going on. That does not mean a half hour with full photographic session and a ceremonial feeling of the queen every time! It means checking to see if there is a good brood pattern, eggs and larvae, the foundation being drawn in an orderly manner, (burr comb does not need CLEANED UP, it is their roads and bridges, and seeing if they have room to keep expanding.

    Putting on a super after that is pretty much all there is to it.

  13. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    Location
    Bridgewater, NJ, USA
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    63

    Default Re: Hobbyist Beekeeper: Death, Swarms and new queens?

    Interesting to see the responses - most of which assume that I'm going with a Langstroth...I'm actually leaning toward top bar. I don't know if that would alter any of the responses

  14. #13
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
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    germantown, TN
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    24

    Default Re: Hobbyist Beekeeper: Death, Swarms and new queens?

    I learned last spring to always keep a spare hive or 2 worth of equipment hanging around. you'll wind up being glad you did

  15. #14
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Location
    Lake Forest Park, WA
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    632

    Default Re: Hobbyist Beekeeper: Death, Swarms and new queens?

    Quote Originally Posted by TheBeeLoudGlade View Post
    Interesting to see the responses - most of which assume that I'm going with a Langstroth...I'm actually leaning toward top bar. I don't know if that would alter any of the responses
    Two years ago, I seriously thought about starting with top bar hives but decided against it. The reasons were (1) I may someday want to buy a nuc rather than a package (2) Commercially available chemicals/tools for varroa treatment seemed to be designed for Langstroth hives. (3) The crush and strain method for honey extraction looked messy. But l could have been just fine with two top bar hives.

  16. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    lake hopatcong nj
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    864

    Default Re: Hobbyist Beekeeper: Death, Swarms and new queens?

    Quote Originally Posted by TheBeeLoudGlade View Post
    Interesting to see the responses - most of which assume that I'm going with a Langstroth...I'm actually leaning toward top bar. I don't know if that would alter any of the responses
    Why are you leaning toward top bar hives? Have you weighed the pros and cons of each? You only want up to 3 hives. Is this because space is an issue? If that were the case, I'd think you can put 2 Langs in place of 1 top bar. Then you could grow to six hives and won't out grow that property for a few years.

  17. #16
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Location
    Rutherford Co. NC
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    549

    Default Re: Hobbyist Beekeeper: Death, Swarms and new queens?

    I would plan to keep x amount of bees ans a nuc or two ar all times.

    I bought and split bees and built up to ten hives this past year. So far all 10 are alive, but two are weekish.

    I have ordered two resource hives and plan to start having as many as 4 or more nuc hives with swarm prevention management.

    I will replace any losses with sits and start small nucs as stronger colonies boom in populatiin. These will replenish any losses the next year.

    Any unused extras can be sold traded etc.

    I can also take a nuc and use it to bolster week or queenless hives later in a given year. Like if I take splits from booming hives and later find a queenless hive after queens are scarse, I can take that queen and move it to the colony that needs it and give brood to another colonie that needs help for fall or winter.

    If you onlu habe three hives as a goal, perhaps a double five over five or four over four box would be enough.

    Basically for me the goal is to artifically swarm the boxes throu th manageme and use those resiurces as needed later and find homes for any surplus. It would be nice to have a couple or few extra splits each year.

  18. #17
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    Location
    Bridgewater, NJ, USA
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    63

    Default Re: Hobbyist Beekeeper: Death, Swarms and new queens?

    For me, top bar is appealing because:

    It will be in a my backyard, easily accessible for quick maintenance visits

    I'm not motivated by honey acquisition or an interest in selling it or the wax

    I am handy enough that I can make my own hive

    The concept of only opening one or two bars and leaving the rest of the hive closed makes sense to me.

  19. #18
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Location
    west central Arkansas
    Posts
    1,080

    Default Re: Hobbyist Beekeeper: Death, Swarms and new queens?

    I'm probably in the small minority who actually prefer TBHs over Langstroth Hives. They are both good for housing bees. Unless you want to harvest honey via extractor to save comb, the Lang doesn't offer the hobbyist anything more than what the TBH does. Management is similar, just think in horizontal terms for the TBH. Do some research on avoiding cross combing, keep your hives level and give them a good comb guide. It's simplicity at it's best and affordable to expand upon when ready. Good luck.

  20. #19
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    Location
    Bridgewater, NJ, USA
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    63

    Default Re: Hobbyist Beekeeper: Death, Swarms and new queens?

    Thanks...affordability is a motivator, I dread the thought of possibly having hive die or swarm perpetually.

  21. #20
    Join Date
    Feb 2015
    Location
    Rosebud Missouri
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    4,280

    Default Re: Hobbyist Beekeeper: Death, Swarms and new queens?

    I think I am going to like the lang hives best. I do have two horazontal langs built and one warre hive built but am not sure if I will or will not ever put bees in them. I do bait them with lemon grass oil and if a swarm moves into one of them, I doubt I try and move them out. I don't know if I would like them better or not. It might be how bad I am at building cause even my langs have lots of entrances that shouldn't be there. The long langs have boards along the same lines as a tob barr would have with the top bars being the inner cover. I seem to have a hard time not having some warping, swelling and such leaving places where robbing might happen. I have tin over the whole thing but the boards them selve are hard to keep with out creating gaps.
    Cheers
    gww
    zone 5b

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