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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Getting started in beekeeping and trying to get some advice on the best way to start.
Is it better to by the hives and then a package of bees and a queen and start from scratch or by an already established hive.

I'm in north Florida and have an opportunity to purchase 10 frame double deep hives, strong, disease free Screen bottom boards., new boxes with bees for 160 each for a guy just over the border.

What are the pros and cons of each, and how did you all start out.
 

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I started out with packages. Seems like a lot was learned as I hived them and helped them develop into two story 10-frame hives.
But the "best way" to start is the way you want to start.
Buying nucs or existing colonies is one way to go. Danger of an existing colony is disease or pests, esp. small hive beetle in your locale.
Good luck!
Steven
 

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What are the pros and cons of each, and how did you all start out.
I would say that the way I started out in beekeeping and the way that I thuink others should are two different animals. From my perspective now, the way I got started was sorta stupid. I bought a hive of bees and then learned about beekeeping.

Did you learn to walk before you learned to run? Did you buy a car and then learn how to drive? See where I'm going w/ this?

Learn about beekeeping before you become a beekeeper. You'll have a better experience. Find a beekeeper who will let you help them. At first you won't be much help, you'll be in the way, but after a while you'll know how to be around bees, which is something you can't learn w/out being around bees.

Get as much experience working bees before you buy your first colony. You'll either get to a point where you just have to have them and right away, or you'll find out that beekeeping isn't for you. But, at least you won't have bees to get rid of if you do find it isn't for you.
 

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My first start was with two nucs in August. They never did get started very well and did not survive the first winter. I did gain experience. My second start was with two 3lb packages in April. I am a better beekeeper this time and the weather in my area has provided good forage. I am confident that they will make it through the winter. Whatever you do you will gain experience. I do recommend having more than one hive for sure.
 

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its up to you but, i think nucs are the way to go. for one they dont take as long to build up. but you do learn alot when you install a package. you might get some honey your first year with a nuc. if you do a package you probally wont.if i was you i would start with at least 2 hives so you can compair and take from one to give to the other. you will learn alot. but whatever route you take have fun and enjoy. good luck

river_rat2005
 

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One thing you can't learn from a book is self confidence. Packages are nice because they are small colonies, and you build your confidence as you work with them. You may not get any honey your first year from a package though, so you have a longer return on your investment.

It's a whole different ballgame for a beginner trying to get into an established hive. It can be pretty nerve wracking. You should get honey your first year though - you see immediate results.

I also agree with those who recommend finding a mentor. There is a lot to learn about honeybees, and it can be overwhelming to a beginner. If you can find a mentor to turn to and ask questions, it makes everything seem a lot less overwhelming.

I started out buying 3 established hives which had been neglected for a couple years. I did not have a mentor. I would not recommend that the faint of heart start beekeeping like I did.
 

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The best way to get into beekeeping is the right way of course but whats the right way....Its all in the way you would like to start...Would you like to start out and have a learning experience??...In that case i suggest that you build your own equipment now while you have time, you can get the build plans from right off here (beesource.com)...once you have built your own equipment then purchase 2 packages with queen and install them into your equipment that you built and appreciate it. You will then beable to monitor the bees and have a learning experience your very first yr and have 2 hives just in case something might go wrong with one or the other. Chances are you wont get no honey the first year with bee packages but atleast you will get a understanding and the basics about beekeeping! You will never learn everything, i think you learn something new everyday and its all in what you put into it! My first year i built 10 complete hives, six 5 frame swarm boxes, observation top bar hive and a bee vac....I caught several swarms and bought 2 bee packages! I didnt want to purchase already made hives because of the chance in getting into diseases & all the above! etc....Good Luck!!
 

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I started out this year. Knew absolutely nothing about beekeeping. Got a hive from a friend and they took off the next day. The box was junk and it was a new split of another hive so they decided to leave (into my neighbor's tree 15 feet up). Got them down and put them into a new box and learned by the seat of my pants. It wasn't all that painful but I am a good sport so maybe that helps. Mostly learned by reading stuff on here and asking a few questions. Got about 80 pounds of honey from them so far this year. Caught a feral swarm in my backyard a couple months after I brought the first one home. They are building up great and have their first honey super on them just a couple of days ago. I'd say go for it in any way you can. It will be fun, rewarding, make ya worry some, then one day you will just relax, enjoy the hobby and not worry as much since they do know what to do for themselves afterall. My one piece of advise, learn what "bee space" is before doing anything. It will save you a ton of work and headache.
 

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To use the analogy mentioned above of learning to drive a car... the only way to learn to drive a car is to drive a car. Class work and study beforehand helps, but... at some point you simply have to get into the car and drive. Most of us had parents teach us at that point, or driver's ed.

That's where the mentor comes in, in beekeeping. The more I think about your question, and the various responses made so far, I agree that a mentor would be very helpful and important. Because of the learning that takes place when one hives a package of bees, personally I think that's the way to start. You get to see how a colony develops, without being overwhelmed by the bees or the colony or whatever.

Many of us started out with a beginner's book and a package. Now is the time for you to start preparing for next spring. You have all fall and winter to build equipment if you're so inclined, or purchase the hives and get them assembled. Get a couple of beginner's and next step up books, and enjoy reading. Get catalogues from the various vendors (Dadant's, Kelley's, etc etc) and start planning.

A nucleus or a full-fledged hive is the quickest way to start. But a package let's you see how a colony gets started and builds up. Starting with 9,000 bees in hiving a package helps you build the knowledge and guts to work into a 60,000 hive later in the season. :D
fwiw
Regards,
Steven
 

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If I only knew then what I know now....

