Beekeeping – Where to get help and advice

There are a lot of places today in which to learn about beekeeping. There is a plethora of information in all forms, online and offline. The one thing to understand is that there are a lot of strong opinions surrounding beekeeping and whether green beekeeping is safe, better, or preferred. Try to weed through the information and check sources before trying anything suggested with your bees.

Online Forums and Groups

A very simple Google search will return a lot of beekeeping resources. The best way to search is to focus on information local to you. So, do a search such as « green beekeeping in my country or my state » and you’re likely to find more relevant information. On Facebook, you can find many groups too, both local and not. One such group for beginners is here, but it’s not solely a green beekeeping group:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/752583131460647/

Beekeeping Courses and Classes

Locally, you’ll probably be able to find a lot of courses for beekeeping through your beekeeping association. Below are some links to check out. You can also get a list of many beekeeping associations in the USA.

American Beekeeping Federation – http://www.abfnet.org/
North American Bee Conference – ttps://abfconference.com/
Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists – http://www.capabees.com/

Books and Magazines

There are many books and magazines about beekeeping. Here are a couple to check out:

* Bee Culture Magazine: The Beekeeping Resource Leader – http://www.beeculture.com/
* The American Bee Journal – http://americanbeejournal.com/

Some books to check out are:

* Beekeeping: 15 Important Rules for Successful Beekeeping by Julie Daniels
http://amzn.to/2rv2Jaz

* The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beekeeping by Buzz Bissinger and Dean Stiglitz
http://amzn.to/2qONvMS

* Honeybee Democracy by Thomas D. Seeley
http://amzn.to/2raNB2i

* Top-Bar Beekeeping: Organic Practices for Honeybee Health by Les Crowder and Heather Harrell
http://amzn.to/2qaZnWj

* The Complete Guide to Beekeeping for Fun & Profit: Everything You Need to Know Explained Simply (Back-to-Basics Farming) by Cindy Belknap
http://amzn.to/2rb38z9

* Natural Beekeeping: Organic Approaches to Modern Apiculture, 2nd Edition by Ross Conrad
http://amzn.to/2rNocYM

Websites

There are many websites that you can check out about beekeeping. Some have been mentioned already such as the associations, but some private individuals also have helpful blogs and websites about beekeeping:
http://blog.feedspot.com/beekeeping_blogs/

By joining associations and clubs, you can get involved with the beekeeping culture and get help with a simple phone call when you have issues. It’s always better to learn from those who have been there than try to start without the knowledge.

Next time we’ll talk about keeping bees healthy, so stay tuned.

Subject: How to keep your bees healthy

Your main objective is to keep your bees alive and healthy. There are many different opinions on this and it depends on your location and climate, so you want to learn about beekeeping specifically regarding your location. But in general, there are some actions you can take to ensure a healthy bee colony.

* Get Local Bees – When you order bees from a far-off location, they’re not acclimated to your area and may not have the DNA to survive. The best bees will come from someone locally. You can get a « nuc » or a package from other beekeepers right in your local area.

* Give Them Room – You want to ensure that your bees have room to produce and spread out in their hives. If they are becoming overpopulated, you can get a new queen and start a new hive by relocating some of the bees. Let your bees build the cells that they want rather than providing foundations; this way they’ll have enough room.

* Let Them Die – When a hive becomes complacent and isn’t producing, and are acting sickly, it’s best to let them die so that you don’t keep producing ill bees. Instead, attract the healthy bees away from the hive with a new queen and let the rest go. If they get sick from mites, it’s better to let them go than to treat them because most treatment doesn’t work anyway.

* Use Only Natural Food – Don’t harvest all the honey for yourself; leave them enough so that they can eat it. The only time you should have to feed them anything is when you first get a new nuc or package in the spring. But once they have created honey, you can let them have their own honey for food. You’ll save time, money, and effort, and have better honey in the long run. You just need to ensure that they have plenty of flowering plants nearby.

Keeping your bees healthy is largely up to nature. Your job is to just check on them, ensure that you have a queen, and leave them enough room to brood, near flowing plants.

Next time we’ll talk about some common mistakes beekeepers make.

Subject: Common mistakes beekeepers make

When you’re new to beekeeping you’re going to make mistakes. That’s inevitable. The best way to deal with it is to learn from it. The other way is to read about common mistakes and then seek to avoid those.

* Not Learning about Your Location – The first thing you need to do is focus your learning on your location. Where you have your bees is as important as the typical things you should do about your bees.

