Urban beekeeping in New Mexico's largest city.
Hey everyone! This will be my first year as a beekeeper and I have been reading and watching tons of videos. I built a top-bar hive and will be getting a 4 pound package this spring. I have settled on Hygienic Italian but I am still curious as to your comparisons between those queens and the Carniolans.
I think one of my biggest questions is about hive location. There is a nice spot on the side of my casita that is fenced in and out of the way, the question I have is about sun exposure. Everything I read says, "bees like sun, bees like shade". Well this spot is mostly shady and I wonder if the bees would be happy without direct sun exposure during the day. I have noticed morning and evening sun in the area but as it's on the north wall of the casita, it gets mostly shade. Would they get too cold? I have also considered doing a rooftop hive but this would not be my preferred placement. If I did that, I would have to build shade structures and shield from the wind, not to mention providing easy roof access for myself.
Another thing that I have been thinking about is feeding my bees. I guess that they will be coming with the sugar syrup but I think that I would rather feed them honey. Wouldn't that be better for them? What honey would I use? Could I just find any local honey in a comb and give them that? I would really rather stay as natural and organic as possible. How long do you think I will have to provide food for my 4lb colony until they can begin to build stores for themselves? I have a rather large garden.
I think that's all I am thinking about for the moment. I appreciate your replies. :) Blessings.
Also, any other amazing tips for a newbie starting in my situation? Thanks!
Kate, I highly recommend taking Les Crowder's Top Bar Hive Beekeeping classes. Check out his website at www.fortheloveofbees.com. You can feed them honey on a paper plate in the bottom of the hive or if you have crystallized honey, you can feed them from the jar, with maybe a few sticks placed in the honey for access. You can also put honey between a manilla file folder, staple it shut, cut some slits in the surface for access, and attach to a top bar - but again, crystallized honey will work better. You just don't want them drowning in the honey! It's best (IMO) to feed them in the hive; it prevents robbing by other bees and insects. You might also want to check out the organic beekeeping list on Yahoo lists - the list owner is a tried and true Langstroth beekeeper, but there are others on the list using TBHs. The list owner had Les Crowder teaching at her workshop this month. Her list is an absolutely no artificial feeds and no treatments of any sort. I've learned a lot on her list.
Kate, I don't have any more real experience than you do, but I have heard that feeding honey from any but a known source that you trust is dangerous, even if it is from a local beekeeper. Honey can introduce pesticides, spores, viruses and other things you don't want in your hive. Clearly, honey is the ideal food for the bees. If you use Les as a model, he just throws a fist sized ball of crystallized honey into a hive he thinks needs feeding. Everything I have read suggests feeding sugar syrup until the package gets established. Once they start bringing in nectar, stop feeding with sugar or they will make sugar honey. If some syrup is stored as honey this time of year, it should be used up later in the year and replaced by "real" honey.
When I reach that point, I hope to be able to save honey to feed my bees next year, primarily by just leaving it in the hive, probably. I am getting a 4# package also, and am putting out swarm traps, hopefully to catch more bees. I would like to have at least two hives going into summer if I can.
As for the sun and the shade, I have read that morning sun is great, but shade is good here in Albuquerque because of the heat. I am hoping afternoon shade from a couple of small trees will be good enough, so I am orienting the hives to get the morning sun with afternoon shade. You also want to avoid moving fresh comb around when it is over 90 degrees outside.
I hope we can compare notes as we embark on this adventure!
Greetings, Kate and congrats on your upcoming bee adventure!
With regards to feeding, I'm with Ted on the subject: IMHO, feeding honey of an unknown source introduces unnecessary risk of disease, pesticide exposure, etc. Since you'll only be feeding sugar syrup to get the girls started, it seems worth offsetting this risk at the expense of a less natural approach. They'll stop drinking the syrup once they've found a better, natural source, so it shouldn't be long while they're on syrup anyway. The first year of your hive is the most precarious as they work hard to establish themselves, so helping them as best you can seems wise.
SHADE vs. SUN
In NM, mid-day shade feels very important, especially in a top bar. My top bar in mid-day sun had comb just melt off the bar once it was heavy with honey, so I'd definitely encourage mid-day shade. The spot you mention near your casita seems worth a try since it has morning sun but respite from the sun's intensity at mid-day. Give it a shot! And move the hive next year if you feel it was a bad location.
Best of luck with your new hive and let us know how we can answer more questions. If you haven't already seen it, we have a Beekeeper's Reading List to get new beeks started.
@ Janna- Those classes look awesome but unfortunately out of budget for me. I do however feel lucky to be a part of such a great beekeeping community and hopefully I'll be in contact with a mentor soon.
Thank you Ted and Chantal, I can see why feeding the sugar syrup could be beneficial in the beginning. I still don't particularly like it but I want my bees to get off to the best start they can! I shouldn't have to do it again after that because they'll have their own honey.
I think the place I've chosen will be a good one, of course I will find out for sure very soon.
@Ted- I would be happy to compare notes!
Thank you all so much for your replies!