I’ve been operating this bee business for almost 6 years now. In that time, I’ve sold bees to over 1,000+ different people. I would say 80% have been brand new beekeepers. That is so awesome by the way!!
This exposure to new beeks has been a beneficial experience for me. Beneficial, in that it has taught me how I can teach new beekeepers in the best way.
I have created 3 very informative classes. Classes that are taught in stages. I believe there is a lot to learn with beekeeping, but if you take it slow and learn over time, you will have much more fun with this hobby.
My classes, along with their descriptions are as follows:
Introduction to Beekeeping: This class is for people who are interested in beekeeping but have never had bees. Common questions like: “how much time is required to care for the bees, what all is needed to start a beehive and how much does it cost to start a beehive” will be answered with this class. Also, honey production will be briefly covered.
First Year Beekeeping: This class is for people who have just started their first hive. Class will cover inspections, mite treatment, honey extraction in detail, fall management and winter preparation. This class basically covers the care of a new hive from May all the way through to November/December.
Second Year Beekeeping: This class is for people who have bees going into Fall and want to learn all about how to care for them in the Spring. Class covers the different methods of splitting a hive, swarm prevention, mite treatment and spring feeding.
While I’m excited to offer Introduction to Beekeeping and First Year Beekeeping recorded through zoom, I feel that Second Year Beekeeping is best taught live. Class dates and times are posted on Facebook, so please make sure to follow The Kansas Bee Company’s page.
I also offer all 3 of these classes to groups! Please contact me for pricing.
Link to classes: https://www.thekansasbeecompany.com/classes.html
Today is Thursday, July 15th and the honey flow is over. It’s actually been over for a couple weeks.
I’m getting a lot of calls or messages about adding a honey super now. The simple answer to this question is no.
The more detailed answer is, there is no need to add a honey super when you have no excess honey coming in for the bees to fill it.
I started a hive in May while all my customers did. I do this every year so I can see for myself how fast/slow the bees are growing in a particular year.
We had an incredibly low and slow honey season this year. At least I did in my part of Missouri. Nothing compared to what I saw last year.
In my hive, I am happy to report both deeps are full of brood, eggs, and honey. That is the goal of any new hive. Remember when I said that honey in your first year is a blessing?
Adding a super now will only create more empty space in a hive and give the bees that extra space to protect, especially from hive beetles.
As the honey flow stops, we start something called dearth. This is a scarcity or lack of nectar sources. The bees will start eating their stores now. This is nothing to be alarmed over, just make sure you are monitoring the honey that’s stored away. If it gets low, feed your bees!
We may get a fall flow. It’s hard to tell right now if we will, but if we do, that will be the time to put a honey super back on. Only do this though if your bees have enough food in their 2 deeps.
The bees winter food, their 60 pounds, is the most important thing for the beehive. Your friends and family can wait until next year to get some honey! I know they are asking, haha!!
The next thing you need to focus on is mite treatment. If you have any questions about this, please consider taking my First Year Beekeeping class. I explain mite treatment, along with Fall maintenance and winter preparation.
Hope you all are staying cool and enjoying your new bees!
When COVID hit in 2020, the country went into survival mode. Small business was hit pretty hard. My bee business was majorly affected, and still is - to be perfectly honest. 2021 has been the worst year this business has seen in 5 years. Bee sales and honey sales plummeted.
All the retail stores I had honey in closed temporarily. I decided at that time to build an “honorable honey box.” I placed this box at my house on the street.
At first, it was successful. People were buying honey all the time and they were paying me the exact amount owed. Then, it started to change. People started putting $10 bills in for $14 or $20 bottles of honey. They either weren’t paying attention to the well-marked prices, or they just decided they shouldn’t have to pay full price?
Unfortunately it escalated to people stealing bottles of honey. In fact, I put a bag of seeds in there for someone who pre-paid and they were stolen before she was able to pick them up.
This last Saturday, I went to check the honor box. As I was walking up to it, I knew something was wrong. The cash box was wide open. Someone had broken into it and stole an entire days’ worth of cash sales.
