Saturday, January 7, 2012

Beekeeping Planning

The preparation for starting our beehives is proceeding with what feels like increasing speed. When we first decided to undertake the pastime I had already been doing some reading, watching videos and listening to podcasts. At first I was all “this isn’t so complicated once you understand bee biology.” Since the three of us all have backgrounds in science I figured we could understand enough to get started and then learn from our inevitable mistakes.


Then I ramped up my reading, consulted more sources of information online and looked into some of the seemingly endless variations in hive construction and management. Information overload set in with a side order of analysis paralysis. I became overly concerned with doing everything the right way from the start. The problem, however, appears to be that there isn’t one right way, but probably many.


Bees on CloverA little peace of mind came from the local beekeeping association. At the last monthly meeting we finally had a chance to chat with several members who were more than happy to inspect the trial hive body the other Mark had made and talk with us about the ins and outs of getting started. We also visited the home of one of the members where she enthusiastically showed us how she builds her equipment and tends her hives. By the time we left we were charged up and ready to settle on the equipment configuration we will start with.

  • All medium depth, home-made, 10-Frame Langstroth hive bodies. My thinking is that most of the people we’re going to be learning from at this point in our beekeeping careers are using Langstroths and so will be most knowledgeable about them. I do reserve the right to try out some of the other styles once we get the basics down.
  • A mix of home-made and purchased foundationless frames. We’re hoping small, natural, bee-sized cells will help hold the Varroa mites back a bit as has been reported.
  • A screen bottom board. Again, Varroa defense allowing the little buggers to drop to their deaths. An insertable white board will allow us to do mite counts when we want to. The screen will provided more ventilation, too.
  • Buying package bees, most likely three pounds per hive. We’re having a bit of sticker shock now that we’re shopping for these. I don’t know where I first read prices way last summer, but what we’re seeing quoted now is more than twice what I had been expecting. Consequently, we’re most likely starting with two hives rather than the five “someone” was hoping for. Nucs are way out of our range at this time.

As for plans/hopes for the probably more distant future we’d like to try our hand at queen rearing if we wind up having some good survivors. The thrill of the swarm capture is also appealing. And, as I mentioned before, we’re interested in building some other hive designs. Now the more I learn about beekeeping the more I see it as having potential for lifelong learning and experimentation rather than being completely unapproachable.


[For the record, I believe the pictured bees are wild native bees, not honeybees]

6 Responses:

Sivyaleah said...

I'll be interested to follow this. I'm quite fascinated by bees and if we didn't live on such a small piece of land and SO close to others I think I'd probably look into this myself. I have a friend who is a beekeeper (sadly in another state) and another couple who is about to embark on this too (also, nowhere nearby). I love honey and collect it from wherever I travel to. Good luck with your new endeavor!

Shady Character said...

Thanks! Luck is what we'll need. I'm finding that bees can be raised on a fairly small plot, but you're right. The proximity to neighbors and the absence or inadequacy of ordinances to allow/protect beekeeping are kind of hit-and-miss right now. Plus a home apiary can look a tad, how shall I say? untidy? ;) That's a good enough reason for me to take to the country for now.

Mil said...

May I recommend some bee resources? If you are thinking of raising the bees without chemicals, there's an excellent podcast at www. The host is an intuitive interviewer and I have learned a lot from listening to these podcasts.

Also, have you looked at the bottom boards from They are a bit more pricier, but I found them easier to work with and their customer service was superb.

I'm so excited that you are on your way!

Shady Character said...

Thanks for the links and info, Mil! Yeah, I'm pretty excited, too. We're all signed up for a class and I'm just about to place an order for some supplies.

Fallen Oaks Apiary said...

A mutual friend shared a link to your blog with me. Best of luck to you! It's an extremely rewarding hobby...I've been practicing for more than 40 years now, and I'm still learning. I have a blog that you might find interesting/helpful ( and would be happy to offer advice if you are looking for any. Happy beekeeping!

Shady Character said...

Thanks! It looks like your blog is going to be an interesting addition to my reading.