* Incorrect Feeding – We’ve mentioned this before; it’s always better to feed your bees honey. How much honey you should leave your bees at harvest will depend on your location and what kind of winter you’re expecting. In addition, your bees need to have several good frames of pollen to get through the winter.

* Not Using Organic Mite Treatments – Most of the treatments that you can use for mites aren’t even effective. If you know you have a mite infestation, it’s often best to let the bees die off or even kill them to avoid contamination. You can treat an infestation organically with oils like thyme and mint, but there are some concerns about that; bees react to their environment due to smells and pheromones, which can be interrupted with essential oils. It’s going to be a hard choice whether to treat or not to treat, but many green beekeepers are successful in building healthy colonies without treatment.

Finally, the worst mistake you can make is not getting started. If you really want to be a beekeeper, start with two colonies in the spring right around flowering time, and immerse yourself in the wonderful world of bees.

Next time we’ll talk more about pests and diseases in honeybees that are a great cause for concern.

Subject: Pests and diseases in honeybees

Honey bees are special animals and like all animals, they get diseases and are infected with pests at times. Let’s look at what can happen.

Bacterial Disease

Foulbrood disease is the main issue in Europe and America, with each type being slightly different. It is a serious problem and is often transferred through unclean beekeeping practices. Keep tools, equipment, and hands clean to avoid the problem.

Fungal Disease

Fungal disease like stonebrood and chalkbrood is caused by fungi and is found worldwide in honeybees. It affects larvae that are only four days old and there are no treatments for this problem.

The best course is prevention. Select healthy bee nucs and packages that are locally bred from proven healthy hives to avoid this problem. In addition, set up your hives so that the front tips forward slightly to allow rain water to escape. During especially humid times, you might want to prop the lid to help it air out. In addition, replace brood combs every five years or so.

Viral Disease

There are a lot of ideas about how to control honey bee viruses, but one of the main ways is to use local bees and avoid importing bees either via states and countries. There is always some natural migration, but it is thought that many viruses are due to imported bees not having the same DNA memory as local bees. What this means it that the bees did not breed to overcome the viruses in the environment they came from.

Some of the viral diseases that are found are sacbrood, chronic bee paralysis, black queen cell virus, and deformed wing virus.

All the things that can happen to honey bees can’t be prevented, which is why it’s so important to be serious about starting right, cleaning, checking your bees’ environment and doing what you can in the most natural way possible to help them.

Speaking of helping your bees, next time we’ll talk about ways to avoid getting stung.

Subject: How to avoid getting stung

One of the things that most frightens people about becoming beekeepers is the fear of being stung. And the truth is, stings can and probably will happen. But, they’re a lot less likely to happen if you follow the right procedures when dealing with your honey bees.

* Suit Up and Wear Your Gloves – Don’t skip suiting up at any time when dealing with your bees. It’s not worth it. Always put on your gloves, your jacket, and veil and check for open areas like zippers. Even if you’re not allergic, being stung by too many bees too often can cause you to either develop an allergy or give up on beekeeping entirely.

* Use Your Smoker – When you check your bees by removing trays to inspect, it is very distressing to the bees and you will lose some due to this process. But you’ll lose fewer if you smoke them first, to dull their natural reactions and pheromone signals to the hive to fight the intruder.

* Avoid Fragrances – It’s best if you go to your bee duties clean of any type of fragrances, including hair spray, deodorants, lotions and so forth. The best option is to go directly after a shower so that you don’t have anything that activates their desire to sting you. This includes smelling like food.

* Avoid Bright Colors – If you’re wearing your suit, you’ll cover up most of the colors, but don’t wear bright colors that might look like a flower patch to a honey bee. Sticking with white is a good idea.

* Give Your Bees Space – When there isn’t enough space and everything is filled with honey, the bees will swarm to try to find another home. To avoid this, always provide more space to your hives.

* Harvest Correctly – Sometimes you may need to harvest honey to give your bees more space so they don’t go looking for more room. But you need to do it under the exact right conditions when the bees aren’t all home. Pay attention to the mood of the hive; if they’re making sounds that aren’t usual, do it a different day.

The best thing is to pay close attention to your bees; don’t procrastinate in taking care of them and inspecting them, and act on issues as they occur.

Next time we’ll talk about most people’s favorite part, harvesting honey.

Subject: Harvesting your honey

Harvesting honey is one of the most exciting times for beekeepers. It’s when most of the hard work pays off and is part of caring for your honey bees. To do it correctly and safely, always remember to suit up, wear your gloves, dress appropriately and don’t go in looking and smelling like a flower.