Imagine being a small business owner, having a rough year financially, and having a day’s worth of sales stolen. I was PISSED! I made a live video saying things I probably shouldn’t have, but to be honest with you, I don’t care.
That theft was my last straw. I have probably lost close to $200 in that “honor” box!!
I emptied it out and will no longer be using it. I’m not going to continue to be stolen from.
Since the box is gone, there is no longer any reason to pull into my driveway. I’m putting up 2 big “no trespassing” signs. Why??
Because, on top of having theft, there is an issue of people coming up to my front door. This is my home; this isn’t a brick-and-mortar store with hours.
The people who ring my doorbell, want to discuss starting up beekeeping. While I am always supportive of anyone starting this amazing hobby, teaching people beekeeping in my front yard is not how this works. I have an online "introduction to beekeeping" class for that.
Not only are people coming up to the door, but they are also walking the property looking for bees. The only time that anyone should ever be on my property is during bee pickups!
Running an online bee business out of my home is not an invitation for people to visit. Not only is it an issue of boundaries, it's also a liability issue.
In closing, I have a business email and phone number you can use to contact me. email@example.com and 816-739-0726. This allows me to have a separation of my business and my personal life, which is a very important boundary to have. :) :)
I know how frustrating and sad it is to lose bees. The feeling you get when you open the lid and they are all dead, or just simply gone is one of despair. The first thing you want to do is understand why. Hopefully after you read this blog, you will have understanding and hope to try again.
Here are the top 4 reasons people always assume their bees died:
Unless you did not listen to the guidance of every beekeeper out there about leaving them 60 pounds of honey, your bees did not starve to death. Bees move in herds. They don’t just send a few up or around the 2 deeps looking for food. They feed in herds. And, in the middle of that herd is the queen. They must get her to move with them, or they will not move at all. This is where a big cluster comes in real handy. The bigger your cluster inside the hive, the more opportunity they have to herd onto a spot of honey.
Many times, beeks will call me and say they starved to death, but they had a ton of honey. As confusing as this is, they did starve to death, but also, they didn’t. They simply didn’t have a big enough cluster to get to the honey.
I want you to read this out loud and repeat it, “Wax moths can’t kill a healthy hive”. Repeat! Wax moths are a clean up crew. If you see wax moth trails in your comb, your hive is already weakened to the point of not being able to defend itself.
Again, read this out loud and repeat it, “Hive beetles can’t kill a healthy hive”. There is absolutely nothing you can do about hive beetles, except keep their population down. They are going to be in your hive no matter what. A strong, healthy hive will keep their numbers at bay. There are some tricks you can implement to help the bees keep the hive beetle numbers down and they are inexpensive. I haven’t used anything in 2 years.
They froze to death:
A beek will call me and say, “my bees froze to death because they still had a lot of honey…therefore, they couldn’t have starved to death.” Refer to the starved to death paragraph above. Bees are good at keeping themselves warm. In fact, they are so good at it, they will simply stay in their cluster and not move an inch to get food, therefore letting themselves starve to death. Why? Because they aren’t thinking about their lives, they are thinking about the life of the queen who is in the center of their cluster.
So, what killed my bees? Your beekeeping methods throughout the year. Am I saying this to make you feel bad, NO! I’m saying…losses are lessons! Don’t beat yourself up. You are new to this hobby and you are learning as you go.
The cluster in fall is the survival of winter. The cluster in fall is a direct correlation of how you cared for them all spring/summer.
Here are my tips:
Feed if and when the bees need it! If the honey supers aren’t on, and they aren’t building up 60 pounds, feed them. Add essential oils for their guts.
TREAT FOR MITES!
I blog about how I treat. I am aggressive with it. And you know what, I lost 1 hive this year. And, that was to robbing. I know that a lot of you don’t want to put chemicals in your hive, and I understand that philosophy. But, I’m going to tell you that sometimes we have to fight fire with fire. Chemicals are everywhere now.
So, take your frames from your dead hive and throw them in the freezer. This kills any kind of larva living in the comb. Remove them after 24 hours and store them in your garage with some paramoth or wax crystals. Freeze 1-2 frames at a time if your freezer space is small.
