These are the top 2 questions I get asked at least 5 times a week. I'm going to answer both of these on this blog and then refer to this blog going forward. That way, by the time we talk, you will already have an answer to these questions.
How do you start beekeeping
First, you'll need to check your city ordinance on the legalities of keeping bees. Most cities around Kansas City allow you to have 2 beehives in your backyard, but you'll need to check on this. Some cities have specific locations that the bees need to be placed. Meaning, they can't be within so many feet of your neighbor, etc.. Again, check with your city.
Once you find it's legal, you'll need to scout a new spot for them. Full sun is best! If there is shade, afternoon shade in the west is best. You do NOT need a bunch of land to have bees. Urban beekeeping is a thing!
Now, you need to learn about how to keep bees. There are 3 types of classes that I teach. One is the "inside the hive class". This class is an hour in a beehive with yours truly. I charge $75 a person for this class. If you are in a group, you can contact me for a group price. Typically I will have these classes in May/June, but with COVID-19, I'm not planning any right now.
The next class is "Beginner Beekeeping". This class is an all day class that is taught by a couple different beekeeper inside a "classroom". The typical time frame for this class is Jan/Feb/March.
The last class I offer is an "introduction to beekeeping" class. I offer about 10 of those a year and in several different locations. They run from late fall to very early Spring! This class is a sneak peak into beekeeping.
You can also do some research online and join a beekeepers club. There are clubs all over Kansas and Missouri. I'm the President of Cass County Bee Club that meets in Harrisonville, Missouri.
"Beekeeping for Dummies" is a great book! YouTube has a ton of videos about beekeeping!
How much does it cost to start beekeeping
You can anticipate spending around $850.00 to start beekeeping. This includes a book, your equipment, tools, suit, a class and most importantly your BEES! It is not a cheap hobby, but it is a rewarding hobby.
I sell kits in an attempt to make it more affordable, meaning one price gets you everything. I also offer payment plans to help. My Master Hive Kits are sold out right now, but if you are wanting to start beekeeping next Spring, look for them on my website in late fall of this year. Honestly, the best time to purchase for the Spring is the previous fall. If it weren't for COVID-19, I'd be sold out of everything right now.
I have a few options left for this year. Please read my blog titled "There's still time to start a beehive this year" for all the information on what is left to purchase.
I'm going to tell you that I've been selling bees for 4 years now. I know that's not a super long time compared to others out there, but it's long enough to know that when something seems too good to be true, it usually is. I've seen some really cheap prices for bees. I can also go to amazon right now and probably buy a cheaper kit from China. A few wooden boxes that have been fumigated to pass through customs. Bottom line, you get what you pay for. Your new bees deserve better.
Anyway, I'm not a pushy saleswoman. I respect the bees too much for that. Beekeeping is something you need to have a passion for. I'm just someone who loves the bees and wants to see new beekeepers succeed.
After you've read this whole blog post, are you still feeling the buzz?? Call me, let's talk. 816-739-0726.
First of all I want to say that swarming is NOT a bad thing! It means that your hive is healthy and growing! Now that I've made that clear, I'll tell you why bees swarm.
The first reason is because it's in their nature. Think about bees living in the wild. How do they replenish the earth with more bees? They create a split from their hive and make a new hive with that split. That is a swarm. So, when you hear beekeepers say they are making splits, what they are doing is trying to prevent their hive from swarming and in doing so getting an additional hive to add to their addiction, I mean hobby! ;)
When your hive makes it through winter and Spring is gearing up, the bees nature is to replenish the earth. So, they split because it's Spring.
The other reason they swarm is when they run out of room. If you get home with a NUC of bees and you leave it in the NUC box, the bees will swarm. Probably even a few times throughout the summer.
Bees need room to grow. Remember a queen can lay anywhere from 1,000-2,000 eggs a day during the peak bee season. That's a lot of bees being born.
Keep in mind that swarming is not the same thing as absconding. When a hive absconds it means every single bee just up and leaves the hive. That is due to an issue in the hive, most typically mites. But, it can also be a hive beetle infestation or a critter messing with it.
Now that I've shared the reasons they swarm, I'll tell you what happens inside the hive before and after it swarms.
