by Frederick J. Dunn
Consider owning and managing your own Apiary
Rearing your own colony of bees a.k.a. Apis Mellifera Domestic Honey Bee
About four years ago... I became keenly aware, that my property in northwestern Pennsylvania was absolutely void of honey bees. Dandelions as far as the eye could see in the spring sunshine, and not a single buzzing honey bee! I soon became familiar with the term CCD or Colony Collapse Disorder...
At that very moment I resolved to bring in my own bees and manage them... what better way to learn about their order? I sought out experts via the Department of Agriculture and soon was on my first field trip, camera in hand, with the Bee Inspector.
I quickly located and procured my bee keeping supplies... a complete beginner bee keeping setup. There are several sources for equipment, but I honed my search down to a company called Betterbee, Inc. On the advice of the bee inspector, I decided to start several hives/colonies so I would be able to make comparisons as to their general health and progress. A complete 10 frame starter kit $259.95 plus shipping, completely assembled, but un-painted. I was so excited! Bee helmet, veil, gloves, smoker, pierco frames... telescoping cover, screen base with landing platform. And of course I special ordered my white bee keeper jumper with a special zipper around the neck to accommodate the veil. I was so excited when our UPS driver delivered the kit and hives.
I located my hive bodies on a southern exposure, out of strong wind and in a spot that would receive shade in summer and sun in winter... you may see a video of my hive set up at:
In this video short, I show the hives and how to install package bees which may be purchased via the U.S. Mail.
Once you are properly set up, equipment wise, you'll have to procure honey bees. I recommend joining a bee keeper association, I belong to the NW PA Bee Keeper's Association. This way you will become aware of issues with honey bees in your area and which type of domesticated honey bee will be most hearty in your climate. Expect to shell out $85.00 for 3 pounds of honey bees and a queen. This is enough to get a single colony going. You may purchase package bees... honey bees sold by the pound and shipped with a mated queen of your choice. Or, you may purchase nucs, (nucleus bees), which are honey bees purchased with their drawn comb and brood, this is the quickest start for a colony. Nucs are generally picked up and not shipped through the mail.
If you have a worker colony and want a specific type of queen bee, you may order her separately via overnight mail. I have purchased queens via overnight mail before and they came in a Fedex envelope.. the delivery guy couldn't believe what he had been carrying. I was happy to introduce him to the queens as I had to open the package to verify live delivery. Worker bees are also inside the queen cage, as they must attend the queen during her transit. Always something new at Fred's Fine Fowl.. he gets a laugh out of me.
Next month, I'll write about honey and how I go about collecting it from the hives. Here are some other sources for honey bees and supplies: www.dadant.com www.beeweaver.com www.beesource.com I recommend that you look for survivor colonies... those which make it without medications and synthetic disease controls.
Until next time,
Frederick J. Dunn is a retired Navy man and a life long poultry man. He raises bees, emu and chickens in rural PA and is the author of the DVD Regarding Chickens. Fred is a contributor to Mother Earth News. Check out his website: www.fredsfinefowl.com to learn more about him.
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