Finally, start over. Buy a NUC, or a full hive and try again. Don’t just give up after 1 year. It takes time to learn something new.
If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.
Congratulations, you made it to Fall!!
Your brood should be picking up substantially, as the queen is laying her winter babies. Winter babies are the bees that are going through winter with her, keeping her nice and warm in the center of their cluster. You should start to see drones being killed. They are just extra mouths to feed, so they are not allowed to winter with the hive. Sad, but it’s nature.
Your honey should be plentiful. We had an amazing honey production year! I do want to caution you that amazing honey years don’t happen every year. So, please don’t go into next Spring with unrealistic expectations of what you’ll be able to give away to all of your friends and family.
Remember you need 60 pounds of honey for the bees to eat throughout winter. How do you know if you have 60 pounds? First, you can do a lift test.
Lift your hive from the back…not all the way, just tilt it up. Does it feel super heavy? Brood has weight too, so it should feel like it well exceeds 60 pounds.
Next, get inside and take a look. The honey frames are typically your outer frames. If that isn’t the case in your hive, rearrange your frames. Brood in the center, honey outside. Some empty cells are needed as the queen is still very much laying eggs (remember, winter babies).
In my first year of beekeeping, I lost 2 hives to mites – in the fall. The 2 hives absconded, leaving behind all their honey. I decided that instead of freezing these frames, I’d just jam pack my remaining hives that were still around with all this “extra” honey. Seems harmless right?
I came out a couple weeks later to inspect and every single remaining hive had absconded. Apparently, since I didn’t leave any drawn comb, or open cells for the queen to lay eggs in, the became honey bound and left. If you’ve ever heard me speak, you know that I am the beekeeper who has done everything wrong at least once, sometimes twice.
So, back to formation. Honey on the outer frames, brood in the center. Why? Well, first you want all your brood together as it gets colder, so they can cluster around it and keep it 92 degrees.
Second, you want all the honey together, so when they do move in cluster formation throughout winter, they can keep that formation and not break cluster. Make sense? Good. 😊
Let’s go back to 60 pounds of honey. What if you don’t have it? You need to start feeding, and right away. Try a 3:1 ratio. 3-parts sugar, 1-part water. If they don’t eat it, try 2:1. They should be gobbling up 3:1 if they are light on stores though.
Lastly, your hive should be in 2 deeps right now. The supers don't stay on for winter. You should also have your entrance reducer on your fall setting. Example below!
If you have a super on for additional feed, that's ok! But, if you are not at 60 pounds of honey by now, you will want to feed on top of leaving that super. The bees get to a point in the season where they stop backfilling your deeps with honey.
I’ll be blogging about winter feeding soon, as that is a whole other way to feed. Right now, we are still feeding liquid syrup.
Keep your texts, emails and phone calls with questions and updates coming! Love to hear from all of you!!
The definition of dearth is “a scarcity or lack of something”. When beekeepers use this term, we are referring to a lack of floral sources for the bees.
We use the word dearth as a reference of time. Meaning, right now we are in dearth in Kansas and Missouri. The bees have stopped bringing in nectar to store for consumption. That means, they will start eating their previously stored honey. As they eat their stored honey, it will open cells for the queen to lay eggs in. This is especially beneficial going into fall/winter.
Dearth is a normal part of beekeeping but can bring about mood changes in your bees. I often hear, “my bees were sweet all year and now they’re just mean”. The girls are very aware that they have honey to protect. So, they are defensive. Imagine working all summer to store honey and having a giant being opening your storage area and touching all your hard work.
What do you do now as new beekeepers? Just keep on doing your weekly inspections – looking for eggs. If you have empty supers on, remove them. We are done with the flow for now. We may have a fall flow but wait until there is one before you put your supers on. Why? Because all that empty space is where the adult hive beetles like to congregate.
