"Would you bring your hives to my property...."

One of my hives, this one at the end of the vegetable garden before I fixed the concrete blocks.

One of my hives, this one at the end of the vegetable garden before I fixed the concrete blocks.

"Would you bring your hives to my property?"

Periodically I am asked to either bring my honeybee hives to someone's property or to find beekeepers who would be willing to bring their hives to someone's property to pollinate their - blueberry, elderberry or whatever crops - for free. In a couple of emails, the property owners wanted to charge the beekeepers for rent to bring the hives to their land so let's go over a few basics here.

First, beekeepers have invested tens of thousands of dollars in equipment, bees, education and time by the time they have sustainable bee colonies. Yes, beekeeping is expensive, even if you build your own hives and catch swarms.

Secondly, beekeepers that do provide pollination services do have bees they can bring but they also charge for those services, sometimes a monthly fee or a charge per crop being pollinated. Most crops that require pollination have short windows where they need pollination services, which is why the major beekeeping companies spend 6 months on the road moving colonies all around the country. The pollination services season starts with pollinating almond fields in February, one if not the largest movement of bee colonies nationwide with a good 60% of North American bees going west.

A recent study February 2019 found that bees in California almond fields were dying not only because the blooming almond trees were sprayed when in bloom but they were mixing herbicides and fungicides that impacted the bees.

In addition to the stress of moving, honeybees can also get exposed to toxic chemicals applied within a 5 mile radius of where the hives are located. There is no antidote to pesticide, herbicide and fungicide exposure. The beekeeper takes that risk when they move a colony into a new area, not the property owner.

That's not to say there aren't beekeepers who would be willing to bring hives onto someone's property but the property has to have excellent bee forage plants to make it worthwhile, and those lands are few and far between. Most Missouri land has been overgrazed and over-farmed so unless the property owner is working to restore the soil conditions and planting crops to provide a continuous flower source through the growing season, most property doesn't provide bees with nutritious pollen.

A friend of mine has moved several of his hives to friend’s property only to have them die out for lack of food.

In some areas, like St. Louis, there are now "Adopt a Hive" programs where beekeepers either bring in a hive to someone's property for a fee, and then provide some honey at the end of the season provided there is extra honey. I understand there are some issues with this program because some of the hives are not properly maintained, bees disappear and property owners end up without honey even if bees pull through the season. It's not uncommon for a colony not to have extra honey after the first year at a new site but non-beekeepers still expect to get honey out of a hive.

The best arrangement was one I heard about a couple of years ago where the property owner and beekeeper split the cost of the hives and bees. The beekeeper set up the hives on the property and managed them, then at the end of the season the property owner and the beekeeper worked together to extract and split the honey. The arrangement worked so well the bees were left on the property to winter over until the next year.

So would I bring my hives to someone's property? Sorry no, I like having my girls close by where I can keep an eye on them. I started keeping bees for pollination myself and I enjoy seeing my bees visiting my flowers throughout the season. It also gives me a great excuse to keep planting and developing my one-acre hillside garden, not that I need another reason to buy flowers on sale!

Have you been asked to bring hives to someone's property for free?

Charlotte

Christmas Beekeeping Book

Two of Sue Hubbell books that would make wonderful Christmas gifts.

Two of Sue Hubbell books that would make wonderful Christmas gifts.

"...love your stories about beekeeping, you remind me of Sue Hubbell. Have you read her books? Would you recommend them? Looking for a Christmas gift idea for my wife, she's a beekeeper...." - Paul

Christmas Beekeeping Book

Hi Paul, 

What a lovely compliment, thank you, you've made my day. A friend introduced me to Sue Hubbell before I was a beekeeper. She was first a librarian, which explains her rich literary references but it's her willingness to be honest about life's challenges that appealed to me in her writing.

Hubbell has authored a number of books but the one I would recommend as a Christmas gift for a beekeeper is her "A Book of Bees." This book describes her caring for 300 hives in "the Ozarks," a place yet to be identified although some say it was around the Doniphan, Missouri area.

Some of the information is out of date but her description of spending days in bee yards having her lunch on a sunny hillside listening to the hives humming is something every beekeeper will related to, regardless.

Another book, if you want to give a second one, is "A Country Year," which covers her living in the Ozarks and the lessons she learned trying to be self-sustaining. There are life lessons in this one, too that have little to do with actually farming the land.

