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What You Need To Start Raising Honey Bees

If you are contemplating raising Honey Bees, there are some necessities that you will need. There are also some things that aren’t necessary, but are a good idea, and a few things that will just make life easier, but you can get along without. So with that said, let’s dive right in to the things you will need for sure.

First and foremost, you are going to want to learn the do’s and don’t’s on raising Bees. There are many ways to do this, but probably the best is to have someone show you, in person, at a hive so that you can see first-hand how to do it. Hands on is the best way. You can also take on-line courses or watch YouTube videos, but nothing takes the place of doing it while someone watches over you and helps to guide you. You do not have to take my course, although we do offer a couple of courses where you can work within my Apiary guided by me. You can also find any number of places that do the same or you can find a mentor at a local Bee Club. However you do it, learn how to raise bees before you actually buy some bees. There are a few reasons why. Getting started raising bees is somewhat expensive. We will get into that later, for now, take my word for it. You won’t want to spend a lot your money just to find out that this isn’t something that you want to do. Also, you will know how to succeed at raising bees before they are in need of something and you aren’t sure how to fix the problem. You are caring for living creatures. Try not to forget that when you have them flying around wanting to sting you. They are only doing what bees do; surviving, like they have done for thousands of years. They know what to do, you just have to help them out from time to time.

Okay, so now you believe that this is something you want to do. Here is a list (in no particular order) of what you will need:

Hive: There are many options out there. I prefer the Langstroth Hive, but any hive will suffice. Bees will nest in houses, barns, old washing machines, in hollowed out logs and trees, They can survive anywhere for the most part. Something I tell my students is if lifting heavy objects is a problem, you might want to get an 8-frame hive or maybe 5-frame nucs. You see, when a 10-frame deep is full of honey, it might weigh 80-100 pounds. An 8-frame is significantly less, maybe 50 pounds. It’s just something to consider prior to buying.

Hive Tool: There are so many different hive tools out there that it can seem to be a daunting task to pick the right one. The good news is, they’re cheap. Just buy two or three different ones and see which ones you like. Any hive tool will do the job.

Bees: Bees may seem obvious, but there are a lot of choices out there. You can buy packaged bees where you buy 3-pounds of bees and that includes the queen. And you can buy 5-frame nucs where you get 2-3 frames of brood and 2-3 frames of food with the bees and queen already established. The 5-frame nuc is a small hive of bees living in a box. The nuc is better because they already have what they need, so they grow quickly. On top of what type, you also have several breeds of bees. If I were you, I would research each different breed of honey bees to decide which seems to be what you want. There are Italians, Russians, Caucasians, Carniolans, Saskatraz, just to name a few. Some build up faster in the spring, some produce more honey, some are more docile, you need to decide. From my experience, the more aggressive bees make more honey, but are also more apt to want to try to sting you. As long as you wear protective clothing, this shouldn’t be a problem. And the more docile varieties do not make as much honey, but are much less inclined to sting you. You can buy your bees or you can catch them in a swarm trap. However you get them, that’s up to you. We sell the 5-frame nucs, but you can purchase them at a lot of places. Here in Ohio you have to have your apiary inspected in order to sell bees to insure that your apiary is disease free. In Indiana, there is no inspection required. If you do not know how to inspect for disease, it’s best to buy them from a reputable place.

Smoker: Just about any smoker will do, but some work better than others. Just try a few and see what you like. The trick is to learn how to light your smoker so that it stays lit. When you need it, you’ll want it to work.

Protective Gear: This is one that may cost a bit, but you aren’t going to want to be getting stung, especially in the face. And most times, that is where they seem to want to attack first. Don’t skimp here. You don’t have to buy the most expensive one you find, just don’t buy the cheapest one either. I prefer a vented jacket and veil. The venting helps you stay cooler while doing inspections in the heat of the day.

A Place To Put Your Hive: A good place to put your hives is someplace that isn’t where you, the neighbors, your kids, or significant other, is going to be walking. bees normally fly straight out so give them an air-strip to launch and land. Direction isn’t really important, but south and east facing is preferred. The more they are in direct sunshine, the less problems you will have with small hive beetles, but the bees actually prefer some shade.

A Way To Extract Your Honey: people have been extracting honey as long as man has eating honey, so you don’t need an extractor to do it. However, using an extractor is the best, and easiest way to get the honey out of the comb. You can uncap the honey and let gravity pull the honey out, but that takes a long time, but you can do that. There are some people who go in with other beekeepers and they all buy it together and share it. Some people rent theirs out to other beekeepers. And some bee clubs have a community extractor that the members can use. Or of course, you can buy your own extractor. They come in hand crank and electric models and from a few frames & in excess of 30 frames. It just depends on how many hives you have. A good rule of thumb is count your hives and divide by 2. The number you end up with is how many frames your extractor should be able to spin at a time. No extractors are cheap, so you might as well buy a good one. Once again, unless your rich, buy something in the “middle of the road” price range.

Pest Management: There are a lot of methods out there, research them and use them as the label says. You don’t want to harm your bees in the process. Pest management is crucial to the bee’s survival long term. You can get your bees and they will do well the first year, but if you don’t control the parasites, they will eventually kill your bees. Well, the parasites normally don’t kill your bees, but rather, the diseases that they carry will kill your bees.

That concludes the necessary items. All the rest are just icing on the cake.

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