It’s time to start planning your mite treatment. Strips aren’t beneficial right now because there isn’t a whole heck of a lot of capped brood yet. I’ll be doing my OA treatment in the next couple weeks. Refer to my previous blog about mite treatments to get the details on what I do. Remember, these are your bees though, so you do what you feel is best for them. All I can do is tell you what I do.
In closing, I want to say that this has been a rough summer for yours truly, but I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.
My back injury led me to a new primary care doctor. This primary care doctor ran blood work which came back irregular. Basically, my thyroid was not working. Further tests were ran, including a sonogram of my thyroid. Four large tumors were discovered. I recently had my thyroid removed and one of the tumors came back positive for cancer. It is a blessing that my thyroid and all the tumors are now gone.
I’m sharing this because I haven’t been as available by phone, text, email, etc this summer as I normally am. Sometimes you have to take a break from everything and focus on your health. Several of you have sent me wonderful messages. You’ll never know how much that has meant to me. I love all of you and I hope your bees are doing well.
I’m back doing consultations now, so call me if you need me to come out and look at your hive and give you some pointers. Sometimes I simply provide peace of mind that your hive is doing well. 816-739-0726.
I charge $100 to come out, if you are within 30 minutes of Belton, Missouri. Thanks!
Honey Bound Hives
What is a honey bound hive? It’s a hive that has too much honey stored in the deeps and therefore it is bound with honey. When this happens there is no space for queenie to lay, and there’s a chance the hive will abscond. Abscond is when the whole hive leaves, not just ½ in a swarm.
Why do they abscond and not just swarm when this happens? Because if there’s no room for the queen to lay eggs, they can’t make several replacement queens, so they just simply leave.
Everything in a hive is about balance. Enough honey, enough pollen, enough eggs, enough capped brood and enough room.
Sounds complicated right? I think the bees know what they are doing, but sometimes a little help from us isn’t a bad thing.
What we love to see as beekeepers is honey on the outside frames, with capped brood in the center. 4 frames of capped brood in each deep is wonderful. Does that always happen? Heck no, haha!
If your top deep is all honey, that is not surprising at all. I’ve seen that several times. As long as you have capped brood in the bottom deep, you are looking good. But, the pain is you have to lift off the top deep to inspect.
Here’s what I do if I see all honey in my top deep. I remove a couple of the frames in the center and give them empty frames. I then leave those honey frames out and let them clean them up. Hopefully they will use this honey to build comb on the new frames you’ve just given them, and the queen will use those to lay eggs in.
I will say that this year has been a phenomenal honey year. I haven’t seen this kind of honey production since I started beekeeping. The white dutch clover has come back at least 5 times where I’m at. Normally it comes back twice. What that means is, if you mow white dutch clover, it’ll bloom again.
So, if you aren’t seeing full capped brood frames, don’t worry. The bees are bringing in honey so fast this year, they are just storing it in cells faster than the queen can lay eggs in them. The flow is coming to an end and this will take a wild turn soon. They’ll start eating or backfilling some of the honey they’ve brought in, giving her space to lay.
Remember, it takes 6-8 pounds of honey to make 1 pound of wax and they need all that wax to cap that wet honey.
This year, we needed a ladder to look at our supers! I’ll post how many pounds we got once we extract it all.
The main reason that we encourage people to start with 2 hives instead of 1 is so that you have extra resources. I use the phrase, “rob peter to pay paul” quite often. That means if one hive has an abundance of honey, you can shake the bees off and give it to another that may be lacking. In fact, come late Summer or “dearth”, you will want to try and make your hives even. This helps with robbing.
A secondary reason to have 2 hives is to compare how different hives can be. I know that a lot of you want to see the same exact progress in all your hives, but unfortunately that isn’t going to happen.
You will have one hive that just looks amazing. There will be lots of eggs, capped brood, larva, honey and pollen. And there will be one that struggles along, building slow. I’ve seen this every year.
I’ve also seen an amazing hive slow down later in the season and the weaker one start to blow up. And, by the time late fall is here they are pretty much even in progress.
I know you want to monitor their progress and you get concerned when you don’t see immediate growth. Just bee patient.
