Friday, June 5, 2009

Beekeeping At Home -- First Steps

Beekeeping could be a great decision for a person who wishes to participate in agriculture without huge start up costs and limited space. While the start up of a beekeeping business might seem expensive, estimated $500 per hive, you can begin with just one hive. Then as your business grows, you can build more. Hives don't require a lot of land and can easily be stored in your backyard. However, before you consider having a beekeeping business and start building your hive, there are some factors you must know beforehand.

Not all locations are legal for beekeeping. To find out if having a beehive is legal for your area, you would need to contact your local Cooperative Extension office. This agency will inform you if your area is legally zoned for keeping bees. You may also consider other locations and inquire about them. Do make sure you receive your States beekeeping organization's phone number and office address so that you can register as a beekeeper.

Upon the approval for keeping bees, the next step would be determining the place you would want to build your beehive. Find a location that is flat and in shady area. Consider the elements of weather and have your beehive safe from rain and heat. For the safety of the bees, have the beehive away from animals and close neighbors. Bees will come out of their hives and will feel threaten if they are harassed.

After choosing a good place for your beehive, it is time to purchase the necessary supplies to build your hive and maintain it properly. Ebay can be a good resource for purchasing used and discounted items. If eBay, doesn't work for you, then there are several online shops you can purchase from. You can also contact the Cooperative Extension office or the Federation of American Beekeepers for more information.
It is important to have your beehive ready before purchasing bees. Double check your beehive location and foundation to ensure it is safe and correctly set-up. Now that your beehive is prepared, you are now ready to purchase your bees. It is highly suggested to go to a reputable Apiary, also known as a bee yard. Do require an Apiary to show a current certificate of inspection from the State Department of Agriculture.
Some beekeepers like to purchase their bees around January and February. These orders are usually shipped out in March and April. Bees are customary shipped in two to five pound containers of about 9,000 to 22,000 bees. It is a common practice for an apiary to ship bees via the United States postal service. Your local post office may require you to pick-up the bees for the safety of their employees and bees. A vehicle is usually too hot for the bees and while in transit bees should be stored in a cool shady area.

When it comes time to pick-up your bees, you should find them in a special carrying case. This container might be in a wooden frame box with a screen on the outside, allowing air to flow through and protecting handlers from getting stung. Transporting bees is a rough condition for them and you might find some dead on arrival. There should be a separate container that will house the queen bee. Some apiaries will ship the queen with a couple of nurse bees.

There is a certain procedure before placing your bees inside their hive. Have a bottom board with half of its frames removed. If your bees where not equipped with enough sugar syrup, you can make more by using one part sugar and one part water. Spray the bees through the screen. Bees love this syrup and will be easier to manage. Remove the container with the queen bee and ensure the rest of the bees are still in the box. The queen's container should be designed with holes and plugged at both ends.

Take away the plug that contains the white "queen candy" and place the queen's container between two frames in your beehive. The worker bees will eat away at the candy and eventually free the queen. Tap the box to gently move the bees to the bottom and immediately remove the lid. Place the bees in a hive above the queen. When the bees extend throughout the hive, carefully put back the frames that were taken out prior.
Cautiously, put the inner and outer covers on the colony. Feed your bees with sugar syrup on a regular basis until natural nectar starts. Inspect the bees after two days to check if the worker bees has freed the queen. If the queen was let out, she may be found on the center combs. However, if you are unable to located the queen bee, place the container back into the hive until she is out.

Inspect the colony again in a week after the first inspection. At this time you should see white wax combs building and cells collecting syrup, eggs or larvae. If you do not see eggs, then queen might not be alive and she must be substituted right away.

Starting up beekeeping will require you to carefully plan everything from beginning to end. The success of beekeeping will depend on your beehive and having healthy bees. A person should expect on-going costs and routine maintenance.
There are a number of good books available about beekeeping. Read two or three of the more recent ones.

Getting started beekeepng.

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