Beekeeping for Beginners – Lessons Learned

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Considering frugal

I’m still a somewhat new beekeeper.  So, I’m writing this list of Wyoming beekeeping tips, and tricks from a rough around the edges perspective.  I started my journey in Arizona, distributing honey for a local beekeeper.  When we moved to Wyoming, I decided I would keep my own bees…

Well, it has been a bit harder than I expected.  It’s true.  I’m going to tell you my story, and you are going to start yours.  You will live and learn, my bees have taught me so much more than beekeeping.    Following is what I have learned so far, mostly unique to Wyoming, but not all.  Some of my tips might seem like “no brainers,” but they weren’t to me, so I hope they help.  And, I hope your journey is as sweet as mine….

Find Your People

Let me start by saying that you can talk to five different beekeepers, and get five different stories, and opinions, on the best way to keep bees in any state or country!  The first couple years, and probably this one, I attended Wyoming Bee College.  I learned a few things that helped me get started.  There were great speakers, with great tips, but the most important thing I gained from Wyoming Bee College, was beekeeping friends.  This is where I met my most important people.  Beekeepers, well we are all kinda “special”.  We all have different personalities and opinions.  I can’t say that just because you are a beekeeper, I would hang out with you.  BUT, my first day of “school,”  I met a very good friend, and she is there in the drop of a hat, if I need help with my bees!  She shares what she knows, and encourages me…she understands my gains and losses.  Wyoming Bee College will happen in March, click on the link, register early.  Yes, you can join Facebook groups, but go to school…make some friends.

When and Where to Order Bees and Supplies

Bee orders will open sometime in January/February.  Orders fill up fast.  I recommend Prairie Wind Bee Supply.  This is where I found more help.  Yes, you can order from Murdock’s, but you will not get the quality and personal service that you will get from ordering from a mom and pop.  Prairie Wind is a mom and pop.  The owner has been great to stand by his bees, and I can text or call with any questions unique to my area.  Prairie Wind only sells bees, not boxes.  I recommend brand new boxes in kits from Murdock’s.  They are my go to for supplies.  They always carry what I need from suits to hives.  You could possibly find used equipment on Facebook  – DON’T!  You risk contamination.  As a new beekeeper, you don’t want regrets when you lose a hive, and you will lose a hive, so go with new equipment.  A complete hive kit will be around $350, just invest in it.

What Kind of Bees and How Many

In the beginning, the owner of Prairie Wind gave me the advice to always have two hives going, and I took it.  I agree with him whole heartily!  By having two hives I have been able to combine hives when one was too weak to survive.  I have also been able to compare nuks versus package, and I have  accelerated my learning.  I recommend package.  That is just my personal opinion.  Like I said, others will swear by nuks, but my observations so far, are that, especially here in Wyoming, where we have a short season, adaptation takes over much more quickly with the package bees than with the nuks.  You will also have the choice of Italian or Russian bees…Italians are kinder, Russians are hardy.  I bought one of each for the first couple years….I really couldn’t tell much of a difference.  If you are kind to your bees, they will be kind to you?…  I use my smoker every time, I keep them in the sun, and I approach from the same side every time.  The only time I had a hive get really aggressive was when the queen had died.

Setting Up Properly

I learned the hard way that in Wyoming, Bees need full sun.  Growing up in Indiana, we kept things warm under trees, and living in Arizona, we kept things cool in the shade –  In Wyoming the bee hives need full sun to build up heat, and then they can better survive the cold nights.  You will also want the entrance facing the morning sun – bees are morning peeps, and raised 18 inches to keep rabbits, raccoons, and rodents from stealing.  Tye downs are also helpful with wind sheer.

Register with the Department of Agriculture – this is the only law in Wyoming.  I find it easiest to walk into the office.  Also, if you don’t own your home, you will need written permission from your landlord.  It is free to register under six hives, and there is a minimal charge over that.  As far as the city goes, as long as you are not a problem, they will not bother you.  Make sure you keep your neighbors happy, and you will be fine – the rule is stay 10 feet away from the property line.  You will also want to make sure your bees are fed and watered well so they don’t go hunting in your neighbors hot tub or pool.

Call Black Hills Energy!  This may seem obvious, but it wasn’t to me!  They are the electric company, why would they need to know?  Well, turns out, they spray vegetation when they work on power lines.  I lost at least two hives to Black Hills before I found this out.  They were coming around spraying late summer.  Just give them a call.  Let them know you have bees, and they will mark your property as “no spray.”

Basic Set Up

Bees will arrive in April, “bee” ready.  Make sure your hives are 18 inches above the ground.  We use an old coffee table, but some people just use cement blocks.  The entry should face the morning sun.  You will need tye downs or rocks to prevent wind or critters tipping the hives over.  I also recommend placing your hives in full sun, with the least amount of wind possible.  Wyoming wind gets so cold – you will wrap your hives in the winter, but control the wind where you can.

Hawks?  Haha – last summer, we had a hawk nest in our yard.  The mama kept dive bombing me every time I checked my bees.  I called our game warden, who happens to live literally around the corner, and he said they were protected – he couldn’t move the nest.  He swore I would be safe with a hard hat – it didn’t seem that way, but they were gone as soon as they hatched, about two weeks.

Smoking and Quality Tips

A smoker will come with your starter kit.  You will want to use it, but keep flavor in mind when you do.  For starters, don’t “over” smoke.  The bees don’t wanna be stumbling drunk.  Also, our yard is full of pine trees, and I found that pine needless burn easy, however they also leave the honey with a woodsy flavor which is fine for cheese and honey tasting, but not so much for wine making…just a thought.  How do you plan on using the honey?  Where will the bees be pollinating?

You can also submit a jar of honey to the Laramie County Fair, not only could you win a ribbon, but they will give you a full flavor profile – super helpful in understanding where your bees might be pollinating, and if they are getting enough water.

Thanks for reading.  Click on beekeeping on the right to read my other beekeeping experiences, and please feel free to leave tips and questions below in the comments.

Considering frugal

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