Thinkin an' learnin' about it...

Nommie Bringeruvda Noms

Loving the herd life
Joined
Sep 19, 2019
Messages
70
Reaction score
158
Points
113
[back story]Just had my 57th birthday, and hubs will be 53, this month. He's had heart attacks (has stents & no problems in about 8yrs), a not-great back and an iffy knee. I have asthma, allergies, lupus (remission), fibro, arthritis, bad knees & shoulders. Sounds like a rough combo, but we're both greatly improved, since we moved and started farming. I'm a family herbalist, and make all my own lotion bars, soaps, and more, and use quite a bit of products like honey, wax, propolis, Royal jelly, and pollen, and used to be a baker. Hubs makes mead, and is a retired chef. We are both retired. [/back story]

We want bees. My understanding is that top bar and other, more 'natural' types of hives are easier on the body than typical stacked hive boxes. I'm looking for someone local to shadow and learn from in a more hands-on way, but so far, haven't found anyone. So, my questions are:
1 - what types of hives do you have actual experience with, and why did you choose them?
2 - what are the pros and cons of those?
3 - what do you wish you could do differently?
4 - what type(s) of hives would you recommend to late bloomers like us, with physical concerns?
5 - how much time, and when, does beekeeping take for you, and is there other equipment that cuts the heavier labor?
6 - would you encourage us to go for it, or just find a good source locally, for all the bee products we love?
 

Nommie Bringeruvda Noms

Loving the herd life
Joined
Sep 19, 2019
Messages
70
Reaction score
158
Points
113
Thank you! Well, for being in the USA, I'd normally say we were in a relatively mild area, in Central MO. But, after the near 2weeks -20°F we just had, in February, I'm not so sure of the 'mild', anymore, lol. Normally, our worst is about -5°F, and rarely stays there for more than a day or three. Typical winter for us is 20s & 30s, with night time lows in the teens, and occasionally single digits. Summers, in the upper 90s, occasionally flirting with 100°.

My understanding was that top bar tend to be a bit easier on the back? I have heard some controversy over their warmth, in the winter, though. We do have a large garage where we could move them to winter, and we're on almost 30 mostly wooded acres.
 

Field Bee

Overrun with beasties
Joined
Dec 27, 2020
Messages
48
Reaction score
82
Points
76
Location
Northern NY
Since you will be cold weather beekeepers I can answer your questions better:

1 - what types of hives do you have actual experience with, and why did you choose them? I have both 8 and 10 frame Langstroth, 5 over 5 nucleus colonies, and a homemade top bar hive. While there may be an optimal size nest cavity for bees there are no natural hives because bees are so adaptable. Around the world honey bees can be found in both horizontal and vertical cavities made from all kinds of materials. That's part of the reason they have been around for millions of years. But the general thought is that horizontal hives are better for dispersing heat in hot climates and vertical hives are better for retaining heat in cold climates. I have Langs and no longer keep bees in the top bar.

2 - what are the pros and cons of those?
10 Frame equipment is the standard and its easy to make increases and find compatible accessories for hive management. But it can be very heavy.
8 Frame equipment has gained a lot of popularity and now its as easy to find as 10 frame equipment. Even though the width is only 2 frames less is does make a big difference when lifting. They can get heavy but its really not a problem, I'll explain in question 4.
5 over 5 nucleus colonies (or resource hives) to me are essential if you want to remain sustainable without having to buy bees every year. They are your problem solvers, spare queens, brood, eggs, comb, and replacements for winter dead outs.
Top Bars do not have a industry standard and who ever you buy your hive from that's who you will have to get parts or accessories from. You cannot buy 5 frame nucs from bee suppliers because they simply wont fit, so you have to go with packages which isn't a bad thing but it limits your choices for buying bees. Also your hive management is limited. The part I like least is that while I do like comb honey and make it in my Langs that's all you can produce in top bars because you cant put the comb in an extractor. To get honey from a TB you have to crush and strain which is messy and your bees have to build that comb over again. Langs you can put the frames with comb back in the hive after extracting or store for next year.

3 - what do you wish you could do differently?
I would have started rearing my own queens and making nucleus colonies sooner.

