Frequently Asked Questions
I think I have honey bees on my property... I think...
Bees, wasps, and hornets are all very different insects. But even if you can tell the differences between a bee and their angrier cousins, not all bees are honey bees.
There are actually seven "common" species of
honey bee. These include Italians, Russians, Carniolan, Buckfast, Caucasian, Cordovan, and African. Which bee is most common for you depends on where you live. In the United States, the Italian honey bee (apis mellifera) is the most common. The US has also imported Russians and Carniolans, and we have several strains of Africanized honey bees being kept by beekeepers as well as feral colonies accross the country. The honey bees you typically see flying around flowers are foragers. These are mature female bees that are tasked with bringing back resources to the hive. They have narrow bodies and are frequently seen carrying pollen in sacs on their hind legs. Check out our blog page to learn more about the different types of honey bees.
Bumble bees are also foragers like the European honey bees. They are much larger than the Europeans. They are "furrier" and have a thick coating of hair over their thorax. Contrary to popular belief, female bumble bees can sting; however they are typically very docile and do not find humans a treat.
These bees nest similar to honey bees, although they are rarely managed by humans like the European honey bees are.
mason bee is a small insect with a black body (usually). These are solitary bees and do not produce honey or wax. They are named for thier common habitat of cracks in mason as well as their ability to utilize mud like cement to make small tube homes. Commerical mason bee houses can be easily constructed or found online. These bees are very docile and are rarely aggressive to humans. They have an unbarbed stinger which they rarely use.
Carpenter bees are also common in the US, but their identification has more to do with where you find them than what they look like. There are over 500 species of "carpenter bees;" identified by their nesting habits in dense wood. Many of these bees are black but may have some yellow on their thorax. They create issues for homeowners since their nests are created in old, dense wood such as the kind found in farm fences, porches, and sheds.
And then there's the jerks...
If what you're looking at hasn't been mentioned yet, chances are they fall under this group and shouldn't be messed with. There are hundreds of different types or
wasps. These insects are very aggressive, territorial, and live in paper-like grey nests that usually have a lower entrance hole and are commonly found in trees, under decks, and around the gutter lines of homes. If you see these types of insects around honey bee hives, make sure to let the beekeeper know so they can decide how to manage them.
What's a Swarm?
A swarm is a group of honey bees who have left home to find a new place to live. This is nature's way of increasing bee population, but many beekeepers see this as a negative event because they lose up to 60-70% of their colony. Inside the middle of this group (who are all holding on to each other) is the queen, who is awaiting scout bees to come back to the swarm to report on a new place to live. Bees can stay in swarm formation for several days to weeks depending on the success of the scout bees. When honey bees are in a swarm, they are very docile. They rarely sting because they have nothing to protect. They are vulnerable and do not want to sting something and risk losing population. Even though they are very calm during swarming, they should only be handled by a skilled beekeeper. Please give us a call if you see a swarm near you!
Are honey bees endangered?
In a word: No. not really.
"Endangered" is an official status identified by the government for species whose population is suggestive of near extinction. As of 2018, there were eight species of bees that are on the endangered species list. The European honey bee is not on that list, although there has been a decline in honey bee populations across the US. This is mainly due to the use of pesticides and chemicals, increases in monocultures, climate change, and increased virulence of diseases. In 2017 the state of Virginia noted a 70% loss in honey bee stock across the state. This is a multifactoral problem, and speaks to the importance for newer beekeepers to be well-educated, well-supported, and able to handle the challenges of keeping bees, so we do not add to these issues as the hobby of beekeeping becomes more popular.
Is it easy to be a beekeeper?
Ok, follow-up question: What kind of time committment do you need to be a beekeeper?
Keeping bees is much like having a pet at home, only at peak population you have about 50,000 pets in your backyard. The answer to this question is "depends." There are many unsuccessful beekeepers that would tell you that they spend very little time with their bees, while other unsuccessful beekeepers will tell you they are in their hives every day. Somewhere between those two extremes lies the actual answer. On average, the management of a set of hives (the minimum recommended amount of hives to have at one time) should be an hour or two every few weeks. What makes this a less-than-binary answer is that many things happen during the year that will require you to act immediately. When starting out beekeeping, make sure you will be able to have enough time set aside to look after your colonies. Have a backup plan or mentor available to help when you are not able to check your bees. Inspections on hives during the spring/summer should happen on average every 2-3 weeks.
Do you ever get stung?
It happens. Every time I have gotten stung, what immediately follows the expletives is:
"I deserved that."
Rarely have my honey bees become aggressive without me doing something to irritate them. When I first started keeping bees, I was a bit worried about getting stung. It occured to me that the last time I had gotten stung by a bee was in my childhood; about 20 years ago. So the worry of the sting was based on the memory of pain as a 10 year old kid. The stings are not pleasant, but you realize that it is going to happen. Wearing appropriate gear will lower your chances of the stinger reaching your skin. The trade off of this is you lose some dexterity. While many seasoned beekeepers do not recommend gloves, it is important to remember that above anything else, the new beekeeper needs to feel comfortable. If you are glove-less and nervous, your chances of causing the bees to get upset increases greatly.
What can I spray on my flowers and vegetables that won't kill the bees?
Dihydrogen monoxide is a great chemical to spray on your plants that won't kill the bees. For those of you who are like me and failed chemistry.... that's H2O.
There are a lot of studies that are showing a closer link to many common pesticides and insecticides and the lower bee populations. Recently,
a news story was published that talked about the common weed killer "RoundUp" and its effects on bees. Monsanto, one of the largest chemical and seed distributors in the world, has been connected with a variety of bad practices that are killing honey bees. The use of neonicotinoids as a coating for seeds has also been shown to transition these chemicals to the colony and lower populations.
At the end of the day, no insecticide or pesticide has been found to be "bee safe."
Pollination Hives & Bee Services
How much room do I need to have a beehive?
Not much. The beehives need to be accessible to both the beekeeper and the bees. This means that the flight path into the entrance (usually facing east) can't be obstructed. There needs to be enough space behind the hive to allow the beekeeper to work the hives. A 4 x 8 space is large enough to maintain 2 hives.
What does "Mentoring" Include?
The best thing any new beekeeper can have is a mentor. Mentoring includes hands on training and assistnace with hive inspections, medication administrations, and maintenance. Mentors will help you get through the first year or two of beekeping by providing support that you are on the right track. check out our hive adoption page to learn more.
Do I get to keep the _________ from the hive?
you get to keep all the ____ from the hive, as long as you own it. Hosts who are providing land do not own the hives or the bees inside them so there are no products that belong to the landowner. As a courtesy, we offer discounts to landowners who host for any products pulled from the hives on their land. No prodcuts (like honey) are garenteed from year to year, especially during the hive's first year.
Do you hive sit?
We sure do! Contact us for details.
Do you provide treatment-free, or organic beekeeping?
Organic beekeeping is a lot like organic eating. It sounds nice, but isnt possible for everyone. As for beekeeping, treatment free beekeeping would be the goal for many beekeers, however due to the abundance of bees being mass produced for packages and nucs each year, the genetics for these bees to maintain their own health has been diluted. Without treatment, many colonies will and have died due to preventable diseases. Check out our blog page for more on this topic!