Many homesteaders and preppers raise bees. Are they right for you? What are possible objectives for raising bees? What are the start-up costs?
I’ve decided to take up the hobby of beekeeping again because it fits well with our current lifestyle: We have moved to a home in a rural location, we have plenty of land, and I have the time to give them the attention they deserve. Because I raised bees before, I have some experience, enough knowledge to be dangerous, and a good bit of equipment, reducing my startup costs.
My objective is to raise bees for their honey, which I expect will provide us with a resource during tough times. That resource may be as simple as added calories that can be easily preserved (honey stores forever), or it may be as a means of barter. It could be an important natural sweetener down the road since we won’t be making maple syrup or raising sugar cane around here.
When we went to pick up the bee hive components I had ordered, we found a source for local queens and bees to help our hive start off strong.
We picked up our beehive equipment today, but even more exciting is that I have found a new source for our bees. Instead of a three-pound package of bees from a big national company, I am buying a nuc from a local beekeeper.
The bees will not be ready as soon, but I am excited about a local source for two reasons: First, a nuc gives me a head start over a package of bees, and second, I expect to get better queen genetics. Let me explain:
Bees, Hives, Frames, and Brood
Starting with a nuc (short for nucleus, or the core of a hive) is far better than three pounds of bees. The nuc comes with five frames of brood and honey, which means new bees will hatch over the next few days, and the honey will provide stored food. A package of bees would have to start from scratch and build up to this point.
As spring comes closer, we order our bee hive, bees, and chicks. It was a learning experience but we will plan better next year.
Earlier this week, I took advantage of the warm weather to spend some time in the garage and inventory my beekeeping supplies. I have a brand new hive bottom, a super with frames, and several spare large and medium frames. I also have a hive tool, a bee keeper jacket with hood, gloves, and a smoker.
When my daughter was in high school, she raised bees as a science project. When she went off to college, I inherited the bees. We had them for five or six years before we lost the hive to some unknown die-off. To get rid of any mites or disease, I burned the boxes, disposed of the frames, and packed away all the unused parts and accessories in case I had bees again one day. Looks like that day is almost here.
To construct a full hive, I ordered two hive bodies, an inner lid, an outer lid, a queen excluder, an entrance reducer, and an inside feeder that replaces a frame. I still need a bee brush and hive staples. I have a few cinderblocks that I plan to use as a base.
The three-pound package of Italian bees with their queen will show up in April. Then I will don the bee suit and pour the bees into the hive. I’ll add a second hive body once the queen is free from confinement and starts producing brood. Not knowing what will be flowering and providing pollen and nectar when they arrive, I expect I will need to feed the hive.
As gardening season approaches, we concentrate on chickens, bees, and appropriate fencing to protect them all
Lately, I have been reading, watching videos, and studying up on chickens like there is no tomorrow.
Having a “backyard” chicken flock has always been part of my long-range planning, even after one of our neighbor had more than 50 chickens and ran a free range chicken egg business out of her house. (Thank goodness our bedroom was on the opposite side of the house because she had a rooster.) So I’ve been reading articles and blogs for some time, but that has intensified lately.
I have made up plans to build a 4-foot by 8-foot chicken coop and made a list of building materials that will be required. The only unanswered questions I have are how much insulation will be needed and how much venting I need to have, plus do I need to cover up the vents on super cold days.