Plus, know when the time is right – usually starting in the second year. Do it when the weather is neither too hot or too cold, and no storms or changes in weather are happening, so that the hive is calm – usually in the middle of the day.

Unless you need to harvest some honey to give the bees more room, you’ll want to wait until the final big nectar flow passes (which is dependent upon the area you live). Then you can harvest the honey in a few different ways, all with pros and cons. How you harvest the honey also has to do with the type of hives you’re using for your colonies. So, understand the information about the hives you’re using.

* Give Yourself Enough Time – Harvesting can take a day or two so it’s important to allow yourself enough time when you plan to do it. You’ll need to plan for getting suited up, smoking, extracting, filtering, cleaning up and so forth.

* Honey Is Sticky – Have a good place that’s easy to clean up to harvest with the extractor. You’re going to get honey everyplace. If you have a good place to do it such as a tiny garage or house or room that can be easily cleaned, it’s going to go more smoothly.

* Harvest in a Ventilated Closed Area – It’s quite a job and is going to take you a while, so you need to harvest in a well-ventilated area which you can stay in for a long time, and which isn’t open to the environment so that the bees smell the honey and come looking for it.

* Harvest When You Have Enough – Don’t harvest often; instead, harvest when you have a lot of honey because it’s going to take the same amount of time anyway, and it’s best for the bees not to disturb them too often. The only exception is if you’re needing to make room to avoid a swarm.

* Avoid AC – Honey flows better when it’s hot, so the best thing to do is ensure that you keep the area you’re harvesting without AC. But, you can put on a fan so you can stay comfortable, or use a small lamp that heats under the extractor to warm the honey so it flows easily.

* Clean Often – Have a place to wash your hands or dip your hands. Have clean towels, and dry your hands often so that you can avoid getting everything sticky with your hands.

* Let the Bees Clean the Wet Frames – Put the wet frames back in and let the bees use the rest of the honey that you didn’t get. In fact, they can clean your extractor equipment too if you place them near the hives. Make sure you properly clean your extractor after a couple of days.

Again, be sure to suit up, wear your gloves, take all your tools with you and be prepared for anything.

Next time, we’ll talk about how to extract beeswax too.

Subject: How to extract beeswax

Within the honeycomb, besides honey there is something very useful called beeswax. Beeswax is used for a lot of things and is a very helpful by-product that bees produce during their production of honey. It’s great for lip balm and many other uses.

What’s great is that extracting beeswax is simple to do. If you don’t want to disturb any of the honeycombs and want to save them for your bees to use again, you can still get beeswax from the combs that your bees try to build around the hive.

You need:

* A flat surface
* Cheesecloth
* Bread towel
* Stainless large pot
* Honeycomb
* Stainless tongs
* Twisty ties

Place the cheesecloth on a flat surface and put the honeycomb in the center of it. Form a snug bundle, then tie it together with the tie. After you have a bundle together, put it in the pot and cover with water. Heat the water and cheesecloth on top of the stove on low to medium heat; don’t boil it, but bring it close to the boiling point. Once the water heats up, the honeycomb will melt and seep into the water and all the trash will stay inside the cheesecloth. Tip: Beeswax will catch fire if exposed to an open flame, so take care to avoid that.

You’ll be able to see the wax floating in the water on the surface and notice the content inside the cheesecloth has been greatly reduced. Lift the bag and, using tongs, compress so that you can get the last remains of water and wax out of the cheesecloth. Put that to the side, turn off the water and let cool completely. As it cools, the wax will solidify.

Once it’s solid, you can easily push down the wax so that the water seeps around it and the wax can easily be removed from the water. Remove the circle of wax from the water and place on the bread towel (or any type of towel that doesn’t catch dirt will be fine). If needed, pop any air bubbles that have appeared. Allow to air dry for a few weeks. You can throw a towel on top of it if you’re worried about contamination.

Next time, we’ll give you some awesome honey recipes you can make from all your hard work. And in a later email, find out what you can do with the beeswax you’ve harvested.

Subject: Six honey recipes

There are so many ways to use honey. You can use it to replace all your processed sweeteners; you just need to know how to do it. For example, if you want to replace dry sugar for honey, you’ll need to consider the liquid quantity.

