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The girls working on a warm spring day
Homesteading

I’m Now a Beekeeper

I can now call myself a beekeeper. A very new beekeeper with a lot to learn, but I’m up to the challenge!

I’ve made quite a bit of progress on this new journey in the past month, but I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had time to write about it. I attended my first Neuse Regional Beekeepers meeting and joined the club on Thursday, February 19th. If you are interested in beekeeping, I highly recommend getting involved with this group. There are a lot of wonderful people in this organization that will help you get started, answer all of your questions, provide invaluable guidance, and work with you in the bee yard. They meet every 3rd Thursday of the month at the Lenoir County Cooperative Extension on Hwy 11 South in Kinston, NC. Joining the Neuse Regional Beekeepers also automatically makes you a member of the North Carolina State Beekeepers Association, and gives you access to countless opportunities to work with bees and local beekeepers.

Bob Gaddis inspecting a frame from my first colony

Bob Gaddis inspecting a frame from my first colony

With the help of my good friend and experienced beekeeper, Bob Gaddis, I took ownership of my first colony of bees on Sunday, March 15th. I took my hive to Bob’s house and we transferred one of his colonies into my boxes. It was my first time with my head in a hive, and it was quite exciting. Bob has taken me in and has been a great resource and mentor to me. In addition to answering all of my questions, helping me acquire my first colony and loaning me some of his equipment, he has even allowed me to work side by side with him in his shop. I’ve been reading and watching videos about bees for months, but I truly believe that you learn by doing. Having Bob as a mentor has proven to be a wonderful opportunity to learn about all aspects of beekeeping with an experienced, knowledgeable teacher.

Becoming a beekeeper fills you with a sense of great responsibility. I want my ladies to thrive, and there are a lot of things to be concerned about as bees are currently facing several challenges (Varroa Mites, Trachea Mites, American Foulbrood, Small Hive Beetles, Nosema, and the unexplained so called Colony Collapse Disorder, just to name a few). After much reading and discussion with other local beekeepers, my opinion is that the best way we can help the bees deal with their current challenges is to let them deal with it on their own as much as possible. Our mission as beekeepers should be to:

  • Provide bees with acceptable places to live, in both natural settings and apiaries
  • Educate and inform the public about the importance of bees to our environment and our food system
  • Allow natural selection and support natural breeding processes that expand the gene pool and increase resistance to disease and parasites
  • Encourage our government to pass legislation and provide funding that supports bees and research
  • Raise awareness about the use of potentially harmful pesticides and proper controlled application
The girls working on a warm spring day

The girls working on a warm spring day

I’m thoroughly enjoying my beekeeping experience so far. In fact, I’ve ordered equipment for a second hive and hope to catch a swarm or get a split in the next few weeks for it. If you are interested in beekeeping, I recommend you:

  • Find a local mentor or beekeeping association to get involved with. It isn’t necessary, but the opportunity to connect with other local beekeepers and work with an experienced mentor are invaluable.
  • Shop around for equipment. Prices vary greatly, but a basic hive setup with all the equipment and protective clothing to get you started generally range from $300-500. Obviously, if you buy used equipment, you may be able to save a substantial amount of money. Again, a local beekeeper in your area would be able to help you source equipment.
  • Check your local laws. Some towns and counties have laws restricting where you can keep bees or how many hives you can have. I hope that with encouragement from the public, towns that currently outlaw beekeeping will eventually be persuaded to drop this restriction.

That’s it for now. I look forward to keeping you all updated on my journey. Here’s a nice video of my girls working hard on a warm Spring day.

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Homesteading

All Abuzz About Something

I’m really excited about something lately and wanted to share. In my ever growing urge to become more self sufficient, learn more about homesteading, and provide healthy local food for my family, I’ve decided to learn the ins and outs of beekeeping. Beekeeping is something that’s been in the back of my mind for quite a while now, but I’ve finally decided to dive in head first with my first hive.

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8 frame Langstroth hive from Triad Bee Supply. So beautiful!

For the past few weeks, I’ve been reading and researching how bees behave, how and where bees like to live, how the honey making process works, and the basic details of what makes a colony tick. This past weekend, my efforts became more aggressive. I actually purchased a hive from Triad Bee Supply in Trinity, NC. After careful research, I went with an 8 frame Langstroth style hive with a copper A-frame top for ease of manipulation. When full of brood, an 8 frame Deep weighs approximately 20 lbs less than a 10 frame Deep. Likewise, an 8 frame Shallow full of honey weighs around 40-45 lbs, where a 10 frame Shallow full of honey would weigh around 55-60 lbs. That’s a huge difference in terms of being able to lift and carry my boxes. Since I’m starting out with my very first boxes, I’ll be able to standardize and buy only 8 frame equipment so that everything will be interchangeable. The bees could care less about the pretty copper A-frame top, but my wife loves it! 😉

In addition to purchasing my first hive, I began clearing an unused area in my yard of small trees and debris where I will place my bees. My plan is to plant 6-8 blackberry bushes and set my first bee hive in this area. This may sound like haphazard placement, but it is actually a well thought out plan (at least I think it is).

  • My bees will have access to plenty of pollen and nectar sources in the woods, several farm fields, and neighborhoods close by.
  • My hive will face south and have good southern exposure, but will also benefit from some broken shade during the hot summer afternoons.
  • Being next to the wood line will give my bees protection from wind and put them in a part of the yard that we rarely use so that they can work in peace.
  • Our property backs up to a wooded area with no agricultural fields in close proximity, so my bees will not have to endure any chemical overspray.
  • The hive will be only yards from my home and easily accessible on foot.
  • I will be able to easily view the hive daily from my driveway or inside my home to see if anything obvious is amiss.
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Cleared area of my yard where bee hive will be placed. Note the 3 bin homemade compost bin to the right. Cut debris still needs to be burned off when dry.

I’m really looking forward to receiving my hive so that I can begin painting, assembly, and placement. The next step is to secure bees. I’ve been researching the difference in Package Bees and Nucs, but haven’t made a decision yet (although I’m leaning toward a Nuc at this point). I plan to visit a friend of mine this week to check out his setup. He’s had bees for several years and currently has 7 hives.

I plan to document my adventures in beekeeping and look forward to sharing my efforts and discoveries here. For now, I’m anxiously awaiting the arrival of my hive.