9 Tips After the First Year of Keeping Bees

Reader Contribution by Melissa Caughey
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It has been almost 1 year since I started out on beekeeping.  I hardly know everything, but the learning curve has been steep and I can say with confidence that I am a beekeeper.  I read all that I could get my hands on.  I took a local beekeeping class and joined the local beekeeper’s association.  I networked with those around me.  My bees survived their first year and so did I.  Today, I thought that I would share with you some very important tips that I have picked up along this past year’s journey. I cannot guarantee that these will work for you, but I can certainly share what has worked for me.

Feed your bees.  From most preliminary data gathered this year, it seems that most of my fellow beekeeper’s hives perished this winter from starvation.  Bees need to eat and sometimes, we are located in places and climates less than optimal for them. All too often, Mother Nature does not provide as much as we would like.  Be sure to check the feeders once per week.  Try to keep them refilled on a regular consistent basis.

Become a believer in Honey B Healthy.  This stuff works.  It smells great and I believe really helped my hives to get off to a great start.  It is also wonderful to mist on your bees instead of the smoker.

Keep more than one hive.  Two hive are truly better than one.  Keeping two hives allows you to make comparisons between the two and become aware of issues earlier, discover what is “normal” vs. “abnormal”, allows you to combine hives if one is not thriving come the colder seasons and also helps you to re-queen a hive absent of a queen and any brood.

Find a Mentor.  If are lucky enough to find a mentor who has at least kept bees successfully for 3 years than consider yourself to have one of the greatest assets in the hobby.  Treat them to lunch or dinner now and then and the relationship will grow and thrive.  It is a nice way to return the favor of their time and expertise.

Never underestimate the supply of bobby pins at the local drug store come spring.  Every spring around here there is a huge shortage because folks are building their frames and support the foundation with bobby pins.  Watch all year round for sales and pick them up during alternative times.  They will sell out.

Watch Sugar Prices.  Hungry bees can gobble up to 5 pounds or more of sugar in a week.  Look for sales and watch the club stores.  Always keep an extra 10 pound bag on hand for those unexpected situations.

Check on your bees.  Open your hives on sunny warm days when the bees are flying and the breeze is minimal.  Take a quick assessment and be sure there are signs of the queen. It is not always necessary to find the queen.  Just be sure she is there, laying a healthy pattern of brood.  Be sure to assess for any pests, parasites or signs of disease.

Watch your bees.  Get in the habit of watching your bees from outside the hive.  See if they are returning to the hive loaded down with pollen.  Monitor for robber bees.  Watch for any signs of impostors entering the hives and be on alert for bee predators such as skunks.

Follow beekeeping practices as others do in your area of the country.  Be sure that you are adapting practices of keeping bees that are appropriate for your gardening zone and climate.  Some folks never deal with freezing weather.  Some people harvest honey year round.   Some beehives spend all winter covered in snow.

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