One of my kiddo's friends, Nathan Oberg, expressed interest in beekeeping a couple years ago and this year for Christmas was fortunate enough to get beekeeping equipment.
A few days ago, through my kiddo, I suggested that the first thing for Nathan to do was to find a spot with early morning sun for hive placement. Ideally early morning, and as much of the day as possible, sun should be on the hive. That warmth encourages the bees to come out when temperatures near 55 degrees.
Nathan dropped by and we were discussing equipment when I noticed a bee on the deck that looked like it just didn't make it back to the box. They are very temperature sensitive, so I touched it and it moved a little — in slow motion (torpor). I picked the bee up and pointed out pollen balls on her legs, sat the bee in the entrance, and then heated it with my breath. The bee responded almost immediately, and fanned it's wings a little before it bolted inside. Another bee exited as she was scampering in the bottom entrance and then another one exited from the top entrance. So it was confirmed I had bees, and one dive bombed me. I wonder if the overall personality of the hive changes based on their gold (honey) reserves, because this is by far the crankiest hive I have ever had.
We talked about mites and I showed him the bottom board (coated with mineral oil) with a few dead mites. I talked about the need to treat and gave him a few glycerin/oxalic acid towel strips for when he gets his bees installed.
I told him about placement height but forgot to mention the flight path. My bees are on the east facing edge of my front deck within a couple feet of the faucet. Yes you can get stung if a bee gets caught in your hair while passing the entrance. But for the most part they just go about their business trying to avoid and ignore me.
Hives should be between 18 and 24 inches off the ground to reduce risk of invasion by larger varmints. The hive needs a dead-air space beneath it and a wind block is nice.
You really need to think about your proximity to neighbors because some may not like your bees, for various reasons. The other thing you need to consider is that if you think your neighbors embrace the better living through chemicals philosophy for weed control, you will likely end up with dead bees. Chemicals get onto little bee piggies and then get tracked in all over the hive. I have lots of dandelions because I rarely use chemicals on anything in my yard, and if I must, it's in very, very small amounts.
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It's heartbreaking when your babies die for any reason.
Nathan is also interested in horticulture so he inquired as to what plants bees like. Well honeybees aren't keen on rhodys or azaleas. They have what's referred to as plant fidelity. That means they'll find a plant that they like and work it hard for nectar and pollen then move onto the next one. Mid-summer blackberry blossoms are favorites for nectar. But they need to eat year round just like we do.
In general herbs are an easy-to-propagate good starting point. Bees love garlic!
Nathan's big question was, "Where do you get bees?" I explained that by joining Coos County Beekeepers Association, paid members have the opportunity to get on a swarm list. That won't guarantee a swarm, or even a call, but it certainly will increase your chances. If you get a call, you'll need to be prepared to move. Swarming usually starts in March or April and can go late into the fall. Sometimes those swarms are in hard-to-get-to places and require extra equipment. If you are really lucky, another beekeeper will share what's called a split, but don't expect that. You can bait your empty box with lemongrass oil and I would do that anytime you have an empty hive.
Most folks get bees by ordering them, that way you have a firm date for having bees. Cascade Farm & Outdoor, on behalf of Glorybee in Eugene, will take orders for bee packages likely through March for delivery to the store in late April. The packages are 3-pounds of either Italian or Carniolan bees with a marked queen and will cost you $155 with some additional handling fees. If you are wondering what's the difference in those bees, well not much because most people can't tell them apart anymore than they can bumble bees. Each variety of bee is marketed with the claim of some better traits like being a little easier to get along with vs. a little more disease resistant. If you really want bees, order them.
Coos County Beekeepers Association meets 6:30-8:30 p.m. on the third Saturday at OSU's Coos County Extension office in Myrtle Point. There is no fee to attend just to check it out. This month's topic will cover the basics of beekeeping. A mite count will be conducted on a dead hive with a discussion about a vaporizer treatment method for varroa mites.