The bees have a meeting and decide they are going to swarm. I'm joking, but you get my point. A laying queen is too heavy to fly long distances, so the workers will stop feeding her so she will stop laying eggs. The workers make 10-20 replacement queens (swarm cells), from the eggs she lays before she is put on her swarm diet. Once those swarm cells are capped, the old queen and 1/2 the hive take off to a new home. They know exactly where they are going before they leave, because scout bees have been looking for a new place to create a new hive. So, why do they hang on trees? They're resting on their journey to their new home.
What's left behind after the swarm is 10-20 virgin queens who are going to basically either fight to the death, or the first one born will go and sting all of the others to death inside their cells. Sometimes a virgin will swarm with the original queen and there's a fight once they find a new home. Sometimes there are a couple of swarms, one with the original queen, and another one with a virgin. Those are cast off swarms.
The virgin queen that is victorious and basically a bad ass, goes on her mating flight and hooks up with several drones. (don't judge). She flies home and is now the queen of the other 1/2 of the bees that were left behind. The next Spring this process will be repeated more than likely. In closing, I'm not saying that every single hive that overwinters will swarm. I'm saying it is highly likely they will. Set your swarm traps folks! Remember, a swarm in May is worth a load of hay...a swarm in June is worth a silver spoon...but a swarm in July is not worth a fly!
There are a lot of questions coming in about whether it's too late to start beekeeping this year. The answer is NO! Also, people are asking what they need to start. Here is a breakdown of what I sell and what you'll need in addition to each option below. Call me with any questions, but please read this first. It may have all the answers you seek.
Let's talk about all the options left for beekeeping THIS year!
First, we have a Single Box Hive for sale. This is your start to an amazing beekeeping year! The Single Box Hive you purchase from me includes a full hive of bees inside a deep box. The single also comes with a telescoping lid, inner cover, solid bottom board, feeder and an entrance reducer! You will need a second deep box with frames/foundation, one super with frames and foundation...if you're lucky two supers! You will also need protection, which can be a jacket, suit or veil. You'll need a hive tool, smoker and gloves. Those are your basic necessities for this year. At this time I am sold out of individualized equipment, tools and protection, with the exception of veils. Veils are $35.00!
Next we have our 5 Frame NUCS! Our NUCS are looking really good!! You will need a deep box with 3 empty frames/foundation to put your 5 frame NUC into so the BEES can grow! A feeder will take up the space of 2 frames! You'll also need a second deep box with 10 frames/foundation, and probably just one super with 9 frames and foundation. (I run 9 frame supers.) You will also need protection, which can be a jacket, suit or veil. You'll need a hive tool, smoker, gloves, telescoping lid, solid bottom board, entrance reducer and a feeder! At this time I am sold out of individualized equipment, tools and protection, with the exception of veils. Veils are $35.00!
The Pickup Date/Time for these 2 options is May 30th!
How to order - You can pay online for everything! It's super easy. After you've ordered, you'll get an order number. Hold on to that.
The world isn't the same this year as it was last year. Last year I had an open window of time for people to come get their nucs or hives. Sat/Sun anytime between 7-11. I offered flexibility and was able to shake your hand, give some of you a hug and visit with you. The master hive kit classes were scheduled by you. I gave you several options and let you choose.
This year we can't do that. We live in a world right now where there's a limit of 1 person per family allowed inside Wal-Mart. There are arrows in the grocery stores guiding you on which way to walk so you're not too close to a stranger. Spots to stand at when you checkout. Most people are wearing masks and gloves. This is the predicament we are in right now. We also are not allowed to congregate in groups of 10 or more!
Additional students, for $25.00 a person, was offered from the very beginning of sales. Unfortunately, this is no longer an option.
Your date/time is listed on the website under the "Pickups" tab. Everything you need to know about pickups is on this tab. And, everyone has been emailed and told to refer to the Pickups tab.
If you want to talk to me about how excited you are about your bees, or placing them at your house, or if you have any questions about bees in general, I'd LOVE to hear from you. But, if you are wanting to argue about pickups, I'm not participating any further in these kinds of conversations.
I'd love it if things were different and we could be more flexible. I personally enjoy talking with all of you at pickups. But, it is what it is, and we just have to make the best of the situation we are all in right now.
