Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
YES you can.
We’re in the dead of winter. It’s cold. And, we can’t wait for spring. Hundreds of new beekeepers will go forth this Spring into the fascinating world of beekeeping. The study of bee culture dates back to ancient times and volumes of books have been written on the subject.
If this is your first beekeeping adventure or you are returning to beekeeping after years of absence, keep a few things in mind. The internet is a wonderful resource of information. However, not all beekeeping books are well written or correct. Even if a certain approach works for someone in Nevada, you may not be as successful with those methods in South Carolina. You really need to find a local club, mentor, or beekeeping supply company to provide guidance on your journey.
Bees should be ordered in January and February for delivery in March, April, and May. The earliest dates are sought after by experienced beekeepers and will sell out so don’t delay in placing an order. Beekeeping is filled with many “do-dads” and inventions that are fun to use but you don’t need all of them in the beginning. At the most basic, you will need a hat, veil, hive tool, and smoker.
The smoker is used to mask the alarm pheromone that angry bees may release to rouse the hive into action. We have found that dry pine needles make a great fuel so try to find a place to keep a small box of them. At first, firing up the smoker can be a bit difficult but in time you will learn how to do this effectively. We want a smoker producing cool, white smoke – not grey/black hot smoke. Practice lighting your smoker before going to the bee yard and never go to the bee yard without one. It is much easier to keep the bees calm than to calm down a hive of angry bees. For other
protective gear, at the minimum you need a hat and veil to protect your face and eyes. You may choose to purchase a beekeeping jacket or full suit with or without gloves. Do not be ashamed to wear full gear in the beginning or throughout your beekeeping adventure. The most important thing is to feel calm and comfortable so you can enjoy the bees.
Where can I keep bees ?
In addition to preparing the hive, ordering bees, and purchasing tools you need to consider the location for your hives. Bees can be kept in almost any location including rural pastures and city rooftops. You may need to check local regulations before purchasing your hives. Try to find a sunny location that is not too near your home or your neighbors home. Most colonies are peaceful if left alone but maybe provoked if placed too near active areas.
One of your first decisions if you decide to keep bees is where should I put them?
- Sunny location (no shade)
- not too close to human dwelling
- place them up off the ground – on a hive stand – cement blocks etc
- how far apart? 24″ is a good number but they can be closer
These are the most important first steps in your plan to keep bees. Read, learn, observe.
It’s a bee-utiful adventure.
What is the best way to get started as a beekeeper? The first step in your journey may be to choose a source of bees! When buying bees, you will be faced with the decision of purchasing package bees vs nucs. Both choices have advantages and disadvantages.
Thousands of packages of honeybees are sold each year. The most popular size is a 3# (weight) package of bees with a young mated queen. They are transported inside a small wire/wooden box with a can of sugar syrup to feed them on their journey.
Package Bees are the most economical and readily available source of bees. Generally available early in the Spring season, package bees are often preferred for beekeepers who want to get started early in the season.
Nucs (also know as nucleus colonies) are small starter bee colonies. A nuc usually consists of 5 frames of bees (including drawn comb, honey and brood) and a mated queen. Not all nucs are created equal and when purchasing you should be clear on the size of the colony (# of frames) you are purchasing.
Which is better – packages vs nucs ?
Which is better for the new beekeeper? Packages vs nucs? Unfortunately, there is no clear answer to this question and the best answer will depend on the genetics of the bees involved, the climate/geographic location and the management style of the beekeeper.
Packages vs Nuc (the nitty-gritty)
Package Bees are more economical, less prone to spread pests or diseases (because no honeycomb is involved), and are more readily available. They are slower to build up a working population and have to go through the queen acceptance procedure.
Nucs – Nuc colonies are more expensive than packages of bees. They include a drawn honeycomb, some brood, and bees to cover the frames. Their mated queen will already be laying and accepted. This gives them a jump start initially over package bees. However, the presence of a drawn comb also brings with it the opportunity for pests and disease.
Both package bees and nucs are a great way to get started in beekeeping. Bee Well Honey Farm has been providing bees to area beekeepers for more than 20 years. Always purchase your bees from a reputable dealer and this will help ensure that you get off to the best start possible.
We Want You for Bee Well Bootcamp
This in-depth beekeeping class covers all the crucial details of starting with bees. This course begins with a Lecture and concludes with Field Instruction.
March 7, 2020
10:00 am – 12:00 pm Lecture
1:00 pm – 4:00 pm Field Instruction
- How to install, feed, and medicate your bees
- Behaviors of the bees
- Detection of mites, beetles, and diseases
Field Instruction Includes
- Examine real beehives
- Hands-on interaction with the bees
Class Instructor – Kerry Owen
Becoming a Beekeeper is an exciting journey that many people wait years to experience. Unless you are lucky enough to have a beekeeper in your family, you might find yourself exploring the possibilities during mid life or later. This is okay. Beekeeping can be a meaningful adventure for young and old alike. Even though the craft does involve hard work and some heavy lifting, you can learn management techniques to help lighten the load.