4 - what type(s) of hives would you recommend to late bloomers like us, with physical concerns?
I would go with 8 frame Langstroth hives. Because of the width they are easier to lift. If a deep or medium become to heavy, just place an empty hive box next to it and put half the frames in it then you'll only be lifting 4 frames. A simple solution for heavy boxes, plus its good to have spare equipment and parts. If I ever got to the point were I cant handle 8 frame hives I would just keep 5 over 5 nucs and make comb honey.

5 - how much time, and when, does beekeeping take for you, and is there other equipment that cuts the heavier labor?
I probably spend more time than most with my bees between the end of March to early October, but you want to do a quick inspection to check for eggs, brood, stores, swarm and supercedure cells at least once a week until you gain more experience. At least once a month mite count. Equipment for cutting heavier labor is as simple as keeping extra hive boxes to put frames in and split the weight.

6 - would you encourage us to go for it, or just find a good source locally, for all the bee products we love?
If your up to the challenge, then go for it. You may want to join a local or state beekeeping club and take a beginner beekeeping class and start with at least 2 hives. If its not for you then supporting a local beekeeper is great. The one thing you would miss out on is the benefit of bee venom. I use it for lower back pain and I know others it helps with arthritis.
 

soarwitheagles

True BYH Addict
Joined
Dec 24, 2015
Messages
689
Reaction score
764
Points
243
Location
Sacramento County
[back story]Just had my 57th birthday, and hubs will be 53, this month. He's had heart attacks (has stents & no problems in about 8yrs), a not-great back and an iffy knee. I have asthma, allergies, lupus (remission), fibro, arthritis, bad knees & shoulders. Sounds like a rough combo, but we're both greatly improved, since we moved and started farming. I'm a family herbalist, and make all my own lotion bars, soaps, and more, and use quite a bit of products like honey, wax, propolis, Royal jelly, and pollen, and used to be a baker. Hubs makes mead, and is a retired chef. We are both retired. [/back story]

We want bees. My understanding is that top bar and other, more 'natural' types of hives are easier on the body than typical stacked hive boxes. I'm looking for someone local to shadow and learn from in a more hands-on way, but so far, haven't found anyone. So, my questions are:
1 - what types of hives do you have actual experience with, and why did you choose them?
2 - what are the pros and cons of those?
3 - what do you wish you could do differently?
4 - what type(s) of hives would you recommend to late bloomers like us, with physical concerns?
5 - how much time, and when, does beekeeping take for you, and is there other equipment that cuts the heavier labor?
6 - would you encourage us to go for it, or just find a good source locally, for all the bee products we love?
I sure admire your desire to raise honeybees!

I advise you to contact your nearest honeybee association/club. Usually they have several members that enjoy taking people "under their wing."

For me personally, I learned more from a few days working with a professional beekeeper than I did from days and weeks of reading and completing university classes on honeybees. No joke...there is no substitute for working hands on with a knowledgeable beekeeper.

Another positive of working with a beekeeper is you can readily discover if you really want to get into beekeeping.

I do not want to sound negative, but I cannot recommend owning and servicing honeybees to anyone that struggles with pre-existing physical ailments such as back, shoulders and knee challenges. To be totally honest with you, working with honeybees is extremely hard work and requires lots of time, physical strength and stamina. I recommend you find a local source for all your honeybee products.

Regarding your specific questions, I highly recommend you purchase and read a couple of books that will give you a solid foundation and answer many more of your questions.

Beekeeping for Dummies
The Backyard Beekeeper
The Beekeepers Handbook

Hope this helps!
 

Nommie Bringeruvda Noms

Loving the herd life
Joined
Sep 19, 2019
Messages
70
Reaction score
158
Points
113
@soarwitheagles Thank you! I appreciate your honesty, and the health stuff is truly my biggest concern. I'm looking for a local beekeeper, with whom to do exactly that. If it proves too much for either of us, we would then back out before making the commitment. Neither of us could, in good conscience, take on the responsibility of so many lives, no matter how tiny each is, without first knowing what we're getting into. And, we are both of the opinion that we should never take on more than either one of us could manage alone, simply because stuff happens. Be it injury, illness, or (God forbid) loss of life, we know that the simple facts of our health and that we are both motorcyclists, on any given day, either one of us could be left holding the bag.
 
Top