I got started with nucs. But many of the nucs you get today are full of old comb...I guess this is how the nuc producer sheds his supply of old, black comb! Nucs get up and running fast, but I think they got ahead of me because they all swarmed that first year...all at once! I never anticipated this nightmare.

Same goes for buying existing hives. I've bought a few and they were filled with some of the worst case of cross comb, burr comb, old broken frames held together by the adjacent comb. These exisiting hives were big and full of bees and many had either old queens or superseded queens. They were almost too big to really work (and a bugger to bring home on the trailer, loading and unloading took three guys and you have to move bees at night).

I ended up splitting these hives into nucs and moved them to better locations with new frames.

If I were starting today, I would go packages. Watch the hive develop. Lower your expectations of that monumental harvest you're anticipating. Get to know the growth process of the hive. Packages are slower to get going but for a beginner, they are ideal to learning how a hive works.

And I think, in retrospect, that your purpose for starting this hobby is to LEARN about the bees. I came from the wrong angle and was looking to make honey my first year.

Settle down and take your time. There will be next year to make honey.

Grant
Jackson, MO http://maxhoney.homestead.com
 

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I purchased new equipment and assembled it myself. I used gift certs from family members to purchase stuff. That got spread out over 2 years I bet. Then I bought a package and had a lot of fun hiving it and watching it develop. If I had it to do over again, the only thing I'd do differently would be to start with two hives. There are a lot of reasons why and they started to become very apparent to me the more I learned.
 

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I discovered honey bees at a very early age (by the time I was five), later I got "Santa" to bring me a beginning beekeeping kit for my 9th Christmas (I had just finished 2nd grade). It came from Sears and my dad helped me to assemble it that Winter. The next year was very busy, we moved that year to a larger house and property. We finished building my first group of beehives/supers, etc. I read every book about honey bees I could find, including ABC's and XYZ's of Beekeeping and The Hive and the Honey bee. I read them so often I nearly memorized them. Of course I was very anxious to get my own bees, but I thankfully didn't have a melt-down while waiting. We had a very sturdy wooden garden shed with a ladder built into its end and an area on its roof designated for the beehives. The bees came that next Spring. I was now ten years old and the package bees were Starline, also from Sears. The following Spring a package of Midnite bees, from Montgomery Wards joined the Starlines on the shed roof. Of course, before I had my own bees, I'd discovered a wild colony in a Eucalyptus stump that was located in a horse pasture at the end of our block (about 1/4 mile away). If mom couldn't find me around the house, she knew I'd be at that stump watching the bees for hours. I had also been introduced to several local beekeepers who let me watch them work their own hives, answered my questions, and offered tips about assembling my frames. I even got to hold a comb from their hives, from time to time, in my own hands, and see every detail of these fascinating insects lives. Some of those images are still locked in my minds eye.

Through the years I have started colonies from swarms, cut-outs, trap-outs, splits, and nucs. Those initial packages, my first two hives, were the only packages I've ever had. But it was a very rewarding and educational experience to watch the package bees, build comb, raise brood, collect pollen and eventually collect honey and store it in their combs.

I have recently learned to raise queens and grow my own nucs, (I've even shaken a few packages for other beekeepers). About fifteen years ago I relocated back to the area I am living in now. I began my present apiaries from a single cut-out I did from a feral hive of probably AHBs, which I then split multiple times, using the "walk-away split" technique, over a three year period. After keeping those predictably unpredictable bees for another four years, I learned how to raise my own nucs and queens from imported stock and now I work my bees, most days in shorts and T-shirt, no veil, no smoke. It is now a much less stressful experience and I can enjoy my bees much more.

My favorite way to start a hive: is to have idle supers stacked near the apiary, where swarms from a feral hive or someone else's apiary come over and make themselves at home. I wait for them to become well established, requeen them with my own queens, then move them where I want them.
 

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...
I'm in north Florida and have an opportunity to purchase 10 frame double deep hives, strong, disease free ...
Think about REDUNDANCY.
Have 10 more empty hives with frames ready to use in the spring.
For both groups buy the honey supers.
You can choose the 5 + 5 variant instead: 5 with bees + 5 empty with frames + honey supers.
Redundancy and transportability - good point ...
Sincerely
Johann
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thanks for all of the advice. I'm going to go with building my own equipment and start with a couple of packages this spring.
I'm not in a rush and want to learn as much as I can.

Thanks again
 

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If the bee bug bites you like it did me, you will never have enough equipment put together when you need it. I'm spending this winter putting boxes together, making SBBs, covers, etc. It is never there when I need it. Oh, I'm a hobbyist, who likes to experiment.

Read. A lot. If you can't buy books, then read on-line. Michael Bush's web site is a good one. Nothing wrong with old books either. They just don't have anything on mites or SHB. Even if things don't make sense, keep reading. After a while things start to come together.

Pugs
 

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Hey Joseph! It was easier to read (and memorize because of reading so many times) ABC's book back then, because it was much smaller than it is now! :lpf: I still look back at my old bee books occasionally, we were so young and innocent back then!

Johnny B Goode, you're going to build your equipment, better get started, because spring will be here before you know it, and you won't have your hives painted, frames assembled, and the bees are arriving tomorrow! Don't ask how I know....:doh:

See if you have a sawmill within decent driving distance of you, and price their lumber. That's how I get mine real cheap. Air or kiln dried (be sure its dried!), surfaced three sides, way to go! By the way, be sure to get 3/4" lumber. I thought about 1" for better insulation...then factory inner covers and tops don't fit. sigh, we do tend to learn the hard way.
Regards,
Steven
 
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