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Getting Started While there are libraries of information on beekeeping for the more experienced, there appears to be little information on getting started. So this page will give some broad outlines on do's and don‟ts of setting out to become a bee keeper, rather than a box keeper. After 50+ years of beekeeping I find I still learn something new about bees almost every day. This is not something that can be mastered overnight; there will always be a challenge as hives change season by season. Fi
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  Getting Started While there are libraries of information on beekeeping for the more experienced, there appearsto be little information on getting started. So this page will give some broad outlines on do's and don‟ts  of setting out to become a bee keeper, rather than a box keeper.After 50+ years of beekeeping I find I still learn something new about bees almost every day.This is not something that can be mastered overnight; there will always be a challenge as hives changeseason by season.First let me make a major point! Beekeeping by its very nature leads to the use and sale ofused equipment, people going out of bees for a range of reasons, and lots of spare equipment around.For newbie bee keepers this can be very tempting, but should be avoided at all costsA short story might be helpful.Bill decided he wanted to be a bee keeper and heard of the widow lady down the road withhives of her late husband to dispose of.Lots of boxes and frames with drawn comb, extractors and smokers and stuff.The lady didn't know how much, and Bill almost drooling, couldn't believe his 'good luck', dulypaid and set up the hives etc. to receive the nine expensive nucs he had ordered.Those nucs were doomed, Bill lost his money, and finally to add insult to injury his hives wereburnt by the bee inspectors.So what went wrong?Bill took his time, read lots of books, thought he knew what he was doing, but he didn't get theequipment examined by a knowledgeable person, the hives were infested by 'Foul Brood' spores andwere deadly to the incoming bees. Only afterwards did he contact the bee inspectors who found out theproblem and took what was considered the correct remedial action. This is a true story, be warned! Hives As a dealer in equipment it is difficult to give advice. There are pro's and con's with any of thehives available. Honest advice. Talk to local bee keepers in your area, ask what works locally, checkwith your State or Province Apiculture agent, and shop around, if you find some equipment at a pricetoo good to be true, it generally is. Bees Charging a bee hive, does not mean putting it on your plastic credit card! It‟s a term regardingadding bees to your hive. There are at least 3 ways, each one with its own problem. Nucs. Nucleus, normally bought as a 3 or 5 frame, (Frame is the term for the item which hangs in thehive) needs to have, frames of stores (sealed honey) open brood and a laying queen, plus areasonable amount of bees of all ages. Nucs need feeding after installation. See Feeding FAQ. Packages.  More prevalent in the US than in Canada. Bees are sold by the pound, usually with a matedlaying queen, caged inside the main bee cage complete with sugar feeder can to prevent starvationduring transport. The ways and timing of package installation depends on your area and you shouldseek local advice. Swarms. I know of bee keepers who run their outfit‟s dependant on catching swarms to supplement theirhives. With the advent of Tracheal Mites and Varroa and the overall decline of feral bees in NorthAmerica this method is very hit or miss. I do agree though, the sight of running your first swarm intoyour new hive takes some beating. Watching them marching in by the thousands and immediatelygetting to work is a delight to watch. Equipment. Catalogues and catalogs from every point in the Hemisphere, again the best advice. Shoparound! In your first year it is unlikely you'll need an extractor (an oversized centrifuge) to deal withyour first harvest, as that is likely to be very small. Perhaps you might think of cut comb honey ratherthan extracting honey.Smokers are very necessary to help calm the bees and allow you to handle them duringinspections. The ideal unit, copper, will last for ever and won't burnout. We use corrugated cardboard(new, not recycled) rolled into a tight roll, lit from the bottom, easy, and stays lit for a long time. Suits Don't buy cheap! A scrappy piece of netting just tucked into a collar won't do. You canguarantee it will come loose at the worst moment, and a bee inside it can be most off putting.Finally, be cautious, don't go overboard with the buying, find an honest dealer interested inhelping, and then stick with them.  Feeding. The means of supplementing or stimulating a hive at various times of the year, to improve itsviability. After the honey crop has been removed it is vital that the bees have sufficient stores to carrythem through winter into early spring, otherwise they will starve, one of the biggest failures of awintered hive. In our area we find the hives need approximately 100 lbs of stores. Translated into easymaths, each frame (standard deep) will hold approximately 7 lbs, so a hive examined in late fall shouldhave at least 14 plus frames of sealed stores. If not then they should be fed, quickly. For winter feed A 2-1 sugar syrup in a hive top feeder should be fed early enough for the bees to convert andseal off ready for winter. It should be remembered that bees need warmth to work and a reasonabledaytime temperature is essential to allow them time to convert. With fall feeding it should be a lot in ashort time If it should be dragged out by only supplying small amounts the danger of stimulating newbrood is very possible, quite the reverse of what is needed. By feeding large amounts quickly any cellsbecoming empty in the upper super from late emerging brood will be filled, forcing the queen into thebottom box. The perfect position to start the winter.An interesting question?Is sugar better than honey for feed? The simple answer, yes, sugar is better. It seems there arefewer solids in sugar; therefore the bees have less faces to vent during cleansing flights. It is possibleto feed honey drippings etc. from the fall extracting, but it should be stressed not to use heated honeyin any form, otherwise dysentery is almost guaranteed. The alternative thinking to using sugar, it haslittle nutritional value, so honey is really the better winter feed. Spring Feeding. A misnomer in fact. If fall feeding was carried out correctly then spring feeding should not benecessary. The term should really be 'spring stimulation' because that is what is being attempted.Incoming nectar is the trigger to most hive functions, without it the queen will stop laying, broodproduction goes into a decline, and hive activity slows down. Now add a slow drip of nectar, (sugarsyrup), and suddenly activity increases.We add on top of the inner cover a jar, about a quart size, approximately 6 holes, 1/16th indiameter drilled through the lid. Fill with 1-1 sugar syrup and invert over the inner cover hole. Thevacuum created holds the liquid in place and allowing the bees access to take it down will stimulate thehive into believing a flow has started.Working backwards from when the real first flow starts, we stimulate to produce bees for thisflow by adding syrup 6 weeks ahead. Remember:- Do not overfeed in the spring. The danger being a honey bound brood area, nowhere for thequeen to lay, leading to early swarming. Nucs and Splits. We make a good number of splits or nucs (nucleus hives) every year, and the one thing thatgets them off to a good start is feeding. On making up a split there are a few points worth repeating. First,  A split, after a couple of days will have lost most if not all of its foraging bees, so therefore thereis no nectar coming in. In these circumstances the queen will lay, only if there are open stores. Onmaking up the split, crack open sealed stores with a hive tool, and then feed using the springstimulation method. Finally, remember! Bees will only draw foundation during a flow, so feed heavily if adding foundation even more soif you intend to use plastic foundation
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