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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Consider Beekeeping

Have you considered beekeeping as part of your preparedness goals? Believe it or not, you don't have to have a ton of land or crops to get started keeping bees. Many people raise bees in the city, the suburbs and in our urban and rural areas.

Perks are your very own delicious honey and honeycomb and knowing that you are helping out the bee populations that have been fighting in recent years to combat colony collapse disorder.

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I even make lip balms, skin creams, lotion bars and bow wax with the beeswax that we collect from our hives.

Going into fall is a great time to start your education about beekeeping if this is a hobby that has your interest. This will give you the whole fall and winter to do your homework and get prepared for the surge of beekeeping activity that the springtime brings.

We started beekeeping in September 2008. Our middle child had an interest in bees and so my husband started showing her online videos about bees every night before bedtime. She was hooked.

The next step - they attended a meeting of our local beekeepers association. As it happened a member of the association was relocating out of state and could not take his bees with him. It was a stroke of luck for us, because we were then able to purchase an established hive and set of equipment.

Normally, you do not start keeping bees in the fall. But since this was an established hive and they had plenty of honey already stored for winter, we took the plunge.

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We wanted bees primarily to help fertilize our pasture for our cows. Our bees are located in meadows adjacent to our cattle pastures and are doing a great job of fertilizing our clover and many other native plants.

Our hive survived the winter of 2008/2009 quite well. We were able to "split" our one main hive into 4 additional hives during this spring, which was quite a feat. The queens have survived in 3 of the 4; the 4th one we've re-combined with another hive for this winter and we'll see if we can split it back out next spring.

It pays to do your homework before you get started in your beekeeping adventures. Here are a few steps we recommend.

~ Take some time to browse online and watch some of the videos that are out there about beekeeping. This will introduce you to how different people handle their bees, what types of bees they raise, what types of hives they use, how they extract their honey, etc.

~ Find out if there is a local beekeeping club or association in your area. Start attending their meetings. Most beekeepers are very friendly and love to talk about their hobby, especially to new people wanting to learn. Just know that many of the "commercial" beekeepers do things very differently than you might want to as a small beekeeper. And this will also be a good time for you to learn from people who use medications on their bees vs those who opt for more natural beekeeping.

~ Do some reading. One of the best books we've read is "First Lessons In Beekeeping" - you can click on the link to see a copy. It is very basic, has good photos and illustrations and also discusses bee diseases and pests.

~ Once you decide you are ready for this hobby, you need to decide what type of hives you want to keep. The options are many - and you need to know before you start purchasing your hives which kind you want. Most main hive bodies use large frames. For your honey supers, you can use small, medium or large frames. Remember your back. There are 10 frames in each super - medium frames can generate a quart of honey per frame (times 10). Then there is the whole top-bar hive option, which basically lets the bees do their own thing. Know what your goals are, what your abilities are and then make your purchases. Also, there are tons of different ways to do your foundation wax. Some have to be wired in, some drop into the frames, some are plastic - your research will be well worth the effort.

~ In addition to the different styles of hives, there are different building materials for hives. Wooden hives are most common, but there is also a polystyrene option, which we've enjoyed using. Do your research and decide what will work best for you in your climate and environment.

~ You'll want to at a minimum purchase gloves and a veil and smoker equipment. You'll need a hive tool and a brush. If you are buying a beginners set, it usually comes with the minimum you need to get started.

~ If you want to work with your local beekeeping association to catch swarms, then you need to know what you always need to have on hand for a swarm call.

Here's a fantastic blog that has broken beekeeping down into many steps:

Basic Beekeeping

Here are the beekeeping supply houses that we've used in the past and would highly recommend:

Walter T. Kelley

Dadant

Better Bee

Brushy Mountain

Jester Bee

Glory Bee

We love beekeeping - if you have an interest, now is the time to get started!

2 comments:

American Trucker said...

Awesome! Wife and I have been thinking about beekeeping for a long time

Kymber said...

This post is awesome and really timely for me...i have always had an interest in beekeeping and perhaps this is the fall/winter to start some serious study!

Thanks for all of the helpful links Prepared in TN!!!

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