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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Want to keep bees BUT for scheduling

New member with pressing question. I'm here because the wife, SWMBO, just mentioned in June that she wouldn't mind if I hosted bees.

But first a background -
In about 1962 I was in 6th or 7th grade in a SMALL school in Vermont. My classroom had grades 6 thru 8 in one room, one teacher, about 20 plus students. My teacher installed an observation hive in the window with a package of bees. My grades gave me the privilege to sit next to the hive :). It's a wonder I got my schoolwork done.
Several times the hive became open and bees would freely escape in the room. We would go around and entice one on our finger and return it to the hive. I don't remember ANYONE getting stung. That was my introduction to beekeeping.

Fast forward about 3 years and my father raised bees and I would assist occasionally for about 4 years.

Then college (Biology degree), the Army ('Nam vet), life in the suburbs w/ small lots and 4 children came to rule.

Fast forward to 2011. Retired, bought the "farm", 73 acres of mixed hardwoods w/ about a 25 acre section near the house clearcut, in rural northeast Mississippi.

Now for the last 30 plus years I had lived 1 lot away from a large meadow and the BIGGEST park in Fairfax County Virginia. And EVERYTIME I brought up the idea of beekeeping SWMBO had put both feet down and cited allergies.

Fast forward to June 2014, SWMBO explains SHE wasn't allergic. She just didn't know if the children would be, so a beehive or several are OK.

In summary I think I have the capabilities, I know I'm not allergic, I've got 25 acres of flowering clearcut (was mixed hardwoods), plenty of streams for water, plenty of time to observe them when I'm on site.

And there's the rub -

Presently due to a grandson being born and residing in Northern Virginia it looks like I will not be at "the farm" as permanent residence for several years. We've adopted a routine of going down for 6 weeks to 2 months, then coming back for 6 weeks to 2 months. So I'm concerned about trying to start some hives and "NOT BEEING THERE".

I'd REALLY like to set up a couple of hives next spring, monitor them for a month or so, leave for 6 weeks to 2 months, come back etc. .

However reading here and elsewhere it seems that hives require frequent inspection and maintenance on startup. And you can only really startup in the spring. So if I mess it up the first time it's another year to recover.

So my questions are:
Before I invest a LOT of time in studying and some time/$$ in building/buying, with my "travel schedule" is becoming a "beekeeper" even feasible?
Can I expect that setting up hives and leaving them for a month or so will be a workable solution?
Would it be feasible with a Top Bar Hive?

thanks for your time.
 

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welcome to beesource.

why not manage that 25 acres of clearcut flowering pasture to be extremely bee friendly. By that I mean plants in that pasture, and the pastures borders, supplying bee resources during all 4 seasons? the native bees and feral honey bees will love you for it. And it's possible with your schedule. You'll still be keeping bees in a sense.
IMO Your'e schedule will make it difficult to keep bees in hives, especially during those critical months where timely management is imperative. When your schedule changes to a more beekeeper friendly one you'll have terrific pasture ready for your managed hives.
 

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Welcome to Beesource!


>Can I expect that setting up hives and leaving them for a month or so will be a workable solution?

Yes, this timeline should be workable for you. You may possibly have some swarms but even beekeepers that more closely monitor their hives have swarms. Swarming is how a colony reproduces, and you may be able to reduce the frequency, but swarming is what bees do.

If by "Top Hat hive" you mean a 'top bar' hive, you could set up a TBH and leave it alone for a month or so. But a TBH is often considered to expect more frequent attention as the size of the hive is not expandable in the manner that a Lang style hive is expandable.

You may indeed have a failure your first year, but presumably you would learn from that experience. One way to get a head start is to begin with at least two hives. You can borrow resources from one hive to fix a problem with the second hive, if necessary. If you only have one hive, your options may be quite limited.
 

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go for it. true honeybee allergies are really quite rare. reactions to stings are normal. paranoia and fear is way-way too common... I had more than 40 years without bees, this was not a good plan in hind site. I was just too busy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Welcome to Beesource!


>Can I expect that setting up hives and leaving them for a month or so will be a workable solution?

Yes, this timeline should be workable for you. You may possibly have some swarms but even beekeepers that more closely monitor their hives have swarms. Swarming is how a colony reproduces, and you may be able to reduce the frequency, but swarming is what bees do.