1. Honey Mustard

There are a lot of ways to make honey mustard. The best thing to do is experiment with a few ideas. Some people love mayo-based honey mustards, other people like it without, and some people even like it spicy. Experiment by using powdered mustard, hot spicy mustard, and even mustard-based BBQ sauces. Always add a dash of salt to bring out the sweetness. Check out this awesome collection of natural honey-mustard recipes at Paleo Grubs: http://paleogrubs.com/honey-mustard-recipes

2. Fruit Salad

When you see that delicious-looking fruit salad at the next picnic, don’t assume it’s good for you. Many fruit salad recipes include the addition of white sugar which isn’t healthy and doesn’t really add the natural flavor you want for less than sweet fruit. Instead, put your fruit together in a bowl, add some fresh squeezed orange juice, and then a couple big tablespoons of honey. Then listen to everyone rave.

3. Honey Roasted Carrots

Peel 2 lbs of rainbow carrots, cut so that they’re all close to the same size but are still large and look carrot shaped. Throw into a large bowl. In the bowl of the carrots, add 1 TBS olive oil, 2 TBS honey, ½ tsp. sea salt, and 1 TBS freshly squeezed orange juice. Put into a 13×9 inch pan and cook in a 450-degree Fahrenheit oven for about 30 minutes.

4. Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic and Honey

In a skillet, over medium to medium high heat pour about 1 TBS olive oil, and add 2 TBS sweet onion. Sweat the onion for a couple of minutes, then add Brussels sprouts that have been cleaned and cut in half. Sprinkle with about 1/4 tsp. pink Himalayan sea salt. Turn down to simmer, cover and cook for about five minutes, stirring once to avoid burning. When the onion is translucent, add 2 TBS balsamic vinegar and 2 TBS of honey. Cover and cook until reduced and the Brussels sprouts are done, about five to eight more minutes.

5. Banana Honey Smoothie

This is easy to make and in fact, you can use honey in any smoothie you want. Just add about 1/2 to 1 TBS of honey to any smoothie. This one calls for 2 frozen bananas, 3 TBS peanut butter, 1/2 cup milk (almond, rice, dairy) and 1 TBS honey. Blend until smooth. Enjoy.

6. Easy Honey Baked Beans

You need 2 Cans Pinto Beans (drained), 1 chopped sweet onion (about the size of the beans) 1/3 cup ketchup, 1/3 cup molasses, 2 TBS good vinegar, 2 drops liquid smoke, 1/3 cup honey, 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce, 1 tsp dry mustard, 1/4 tsp ground black pepper, and 1 dash hot sauce. Salt if needed. Simply mix all this together in a pan, then put in a covered dish in the oven for 45 minutes on 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In addition to these recipes, one thing that is so delicious for breakfast is cream of wheat (or cream of rice if you’re gluten free) with lots of honey and some butter on top. Try adding honey to all your dishes instead of white sugar for an added pop of flavor and sweetness.

Next time we’ll give some things you can do with your home-grown harvested beeswax.

Subject: 12 uses for home-grown beeswax

If you harvest beeswax, you’re going to want to figure out what to do with it. Luckily there are tons of things that are creative, simple and useful. But first, don’t use the beeswax you harvest for a few weeks. Quite a bit of water remains in the beeswax after harvesting, so you need to store it for a few weeks to allow the water to evaporate.

1. Make Candles – You can make candles with beeswax and some other ingredients. There are many different recipes and methods you can use if you look on the net for them. Most involve a mold, a double boiler, beeswax, coconut oil, cotton wicks, and other tools to make it work. Check out a good recipe here at Wellness Mama: https://wellnessmama.com/76597/how-to-make-beeswax-candles/

2. Furniture Polish – Mix equal parts beeswax with linseed oil, grapeseed oil, or medical grade mineral oil, plus mineral spirits for an inexpensive and easy furniture polish. Pour a little on a soft cloth and rub into your furniture for an extra shiny and durable surface.

3. Beauty Products – Beeswax makes great lip balm. All you need is a mold, beeswax, vitamin E oil, coconut oil, a microwave, and wood-stirring instrument like a skewer or chopstick. There is an easy recipe on Instructables that you should try: http://www.instructables.com/id/Easy-homemade-coconut-and-beeswax-lip-balm/

4. Lubrication – Melt a little wax and put it on any squeaky door hinges, in the house and your car. Stick needles and pins inside a box of beeswax to keep them lubricated always. Also, you can use beeswax to prime thread to go through an eye of a needle.

5. Stop Oxidation – Use beeswax with a combination of turpentine to create a paste that you can rub into metals like bronze; this will make a nice smooth, shiny and hard finish that will not change color (oxidize) fast.

