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Bees for pleasure not honey

Lady's Island, SC(Zone 9a)

Hello,

I am new here, and I would like to get some feedback. I have three hives of bees. A year after I started keeping them in the trraditional manner, I became extremely allergic to bee stings. Although I have no worries about bees in the garden, I am a little concerned about working with the hives, even in a bee suit. Therefore, I decided to leave the bees alone, not remove their honey, and just enjoy their presence and pollination efforts in my garden. I have had a swarm every summer, but the remaining bees seem to be doing fine. Any thoughts, suggestions, etc.? I fear I have lost one of the hives, but I'm a little reluctant to install a new package considering my allergy.

Thanks,
Peggy

Glen Rock, PA

Hi Peggy. Your's is a real problem, and I think you are wise to give up beekeeping. If there is a neighbor who seems interested, I would let him/her have the equiptment with the understanding that it was a loan, not given, and that if that person was done with it, you would like it back. Most people who get into beekeeping get out after only a few years, and this way you could get most of your stuff back.

So far as what will happen to the bees, chances are they will die out. Around here we can expect more than 50% winter kill for untreated hives because of mites (tracheal and varroa). If you don't have Varroa mites yet, when they arrive your bees will likely dwindle.

Langley, WA(Zone 7b)

You might want to switch to keeping mason bees. They are easy, will pollinate your yard (altho they don't travel as far as honeybees if your yard is very big), and are a pleasure to have around.

The initial investment to get into them is much much less too. Maybe you can find someone to sell your current equipment to and then switch over. The initial investment in mason bees is less than $50.

Gwen

Lady's Island, SC(Zone 9a)

I have tried to attract mason bees, but I think the "equipment" I used was not the best. Just a little board with holes punched in it.

What is the proper way to attract and keep them?

In regard to honeybees, we do have the mite in this area but so far I don't think it has affected my hives. Not quite as much a problem here but I am concerned about it. Perhaps I could medicate the bees without too much disturbance of the hive. It is only when I removed the frames that they got upset with me (who wouldn't?!)

Thanks,
Peggy

Langley, WA(Zone 7b)

You can buy a canister that has carboard tubes with paper inserts. The tubes are refillable. They come with and without bees. I got the canister that came with about 20 tubes and then 3 tubes of bees. I also got a much smaller set up for another area. The smaller setup did better but I think that was because the bees I got for the larger setup I got off ebay. I've been told the bees do not take well to being knocked about and I think the shipping did them in. I plan to buy more bees for the larger setup locally. The bees that came back to next last year are being very carefully stored in our shed. This reminds me that I may need to put them out soon as we seem to be coming up on a very early spring!

Gwendalou

Northeastern, WI(Zone 4a)

Here's some information from Washington State University:

http://www.metrokc.gov/dchs/csd/wsu-ce/agriculture/PDFs/MasonBee.pdf

If you would like to get an inexpensive book on Mason bees, I can highly recommend this one:

http://www.knoxcellars.com/Merchant2/merchant.mv?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=KCNP&Product_Code=OMB2&Category_Code=BL

The above website is the author's, but the book would probably be available from Amazon too.

Langley, WA(Zone 7b)

This is what the tubes look like:

Thumbnail by Gwendalou
Langley, WA(Zone 7b)

The tubes with the brownish stuff around the opening are the tubes the bees came out of last spring. I don't have any photos of the tubes they rebuild their nests in but they deposit there eggs in the new tubes and then build a mud closing over the opening.

Gwendalou

Savannah, MO(Zone 5b)

Enjoying and learning some things about bees here.

cuckoo

Castelnau RB Pyrenée, France(Zone 8a)

What an interesting thread. Thanks very much everyone for all the ideas and info. I too ahve been considering keeping bees just for interest and pollination of fruit and vegetables without necessarily harvesting the honey. I hadn't thought of encouraging mason bees.....

Langley, WA(Zone 7b)

There is also another variety of bees that are similar to the masons and their season is just after the mason bees' season. The people who wrote the above-recommended book live near here and sell their bees in our stores but so far the stores have not brought in the other bees. I think next year I will special order them.

The author's daughter comes to a local nursery and gives a little talk on the mason bees. She brings them along. I couldn't believe how tame they were!

For some reason, we didn't have as many bees in our yard this year but the flowers are better than ever, so I guess they're getting pollinated by something.

Gwen

Castelnau RB Pyrenée, France(Zone 8a)

It looks as if I'll need to do some research to find european alternatives. The mason bees referred to are native to the US and anyway don't pollinate the wide range of plants that the honey bees do.
But all this has given me much food for thought and I shall have a delve into what is native to this area, thanks Gwen.

Lady's Island, SC(Zone 9a)

I had mason bees for the first time this year. They hatched right on schedule and were working busily in my fruit trees. Now they have finished their season and laid eggs for next year.

My only problem with them is they were out and about for such a short period, about six weeks. I look forward to their presence again next year, but I don't think they will ever replace honeybees in my heart!

Peggy

Castelnau RB Pyrenée, France(Zone 8a)

Oh, that's interesting thanks Peggy.
Yes, when I looked at the details about them on the link it seems you can really only rely on them for orchard fruit tree pollination.
So you think honey bees are the ones for you? :o) Unless there are some very different mason bees in europe I think I'll be with you on that one.

Lady's Island, SC(Zone 9a)

I have kept honeybees fo several years and just love them. Then I became allergic. Through this list I found a delightful beekeeper who lives nearby and plans to set up several hives on my property, for which I am very grateful.

There is nothing like a honeybee, for pollination, charm, and don't forget the honey! They are just delightful creatures and completely harmless unless you are working with their hive. Then they sting, but only to defend themselves. When a honeybee stings, she dies, so they don't do it unless they feel they have to.

I will keep on with the mason bees and welcome honeybees back as well!

Peggy

Langley, WA(Zone 7b)

I wish I could find someone who'd set up hives on my property! There were abandoned hives when we moved in so they'd have a start, altho I imagine some parts would need to be replaced.

Gwen

Castelnau RB Pyrenée, France(Zone 8a)

That sounds like an excellent arrangement Peggy. I'm still seriously looking into beekeeping, but will have to do it myself......

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