Ever have the desire to start beekeeping? Was this desire killed when you looked into actually ordering bees and beekeeping supplies? Yes, bee prices are going through the roof, and honey prices just haven’t kept pace. To start brand new in bees, two hives and new equipment, two packages of bees, extraction supplies, and the basic protective gear….you could easily be down $1000! All this with no guarantee you will get any honey or your bees will even survive or make it through the winter.
So what is a good way to start? Catching swarms! Catching swarms is not as hard as it seems. You don’t need anything fancy, but generally brand new wooden wares are not likely to attract a bee swarm, and specially designed swarm boxes can work great but have no other use.
The easiest, least expensive way to get into beekeeping is to just purchase some used equipment and set it out and up and wait. If you do catch a swarm, just leave them entirely alone and see if they make it through the winter. If they do, perfect, if not, you can scavenge any leftover honey in the spring without any type of protective gear. Your equipment will still be worth the same, and your not out anything for bees.
The bees can take care of themselves, and generally any manipulations a beginning beekeeper does only causes more harm than good. In the spring, if your bees make it through, you can split your hive and if you still enjoy the hobby, you can keep with it. If you decide beekeeping isn’t for you, you can sell everything and generally make money over your initial investment.
The key to swarm catching is to have used frames with drawn wax. The size of the box is also important, you need a full size box to catch a full size swarm, large enough to be likely to make it through the winter. Setting up a full deep box and a medium super above seems to be the perfect size. In the late spring, the medium box can be put on a new base for a walk-away split, and a new super put on your main hive. Mixing new and old frames keeps your hive fresh and clean. When you extract your honey the cheapest way (scrape) you renew your wax.
Most everything you need to know about the condition of your hive you can tell from watching the bees come and go from outside, in fact, it is easy to watch the bees for hours-most relaxing time ever! If the bees are outside the hive is clumps, they need more space. If there not very active and are not bringing in any pollen on their legs, you have a problem. If your bees are annoying you and getting into everything, you just may need to feed them.
If your lucky enough, you may see scout bees checking out your box, and if your really lucky, you may get to watch the swarm come!