Getting started with bees

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This page is set aside for questions for and by new beekeepers. Where should I put my hives? What do I really need? How hard is it?

Either post your questions direct to this page or on a paged linked from here.


Contents

Apiary registration form

Apiary registration form from Ohio Dept of Ag (pdf)
This is the only form you need to file with the state when you become a beekeeper. Note: The fee is $5 per apiary (the site) regardless of how many colonies you have at that site.

How much does it cost to get into this hobby

Beekeeping sounds like fun. How expensive is it as a hobby?

Like any hobby, it depends a lot on how many toys you want to buy. A minimal start-up of one hive with bees and some protective gear is running about $200-250 (as of 2013). We strongly recommend that you take a beginner class first. The class will give you a better sense of what you need and whether this hobby is right for you (and your neighbors).

Extractor for loan

Does the club have an extractor for loan to new beekeepers?

Yes. See the loaner equipment page for details.

Honey Prices

I have a little leftover honey that the folks at work have been wanting to purchase. I have only given away my honey in the past. What are the going rates in this area for 6, 8, 12, and 16oz plastic bears?

Pricing is always a touchy question. For having such a strong reputation for capitalism, Americans are notoriously uncomfortable talking about money. Some people also worry about the appearance of price fixing. Nevertheless, I think there are a couple of things we can say.
First, remember that most of us are selling a premium, local product. We should not be comparing ourselves to the blended, mass-produced and largely tasteless product available at the discount stores. We have a quality product and should price accordingly. Second, remember that any price you set should fairly compensate you not only for your incremental costs (bottles, labor, etc) but also for your long-term investments in your bees and their health. You are going to lose bees. If you want to stay in business, price those replacement packages into the honey. Cost-plus is a weak proxy for pricing, though. The better answer is always to price based on what the market will bear.
MCBA does sell honey at the Medina County Fair each year. And because we use volunteer salespeople, we have to standardize the prices we charge. The price list is usually posted in the May or June newsletters for the year. That might be a starting point for your analysis.

What is the best use for my excess propolis?

I am a new beekeeper and I would like to know how to best make use of all the propolis I scrape during a hive inspection.

Does the club have a hive inspection sheet avaiable?

I have searched online and have found a number of different versions of hive inspection sheets. Some of the record keeping questions vary and I am concerned that I may not be recording all of the information that I will need in the future.Can MCBA help?

What is the correct ratio for sugar water?

I would like to know what the best ratio of sugar to water is for feeding my bees. I have heard it is a 1:1 simple syrup. Is this right?

The traditional answer is
  • In the fall, feed 2:1 (two parts sugar to 1 part water) because it's thicker and less work for the bees to cure down for their winter stores in the few days remaining.
  • In the spring, feed 1:2 because that's closer to the natural proportions of nectar and will stimulate brood rearing more than the thick syrup will. Honey or thick syrup must be diluted by adding water before it can be easily used.
Recent research has cast doubt on the second part of that traditional answer. Some races of bees do apparently react to thin syrup by raising more babies but others do not and cure it down to honey-thickness regardless. At the other end of the spectrum, some beekeepers were practically boiling their syrup to get all the sugar to dissolve when making 2:1. The added heat can trigger carmelization and other byproducts which are very bad for the bees. Several of our most experienced beekeepers have finally come to the conclusion that it really doesn't matter all that much. 1:1 is a simple ratio that's easy to remember, close enough for use in either spring or fall and the bees will thicken or dilute it to meet their particular needs at the time.
Personally, I prefer thicker (at all times of year) but that's more for my convenience than the bees. Thicker syrup means I can add the same amount of sugar with fewer trips to the beeyard. Thicker syrup also resists mold and fermentation a bit better than thin syrup. (I have been experimenting with the addition of a dash of vinegar to further hold down the mold. Results are generally positive so far.) Mike Rossander (talk) 09:35, 3 May 2011 (EDT)

Should I have my queen Marked?

I heard some people do not have their queens marked. I have also heard that the mark wears off. Is the marking really important?

Marking the queen serves two purposes. First, it makes it much easier for the beekeeper to find the queen. In the summer with peak numbers of bees finding the queen can be very challenging even with a mark. Second, marking the queen helps you to manage your hive. How old is the queen? Without a mark you have no way to know if the queen is the same or a supersedure.
That said, some beekeepers do not try to find the queen, relying on the presence of eggs and larva to prove that she's still in the colony and healthy (or at least was a few days ago). If those beekeepers also believe in "survivor bees", that is, allowing supersedure at will, marking will be of little value to them.

Should I have my queens wings clipped?

Should I have my supplier cut the wings on my queens? And if so, why?

Clipping a queen's wings is how beekeepers used to mark their queens. Today we mainly use colored markers, which are much easier to spot. Clipping does not prevent swarming as the swarm will just wait for a virgin queen.

How do I know if I have a mated queen?

Does the suppliers always send mated queens with new packages? Can I request mated queens and is is an extra cost?

All packages are supposed to have mated queens. Unfortunately, some suppliers cut corners and the quality of queens can be suspect. The way to tell is to check the hive about one week to ten days after the queen is released. Look for larva or eggs (eggs can be hard to spot at first). If none, wait a few more days and check again. If still none, talk to an experienced club member for advice.
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