FAQ’s on How to Start Keeping Bees
Beginning Beekeeping: There is a beginning beekeeping class taught by some of the members of the La Crosse Beekeepers Association.
Q. Is beekeeping hard work?
A. Beekeeping does require some strength, and a bit of physical labor, although both handicapped people and blind people have been known to keep bees. There are ways of reducing the physical labor involved. Join the association, and find out how.
Q. How much time does it take to keep bees?
A. Beekeeping is a four (4) season hobby, and therefore, the time varies with the seasons. In the winter, there is practically nothing to do except to occasionally check for physical damage or snow blocking the entrances. The busiest time is in the early summer when each hive should be checked weekly to prevent swarming, and to add additional honey supers. This should take no longer than 15-30 minutes once you get the hang of it.
Q. How much will it cost me to get started?
A. There are several bee supply houses that offer a variety of beginner kits. These contain all the equipment you will need to start your first hive. The woodenware can often be purchased pre-assembled. While these kits are handy, they tend to have some items that may not be needed by the beginner, and are a little expensive. They range in price from $215 to more than $300.
Package bees cost between $60-80 and nucleus colonies from $80 to $150.
Q. Where can I buy my beekeeping equipment?
A. There are many sources for bees and equipment. Please check this page for some ideas.
Q. What equipment do I need to start keeping bees?
A. First you will need the hive. This consists of a bottom board, two hive bodies with frames and foundation, two medium honey supers with frames and foundation, an inner cover, and an outer cover.
Second, you will need a smoker and hive tool. Buy a large smoker with guard, and the long hive tool. These tools are invaluable while taking care of your hives.
Q. Do I need a bee suit?
A. Third, you will need some sting protection. You can buy a veil and gloves for about $25, a full deluxe English type bee suit and gloves for around $100, and several in between to fit your budget. While you may learn to shed your protection with time, good sting protection makes sense when you are just starting out.
Q. How much honey will I get?
A. That depends on the strength of the colony, and the weather. While the La Crosse County average is around 70lbs, a strong colony on a good honey flow have been known to make 200 to 300 pounds per year.
Q. Will I get stung?
A. To come to the point…yes. But, it really isn’t as bad as you think. Stings on the hands and arms don’t really hurt much, if you learn to remove the stinger properly. Some seasoned beekeepers actually enjoy the first stings of the year, for it means that spring is surely here.
Q. What do I do if I get stung?
A. Scrape the stinger off with a fingernail, or the sharp edge of your hive tool. This grabs the shaft of the stinger, and pulls it out, leaving most of the venom in the sac. Never grab the bulb (venom sac) of the stinger and pull, because that squeezes all the venom into your skin, like a hypodermic syringe.
Q. If I swell when stung, am I allergic?
A. No, swelling is the body’s natural immune system at work. Some swelling is normal at first. With enough stings, swelling is non-existent.
Q. Do I need a license to keep bees?
Q. Where can I buy bees?
A. Most of the bee supply houses listed above have bees for sale. There are some local producers who sell bees, and many suppliers are listed in the beekeeping periodicals. These are:
“The American Bee Journal” … http://www.americanbeejournal.com
“Bee Culture” … http://www.beeculture.com
Q. Can I keep bees in my garden?
A. Yes, you can. It is advisable that you use a gentle strain of bee, and have the entrance facing away from work areas. Sometimes a barrier such as a low fence or hedge placed ten feet in front of the hive, will force the bees to fly up, and away from traveled areas of your property. Please check with your local city and county to determine if there are any regulations you may need to follow.
Q. Will bees bother my neighbors?
A. No, not usually. Just remember to locate the bees’ flightpath away from traveled areas. Often, if the hives are hidden from view, no one knows that they are there.
Q. I can’t keep bees but I’d be interested in “hosting” hives on my property to help local beekeepers. Is there anything I can do?
A. There is. Simply go to our Contact page and select the “I’d like to bee a host” choice on the Contact Form and provide us with your contact information and we’ll try to match you with a local beekeeper.
Q. I have a swarm of bees in my [attic|backyard|barn, etc.] what should I do?
A. First, don’t panic! Bees are, for the most part, not interested in you and are docile unless really, really provoked. LAXAB maintains a list of beekeepers willing to help you. They will first ask you a number of questions to determine if you really have a swarm of honey bees. (Many people have problems with wasps or hornets so it is important to identify what you are seeing.) If you do have bees, please don’t spray them or kill them. Instead, contact someone on our Swarms List for assistance.