At the end of 2009 I decided to buy my wife a beehive. She'd kept bees when she was younger. This is the tale of our beekeeping activities. There's a considerable amount to think about when setting up, rather more in fact than either of us realized as we began to look further into what would be needed. Equipment, colony location, care, feeding, ailments, seasonal activities and the possibility of a first year harvest all had to be considered.
We enrolled in the 2010 beginner beekeeper's class at the Montgomery County Beekeepers' Association. The class consisted of 9 sessions at the Montgomery County 4-H Center in Skippack, PA, with the warmer weather sessions including an hour in the bee yard with the club's two hives at the Center, followed by a couple of hours in the classroom. I highly recommend first year beekeepers enroll in such a course, not only for the instruction you'll receive but for the information you'll receive and share from your peers in the group.
There's a minimum list of basic equipment that a beekeeper needs in order to get started.
We started with a kit, from Betterbee,
Assembled 10 Frame Beginners Kit with Large Gloves
that included the following items:
- 2 deep hive bodies
- 2 medium hive bodies
- 1 inner cover
- 1 Hive Top Feeder - Miller Feeder - polystyrene
- 1 telescoping top cover, polystyrene
- 1 universal hive base - goes at the bottom of the stack
- 1 screened baseboard for varroa screening - goes just above the hive base
- 1 white plastic varroa screening tray
- 1 smoker
- 1 pair of gloves
- 1 hat and veil
- 1 entrance excluder
- 1 plastic queen excluder
- 20 Pierco deep black frames with foundation moulded in
- 20 Pierco medium black frames with foundation moulded in
- 1 hive tool
We also purchased full three beekeeping suits from Brushy Mountain, and two further pairs of gloves.
There were one or two shortcomings with the beginner kit. By the end of the season:
- We removed the Miller feeder and replaced it with 6 mason jars for syrup, placed above the inner cover on wooden battens.
- We replaced the inner cover. The one supplied with the kit did not have a top exit for ventilation, nor was it reversible. Apparently most inner covers have a summer and winter setting depending upon which way up you install them.
- We added a frame pulling device to the toolkit to simplify pulling frames out of the hive bodies. The plastic frames are packed in very tightly and the frame puller makes it easier to lift heavy frames out of the box without damaging comb.
- We purchased an Imrie shim, about 2 inches high, for use when adding medications, fondant or pollen patties to the hive top
- We purchased a bee brush
2011 Equipment Changes
This year we will add a second colony. To that end, we bought a second hive kit from Betterbee, similar to the first but without the tools and protective equipment.
The additional hive consists of:
- 10 Frame Varroa Monitor and Debris Tray
- 10 Frame Varroa Screen with Entrance Closure
- Assembled Wooden Increase Kit - 10 Frame
Based on lessons learned from last year, we also brought 2 spare deep boxes, two mediums and couple of extra shims (from Brushy Mtn). These are helpful for two reasons:
During a hive inspection, when frames are being moved around, it's helpful to have a spare deep on hand. As you remove frames from the brood chamber, you transfer them to the spare deep. You do this because you're searching for the queen, and if you put them back in the original deep, she could move from an uninspected frame to an inspected one and you would not see her.
- A single deep can be placed on top of the inner cover when feeding sugar syrup from a deli-sized jar used as a bee feeder. We're hoping to pick up some of these extra large jars this year.
2010 Beekeeping Journal
- notes in journal form of our first colony activities
2011 Beekeeping Journal - notes in journal form of the first and second colonies during the 2011 season