February 09, 2016

I Wish Someone Woulda Told Me BEFORE I Started Beekeeping… #2 and #3

#2 Beekeeping takes up a lot of space.

The beehive pictured in my last post is empty and needs to be stored somewhere. It's a Warré hive, which has a smaller footprint than a Langstroth, which has a smaller footprint than a horizontal Top Bar Hive. My TBH is already parked on the patio (under a foot of snow) so think, think, think. But you're not storing your hive, are you? The amount of space a beehive needs for storage is a very different thing from how much space an active beehive needs.

I wish someone woulda told me when I was just getting started, to forget about the footprint of a hive, to think about airspace. A backyard gets real small when thousands of sting-capable bees are flying. If you've got a birdbath or a water feature in your garden, those are theirs now. There'll be a constant flow of traffic to and from, so the air in-between is theirs, too. The flight path'll be right about eye level, which makes mowing the lawn interesting. If you've got not one, but two hives, double your trouble. At some point, you might have someone offer to host your second hive on their property. They'll tell you they have a nice suburban lot with the perfect corner for a beehive, and they really want to help #savethebees but they just don't have the time with their toddler and the dog. Yep, people really think you can stick a beehive in the corner and nobody's gonna notice. It's #GoodToKnow that in the case of a stinging incident – and bees will chase you unprovoked – suddenly that 6 ft fence that you are so happy to have because it meets the zoning ordinance to keep bees, will seem a problem. Suddenly you will feel trapped in that 1/8-acre fenced-in lot and the house will seem so far away.

Airspace isn't the only consideration. Think about where you'll store your stuff, like a noncollapsible i.e., bulky, veil or propolis-y gloves, sticky hive tool, stinky smoker, extra used top bars that have a waxy/honey-y strip on them… Got lots of plastic bins that ants can't get into? Will they stack? Need shelves? Everyone's got a basement, garage or shed, right? What about the stuff you don't want to store in a dark spidery place? Like the candles you'll make.

#3 Beekeeping creates a lot of side projects

Many people think that a beehive produces honey, and that's it. SO wrong. In a good year, a hive does make surplus honey but there aren't a lot of good years when you're in a drought. Beginning beekeepers might be lucky if their bees put up enough honey to make it through their first Winter. What new beekeepers might find themselves with a lot of, particularly TBH beekeepers, is wax. Even with a deadout, you end up with wax from combs that you didn't have a place to store but couldn't leave in the empty hive because without bees the wax moths would come and destroy it. I'll tell you why I said "new" beekeepers in a bit, but phew that was a mouthful.

If you lean towards "sustainability," you might have this problem. I have a "crafting" drawer which is fully dedicated to all things beeswax. Chunks of raw unfiltered beeswax, beeswax in pellet form, beeswax in blocks. Then there are candle molds, wicks, wick tabs/pins and actual candles. There's also a selection of random containers for lip balms, salves and lotions, all of which I make using beeswax. Propolis tincture is another "product of the hive" that I make, so there are dropper bottles for that, too. I never planned on making all these things, but I was raised by a waste-not want-not mom, so there you have it. Problem is, now I've got shelves full of equipment and drawers full of supplies, and ultimately the reality is waste-not have-no-space-or-money-left. We're getting ready to downsize to a townhouse, and I've no idea what to do with the honey jars I won in a "Honeybee Photo Contest" — oh yeah, you'll get into photography, too. You won't just take photos of honeybees, there'll be photos of metallic green bees, long-horned bees, leafcutter bees… all on flowers. Lots and lots of flowers. You'll even go to the nursery, just to see what flowers they like. And of course you'll come home with any that a bee chose to alight upon. Anyway, I tried to give the jars away, but you know what? Beekeepers are a weird lot. You'd think that offering four cases of super cute, skep-shaped jars FREE would be met with an enthusiastic, "Yes, I'd love them. Thanks!" But, no, they prefer mason jars, which brings me to #GoodToKnow #4: The Mason Jar Philosophy.


Julie said...

Hahaha! Love these observations. I can definitely agree with both of these points. One of the reasons I got TBHs instead of Langs or Warres is because I have enough junk to store -- I don't want to get into storing boxes and frames, too!

Regarding #3 -- Like pot is the gateway drug, beekeeping is the gateway hobby. First you keep bees, then you start woodworking to build your hives and planting stuff (if you were't already), you get into botany so you can identify weeds in ditches, you're looking for way to cook with honey, making mead, making candles, making skincare products, giving talks in classrooms and blogging so everyone else can hear about your bees... It never ends.

HB said...

A gateway hobby. True dat, @Julie. BTW your blog is awesome. One of my IG followers is having trouble with a TBH and I gave her a link to your site. She says your Sugar Combs technique is "genius." Beth Ann is in upstate NY and you can see her posts here: Bad A** Bees.

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