Letter Re: Keeping Honey Bees for Survival

I just read the SurvivalBlog writing contest article on keeping honeybees.  It was an excellent primer for someone to read and get started working with honeybees.  I have a few tidbits of information from my experience keeping bees.  We have had bees at our home for three years now, and it’s been one of the most amazing things I have ever done.  We got started with a local supplier, and stood up two full size langstroth hives, and then brought the two “nucs” home (driving with 30,000 bees in a minivan for an hour and a half is exhilarating to say the least!)  Following the instructions I was given by the supplier, I placed the nucs near the hive bodies, and then opened up the screening that kept the bees in the nucs.  Immediately, some nuclear powered bee I swear stung me on the nose, but that was it.  I managed to move 10 frames in total, 5 to each hive, into their new homes.  Then I just sat and watched, amazed, completely in awe at the bees.  Both hives did well for the first year, and then following some advice found on the Internet, I tilted open the top to let the heat out, and wax moths got in, and devastated one hive.  The few bees remaining swarmed, and were gone.  We were down to one hive, but it was a strong hive.  We are planning on getting two bee packages next year, to get us up to three hives.  From the one hive, we have harvested six honey super frames (smaller in height) each year for the past two years, and had the benefit of a gallon of local, organic honey each year.  Our problem is that as we use the honey more, we go through it faster.  We’ve replaced sugar in our breads, tea, etc…  I have collected propolis from the frames, have a bunch of wax, and am putting in pollen traps next spring, so that we can get the full range of beneficial harvest from the bees.

I have wanted to build a top-bar hive for a while now. They look very beneficial on many aspects, from only moving 1 frame (disturbing the bees less when you work the hive) to being more natural for the bees, which I have read leads to healthier bees.  The design allows for mites to fall down, and out of the hive, that a langstroth does not have.  I would strongly recommend that anyone interested start web searching and YouTubing now, there is an amazing amount of information on the web, and the YouTube channels are the best source of information I have found (minus opening the hive top to let out heat).

A co-worker told me about the painting smocks at Lowe’s, the inexpensive coveralls that protect you while painting, work well as a bee suit, and if you can’t afford a bee suit, this is a great way to save a few bucks.  

Also, there is a recipe out there that works amazingly well to keep “robbers” out of your hive.  Take a 2 liter bottle, and cut a 1 inch hole in the middle of it.  Then put in 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup of sugar, 1/4 cup of water, and a banana peel.  Doing this, and hanging it near the hives was amazing.  European hornets, yellow jackets, wax moths all fly in, and can’t fly back out, and then die, and the odor they release attracts more of the robbers.

We have seven acres here, and we placed the hives within 50 feet of our home, and the bees have never been a problem.  My wife is allergic to bee stings, and has never been stung yet, none of us have, except for me, and that was only when I was working the hive.  The bees did take a liking to our pool, but eventually started using the pond in the pasture for their source of water.  Our neighbors have not been bothered by them, and our gardens have produced 2 to three times the amount of food with the pollinators working.  The weeds (wildflowers) have done very well also, that is a slightly negative side effect, the garden weeds are stronger now too, so more weeding is required.

One last bit of advice, to reiterate: Direct your web browser to Google, find newsgroups/newsfeeds/rss feeds of bee bloggers, and get into youtube channels, and watch/read and it will make you a much better beekeeper.