Amazon offered these books in "used" condition the last time I checked, and if you can't get them here by Christmas you can give a card that says these books are on their way.

One of the few illustrations in Sue Hubbell's "A Book of Bees"

One of the few illustrations in Sue Hubbell's "A Book of Bees"

My grandmother gave us books at Christmas growing up and to this day I like having a special book to enjoy for Christmas. No surprise then that I think your idea of giving her one, or both of these books, is a lovely idea.

Merry Christmas, Paul!

Charlotte

Keeping Drinks Safe From Bees

Bees will follow sweet drinks, here raiding a hummingbird feeder in my garden.

Bees will follow sweet drinks, here raiding a hummingbird feeder in my garden.

Keeping Drinks Safe from Bees

"I have bees getting into my drinks by the pool....Is there something I can do to keep them out? -- Mary.

Hi Mary,

I'm guessing you see more bees around your swimming pool late summer, say July-September? That's when my bees start raiding hummingbird feeders at my house and start checking my water glasses.

Bees, like all animals, need water. They tend to look for water with minerals they need at different times of the year. They also raid hummingbird feeders and swimming pools late summer because the colony numbers are at their highest and they need help keeping the colony cool with an easy access to water.

Water glass top 2.jpg

To keep bees out of my water glass, I use an old peanut butter jar lid to keep bees out of my water glass.

When I have something I want to save, like earrings or plant seeds, I turn the jar lid over.

When I have something I want to save, like earrings or plant seeds, I turn the jar lid over.

I turn the peanut butter jar lid over to hold something I don't want to loose, like a ring.

Give that a try and let me know how that works for you, thanks!

Charlotte

When to Start Winter Bee Feeding

Bluebird Gardens honeybees eating a homemade sugar patty in winter on the top of their hive.

Bluebird Gardens honeybees eating a homemade sugar patty in winter on the top of their hive.

When to Start Winter Bee Feeding

"....I enjoy reading your columns about beekeeping. I live in southwest Missouri, when should I start winter feeding my bees? I have four hives...." -- Sarah

Thanks, Sarah, glad you enjoy my beekeeping adventures, I also enjoy hearing from other beekeepers.

Hopefully your hives went into winter with a medium super full of honey. I winter my colonies in one deep and one medium, and if they are all mediums in three medium supers. Fall of 2016, however, was record warm. I noticed my bees were out for much longer than usual so I gave them sugar patties in their top feeding shims just in case.

Sure enough, by Christmas 2016, when the temperature was 60F, I found several colony clusters were already into their second box, having consumed their honey during the earlier warm days when they were out flying around with little to do.

In the past, I haven't added those sugar patties until end of January and early February so the key is to monitor weather and bee activity. I don't open my hives up once they have them sealed for winter but I do peek under the inner cover and locate the cluster by holding my hand over the frames to find the heat the cluster generates. That way I know where to place the sugar patties so as the cluster moves up, they will find the extra food immediately over them.

My honeybees like to raid my bird feeders from pollen from the cracked corn I add to seeds.

My honeybees like to raid my bird feeders from pollen from the cracked corn I add to seeds.

I also don't usually give them bee pollen substitute until mid-February but this year, with late December temperatures so warm, I found them raiding the pollen in bird feeder cracked corn so I also broke out the pollen sub for them.

The queen won't start laying until daylight starts to get longer, after the winter solstice December 21. With the weather so warm this year, I have a feeling the bees starting raising young ones early, which will require them to keep the inside hive temperature closer to 90F. Without larvae, they can keep the inside hive temperature a little cooler, between 70-80F. That means they are going to need more energy to keep that hive warm and toasty for the nursery.

So to answer your question, if you haven't added sugar patties yet, do so at the next warming window. Based on what I hear from other area beekeepers, the bees may need it sooner than later this winter.

I would much rather they have enough honey to pull them through but I also won't let them starve if I can help it.

Let me know what you find out once you have a warm-enough day to peek under the hive "hood."  I will be doing the same thing!

Charlotte

 

Gift Suggestion for Beekeeping Girlfriend

An electric un-capping knife makes harvesting honey a breeze.

An electric un-capping knife makes harvesting honey a breeze.