If by "Top Hat hive" you mean a 'top bar' hive, you could set up a TBH and leave it alone for a month or so. But a TBH is often considered to expect more frequent attention as the size of the hive is not expandable in the manner that a Lang style hive is expandable.

You may indeed have a failure your first year, but presumably you would learn from that experience. One way to get a head start is to begin with at least two hives. You can borrow resources from one hive to fix a problem with the second hive, if necessary. If you only have one hive, your options may be quite limited.
Thanks. Yes, meant Top Bar.
I'm confused though, and I'll carry the discussion on to the TBH forum. But I thought a TBH was basically an empty container with supports for the potential combs. After one gets the initial combs started the bees filled in the rest.
And if it's recommended to start with two I'd probably do three.
 

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Welcome! There is a follower board in top bar hives that should be right where the edge of the bee coverage is. It is still feasible with your schedule. We have beekeepers in Florida that never manage their hives. the inspector is the only one to go in the hives - once a year.
 

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I think a lot of problems encountered with new beeks are caused because they get into their hives too often and disrupt things, so you might do better than you thought. Like others have said you may lose a little honey production to swarms, and if you are ok with that, then I say go for it. You can also put out a few bait hives out and when you come back you may just find that your hives have doubled on their own. I say good luck and go for it!
 

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Re: Want to keep bees BUT for scheduling

"Before I invest a LOT of time in studying and some time/$$ in building/buying, with my "travel schedule" is becoming a "beekeeper" even feasible?
Can I expect that setting up hives and leaving them for a month or so will be a workable solution?
Would it be feasible with a Top Bar Hive?

thanks for your time."

First, welcome. Thank you for what you did in Vietnam Nam. If you think about it, JFK's purpose was to stop the dominoes from falling. In that sense, you and those who were with you succeeded. Regardless, you had a choice, and I'm grateful. Second, the wife of my youth and I share your ability as a couple to communicate. Third, thank you for the unexplained use of SWMBO. It was, at once, mildly literate and respectful of the recipients of your post. Fourth, your bees will, in my opinion, benefit from your traveling. Where you are, I would not wait till next spring. But I would not use "top hats" until your travel schedule eases. They can require more attention to avoid cross comb problems and more frequent harvesting of honey to maximize production.
 

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Re: Want to keep bees BUT for scheduling

most of the time leaving bees alone for a month at a time is much better than checking them every other day. stay with standard equipment until you find your way. there are good reasons it has been standard over a hundred years.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Re: Want to keep bees BUT for scheduling

With that sort of schedule, I might suggest a Warré hives.
Why Warre?

The reason I was focusing on TBH is back problems that come and go. I like the idea of having them at a working level.
<snip>But I would not use "top hats" until your travel schedule eases. They can require more attention to avoid cross comb problems and more frequent harvesting of honey to maximize production.
Should have mentioned that my focus is not production, rather just keeping the local flora and future gardens fertilized.

most of the time leaving bees alone for a month at a time is much better than checking them every other day. stay with standard equipment until you find your way. there are good reasons it has been standard over a hundred years.
With these comments I'm beginning to think I should set up 3 hives, one of each type.
 

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Re: Want to keep bees BUT for scheduling

Why Warre?
Individual Warre boxes, are lighter than Langstroth boxes, so would be easier on the back when full, you add boxes to the bottom rather than the top. Purists pick up the whole stack (sometimes with a hive lift) and add to the bottom, but there's no reason you couldn't pick the off one at a time, add one to the bottom, and stack them back.

If you add all the boxes in the spring, you won't have many to lift, and they'd be light when you do.

Warres are top bar hives. They fill up, and you harvest them by the box, usually with the crush and strain method. You won't really be ever inspecting a colony in the same manner that you would a Langstroth hive. You don't have to worry about the bees proplizing the frames, because there aren't any.

Also, as opposed to a KTBH, where you are expected to manipulate combs, you don't care if they cross comb really, because you work Warres more by the box, than by the comb.

Standard would be fine too, but full boxes will be heavier, of course you could pull frames rather than boxes. I think an 8 frame medium full of honey weighs about the same as a full Warre box.

:D
 

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Re: Want to keep bees BUT for scheduling

I'd be proactive about potential problems like ants and skunks and to my extreme dismay, vandalism. I followed the beginner's advice to start with two hives and found that two was not enough. Wish I had been savvy enough to split the booming colony I had that first year. For me, two hives has proven insufficient to always have on store the extra brood you I've needed to address weakness or queenlessness. Lose one and :cry:
 
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