Episode 8: Backyard bee hives, why I think you should have one and the steps to get started

Keeping bees in your backyard is a low maintenance activity that produces a product and has a great effect on the ecology of your area including your garden.

On today’s podcast I dive into my motivations for starting bee keeping, and my experiences thus far on my journey. Please know that I am NOT an expert in the subject, just an eager first year learner. I’ve been reading books and taking classes, but there is no substitute for practical experience.

This is the first post on what will be a long series on my experiences as a first year bee keeper. I hope you’ll follow along. If you are an experienced bee-keeper I would be glad to hear from you and please feel free to correct anything and everything I have said.

Please Consider keeping bees and support local Bee Keeping.

I left out one point on the podcast, and that is please check your state and local regulations! In Pennsylvania where I am at you have to pay a $10 a year fee to the state to register your Apiary. This is very reasonable, and for that fee an inspector will come out to your site and check on your hives and also offer advice and guidance. It is a great bargain!

Here in the City of Pittsburgh you can pay $250 one time fee and that will register your urban apiary. Once your site is designated in the city as an Apiary that status can never be removed and will pass down to future owners of your property. It might seem like a high fee but I consider it quite reasonable considering the protection it does offer, however I don’t live in the city and am thus not as up to speed on this.

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Show Outline

  • Where did I get my interest?
  • Why do I think keeping bees is so important
  • Bee Keeping benefits
  • Keep bees in the city?? … HELL YES!
  • So how much work is it to keep bees? Checking every other week is enough!
  • Nick’s Action Item List for you to get started
    • Get yourself a copy of First Lessons in Beekeeping
    • Find your local bee keeping organization
    • Find a local mentor
    • Figure out what equipment you’re going to need
    • Find a source for bees
  • How to get bees, the various ways
    • Colonies
    • Swarms
    • Nucs
    • Packages

Beekeeping Reading and Resources

Note: By the way, i mentioned several times “fiscal year” i meant “calendar year”, so just a little pre-emptive strike on a would-be commenter wanting to correct that point. 😀

Author: Nick-LaDieu

Webmaster of SaveOurSkills.com. Budding skill enthusiast and modern survivalist. When nick isn't plotting his next project he is probably running with his dogs, riding his mountain bike, or fiddling with his home theater.

  • Anonymous

    Hey, great show. I think I may do a top bar next year. It depends if I feel like building one or not. Usually during the winter I get bored, so will likely work on making one.

    By the way, as far as book recommendations go, I think The Backyard Beekeeper by Kim Flottum is the best one around for beginners. It has lots of content, plus the pictures of everything really enhance the understanding. He does endorse running all 8-frame mediums, which I think is a good way to go. It’s all about preference though.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Anonymous

    Joe, they have plans on beelanding.com for the homestead hive. Apparently with his model you can add honey supers to the top bar hive.. might be worth checking out. I’m having James on later this month hopefully, so hold off on any decisions until then… of course Jason Akers has the awesome $20 top bar hive plans on our website for those strapped for cash it is a good option

  • Anonymous

    Also I am running 10frame, but for me I don’t mind lugging a bit of extra weight and this was what was recommended by Joe in class as a good default, but like you said it doesn’t matter too much as long as your equipment is good and is working.

    Here are some DIY plans for making the box frames
    http://www.beesource.com/build-it-yourself/10-frame-langstroth-barry-birkey/

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, to me I like the idea of running all 8 frame mediums just because that way I have the advantage of “interchangeable parts”. I also like the lower weight, as I’m not exactly the biggest dude, so the smaller boxes are easier to handle for me. I’ve heard the argument of “well, you should just run all 8 frame shallows then!”, which honestly doesn’t sound like a horrible idea now that I’ve seen that mediums and shallows are a lot closer in size than I thought. Oh well, I’ve committed to mediums for now.

    Also, I hear 8 frame works better a lot of the time just because the bees tend to be hesitant to draw out the outer frames in a 10 frame. It probably has something to do with them traditionally using trees to set up shack, and the 8 frame size is probably closer to the dimensions of the inside of a tree.

    As for making your own equipment, if you price it out, you can never do it cheaper than the companies do unless you have free wood lying around. If you’re doing it for fun and the experience, then that is a different story, since cost isn’t a factor there. But yeah, just look for free shipping deals from the beekeeping companies. Most of the companies start after Thanksgiving and end somewhere around Christmas, so I suggest getting heavy woodenware around that time if you can. Mann Lake always has free shipping, so that is nice…even if their prices are a bit inflated.

  • Anonymous

    Cool, I will wait for your show to see what I want to build. I should probably work on putting together all of my frames too. I run foundationless, and I mark my frames with colored thumb tacks to denote the year they went into service, and to also mark the Housel positioning.

    Your picture at the top of the post shows Housel positioning well. From that picture, you can tell the bee is on the side of a comb facing towards the outside of the hive (as compared to it facing the center).

  • Anonymous

    Wow confusing! Eventually “housel” positioning will face the other side… or is it housel from both sides… more to learn!

  • Anonymous

    Just thought about it, and forgot I shaved the end bars down on my frames from 1 3/8″ to 1 1/4″ so I could fit 9 frames in the 8 frame box. I only did that to the inner five frames, I believe though, and left the outer four at regular size. Anyways, that is to try to correlate better with the comb thicknesses bees usually do in nature that they vary for brood and honey storage.

    In summary, I run 9 frame mediums. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Check out this site for more information. Some people think it’s all made up, but I noticed it on my hives where I let the bees do their thing. Scroll down a bit for the drawing with the frames and the inverted and upright Y shapes.

    http://www.beesource.com/point-of-view/ed-dee-lusby/more-on-small-cell-foundation-for-mite-control/housel-positioning-how-i-view-its-importance-to-beekeeping/

    Since I run 9 frames, if you look at my middle comb, it has inverted Y shapes on both sides. The rest have alternating Y and inverted Y. Foundation is actually made this way already, but you confuse the bees if you accidentally put a frame in backwards, seeing as they apparently use the Housel positioning to navigate the hive…I’m not sure how though, since it’s kind of dark in the hive. 🙂 I probably need to re-read the link I sent you, since she probably mentions it in there.

  • Havfaith

    Please increase the sound levels in your recordings. I had problems hearing on my PC, but great podcast.

    We live in a strange time when my girlsfriends and I want to raise bees, chickens and goats. I am also building up my backyard fish systems.

  • Thanks for the feedback. I’ll turn the level up on my mic. I need to test the recordings with speakers, my issue is everything sounds awesome on Sennheiser studio monitors

  • Koldsteel

    In reference to propolis, as a product of the hive. It has several medicinal uses including antimicrobial and anti fungal. It was also used by Stradivarius as part of his finishes for his musical instruments. Many of these exist today with their original finishes.

  • Arnica Snowgarden

    Backwards beekeepers – seem like a fantastic support group for natural beekeeping/top bar hives. http://beehuman.blogspot.com/

  • Nick. Great podcast. I listened to this again, when I wasn’t trying to do 2 other things, and realized that you wanted to know about it’s persuasive effect. You definitely convinced me to stop putting this off. So now I just have to figure out where this will fit into all the projects for this year.

  • Anonymous

    thanks man, here is my affiliate link for the digital version of the barefoot beekeeper book http://bit.ly/f9boMa

    if you want hard copy http://amzn.to/ffq0t9

    this is for top-bar hives… if you want to do langs then check the show notes for recommended reading