As most folks know I have a crazy amount of native bees of all shapes and sizes and that I am and have massively expanded my food forest and that has and includes more an more bee supporting native plants of all kinds..
One of the area’s that we are lacking on the farm is a 0 mile sugar, while I can and have tapped the sugar Maples, the one lot that I had permisson to tap has new owners and while they do not use their maples, they will not allow anyone else either, which is very sad indeed as they are big older trees that are outstanding.. then yet another area of bush that had sugar maples that I had forage/tapping rights on sold to someone else and they have clear cut the forest to turn it into yet more flooding crop land.. I used to within walking/wagon distance also had big huge old sugar maples along the creek and I sighed deeply this year in 2021 as most of them were cut down, sadly to be hauled away as fire wood..
Even if I planted on my own land (which is a issue as maple leaves and horses are not a great mix), it would take many years to grow the trees big enough to get to harvest stage, and I have limited land, but I have friends that have more land, run maple stands and sell maple syrup each year, I will support them.
That leave me with sugar beets or honey bees.. I am going honey bees.. I have signed up for a two day training course, pre-reserved two nucs from a beekeeper up the road about 15ish min away, who has been raising and breeding bees for the past 30 years locally, while his first stock started out as Russian, he calls them super mutts at this point and they are bred to thrive right in my neck of the woods..
PERFECT! I am only need/want what one productive hive produces per year but there is a lot of reasons to go with two hives, ideally it means that I can harvest less per hive, still get what I need and have them feeding on their own honey and not feeding them.. If one is struggling, I can use the stronger to help the weaker, if one hive dies over winter, I still have the other and so on..
It does mean I will need to do some “swath” row planting in inner pasture areas for mass feeding plantings while other things finish being planted/grow but that is fine.. We will all learn as we go
I am excited to be adding in the hives, not because I need the pollinators, I have them in droves, but to get myself a 0 mile sugar source while using what we already have to support it..
Lots of updates to follow as I share how it goes.. Do you have bees? How was your learning curve? How many hives to you keep? Are you further north? Do you overwinter successfully often?
No I’m extremely allergic this bees stings but I get my honey from a beekeeper about 2 km from my house so no problem in the honey department 😁😋🐝
I am not fond of bee stings but so far so good on not extreme or allergic reactions, now black walnut is a different story.. I am planning on going full kit for even the most basic checks and so on.. I am glad you have a great source of honey so close by, that’s wonderful
You will love your bees! Glad you are taking the course. Expect to be overwhelmed with information – best advice I ever got was ‘there’s no right way or wrong way – there’s what works for you’.
I’m over wintering three hives. Years ago started with one. Every year I split as I need to, some years they swarm and I recover and start another hive. I give to a friend any extra – I don’t want more than two or three hives. It consumes more of your time than you would think, depending on the time of year. It’s also not cheap – try for used equipment that’s been inspected. I can accommodate five complete set ups, and sometimes have all of it in use until I can move some along.
Excellent you are getting locally adapted bees! The best website for information (there is a ton of misinformation out there) is honeybeesuite.com. That lady knows her stuff, the site is well laid out, have a question- check out the index, the answer will be there.
Consider if you might want to have an epi-pen on hand. I have two…never had an issue with a sting until this year (actually got stung by a wasp) and wound up in the hospital- anaphylactic shock.
Good luck, two hives should give you easy a years worth of honey though possibly not the first year.
Any questions, please feel free to contact me 😊
Wow, Awesome, thank you for the information and glad you are ok in regards to the anaphylactic shock and we have two epi-pens in the house, one for me due to my black walnut issue and one for hubby due to his strange spring reactions, it was a better safe then sorry type thing.. but I will also let my doctor know that I am going to be keeping bees, I am so due for allergy test and it would be a good thing to check, test on etc..
thanks for the referral on the site and I will check it out, very interesting on the possablity of needing more boxes during the summer, that did not occur to me but as I said, lots of learning curve ahead.. I have read the course outline, I will be overwhelmed for sure.. have you read or learned anything about using sheeps wool to help cover the hives for winter? I am sure I will have questions 🙂
I cant see why sheep’s wool wouldn’t work. Not sure your winter temps there, but you will for sure need to do something. It matters little what you use to insulate, I use insulation wrapped with poly, also have styrofoam sleeves hubby made to slide over the hive.
