Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Starting with Bees

So, you are thinking of becoming a beekeeper. How exactly do you start and where do you begin? Joining a club is cheap and will give you all the information needed.

Our club has field days once a month where the club hives are opened for beginners to see inside the hive, handle the bees and ask any question. This is normally followed by the talks on all sorts of subjects from experienced beekeepers. I am always impressed with the willingness and enthusiasm of these people. The field day is open to anyone to come. A visit to a club will help you find out whether you are comfortable working with bees. The web site has past field days pictures and videos. field day

Joining the Christchurch Bee Club allows access to more help and information as well as access to hire equipment. Sharing information amongst the beginners also helps you grow. People learn by mistakes and we make many as we learn. join-now. There are legal requirements with bees; joining enables you to understand these. In particular every beekeeper must be registered and have their hive checked for AFB and other diseases.

These days there is a lot of “stuff” to read (books and the net) and watch (e.g. YouTube or bee websites). There are books available in our club library.

At some point you can then buy a hive and get started. When my wife and I started, I budgeted $500 for equipment for the three of us (plus daughter). This was for bee suits, books, hive boxes, tools and of course bees. I didn't spend anyway near this and got over 30kg of honey in our first year, then 60kg in our second year (2 hives). Third year we split hives into 7 hives and didn't get very much honey as the hive hadn't built up bee numbers. We do bees to have fun and learn, as well as get honey and save the world.

This year we went to the sawmill and brought our own timber, made our own boxes and Jane (my wife) painted them all in our colours. That is green for brood boxes and blue for honey boxes. I have to admit they do look pretty in our back yard.

Yes I have been stung a few times every year. But no one has been stung that wasn't going through the hive and even those going through the hive got stung because they were careless. We often has visitors (and their kids) come round and watch as we go through the hives. Yes it is showing off, but that is another reason for keeping bees. :-)

There are a number of courses you can go to to help you with beekeeping. Firstly an Apiary course will teach everything you need to know about bees. These courses vary in length and depth (See the club for details). The other course is the DECA. Every hive must be checked for disease by a person holding a DECA agreement. You can hold this agreement by doing this one day course, and passing of course. Once you have this you can do your own inspections for disease.

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