"My girlfriend is a beekeeper so she has the hives and uniform and all of the basic equipment. Is there something special I can get her for Christmas she would appreciate?" -- Jack

Gift Suggestion for Beekeeper Girlfriend

Hi Jack,

Do you happen to know if she has something that looks like the knife in the photo? That's an electric un-capping knife that makes harvesting honey easier and would make a very nice gift idea for your beekeeping friend. 

It's the kind of piece of equipment beekeepers tend to skip buying but once they have it, they wonder how they ever did without it. 

If you can't get it shipped in time, copy a picture of the item and add it to a card with a note that says you will help her carry the hive bodies when she's ready to extract. She will love having you help her, I guarantee.

Merry Christmas!

Charlotte

 

Top Beekeeping Gift Idea

Leather gloves are important beekeeping safety equipment, these have been well worn.

Leather gloves are important beekeeping safety equipment, these have been well worn.

"If you had one beekeeping gift idea, what would it be?" -- Cheryl

Top Beekeeping Gift Idea

Hi Cheryl, my top beekeeping gift idea is a good pair of goat leather beekeeping gloves. You can find them at most farm and home centers that carry basic beekeeping equipment. If they don't have goat skin, then cow leather will work, the idea is you want gloves made from something that will make it hard for a bee to sting through it.

You certainly can give bee hives and tools but a pair of gloves is not only special but personal. Every beekeeper should have a pair of these heavy duty leather beekeeping gloves as part of their safety equipment. Not all beekeepers use them all of the time but when they are needed, there is no other substitute.

Local Honey Jar

If you want to add a little something more, or looking for something for a stocking, how about a jar of honey from one of your local beekeepers. 

A hive tool is another basic beekeeper's tool, no beekeeper ever has too many.

A hive tool is another basic beekeeper's tool, no beekeeper ever has too many.

Beekeeper Hive Tool

Another gift option is to add a beekeeper's "hive tool," the basic metal shaped tool to open hives and move frames. Every beekeeper needs at least 2 because inevitably one is left in the garden, or worse yet, inside a hive, and we really can't do much without one.

If you are buying for someone starting out, you can't go wrong with picking one that fits your gift budget. 

Ship Overnight after December 10

Some suppliers may also be able to get you a pair shipped in time for Christmas. After December 10, I recommend shipping overnight since shipping carriers are very busy with orders and they can't guarantee delivery by Christmas after December 10.

And no, a good pair of gardening gloves will not work well for beekeeping, trust me.

Merry Christmas!

Charlotte

Can She Give Her Brother Bees for Christmas?

One way to give your brother bees for Christmas is to put a gift certificate in a package with bees on it.

"Hi, my brother wants to keep bees. Can I give my brother bees for Christmas?" -- Cynthia

Can She Give Her Brother Bees for Christmas

Hi Cynthia, 

If you are asking if you can give your brother real live bees this time of year, sorry, the honeybees are inside their hives clustering to stay warm and shouldn't be opened or moved. The only possible way I could imagine you getting live bees for your brother is if you knew a beekeeper who was selling bees and was willing to try to move them for you. I don't know of anyone and don't recommend it.

One Option Is to Order Bees For Delivery Next Year

One option to give your brother real bees is you could order them and give your brother a gift card in the shape of a bee with your ordering information. Since you live in Missouri, try Tim Moore at Honey Hive Farms, they should still have a package of bees you can order for around $100. They will be delivered mid-spring next year so you can pick the bees up at one of their many drop-off points around the state. 

There are other places you can order bees, I suggest Honey Hive Farms because I have purchased from them in the past and was very happy with their bees. Whatever you do, only order from Missouri beekeepers, you want to get local bees.

Give Your Brother a Class in Basic Beekeeping

Another way to give your brother bees for Christmas is to give him a class in beginning beekeeping. As a beekeeper, there are things he will need to know to successfully keep bees. you You will find a consolidated list of upcoming classes on the Missouri State Beekeepers Association website. Eastern Missouri Beekeepers are offering a beginning beekeepers class February 11, 2017 in Fenton, Missouri, you will find more details on their website.

Chocolate Hershey Hug Bees

You can also give your brother some chocolate bees made out of Hershey Hugs. I developed these a few years back as a gift for my beekeeping friends. They are easy to make and fun to give.. Try not to sample too many as you're making them! :)

Good luck and Merry Christmas!

Charlotte