Wednesday, October 21, 2015
5 Common Beekeeping Questions Answered
A few weeks ago when I had our open house and apiary tour people had a lot of questions. Later I heard from people who said that they had questions but didn't get a chance to ask them. I've collected the most frequent ones to answer in this post. So here we go.
1. How did you get into beekeeping?
I get this one a lot because it is kind of a unique hobby. Playing around with a hundred thousand or so stinging insects isn't everyone's idea of a good time. For the long and more detailed answer read my post One Day You Are Reading a Book and Before You Know it You are Hiving a Swarm. My short answer is that it is a natural progression of gardening, like keeping chickens, having a rain barrel, and composting.
2. Do I ever/how often do I get stung?
I'm running a micro-apiary with very few hives so my chances of getting stung aren't as great as someone with hundreds of hives. I'm also extremely careful because getting stung hurts and when they sting (and die) the bees release a pheromone that tells the other bees to sting in the same area. I've been stung about 3 times in 4 years and only one of those was bad. I ALWAYS wear a bees suit and gloves.
3. How much time does it take up/ Do I check on the bees every day?
This is usually asked by someone interested in keeping bees themselves. For the hobby backyard beekeeper it actually takes up very little time. In the winter nothing is going on. Early spring through fall you could easily spend as little as 30 minutes on the weekend doing the occasional hive inspection. You can spend a ton of time reading, shopping, observing, etc. The things you actually do inside the hive don't take that much time. Sometimes I spend more time trying to light my smoker than I do inside a hive.
4. Did I have enough plants in my garden for the bees or did I have to plant things?
This is one I hear a lot. My beehives are in my garden so it kind of looks like I planted for them but I actually see more bumblebees and butterflies on my plants than my own bees! Bees will travel a long distance to forage. Conventional wisdom says they have a radius of two miles but there are plenty of reports of them traveling much further. So it matters very little what is on your own property because they aren't going to stay there.
5. What is a swarm?
Swarm is kind of a scary word to people. It's scary to beekeepers too but for different reasons. Read about how I caught my first swarm here. For a beekeeper it means that half your bees might fly away and reduce your honey harvest for the season. On the other hand if we can catch a swarm, it's free bees! We love free bees! A swarm is the natural reproduction process of a colony. It means a healthy hive and laying queen have outgrown their hive and are looking for an expansion opportunity. If you see a swarm in the spring just leave it alone and it will go along in a day or two. If you need a laugh you can read my post, Queen Bee Wars: Swarming Mean Girls.
These are the 5 most asked questions about beekeeping but I know you have more! Reply in the comments and I'll answer them in an upcoming post!