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Before the Bees Arrive

Preparing for your first batch of bees can be a nerve-wreaking and anxiety inducing experience. Before you invest hours of your time and loads of money into the commitment of beekeeping, you must research about honey bees and what you will need for your beekeeping journey. During this journey, you will most likely develop some other skills- some including woodworking, electrical wiring, and networking! 

The physical beehive construction is one of the most important parts of beekeeping, but is often overlooked. There are several different models and fancy doohickeys that can become your bees home. I keep 10 frame medium sized langstroth hives, and I would recommend this combination to all beginner beekeepers. Every apiarist has their own individual opinions, and as they say: if you ask 10 beekeepers something you will get 20 different answers! Taking this into account, you can absorb all the information you can and ultimately decide what works best for you and most importantly, your bees!

(This paragraph is in reference to New Jersey State Laws only. Each state varies in how they regulate beekeeping. For information about other states,  would recommend starting with your states department of agriculture and go from there) Before you actually get your bees, you MUST take a beekeepers short course, and register your apiary with the state of New Jersey. It is ILLEGAL to keep an unregistered hive. I took the short course provided by the Essex County Beekeepers Society, and would highly recommend it! Apiary registration is  held through the agricultural department,  this is the link to New Jersey's registration page

Below, there is pictures detailing the construction of my first hive and its sealing/painting! There is also an image of the bear fence I built (with loads of help from friends) to protect my apiary from black bears. Depending on your geographic location, this may be a requirement for a successful apiary. In northern New Jersey, bear fences are necessary to protect your honeybees from hungry bears looking for a quick food source for hibernation. Not today, Winnie the Pooh! Further down there is quick information on packages vs. nucs, and the importance of providing water sources for your bees. Enjoy!

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Bee Package or Nuc?

Bee package: literal package of bees and a mated queen, that will start the hive from scratch. An example of a bee package is to right.

Nucs (nucleus colonies): an established colony of bees with brood of varying development; mated queen; pollen and nectar stores; and little honey stores. 

To each beekeeper there will be a different opinion and answer to this question. In my personal opinion (I have started a hive via a package and through two nucs), I prefer nucs because the hive is already established. There are risks in this decision because pests and disease (varroa!!) is typically in higher numbers in nucs. Ensure the business/apiarist you are purchasing from is responsible and reputable before purchasing any bees.

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Provide a Water Source

Like most other animals, honey bees need a reliable water source. New beekeepers should set up a water source that is largely stagnant and shallow for their bees to use. These little creatures can easily drown, so having areas for the bees to land on to drink the water would ensure safety. Once a hive becomes accustomed to a water source, it is difficult to ween them off. Honey bees are typically attracted to salt and chlorine, so don't be surprised if you get a complaint about bees taking a water break at your neighbor's swimming pool!

The best water sources have: a place for the bees to stand (rocks, corks, sticks, etc.), a reliable presence, and a low level of salt or chlorine to initially attract the bees. 

He is not worthy of the honeycomb

That shuns the hives because the bees have stings.

William Shakespeare

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