More important, is you must remember to have ventilation/air circulation of some sort. Bees create a tremendous amount of humidity in the hive, you can open them in spring and discover they’ve all basically drowned in the wet. To that end I also have ventilated sawdust boxes on top of the bees to absorb the humidity and keep it from dripping onto the bees.
Don’t surround your hives with bales of hay (somebody might suggest this). Mice will get in your hives. Also you will want to install mouse guards come winter (they’re cheap). All questions welcome.
Thanks for all the tips and I just saw someone who did all straw bales on local beekeeping group and everyone was like.. mice heaven.. but I did see a interesting one.. someone made the outside boxes, with open/bottom holes and a pipe out like you are talking about but they do the infill with the sawdust bedding like we would get for our coops, says that it really goes a long way to keeping the hives dry as it pulls the wet out, then the bedding that is wet in the spring goes to the compost, and the dry goes to their coop.. said a older guy figured it out and talk folks in the valley about it.. I will do more research on that.. it has a logic in my mind.. but more info required..
Yes there’s a fellow up here that’s been doing the sawdust thing for 40 years. You will find that beekeeping has many commonalities no matter where you are. Keeping them alive through winter, and keeping them disease free are two big ones. The first year you will find yourself stressed about doing everything ‘right’, and trying to decide who is giving you good information or bad. Even with the course you will find it a steep learning curve. Never hesitate to reach out.
Glad to hear that you had heard of it, and yes, I truly expect a very steep learning curve.. and I promise I will reach out!
Oh, and if the bee thing doesn’t work out, maybe consider growing stevia as source of sweetener. As an added benefit, it shouldn’t impact blood sugar.
PS. Beekeepers rule! I’m so excited for you.
I have grown Stevia and did again this year for hubby and while we put up a lot of things by pressure canning this year, including no sugar added fruit sauces, I do need to uses some sugars for certain things that I want to move over to honey for most of them if I can.. I think its a good idea to bring one more thing away from the global supply chain and into the 0 mile here on the homestead land instead. We will how it goes.
How exciting for you to add another feather in your cap! How does it work in terms of keeping them over winter? Will you get the bees now during winter, or wait until springtime?
I will be getting them in the early spring, and there are wraps and other things required to get them though our winters and from what I understand its often our cold, wet springs that they can struggle even more so then in the depth of winter.. there are number of ways to prepare them for winter, i have been a member of our local beekeeping facebook group for 3 years or more just reading, learning, and listening in.. I am not totally sure yet what I will pick for my winter wrap, but I have till late next fall to get it figured out.
I’ve kept bees for about five years now. I started with one hive but I wish I’d started with two, if only because I was TERRIFIED that first winter that I would lose my only colony. However, since that first spring split, I’ve struggled NOT to accumulate bees. Spring splits means doubling your collection each year unless you lose some over the winter — and I learned in my third year of beekeeping that sometimes you have to split a really strong colony twice, if you want to prevent swarming. (Granted, my mutt bees began as Italian stock, so they build up very quickly in spring.)
I currently have three hives, which is one more than I want to maintain. One of my tasks this winter is trying to figure out what I’m going to do with my splits in the spring – there’s a local charity that teaches beekeeping to women who have escaped trafficking, so I may contact them and see if I can donate bees. I don’t want to get into everything that’s involved in selling nucs.
I echo everything valbjerke has said above! It does take more time than I expected – and since sometimes the bees need your attention NOW, that time doesn’t always come when you plan it. But I love my girls. 🙂 You will have a blast!
Wow, great comments and I didn’t think of that.. thank you for sharing.. I will read this over again..
We are planning to get bees this spring as well! We have always wanted to have them, but at our previous farm in the high Rockies we watched other people try and fail in that climate over and over again. So we never tried them. But now we are in the High Plains and can definitely have them. So much to learn, but very exciting.
thats awesome WillowCreek, we can compare notes and share stories on how it goes, are you getting two hives or ?
We are hoping to get two, but need to see what happens with money. Might have to just do one. Just moved last summer and have had to do SO many things to make the place work before winter. We shall see…
Definitely will enjoy sharing stories and comparing notes with you on this.
Because of its incredible ability to absorb (up to 80% of its own weight in moisture!) without wicking away heat and still insulate, I’m thinking your idea with sheep’s wool is an absolute winner Valerie and, as Val Bjerke mentioned, excess moisture in the hive is an absolute killer on so many different levels. There are also taller, side-ventilated ‘attic’ spacers that reverse for summer and winter that many swear by.