See you soon!
Sometimes, queens die. It could be old age, it could be she got injured during an inspection. It's hard to say what happened to her. If a queen is failing, meaning she isn't laying the amount of eggs the colony would like to see, the hive will make a unified decision to replace her. They use one or a few of her eggs she's laid to create a supercedure or emergency queen cell. As long as there are some viable eggs, that is. But, sometimes she doesn't lay eggs and then dies and the hive is queenless with no replacement potential. You have 2 options. You can buy a mated queen, but those are kind of pricey with shipping. Or, you can steal a frame of eggs from another hive and they'll make a queen from that frame. I'm telling you this because I wanted to explain what I did back on 03/07. I stole a frame of eggs and gave it to a queenless hive with no eggs. I couldn't tell at that time that it was mostly drone eggs. I know now because it was a bunch of drone capped brood when I checked on it on 03/25. Drone brood is puffier, almost like kix cereal. They can't make a queen out of an unfertilized egg, which is what drones are. So, I gave it another frame on 03/25 and on 04/01 I found 2 queen cells! Yay! Now, my next check will be on 04/15 to see if there are eggs. If I see eggs on 04/15 that means the virgin queen was born, took her mating flight and made it back successfully mated and is now laying eggs!! I will NOT open the box until then because I could disrupt that whole process by disturbing the hive. Look below at the drone brood and how it sticks up higher than the worker brood. That's how you tell if males or females (workers) are going to be born.
Yesterday's inspection was interesting. I saw several frames of capped brood in all of my hives. I also found eggs in the top box of the hives where I reversed the boxes a couple weeks ago. What this means is the queen has moved up to the "new" top box (that used to be the old bottom box) and started laying eggs. I left the few I didn't reverse in their original order. I'll use this as an "experiment" of sorts to see if reversing the boxes in Spring boosts the brood. I will say that I had to get in the bottom box of one of the hives I didn't reverse because a frame was left out and it was a mess! I noticed not one frame of brood or eggs down there. Will the queen eventually go down to the first box and start laying? Sure! The advantage to reversing boxes is bees have a tendency to want to grow starting at the bottom and then growing upwards. Does this tendency make the queen build up brood faster? Also, some beekeepers think that if you reverse boxes and move the empty box to the top, the bees will have less tendency to swarm. They think the bees don't see the empty bottom box as empty space to use. Make sense?
Beekeeping is never absolute. That's one of the hardest and coolest things about it! Just when you think you have the bees figured out, they do the complete opposite. A lot of people starting out want to read a "how to guide" on beekeeping and they want the bees to do everything like the book says. That doesn't happen.
Update on the hive without a queen. Remember I gave it a frame of eggs on 03/07/2020. I took a quick peak on 03/17/2020 and didn't see a queen cell. I looked at this hive yesterday and it still has no eggs and now all the eggs I gave it on 03/07/2020 are capped brood...but mostly drone brood. Perhaps the frame I gave it was mostly drone eggs. So, I stole another frame of eggs that I'm pretty sure are worker eggs, as they are with worker capped brood. I'm going to see if they make a new queen one more time! If they don't I'll either merge this hive with another hive or I'll give it a frame of capped brood from another hive and try to find a mated queen. My next inspection on or around 04/05/2020 will help me decide.
In closing, I want to speak about the coronavirus. A lot of you want answers about pickups. I'm sorry, but there are no answers to provide right now. I've paid for the bees and we are going forward. If we have to stagger pick up times to one person every 10-15 minutes, we'll do that. If we have to do one couple per hour for the inside the hive class, we'll do that. We will do what we need to do to get pickups done. The US is changing week to week with this virus, so I can't possibly make a plan today for what will happen over a month from now. I'd appreciate it if you would just be patient and give it some time. Please trust me when I say I appreciate all of you and we will figure this all out when it's time. Thank you!
The world may be going through some trying times, but the BEES must go on! They have no idea there's a virus going around. They are growing and doing their thing. Splits (nucs) have been made, hives have been started...they are looking great! The bees are actually putting quite a bit of pollen away right now. Equipment has been purchased, suits have been purchased, tools have been purchased. Pickups in May are happening! I have spent a lot of money and there has been a lot of time spent getting your bees started!
