Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Buying honey bees

Since we went to the Valley Bees Open Day last year, we've been really keen to get some bees ourselves (they are running the open day again this year (.pdf flier), be warned, attendance may lead to compulsive beekeeping).  Pete and I read lots of books and listened to podcasts and went our local beekeeping group until we were confident that we were ready to get some bees.

A lot of the beekeeping information out there says to wait until Spring to get bees, but that's not really necessary in our climate.  Actually we have several gum trees flowering at the moment which are providing plenty of nectar and pollen for the bees.  Although we do get frost, its not too cold during the day for bees to forage, so there's no reason not to get bees.  If you're anywhere north of Brisbane, you are probably in the same situation, I don't know about further south, but have a look at your local climate and what's in flower.  Chances are, you could get bees now too if you want to.

eight acres: buying honey bees
checking on our nuc

It seems that in US its common to buy a package of bees, but that's not a widely available option here (although maybe some produces are staring to sell them).  In Australia, you usually have to buy either an entire hive or a nuc (or nucleus hive).  A nuc is just a small hive, with only 4 or 5 frames instead of 10.  Another beekeeper will have split one of their hives and put a small amount of bees into the nuc to start a new colony.  Eventually the bees will fill up the frames in the nuc and we will move all the frames into a full-sized 10-frame hive box.  And when they will that, we can starting putting more boxes on top (these are called "supers").  When the colony is strong enough we can then harvest some honey.  I'm sure the bees prefer this method to being shaken into a paper bag and shipped around the country anyway!

The other way to get mores bees is to catch a swarm.  Bees typically swarm in spring when there is more nectar and pollen available so the colony has been able to breed quickly and filled up its hive.  We have made up extra bee hives just in case we get an opportunity to try to catch a swarm.  Otherwise, we will be hoping to split this colony and buy more bees.  We are ready either way!

our little bee nuc
We've checked on the nuc a few times since we bought it.  So far it hasn't quite filled up all the frames, so the bees aren't ready to move yet, but they are making lots of honey.  Lucky for us the bees are very calm and let us check on them without getting aggressive.  This is a perfect colony for learners!

I've been taking photos of Pete making the frames, so I'll post more photos of our hives and frames soon.  There is so much to learn about bee keeping, including which trees are flowering, which nails to use and which bees is the queen!  Are you interested in bees?  Will you be coming to the open day?

one of the gums that's flowering on our property


4 comments:

  1. Looking forward to seeing the photos of the hive and frames. Do you use a smoker when checking the nuc

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    Replies
    1. Hi, more photos coming soon :) yes we have a smoker, but these bees are really docile, so we don't need much smoke.

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  2. Thanks for sharing this, Iight go along to that bee day its not too far from us. I have heard that you can rent a bee hive to have on your property and have a share in the honey produced. It might be a good way to get started without the full responsibility. Will you sell the honey from your bees?

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    Replies
    1. I'm sure many beekeepers would be happy to have access to your property (and flowering plants!), and provide you with a supply of honey, you shouldn't need to pay them really, both are benefiting from the arrangement. You might find someone local if you come to the bee day. We will sell the honey eventually, we do want to make sure we leave enough to keep the hive healthy though.

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Thanks, I appreciate all your comments, suggestions and questions, but I don't always get time to reply right away. If you need me to reply personally to a question, please leave your email address in the comment or in your profile, or email me directly on eight.acres.liz at gmail.com

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