FAQ: Ask a Beekeeper

Below are a list of some questions I've been asked, and my suggested answers. After all, beekeeping is a mix of science and art.

If you'd like to add to this list, please submit your question in the comments section, or click the "Contact Us" link at the bottom of the page to e-mail me.

Q. Will the bees attack my family?
A. Honey bees don't attack without reason. If someone bangs on the hive with a baseball bat, you can bet they'd be aggravated, but otherwise they're very peaceful. I've seen folks keep hives on their front porch.

Q. How much room do they need? Will I loose a portion of my yard to the bees?
A. That's a great question! For my answer view this article: Where I Placed my Backyard Bee Hives. Ultimately the bees only need a very small amount of space, and no, you won't loose any portion of your yard. You'll still enjoy your swimming pool, BBQ on the patio, playing in the grass, etc!

Q. Can I mow the grass around the bee hive?
A. Simple answer is yes. If you don't dawdle with the mower, you can zip around the hive and mow the grass. I've been told they don't like the high pitch vibration produced by a gas weed eater, but I've never had a problem...I don't stick around long enough to find out.

Q. How much time is involved in keeping bees?
A. The answer depends on how involved you'd like to be with your bees. At the minimum, you'll want to check them three or four times in the early spring, one or two times during the summer, and a couple of times in the fall. However, it's not uncommon for new beekeepers to inspect their hives once a week to get a feel for their progress, health and overall learning opportunity for the beekeeper.

Q. Are there laws or zoning restrictions on beekeeping?
A. It depends on where you live. Most communities are quite tolerant of beekeepers, but some have local ordinances that prohibit beekeeping, or restrict the number of hives that you can have. Check with your town hall, local zoning board or state agricultural department to find out about what's okay in your neighborhood.

Q. I don't want to use chemicals or pesticides. Can I still keep bees?
A. Yes! There are varying degrees of chemical use in beekeeping, and it depends on your personal preference. Almost every commercial beekeeper uses some sort of chemical to treat the hives for pests and disease. There are groups of beekeepers out there who do not intervene with their hives at all (even if it could save the hive from pests/disease) called BackwardsBeekeepers.com. Then you have a somewhere-in-the-middle group that uses non chemical pest controls (like powder sugar to control pests), and Integrated Pest Management techniques to manage their hives.

Q. Should I tell my neighbors I'm getting bees?
A. This is a question I personally struggled with for a while. My neighbors and I got along great. I knew bees weren't going to be a problem for my family. I'd done lots of research and attended local club meetings prior to making the decision to get bees. I was so excited to get bees, that I wasn't sure how I would react if I mentioned to one of the neighbors that I was going to get bees and they said that they were against it.

As it turns out, I procrastinated long enough that the day to pickup my bees had arrived and I hadn't told them yet.

They saw me arrive at the house at 7am in my full white bee suit, carrying two nucs of bees to the backyard. To my surprise, they came out and greeted me excitedly, hoping they had seen correctly that I was carrying bees. They were excited for free local honey!

Moral of the story: They're going to find out sooner or later. You mine as well mention it to them casually in passing before you get bees. That way if they are highly allergic (very few people are fatally allergic), its nice to give them a head's up.

Q. How do I light a smoker? What fuels can I use?
A. For a tutorial on how to light your smoker and types of fuel to use, view my article "How to Light a Smoker That Stays Lit"

Q. What kind of honey bees should I keep?
A. The most frequently raised bee in the United States is a European bee, so-called "Italian" honey bee. These bees are docile, hearty and good honey producers. Overall, they are a good choice for new beekeepers. If you're interested in other characteristics for your bees, there are plenty of other origins of bees to choose from also.


Q. Solid or Screened Bottom Boards During Winter? - Holly W

A. This question tends to lead itself to a very divided community of thought amongst beekeepers. Screened bottom boards do allow for more ventilation, however some argue too much cold draft is not good for the bees either.

I've seen studies that bees do not heat their hive like we heat every corner of our homes, rather, they cluster together and keep only themselves warm, and do not warm the air around them. I've been told that it's not the cold that bothers them, it's the moisture.

Personally, my hives are on elivated stands, and use screened bottom boards year round, even in 10-20*F cold snaps during the winter. I don't even bother slipping the insert into the screen bottom boards to close down them during the winter.


Comments For This Post: (2) | Post Your Comments! Hide The Comment Form
Khogen Sharma says...
Date:   January 4, 2013, 6:24 am

what is standard size ( Box/hives for the apis cerana), please explane for a complete construction

Chris (Show Me The Honey) says...
Date:   January 4, 2013, 8:21 am

Great question Khogen! This species (Apis Cerana) is in the same sub-genus as the Western (European) honey bee, Apis mellifera.

There are many different types of hives available including Langstroth, garden, top-bar and horizontal just to name a few. The type/style of hive you choose is up to your personal preference and each has it's own benefits.

The one commonality across all styles of hives is "bee space".

I'm current using Langstroth hives, so I only have plans for Langstroth style hives.
However, I'm sure a quick Google search would turn up dozens of plans for other types of hives.

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