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Get Started In Beekeeping  
Updated December 23, 2014 7:54 AM
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(UNDATED) - There are many active beekeeper groups in Indiana including groups in Bedford, Brazil, and Greene County.

David Hughes of Greene County Beekeepers reports that one would think that when the snowflakes are starting to fly that this is not the time to start beekeeping. But it is. Right now! For the new comer there is much to learn.

Equipment needs to be bought or made, a location for the hive(s) needs to be prepared; and last, but not least, the aspiring beekeeper needs bees. A lot of bees. That is where the urgency part comes in.

Typically, when a beekeeper wants to buy a new supply of bees, a 'package' is ordered from one of the major beekeeping suppliers (e.g. Kelly, Brushy Mountain, Dadant etc.). A package of bees is 2½ to 3 lbs. (or roughly 10 or 11 thousand) bees delivered in a wooden container the size of a shoebox. The package also contains one queen in a matchbox-sized cage and a can of sugar syrup to provide food and water until the bees get situated in a hive.  The remainder of the 10 thousand bees are all workers. These packages are usually available in April just as a larger number of local flowers are beginning to bloom.

The 'urgency' part mentioned above relates to the fact that in recent years bee suppliers have been selling all of their package bees by early spring.  Some beekeepers find that without ordering packages in December or January that there are no bees available when spring arrives.   Having ordered the bees, then there is ample time to gather and organize equipment and a location.  If you want to buy bees for this summer, now is the time to order them for an April delivery.

What kind of bees should be in that package? There are several varieties of honeybees to choose from. There are Italian, Russian, Carniolan, Buckfast, Starline, and Caucasian bees among others. Italian bees are a favorite of beekeepers, as they are gentle, healthy, and good honey producers.  These are all traits that the beginning beekeeper will appreciate.

The beginner does indeed have a lot to learn. There are many good sources of information on beginning beekeeping.  The public library will have books on this topic. The land grant universities such as the U of I, IU, and Purdue all have good online information, as do the state universities in Iowa, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.  A personal favorite of mine is the book Beekeeping for Dummies by Howland Blackiston.  This is a very direct and accessible source of information and is great for beginners.

Another way to increase knowledge and understanding of beekeeping is through one of the statewide beekeeping organizations, specifically the Indiana Beekeeping Association (IBA) and the Indiana State Beekeepers Association (ISBA).  Both of these groups do a great job of educating and supporting beekeepers. Both groups sponsor beekeeping schools in the spring that can be invaluable to the newbie beekeeper. 

I have been to the IBA School the last three years and learned a lot each time.  Enrolling in one of these beekeeping schools for the spring would be second on my urgency list for the beginning beekeeper.

Perhaps most important, though not urgent, thing that the beginner can do is to join a local beekeeping group and/or establish a mentor relationship with an experienced beekeeper.  Many, many questions will arise in the beginner's mind as s/he begin the actual practice of keeping bees.  It is invaluable to have a group or an individual who can answer specific questions as they arise.

There are many active beekeeper groups in Indiana including groups in Bedford and Brazil. See the IBA website for a full listing of groups statewide.

Greene County has a beekeepers group that meets the first Tuesday of each month at the Bloomfield Public Library at 6:30 pm. The next meeting will be on February 3rd. This group is composed on individuals at all experience levels including those with many hives to those planning for their first hive this spring. Every member of the Greene County Beekeepers started at some point with no knowledge of how to keep bees.

If you are interested please join us for informal and informative monthly discussions about bees and beekeeping. All are welcome.

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