Frequently Asked Beekeeping Questions

Frequently Asked Beekeeping Questions

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Before I start answering 21 common beekeeping questions, allow me to introduce myself. I am EAS Certified Master Beekeeper, David Burns. I have worked hard to educate and mentor beekeepers all around the country for over a decade. I do this through my ONLINE BEEKEEPING COURSES to help educate beekeepers to put an end to the unnecessary die outs of colonies around the US. Consider taking one of my courses. Let's face it, it's hard to know who is giving you sound beekeeping advice. The guy at the club? The fellow down the road? Are you sure they are giving you current and accurate information?

I OFFER THE FOLLOWING ONLINE COURSES: Basic Beekeeping, Spring Management, A Day In The Apiary, Queen Rearing, Advanced Beekeeping and Getting Your Bees Through The Winter. You can enjoy these courses from the comfort of your home, on your schedule without having to travel. You will be provided a worksheet and links to my teaching videos. I've worked really hard and long to provide these insightful courses. It's taken me well over a decade to gather up the videos and research so I know you will thorough enjoy these course. Thousands have enjoyed our online courses. 

1. How Many Hives Should I Start With?

Multiple HivesHow to start keeping bees can be confusing. The number of hives to start with is entirely up to the individual. We recommend at least two hives because with two hives you can share resources between hives. If one hive becomes queenless and fails to replace their queen, a frame of eggs can be carried over from the other hive and the queenless hive can raise their own queen. If one hive becomes low in numbers, frames of brood from the strong colony can be moved over to strengthen the weak hive. Certainly starting with one hive is acceptable, but there is an advantage to starting with more than one. 


2. How Far Apart Should The Hives Bees From Each Other?
In commercial operations, four hives are placed on a single pallet. For the hobbyist, the distance between hives is usually determined based on the comfort of the beekeeper. The beekeeper may want to work all the hives without walking a considerable distance between each hive. I usually recommend at least two feet between hives. They should be further apart when installing new packages to help prevent absconding. Without take a class you may fail to gain the tools you need to help prevent your bees from all leaving when you try to shake them into your new hive. All will be lost.
3. Which Direction Should Hives Face?
Traditionally, we recommend the opening of the hive face south or southeast. However, it really does not matter too much. It does help if the sun can reach the hive first thing in the morning. This will cause the bees to start gathering nectar sooner than if they were in the shade.


4. How Close To The House Can I Put My Hives?
Use good judgment. Bees will fly miles away from their hive to find nectar. If a hive is near your house, the bees will still fly up and away. However, it may take six feet from the hive for bees to gain six feet in altitude. Keep this in mind so that hives are not placed near sidewalks, decks, and clotheslines. Place them so that when the bees leave the hive, they will not be immediately near people or pets. 


sun Flower 5. What Should I Plant To Help My Bees?
Bees will pollinate plants around your house, but not in huge numbers. In other words,  if you have 10 tomato plants you will not see thousands of bees in your tomato garden. Certainly, many bees will help pollinate your flowers and garden. However, most of your bees will fly out to an area of abundant nectar such as an apple orchard, acres of clover or a large grove of basswood or black locust trees. If you have a half-acre or more, planting buckwheat, clover and other flowering plants will certainly help your bees, but it is not necessary. Bees are quite capable of flying two to three miles to gather nectar.


6. Should I Buy Medication For My Bees?
When various pests and diseases were identified among bees, many chemicals became available. However, some of these chemicals proved to be harmful to bees over time. Certainly, some medications do fight certain pests and diseases. However, we prefer not to use chemicals or medication in our hives. This is a personal choice. In my Online Courses, I teach practical management techniques that are natural and as effective as medication or antibiotics.


Hot Knife On Comb 7. How Much Honey Will I Get My First Year?
First-year beekeepers should not expect much honey from a new hive. It takes eight to eleven pounds of nectar for the bees to produce one pound of wax. The first year the colony is producing a lot of wax to build up their comb. Certainly, some first-year hives can produce a full crop of honey, maybe 70-200 pounds of honey. But this would be in a perfect situation, or from a second-year hive. So it is better to have no honey expectations the first year, but if your bees do produce extra honey for you the first year, it is an unexpected surprise. Year two is when you can expect much more.


8. How Much Honey Can One Hive Make Each Year?
An average hive in Illinois produces around 70 pounds per year. This can change to more or less depending on the weather and the health of the bees and the skill of the beekeeper. The most I've produced from one hive in one season is 210 pounds.  If a hive produces 70 pounds and you sell it for $10 per pound you make $700. 


Hives In Water 9. Can I Save Money By Using Old Equipment?
There are several diseases that can linger in old equipment. American foulbrood is one of the more deadly diseases and AFB spores can live perhaps 50-80 years in old comb. It isn't worth taking a chance unless you are absolutely sure the old equipment was not exposed to diseases. There is really no way to clean or test old equipment. 


Hives In Winter 10. Should I Leave My Screen Bottom Board Open In The Winter?
This is a personal preference. However, we prefer to have plenty of ventilation in the hive even during the winter. We leave our screen bottom boards open. If you prefer to close the screen bottom board, simply slide in a thin piece of metal or plastic. In my courses, I teach how to wrap hives for winter and to use our Winter-Bee-Kind feeding system to feed the bees in the winter and to provide upper ventilation. 




Mite On Drone 11. What Do You Recommend To Combat Varroa Mites? 