Becoming a Beekeeper involves not only an education in honeybee biology and maintenance but also an understanding of natural local botany and climate conditions. Good beekeepers need to know when the food providing plants will bloom in their area. Weather conditions can affect honeybee colonies significantly and beekeepers must be prepared to step in when conditions warrant.
Those most likely to succeed will prepare well in advance of actually receiving the honeybees. Selecting a proper location, assembling equipment and learning the basics of honeybee management will help you to become a beekeeper worthy of the name. Remember you want to become a successful beekeeper not a “bee haver” .
Would you like to know more about honeybees? Do you wonder what all the fuss is about? Could you picture yourself in a beekeeping suit but are afraid to try?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, our beekeeping class may be for you.
Our popular one day Beekeeping Boot Camp is a good introduction to the world of the honeybee.
This beekeeping class will give you a great start on your journey to become a new beekeeper.
Commercial Beekeeper, Kerry Owen, owns Bee Well Honey Farm and operates over 2000 hives.
Our next class is Saturday March 11, 2017- cost is $75. Register now.
Beekeepers in the Summer Heat
The summer heat has arrived with a vengeance. Those beekeepers who are new to the profession are getting to experience just how hot it gets here in South Carolina while wearing a beesuit. Yes, unfortunately sweating goes hand in hand with bee hive management during the summer months. One thing the South Carolina beekeepers need to be aware of is a possible change in temperament of your bee colonies.
That sweet colony of honeybees that you have nurtured from a small package back in the early Spring has grown into a massive colony. With that size comes strength and it is natural for a larger colony to be a bit more defensive than a small one. Lets add to this size issue, the fact that the colony now has brood to protect and honey stores. The bees “know” that the main harvest time is over and they are already starting to prepare for Fall/Winter.
Now we add the heat ! Bee colonies “in general” tend to be more defensive during really hot weather ! Well, are you surprised – it makes humans grumpy also. So it might be a good idea to postpone beehive management, until the heat wave breaks. If you must go into the colony be sure to wear appropriate gear and take your smoker.
The Bee Well Team
Kerry Owen has the red freightliner loaded down with package bees for our sold out bee day tomorrow ! Hundreds of excited beekeepers will be at the Pickens store bright and early Saturday morning to pick up bees that they have preordered. Each box of bees contains a mated queen, approximately 3# (10,000) bees and a can of sugar syrup for the journey. (You take snacks when you travel right ?) Bees need constant energy and this can of sugar will provide that until the new owners get them home and in a hive.
Kerry is very serious about providing good package bees for our customers. He does not have them shipped but actually goes and picks up the bees himself. These Italian Hygenic bees will fill up hives all across the upstate. Some beekeepers will experiment with new lines by replacing the Italian queen with one of the Carniolan Queens we have in stock. We stock all the bees supplies you might need.
Bee Day is always an exciting time and we are opening one hour early tomorrow to allow excited beekeepers to get those bees soon. We hope that everyone has their equipment ready and some sugar water already mixed as feeding new packages is very important.
We have several more bees days planned for the next few weeks and still have a few available for sale. Visit our Bees for sale page or call (864) 898-5122 to place your order. Spring is a great time to get started in bees and we will be glad to help you on your beekeeping journey.
Now, if you see a lot of excitement at Bee Well Honey early in the morning…. you will know why !
Becoming a Beekeeper with Bee Well Honey
As we near the end of 2014, we begin to think about what will be in store for the next year. Perhaps you are considering a new hobby ? Maybe you have always been interested in honeybees but don’t know where to start ? Here at Bee Well Honey we have been helping people become beekeepers for many years. The world of beekeeping is exciting and filled with many ideas. Each person who desires to succeed will have to chose their path as there are many thoughts on how to manage honeybees.
Each Spring Bee Well Honey provides hundreds of packages of bees to upstate beekeepers. These packages help replace winter loses for experienced beekeepers and fill new hives for people who are just becoming a beekeeper. Call now to place your order for Spring delivery.
We have a special package that contains the most needed items for the new beekeeper. We call this the Beginners Kit and it will be a big help to the new person becoming a beekeeper and unsure of which items to purchase. In addition, starting December 13, 2014 thru Christmas – we will be having our 20% off sale so this is a great time to get those special gifts.
Call Bee Well Today 864-898-5122
or visit us online at beewellhoneyfarm.com
Beekeeper’s Supplies and Education – Important Parts of a fascinating hobby
One of the most important facets of becoming a beekeeper is the beekeeper’s supplies and education. These elements are considered long before the bees ever arrive. At least this is the optimum way to become involved in beekeeping. Americans have enjoyed the hobby of beekeeping ever since the colonists first arrived – some bringing colonies of honeybees with them in the 1600’s.
Today the hobby of beekeeping is seeing a resurgence in popularity brought on by the media coverage of large honeybee losses. Keeping honeybees has changed a lot in the last 30 years. It is the intelligent approach to beekeeping that is most likely to yield good results. Many catalogs contain pages and pages of Beekeeper Supplies that can be overwhelming. Proper Beekeeper education can help the new hobbyist prepare for and mange their colonies.
