The Christchurch Hobbyist Beekeepers Club meet monthly and more experienced members take you through a number of topics from how to sp...

Starting up

By | Wednesday, December 08, 2010 Leave a Comment
The Christchurch Hobbyist Beekeepers
Club meet monthly and more
experienced members take
you through a number of
topics from how to spot different
hive issues to how to re-queen
a hive.
If you're keen to setup as a hobbyist beekeeper you may be wondering how to get started. After all, it's all well and good to have boxes and queen excluders but you actually need some bees! The best advice if you're interested is to sign up with your local bee club. The bee club is a great source of information, advice and, of course, bee enthusiasts who can sell you package beehives.

Purchasing an established hive

If you want to get right in the midst of it, you can purchase a mature hive. We recently did just that off TradeMe. Mature hives come with a queen and an already productive set of worker bees. If you're even more fortunate (as we were) you'll also have some boxes ready or close to ready for some honey extraction. Moving mature hives is not an easy task and is best done during late evening when temperatures are cooler and the majority of bees have returned to the hive. On any activity where you move hives around you will lose a number of bees.

Starting with a nuc

Example nuc box
A number of beekeepers specialise in breeding queens and this can be a slightly less expensive but perhaps riskier proposition for starting your hive. Essentially you purchase a nuc (alternately pronounce as nuck or nuke, depending to whom you're speaking). A nucleus is a small box complete with frames, a queen and some worker bees. You move the contents of the nuc to your hive and hope that the queen takes to her new abode and begins to lay more eggs, thus growing the number of bees in the hive. We've also taken this approach, purchasing three nucs in recent months. One of the nucs didn't survive but our supplier kindly replaced the failed nuc for free. There are many reasons why a nuc might fail. We have a theory that in our case we were over-enthusiastic in placing the new nuc into the intended destination of our back garden straightaway. This is close to where we purchased the bees. As bees can travel up to a five kilometre radius it isn't altogether unlikely that they tried to return to their original home and of course had no hive to return to. The nucs taken to Hororata (60 kilometres from town) have survived and are beginning to flourish.

Capturing a swarm

The bees at Croziers Road swarming
earlier in 2010. As you can see the bees
are making their way into the box.
Finally, you can choose to capture a swarm. Our bee club sends out mailing list messages to let people know where swarms have been located. Most people are keen to get a swarm of bees removed from their property but it's probably best to leave swarm capture to more experienced apiarists. Bees which have swarmed may have left an existing hive so there is the risk that the bees you are acquiring already have some issue, whether they were unhappy with the hive, are experiencing ill-health within the hive or have been driven out by some invader. One of the hives at Croziers Road swarmed earlier this year. The swarm stayed on the property and were recaptured. In this case the hive had produced a second queen and she left with a number of bees to start her own hive. As the queen was a swarming queen, and possibly undesireable, she was replaced soon after. The hive is flourishing still.
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