6. Baby Products – Using beeswax to make homemade products for your baby is a great idea. You can make soap, shampoo, and even diaper rash cream from beeswax. You can find numerous recipes online. Remember to check out the other ingredients for safety.

7. Mustache Wax – This is great for men who have mustaches and want them to behave. Learn how to make mustache wax at Instructables. Be careful; beeswax is flammable. It’s much better than other types of wax men often use for this.
Link – http://www.instructables.com/id/Homade-Mustache-Wax/

8. Waterproofing – You can use just melted beeswax for this process. All you do is melt it, add it to the material you want to waterproof, and rub. You may have to use a lot depending on how porous the material is that you want to waterproof. Great for use with wood-cutting boards, wood salad bowls, and other wood kitchen tools – not to mention for leather shoes. If you mix it with other oils, just ensure you use food-grade oils if waterproofing anything that will be used for food.

9. Rust Prevention – You can also use hot beeswax to keep rust from developing on your gardening equipment and even your cast iron skillet. Don’t forget to put it on the wood handles of your equipment too.

10. Keep Zippers Working – Rub some beeswax over zippers to keep them running up and down smoothly.

11. Granite Countertop Care – If your granite countertops are starting to look bad, you can use molten beeswax to bring them back to like new again. Just pour the pure beeswax onto the counter and then rub in with a soft, dry cloth.

12. Skin Treatment – You can use beeswax for your skin as it has a lot of good ingredients in it (such as vitamin A) which can help your skin. Put beeswax on acne scars and acne to help it heal faster. Works for stretch marks too when combined with coconut oil.

There really isn’t much you can’t figure out to do with homegrown beeswax. It’s a very useful ingredient, never goes bad, and can be stored forever. If your wax looks funny on the outside, don’t worry; it’s safe and nothing is wrong with it.

Next time we’ll talk about the various ways to make money with beekeeping.

Subject: Making money from your beekeeping

As a beekeeper, you probably also would love to earn some money from your work. The good news is that you can. Like most types of farming you’re at the mercy of the weather, nature, and other factors, but you can earn money if you’re willing to work hard and roll with the punches.

Keep in mind that how much honey a hive produces also has a lot to do with the climate you live. Climates with good winters often produce more honey than hotter climates with no real winters.

You can earn money from:

* Raw Honey – Let’s say in your climate the saleable production is about 40 lbs. a year. If you sell directly, you can make about 14 dollars per pound; wholesale about half of that.

* Flavored Honey and Products – You can charge more for handmade products like these or specialized honey like « orange blossom honey » and so forth, if you know what you’re doing.

* Spun Honey – This is honey that has been processed by whipping it to control the crystals. It is spreadable like butter.

* Dried Honey – Using dehydrators, you can make dried honey and sell it as a honey powder. This uses a lot of honey which you can sell at a higher price.

* Honey-Based Products – Any products from food to beauty products that you can make using honey, especially your own home-grown honey, is a premium product at farmer’s markets everywhere.

* Beeswax Based Products – Soap, lip balm, skin creams, candles, furniture polish and more can be made using beeswax, plus you can sell the beeswax wholesale to crafters and others.

* Selling Queens and « Nucs » – Some people create a side business encouraging queens to be born so they can sell nucs and queens to other beekeepers or new beekeepers.

* Pollination – Some bee farmers use their hives to help farmers pollinate their fields by transporting the hives to the area needing pollination. You can make from $25 to even $100 per hive over a couple weeks.

* Bee Removal Service – Once you feel confident enough, you can also offer swarm removal services.

* Tours – You can also set up a colony in a see-through hive so that you can conduct tours to the public to teach them about beekeeping.

* Woodworking – If you’re a good woodworker, you can build hives and sell hives to others.

The best thing to do is decide what type of business you want to be in. Do you want to be in the raw honey business? If you do, then make that your main product. If you want to diversify as you get more hives and have more by-products from your work, then you can do that too. There is money to be made for anyone willing to do the work.

To get started, decide your plan of action. You’ll need more than a few hives to make real money. You’ll likely need at least 100 hives to start seeing a livable amount of money come in, and more than 300 hives to make a real long-term sustainable living on only beekeeping.

It’s very important that people who have space consider having hives on their property, even if only to earn a little extra money or to have honey and by-products for themselves. Modern beekeeping practices of large-scale farmers have put the honey bee population at risk. Smaller beekeepers can literally save our ecosystem.