Varroa destructor will be found in all beehives. We recommend these natural methods:

a. Screen bottom boards, so that mites fall out of the hive.

b. Green Drone Comb Trapping. Click Here to watch my video on how to use a green drone comb.

c. Powdered Sugar.  

d. Removing the queen to break the mites brood cycle.


SHB 12. How Do I Treat Small Hive Beetle?
Since we prefer not to use harsh insecticides in the hive, the best method is be sure your colony is strong in population.
Small hive beetles love smaller colonies to infest. Always smash and trap. We have extensive teachings and videos on trapping small hive beetles.


13. What Do I Do If I Want Northern Bees But Can Only Find Southern Packages?
All packaged bees come from the sunshine states, southern states, and California. There is absolutely NO WAY anyone in the north can provide packages prior to May, and probably not then. Many northern beekeepers like the idea of a nuc, which is four or five frames from a strong hive, and a queen. But nuc producers can never produce the volume of bees to ever replace the number of packages sent to new beekeepers. Therefore, many northern beekeepers purchase southern packages, and if the queen fails, they replace her with a northern produced queen. 


TBH 14. Should I Start With A Top Bar Hive Or Langstroth Hive?
We believe new beekeepers should start with a traditional Langstroth type hive and only try a top bar hive or other types of hives after they have become more familiar with beekeeping.


15. Which Feeder Is Best? 

1. An entrance feeder is placed in the entranced of a hive in the spring. 1:1 Sugar/Water is used. This feeder cannot be used in the summer and certainly not in the fall or it may cause other hives to rob and kill a hive. 

 2. A top feeder is a large feeder placed on top of the hive and sugar water is held in a large reservoir. Sometimes stray bees can get under the top cover and drown in the reservoir, or the reservoir can crack and leak down into the hive and kill the colony. 

3.  Frame Feeders are used inside the hive in place of a frame. It's a frame sized plastic reservoir and requires opening up the hive to refill. It cannot be used in the winter because you cannot open the hive to refill it if the temperature is below 60 (F). It is labor intense

4. Check out our Burns Bees Feeding System which is a very effective way to feed bees in the spring and fall. For winter feeding we recommend the Winter-Bee-Kind feeding system.



16. How Important Is It That I Take A Beekeeping Class?
ClassThe more you know the better beekeeper you will be. We have a host of classes available all year. Taking a beekeeping class is so important for today's beekeeper. There have been lots of changes since grandpa kept bees. Without knowing how to keep bees today, you might lose your new hive quickly or the first winter. We are here to help. Our beekeeping classes are taught by Certified Master Beekeeper, David Burns. Be well informed before you start keeping bees by enrolling in one of our beekeeping classes. We offer ONLINE CLASSES, so you can watch our video classes from the comfort of your home. 
17. Should I Register My Hive?
Most states require hives to be registered and we recommend beekeepers register their hives with the Department of Ag or the Department of Natural Resources. Registration affords you the opportunity to receive helpful, free advice from state bee inspectors. This is always a good thing where it is available. 

18. What Happens To Bees During The Winter?
During the winter bees do not hibernate. Instead, they cluster tightly together in their hive and generate heat to keep each other warm. They eat honey and pollen that they collected during the spring and summer. Many beekeepers make the mistake of hoping their bees have the stored honey they need to stay warm in the winter. However, science has shown us that bees need protein (pollen) too. Bees eat what we eat, carbohydrates and protein. We have a new approach to feeding bees by adding pollen into our winter-bee-kinds in the winter, and into our sugar water in the spring and fall. It is so important because without this needed protein, the colony is unable to raise young bees properly. David's "Getting Your Bees Through The Winter" class is available online. Click here.

19. How Much Time And Commitment Is Required To Keep Bees?
Once your new hive is established, we recommend that you inspect your hive every two or three weeks to ensure that your queen is healthy and laying well. Many new beekeepers find beekeeping so fun that they will open up their hive several times a week. This is fine but really not necessary.

20. Where can I go for help once I get started?


Over the last few years, many beekeeping places have popped up everywhere. People have purchased from many of these places only to find they cannot get any help or sound advice after their purchase is made. David offers a mentorship/coaching program and would love to become your mentor. Check out our mentorship program which gives you access to EAS Certified Master Beekeeper David Burns.



21. How Do I Manage My Bees In The Spring


If your bees survive the winter and are strong, they will swarm which means half of your population of bees will leave with your original queen. The remaining bees left behind will raise a new queen from an egg laid by the old queen. This will greatly reduce your population and will affect your colony's ability to make honey and thrive. It is best to control swarming by making splits prior to swarm season. Check out our ONLINE SPRING MANAGEMENT COURSE 


What's Covered In This Spring Management Course

-How soon to inspect after winter?

-Feeding solutions in the spring

-How to make a walk away split

-David's best spring split method

-How to make splits without buying queens

-Swarm prevention techniques

-Split for more hives vs. not splitting for more honey

-Be aware of diseases more common in the spring

-Techniques to equalize hives in the spring

-Replenishing the bee yard with more packages vs nucs?

-How to collect pollen in the spring

-Is it okay to reuse old comb from a hive that perished?

-Tips on Finding Your Queen

-How to Install a new package of bees

-How to inspect your spring hive.

-Seasonal management calendar

-Feeding Solutions for each season


See what awaits you as you become a beekeeper.