Being a beekeeper isn’t easy, especially when you are first starting out. My beekeeping journey began in April 2013 when my first two packages of bees arrived. I purchased two packages so I could compare the hives, and thus would be able to tell if one was doing poorly. Unfortunately, they both did equally poorly, but I was too new to know that they were doing poorly. Like many first-time beekeepers, my hives died out over the winter. However, by that time I was hooked so I chalked it up to a learning experience and began making plans for next time.
In the spring of 2014, a large swarm moved into one of my now empty hives. These bees did so much better than either of my original hives. As winter approached, I was feeling hopeful about the prospects of my little friends. In early February 2015, the bees were busily gathering pollen during one of our warm spells and I breathed a sigh of relief. My girls had made it through the winter!
Two weeks later, Kentucky experienced record snowfalls and low temperatures. Beekeepers in Kentucky lost an average of 42% of their hives that winter according to the Bee Informed Partnership. When you only have one hive, there isn’t a 42% option – you either have 0% hive loss or 100% hive loss. My hive fell into the second category. I was disappointed to have lost another hive and to have to start over again. However, I also knew many experienced beekeepers who suffered major losses due to that storm so I tried not to get too discouraged.
In the spring of 2015, I caught another swarm. The new swarm did even better than the swarm I caught the year before, including surviving the winter. Since then, I have had much better luck with my bees and am slowly growing the number of hives in my apiary. I typically have 3-6 hives during the summer and 2-4 hives during the winter. It’s been a slow journey, but I have learned so much and am looking forward to continuing to learn and grow my apiary.
I keep my bees in both top bar hives and Langstroth hives. Top bar hives are long hives and aren’t as common as the traditional, tall Langstroth hives. One of the advantages of top bar hives is that you don’t have to lift entire boxes of bees or honey. Another advantage of top bar hives is that you don’t open up as much of the hive at a time as you do with the Langstroth hives, so the bees tend to stay calmer. I love my top bars and find them very relaxing to work, but they are harder to manage.
Langstroth hives are the tall hives that everyone is more used to seeing. The Langstroth hives are easier to manage and it is easier to find people who can help you with them when you have a problem. The longer that I am a beekeeper, the more the Langstroth hives are becoming the workhorses of my apiary.
When people find out I am a beekeeper, they often ask if I have any honey for sale. So far my answer has always been “no” because my hives have been so new or I’ve been concentrating on increasing my hive numbers rather than producing honey. Eventually I plan to sell honey and nucleus hives (nucs) of locally raised honey bees. I will be posting here and on Facebook when I am ready to start selling honey and / or bee. In the meantime, if you are looking for local honey or beeswax, please let me know and I can help put you in contact with local beekeepers who have some for sale.
In the spring and early summer, honey bees will often swarm. A swarm is the hive’s way of reproducing itself. The bees will raise a new queen while the old queen and approximately half of the bees in the hive will fly off to establish a new hive. These swarms will often land on tree branches, fence posts, and other objects. The swarm will stay there in a tight cluster while scout bees look for a new home. Once a new home is found and agreed upon, the swarm will leave for the new location.
If you are in the Barren/Warren/Edmonson/Allen county areas and have a swarm on your property that you would like removed, please call me at (270) 202-7677. If I don’t answer, please leave a message and I will call you back. If I can’t collect the swarm, then I can help find another local beekeeper who is available.
Visit the photo albums if you would like to see more pictures of my bees.