This section is specifically designed to answer any and all questions that we have ever been asked or any of our members have answered for each other. It is a GREAT resource for any beekeeper!
Conventional Beekeeping FAQ
Q: I am new to beekeeping. Where do I begin and how do I get my bees?
A: Well, it is beneficial to educate yourself about bees before getting them. Your first step would be to join a local beekeeping association or social group, talk to your local beekeepers and, if possible, participate in a hive inspection to see how other beekeepers handle their bees. Your second step should be to decide what kind of equipment you would like to use. There are many styles of hives available, such as Langstroth hive, English Garden hive, Top Bar hive, and others. Langstroth hive is the standard, most commonly used hive. You should do your research and talk to other beekeepers about what kind of equipment they use and why. Once you have purchased all the equipment you need, found an appropriate place for your apiary, and have become familiar with the basics of beekeeping, you can go ahead and obtain for yourself a single or two colonies of bees. There are a few ways of obtaining bees. You can either purchase a package of bees, a nucleus colony, or an established colony. Or, you can try and retrieve a wild colony of bees or catch a swarm. All of these options have their advantages and disadvantages.
Q: What is a good place for my apiary?
A: The ideal location for your hives is some place accessible, with a fresh water source nearby, and near nectar or pollen sources (within a 2 mile radius). If you are planning on placing the hives in your backyard, make sure they are facing away from your neighbors’ yards and any other high traffic areas. Plan to plant a hedge or some sort of shrubbery (at least 6’ high) along your bee hives to direct their fly path away from commuting sites. Also, make sure you place your hives in full sun. My experience shows that if hives are placed in the shade, they become more inviting to wax moths and small hive beetles.
Q: What do I do after I get my bees?
A: After you have acquired your bees and placed them in your apiary, you have to register your hives with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services of your state. The application for registering your hives with the State of Florida can be found on our website, in the ‘Resources’ page.
Q: How do I know when to examine my hives?
A: There is not a specific set time when you should examine your colony. The need for the inspection varies from hive to hive. In general, you should examine your hives in the springtime to see if the colony is ready for a honey flow and if the queen is laying. Other times to examine your hives are after the honey flow in the fall, and periodically during the wintertime. You should never examine your hives at night, on a cold, overcast, or rainy day, or during a honey flow, unless you have to add or take off honey supers. You also should avoid examining your hives during the drought period, as you may accidentally cause robbing.
Q: Ouch! I got stung! What do I do?
A: A lot of times people get honey bees confused with wasps or yellow jackets. At Bunch Farms we have a ‘bunch’ of hives and a ‘bunch’ of bees! We enjoy our outdoor space with no worries! Honey bees will usually not sting when away from their hive unless threatened by an intruder. Getting stung by a worker bee who is collecting nectar and pollen is quite unusual. You can practically touch them when they are foraging and they could almost care less about your presence. Actually, when you learn to identify them you may be quite surprised at how many bees are all around you today.
Wasps, on the other hand, in residential areas are a greater nuisance. Although wasps are also pollinators, they are flying insects that can sting multiple times without dying. Usually, a honey bee can only sting once. After stinging and trying to fly away, its stinger is ripped off from its abdomen, typically resulting in death of the bee. Wasps create nests, usually under eaves, door handles, window shutters, or other sheltered areas. Humans usually find themselves victims of wasp stings because of their nest locations. Wasps are also trying to protect their homes from intruders, except their tiny nests find themselves conveniently located in high traffic areas around our homes.
How does a sting feel? They all hurt. Everyone reacts differently to each type of sting. Typically, a wasp sting is strong and painful, causing itching and inflammation around the sting area. A honey bee sting is quite similar to a wasp sting, but at Bunch Farms we think the initial sting is not as painful (we may be biased). There is only one significant difference. A honey bee leaves its venom sac usually attached to the stinger at the sting site, requiring you to react quickly to remove the stinger to prevent any additional pumping of venom into your body.
Q:Why do I need a smoker?
A: When examining your hive, always use smoke. Smoke helps you to not get stung by stimulating the bees to engorge on honey and by masking the alarm pheromone produced by bees. Be careful about what kind of fuel you use; some fuels are toxic to bees. The most commonly used smoker fuels are dried grass, dry evergreen needles and cones, untreated burlap, cotton, and wood chips.
Q: What am I looking for when examining the hive? Do I have to find the queen? How will I know she is there if I don’t see her?
A: When examining the hive, you are looking for a healthy brood of all stages – pearly white glistening larvae, eggs, and capped cells. If you have a hard time finding the queen, the presence of eggs lets you know that the queen had been there at least three days ago. The queen does not like to be in the sun, so you may see her on the comb for a little while before she starts running towards the edge of the comb, where she can find a spot to hide from the sunlight. The comb should be covered with nurse bees attending the larvae and the queen. Besides the brood, you are also looking at the food storage in the hive. Pollen stores usually surround the brood area, forming a semi-circle and the nectar stores surround the pollen. It is stored in such a way so that when the newly hatched bees crawl out of their cell, the food for them is easily accessible.
Q: I have a difficult time seeing the eggs. How do I know that they are there?
A: New beekeepers usually have a difficult time spotting the eggs; however, once you see them, during your next examination you will know what to look for and will find them rather quickly. If it takes you a long time to find the eggs and you cannot seem to spot them, feel free to ask a fellow beekeeper to help you and point them out to you.
Q: What is happening with my bees? Why do they cluster at the entrance of the hive?
A: The clustering or so called “bearding” of the bees is a common sight here is South Florida, especially during the hot and humid summer months. Most of the time, the reason behind this behavior is the heat. Since there are too many bees in the hive, it gets too hot, so they start to accumulate outside the entrance. During such event, you are most likely to see them all fanning their wings and trying to circulate the air in the hive to keep the inside temperature cool. For this same reason you should have a fresh water source nearby. The bees collect the water and evaporate it to keep the hive cool.
Another reason for bearding may be because the hive has become too crowded with bees. In this case you need to add either another brood box or an extra super (if it happens during the honey flow). Sometimes beekeepers will place an extra super above the brood box to provide the bees more space in the hive.
And lastly, “bearding” might be a sign of bees preparing to swarm. Bees constructing the swarm cells on the bottom of the frames is another sign of swarm preparations.
Either way, you have to make sure you are always providing your bees with a nearby fresh water source and an adequate space in the hive (especially during South Florida’s hot summers) so that the hive does not become overcrowded with bees which, in turn, will cause swarming.
Top Bar Beekeeping FAQ