Bee Well Honey has provided a full line of beekeeping supplies for years. We have everything you need to get started from beginners books to wooden ware and even the bees themselves. After a very successful event in the Fall of 2014, we will be offering a one day Beekeeping Bootcamp in the Spring of 2015. This one day class will feature lecture time and field time in actual hives. Date and price to be determined.Are you ready to dive into beekeeping ?
Order your bees NOW for spring delivery. Order bees here
Want more information about the Beekeeper Boot Camp ? Email us at : [email protected]
The coolness of Fall is a delight to all beekeepers who have been suffering from humidity and sweat all during the long Carolina summer. Our beesuits that were resplendent, crisp and white in early Spring are now sweaty, smokey and possibly covered with dirt, wax, propolis and bee poop. (Unless of course you have laundered your suit periodically – as you should).
Hopefully you have checked your colonies to insure they have sufficient winter stores before the cold weather is here to stay. In Upstate SC, we have now experienced a killing frost- very little or no fresh nectar will be available for foraging. You may also be running out of time to feed them sugar water as they can not access it well during the cold. We encourage our customers to check the honey stores of their colonies in September-October to give the bees their best chance of survival.
In our local area, it is not necessary to wrap beehives for the winter. In fact, most beekeepers leave the screen bottom boards open and only reduce the entrance to help the bees protect the hive as bee numbers dwindle over winter. You may start out will a large cluster in late Fall but the number of bees alive in January/February will be less as bees start to die before new ones are produced. A healthy cluster with plenty of food stores in the correct location should be able to maintain survival temperatures. The bees must consume food to generate heat. We are often impressed by beekeepers in colder regions who require extensive insulation to help their bees. One of our customers photographed this Alaskan beehive that was fully wrapped in straw against the winter cold. Luckily, this is not necessary here and you may even do more harm by trapping excess moisture inside the hive.
Honeybees practice homeostasis and maintain a nearly constant temperature during the winter but only inside the cluster itself. With the warmest temps in the middle of the cluster – it becomes cooler on the outside wall of bees and the temps inside the hive itself may get quite cold. Bees don’t need or require a heated space. Thermal imaging shows where the clusters are located in the boxes by the colors shown in the image.
One of the many debated topics among beekeepers is the issue of starting new hives with package bees or nucs. A package of bees is usually a 3# screen and wire cage containing about 10,000 bees and a mated queen (in a cage) with a can of syrup for the journey. A nuc (pronounced nuke) is short for nucleus colony. A nuc should contain 4 or 5 frames of complete honeycomb including bees, brood, honey, pollen and a mated and accepted queen. Both methods have advantage and disadvantages.
Package bees is probably the most common way to grow your apiary. Thousands of bee packages are sold each year in the US. Quality varies greatly so it is important to find a supplier that delivers healthy bees. Then the job of taking care of them is up to you the beekeeper.
Disadvantages of Packages:
the bees in the box are not usually related and have not yet accepted the queen included
the bees do not have any brood or stores in honeycomb
Advantages of Packages:
you will have no sealed brood for about 10 days (this can be a varroa mite break)
available earlier in the season
cost less than nucs
easier to deal with in the beginning, smaller cluster of bees, less propolis and sticky frames, all comb built will be new
Nucs are usually 4 or 5 frames of bees, complete honeycomb, stores, brood and an accepted queen. They are generally available a little later in the season and have a head start on packages purchased at the same time of year.
Disadvantages of Nucs:
Not all nucs are created equal and involve more variables than packages. When comparing costs you should have a complete understanding of how many frames you are getting and how full of bees those frames will be. Are the frames and comb old or new ? Is the comb completely drawn out or partial or just foundation ? Plastic or wax ?
Nucs can be hard to find when you want to purchase and are not always available early due to winter/spring weather. If the Spring is especially cold and nucs are slow to develop you may end up with nothing if you miss the package delivery dates.
Nucs with drawn comb and brood can more easily carry along pests such as (hive beetles, wax moths etc) and diseases.
Nucs are more expensive
Advantages of Nucs:
A good nuc colony has a head start over a package as it has brood, stores and drawn comb.
A queen that has been accepted by the bees and has already been laying.
Both methods are great ways to get involved in beekeeping for newbies or those wanting to expand their apiaries. We are taking orders for package bee now and the earliest dates will sell out. Place your order now !
The term “bees for sale” brings forth great excitement in the minds of beekeepers everywhere. Each year Bee Well Honey in Pickens SC offers packages of honeybees for sale to new and experienced beekeepers in the region. We have been doing this for over 10 years and we believe that we have a good system of providing new colonies to meet your needs. Honeybees are facing many difficulties and there is no perfect bee or perfect beekeeper. Getting your colony off to a good start in early Spring is an important part of having a successful beekeeping program. Interested in Bees but don’t know how to become a beekeeper ? Bee Well can help you there also with our experienced staff and one day Beekeeping BootCamp. Order your packages now to secure the best early dates and be ready to start off 2015 with a “BUZZ” !