Comparing a wild hive or swarm to a nuc or hive from me is not going to be a good comparison. Swarms are eager to build comb, so they will grow super fast. Trust me when I say, they slow down eventually.
In closing, I want to say that right now my bees are seriously bringing in the honey. They aren’t a bit interested in my sugar water. So, if your bees are the same, don’t worry. Let them bring in their honey and the minute the honey flow stops, try feeding them again.
Keep looking for eggs once a week. If you can’t see them, take a picture and enlarge it when you are inside. Take 100 pictures if you have to.
Remember, the first year is all about learning!
Sometimes queens die. Sometimes it happens in transportation, sometimes she dies in an inspection, sometimes she rolls off a frame. I've had all 3 of these things happen.
Knowing how long things take helps you predict where things are going or where things have been.
If you find eggs, but you can't find her, you know there was a queen 3 days ago. She’s probably still there, you just simply missed her.
If you find a queen cell and it's uncapped, it is less than 8 days old, as the queen cell caps at 8 days. The cell stays capped from 8 days, all the way up to 16 days. After 16 days, the queen will be born and within 8 more days, you should see eggs.
If you killed or lost a queen, how long before you'll have a laying queen again? Approximately 24 days.
If you find a capped queen cell, how long before it should emerge? 8-9 days.
If a queen is killed and the bees raise a new one how much brood will be left in the hive just before the new queen starts to lay? None. It will take 24 days for the new queen to start laying and in 21 days all the workers will have emerged.
If the queen starts laying today, how long before that brood will be foraging for honey? 42 days. Remember the bees get promoted and collecting nectar is the last stage of their lives.
It's unfortunate when your queen dies, but the good news is, they can requeen themselves if there are eggs in your hive!
Another option is to find a mated queen and requeen that way. Sometimes it's hard to find one just at the moment you need her, but if you can, you are definitely speeding up this process!
You have your new hive home! It is in one deep or what we call the brood chamber. It also has a feeder in it. What you’ll need to do is remove that feeder and add in a couple empty frames from your second deep you received from me. You will then place that feeder in your second deep and go ahead and put that on your first deep. You are now sitting 2 deeps tall and are ready to feed your hive.
1:1 – Take an old milk jug and rinse it out. Fill it ½ the way with sugar. (You will need a funnel of some kind to get the sugar in this jug.) It’s easier if you find something with a wider mouth to get the sugar into it. The rest of the gallon jug will be filled with warm water and you will shake it vigorously. Basically until you see no sugar crystals as they have all dissolved into the warm water. This is your feed.
If the bees don’t eat it, try sweetening it up a with a 2:1 ratio. This would be ¾ full of sugar and ¼ of water. You can also do a 2:1 ratio with water being the 2. Meaning 1/4th sugar and 3/4th water.
Why are you feeding bees? Because they have to draw out all those empty frames by covering them in beeswax. It takes 6-8 pounds of honey (sugar water) for them to create 1 pound of wax.
You are NOT ready for any other boxes at this time, just the 2 deeps. If your second deep fills up by mid-June, you can then place your queen excluder and your first super.
I talked briefly in class about running 9 frames in my honey supers. You can do that, or run all 10. That’s totally up to you.
Why don’t you just give them all 4 boxes? Because that’s too much empty space for bees to defend against hive beetles or other pests like ants, spiders, etc..
Your hives have all been treated. We discussed briefly about mite treatment methods. It’s important for you to find one that works for you. I blogged about my methods in the previous blog.
Hive beetles – haven’t seen a lot myself yet this year. I have big strong colonies right now and that definitely helps.
Keep your mite counts low, keep them fed and make sure you see those eggs once a week to two times a month and you’ll have more fun this year with your new bees!!
Finally, I want to say it really upset me that I couldn’t finish the second class yesterday and I had to cancel the 3rd class. I really wanted to give you all this information before you left.
We are looking at 06/07 at 9am for the makeup class. This is for those of you that arrived at 11 on 05/30 and we basically just loaded you up. Please contact me for confirmation that you are coming, and I’m going to be emailing all of you as well.