If we have to do 15 min appointments or drive thru pickups in a parking lot, we will do that...we will do whatever it takes to get you your bees.
Thank you for your support and understanding!
I looked through all of my hives yesterday. I was very pleased with what I saw for the most part. The queen is laying in most of the hives, in fact I saw some capped brood already. I cleaned all the bottom boards and reversed some of my boxes. A lot of beekeepers will tell you that you MUST reverse your boxes. I'm the beekeeper who will never tell you that you MUST do anything. If a huge portion of the bee colony is in the top box, you can reverse it to the bottom. I have a husband who helps me lift, but if I didn't, I wouldn't reverse these heavy boxes. We don't turn trees upside down, which is where wild bees live. haha! I saw pollen already stored, but I still went ahead and added in a little more pollen. I only fed 1/2 gallon, because they really have a lot of honey left. And, all their frames are drawn. When I do my splits in late April, I'll start feeding aggressively at that time. I did find a queen-less colony. It's a really bad time for that to be happening. I stole a frame of eggs from a rocking hive and gave it to this hive without a queen. The odds are very low. Mathematically, the new virgin queen will be born in 16 days. That will be 03/23/20. Will there be drones hanging out at the singles club (drone congregation area) waiting to mate with virgins? I just don't know. I hope so! A virgin queen being mated is always risky with Spring rain too. She has to fly out, be mated and fly back without being eaten by a predator, hit by a car, soaked by rain, etc.. Fingers crossed!
One more thing before I wrap this up. I have a meaner than snot hive that I can't wait to re-queen when the time is right. People get way too attached to their queens. I've seen people refuse to "give up" on a queen that isn't laying well and letting their hive die because of this "attachment". Don't get attached to her. She sets the tone or the mood for the whole hive. If they're mean and not fun to inspect, get rid of her and replace her. My blog will be about how to do that, when that time comes.
Today I am working more on the yard. I'm trying to get these seeds in the ground today, before the rain this week. I'll be selling 5oz bags for $20.00. They are a mix of bee/butterfly flowers. Let me know if you'd like one!!
It really sucks to open your hive and see the bees didn't make it through winter. Your first thought is, what the heck happened? There are a few signs to help determine why a hive died. For example, if the cluster is small, you know the number of bees wasn't large enough to keep themselves warm. The queen didn't lay enough "winter babies" to help get the hive through winter...or, the hive had a large mite load and honestly, mites can decimate a hives colony size fast. The winter survival rate is dependent on your Summer/Fall mite and feeding management. I'm doing mite counts this year. I've never done that, but this year I want to monitor my mite load better. I'm also buying an Oxalic Acid vaporizer so I can do a blast when needed. I'll blog about that when it's time. So, grieve your loss, but don't give up. Clean out all the dead bees, brush off your bottom board, freeze your frames of drawn comb and look at the head start you have for this year! Buy a NUC or Full Hive and try again. I read somewhere that if you make it 3 years in beekeeping, you'll be a beekeeper for life. I truly believe that. :)
FOOD FOR THOUGHT FILM SERIES - HONEYLAND
Thursday, March 12, 2020 at 6 PM – 8:00 PM
Kansas State University - Olathe
22201 W Innovation Drive
Olathe, KS 66061
*Free Event - Donations appreciated!
INTRODUCTION TO BEEKEEPING
Friday, March 27th, 2020 at 6:30PM - 8:00 PM
The Lakeside Nature Center
4701 E Gregory Blvd, Kansas City, MO 64132
*$10 a person - 100% of the sales will be donated back to Lakeside!
BEGINNER'S BEEKEEPING CLASS
Saturday, March 28th, 2020 at 9:00AM - 3:00PM
University of Missouri Extension Office - Cass County
201 W Wall Street
Harrisonville, MO 64701
*$65 a person; includes breakfast, lunch and a book!
INTRODUCTION TO BEEKEEPING
Friday, April 3rd, 2020 at 6:30PM - 8:00 PM
Fraternal Order of Eagles
26433 Eagle Drive
Paola, KS 66071
*$10 a person - This will BEE my last Introduction Class for the year!!
Christine's Bee Blog!