Frequently Asked Honey Bees Questions & Answers
There are 1000s of questions that beekeepers can have about beekeeping. Read on to find our most frequently asked questions, and the answers!
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Frequently Asked Honey Bees Questions & Answers
Honey naturally granulates over time. Granulated honey is often thought of as bad, but quite the opposite, it means that it is a very good quality of honey, it's pure and it doesn't contain any additives. Honey also does not require refrigeration. It has its own natural perservatives in it, and can actually stay good for years. There's no problem with leaving it in a cupboard or on the counter; putting your honey in the refrigerator will only cause it to granulate more quickly.
If you would like to re-liquify your honey, all you need to do is pour it out of the plastic container into a large glass jar, big enough to hold all of the honey in your bottle. Heat the honey up, either in the microwave of in a hot water bath, stirring often, until the honey is clear and all granulation is gone.
It is also important to not overheat your honey. Honey can get a burnt taste from overheating, it can become darker in color, and once you reach a higher temperature you start to destroy the good enzymes in the honey.
Honey will granulate over time again, even after you re-liquify it. If it does, just follow through the steps again and your honey will be liquid once more.
There are many suppliers that sell packages of honey bees and honey bee nucs. Read our article about shipping honey bees and why it's a good idea to pick the bees up from a supplier close to you. You can usually find bee suppliers by searching for "honey bees for sale near me", "packaged honey bees for sale", or "where can I buy honey bees".
Honey bees are most commonly available to buy in a 2 pound, 3 pound, and sometimes in a 4 pound package, or in a nucleus colony (or a "nuc" for short). The most common sizes of nucs are 4 frames or 5 frames. Each nuc or package will contain a mixture of nurse bees, forager bees, guard bees and drone bees, and each will also include a young, mated queen, which will be inside of a queen cage, hanging inside of the package separately from the worker bees. This will give the worker bees time to get adjusted to the queen's pheromones.
There are a number of reasons why you would need to purchase honey bees: if you are a new beekeeper starting beekeeping; if you are a current beekeeper, adding to your number of colonies; or if you are a current beekeeper, replacing hives that died over the winter. There is a way to get honey bees without having to buy them: set your bee hive out and see if you can catch a swarm. Although they are "free"bees, there could be some problems with catching the swarm. If it is a small swarm, or late in the summer, the bees won't be able to build up enough to make it through the winter. There could be a problem with the queen that will prevent her from starting to lay eggs, or there might not even be a queen with them at all. You may not even be able to have a swarm move in.
Bee suppliers usually start taking orders for packaged bees and honey bee nucs after the first of the year, and the bees will usually be available around April - May. Please keep in mind, though, that most bee suppliers sell out of bees fairly quickly, so the earlier you get your order in, the better chance you will have at being able to get your packages for the year. The best month to get your order placed is throughout the month of January. The sooner you can start your bees after April 1st, the longer they will be able to build up and have a bigger workforce when the first honey flow starts.
Honey bee prices vary from supplier to supplier, and are based on the size of the package or nuc. Usually 2 pound packages are between $95 - $135, 3 pound packages are between $130 - $175, and nucs usually are between $150 - $300.
There are approximately 3,000 to 4,000 bees in 1 pound, so a 2 pound package will contain around 7,000 bees and a 3 pound package will contain around 10,000 bees. Each pound of bees will cover 1 frame in the bee hive, so if you get a 3 pound package of bees you should have about 3 frames of bees, and are starting out with a stronger work force.
A strong healthy bee hive usually has around 50,000 bees in it during the height of the honey flow, but those numbers will drop back down to around half that amount, or even less, during the winter months.
Start by taking a beekeeping class, reading beekeeping books, or talking to beekeepers in your area by joining a beekeeping club to get an idea of what is involved with beekeeping. Invest money in your beehive(s), beekeeping supplies, protective clothing, and of course, place your order for your bees.
Start with however many bee hives you would like to, or however many your budget can afford. We always advise new beekeepers to start out with at least 2 or 3 bee hives - that way you can compare them with each other for strength and activity; you can swap frames around with some of them to help strengthen a hive up, and if you lose 1 hive during the winter, you'll still have the other hives instead of having to start over again the next spring.
The amount of honey that you can get from your honey bees can vary from hive to hive; there are several factors that influence the amount of honey produced per hive. First of all, if you are starting a new package in a brand new hive, the bees will be have to take the time and the feed to pull wax on all of the frames, but if they have been treated for mites and are healthy and strong, they can pull the wax quickly and still have time to make extra honey, especially in times of a strong nectar flow. A smaller, weak colony might not even be able to fill up enough honey stores to get them through the winter, so there wouldn’t be any honey that you can take from them. In fact, you would need to give them extra feed to help them out.
Start feeding your bees as early as you can in the spring, and treat in both the spring and in the fall for Varroa Mites to make your hive healthy. The larger the population, the more honey they have the ability to produce. In a very good year, hives can produce around 250 pounds of honey each, provided they have a strong workforce and good nectar flow! Keep in mind, some years there may not be much of a honey flow, so even if you have a large population, you might still have to feed them before late fall, to help ensure their winter survival.
You can place the hives right next to each other, just as long as you have enough room to work on them. In commercial operations the bee hives are usually placed 4 to a pallet, with 10 pallets in each yard. The bee yard is usually just a small unused area of a field. Keep them at least 10 feet away from people, to avoid the issues that can occur if too close to the public.
Honeybees are required by law to be kept in a beehive with removeable frames. This is the law in all of the states, so that the bees can easily be inspected for diseases that could be easily transferred from hive to hive.
If your budget will allow it, you should start out with at least 2 hives. That way, you can use how well the hives are doing to judge if one is having an issue, and if it is, you can use the other to help it survive. If one of the hives has less brood than the other, you can switch a couple of frames of brood / bees from the stronger hive and place them into the weaker hive - just MAKE SURE you don’t have a frame with the queen on it!
If you live within city limits, check with your city's administration offices first. Some cities have their own laws regarding bee keeping; others do not. You can also check with your state's Department of Agriculture; some states also have different rules and regulations concerning beekeeping and the selling of the honey.
A lot of beekeepers that take pictures to be posted on the internet or in books / magazines will take special pictures without any kind of protective wear on, just for the picture to be posted that way. If you were to watch them working commercial bee hives everyday, they would have full suits and gloves on. When you work commercial bee hives, you get so many stings that it can turn into a dangerous situation very quickly. No matter who you are, or how immune your body is, you can have a fatal reaction to it at one point or another. All commercial beekeepers know that this can happen.
Yes, you do need to purchase a bee suit and gloves! You can get by with a bee jacket once in a while, but full bee suits are the main piece of protective clothing used (especially during honey harvesting, or if you are to be in the bee hive(s) for extended amounts of time). Plus, you will have a better experience because you will feel more comfortable around the bees by wearing a bee suit and gloves, instead of being worried and anxious about bees stinging you!
The number one reason that bees leave right after they are installed into a new bee hive is usually that the queen gets released too soon. To explain it correctly, the reason the queen needs to stay in the queen cage between the frames is to leave the bees long enough time to start building wax on the frames so they will start accepting that this is their home. Then, after the queen is released, the bees make the decision to stay there instead of taking off, because of the beeswax building achievements that they have made for the colony.
Not at all! All queens make the piping noises and the tooting noises like a train whistle, that is their way of communicating to their attendants that they need something. Also, queen honey bees will pipe when they are around other queens to signal a threat. Newly mated queens will make piping sounds that sound different, but it does not mean that she is not mated, she is just very young so it sounds different.