© 2017-2021, ZBees Apiary, Waynesville, NC.                                                                                                          Buzz the Apiary

Lifetime member of the North Carolina State Beekeepers Association

Buzz the Apiary

Every honeybee apiary is different, either in location, size, availability of nectar and pollen, or in the management style of how the beekeeper preserves their colonies. However, certain standards must exist for the apiary to remain healthy and grow. First, keep updated about beekeeping as you possibly can be. Second, use your beekeeping experience to teach those who wish to learn about honeybees. Third, beekeeping is a “science” that needs constant nurturing to mature into a well-managed apiary. My brother termed it best when he stated, “There are beekeepers and there are people who just keep bees” (Mike Zachary, Sept. 2016). The “beekeeper” manages their apiary regularly to ensure the bees are thriving for the good of the hive, environment, and the beekeeper. The “person who just keeps bees,” typically; fails to plan for any apiary expansion. Sustainable Hive Management (SPM). Integrated Pest Management (IPM) should compel beekeepers to practice proper hive management and inspections of the apiary.

The first year as a “beekeeper” teaches us some valuable lessons in managing honeybees, because the primary concern is nurturing these pollinators and honey producers who help the environment and our economy. Keep watch over your bees and the number of hives will grow exponentially as the health of the whole colony improves because, a good producing queen controls the hive expansion. Thus, a properly managed apiary can reduce stress on the bees and the beekeeper alike. When questions arise, experienced beekeepers can help with many issues so, quiz them and learn.

For this beekeeper, it started in September 2016 at my brother’s place in Brooklyn, Michigan. As I listened to Michael talk about his bees and the honey they were producing, I became hooked on the idea of setting up an apiary after tasting some of his raw honey. I was proud of his achievements as a self-taught beekeeper, knowing he built two top bar hives and then he added three Langstroth hives kits during later years. Mike began showing me all that he had learned about honeybees and how he built his Stolen Nectar Apiary from nothing. His excitement sparked an interest in me about building an apiary in Waynesville, North Carolina.

New beekeepers often ask how to construct an apiary. This is the setup that I used back in April 2017 for each 10-frame Langstroth hive: (2) deeps for brood, (1) medium honey super, (1) screened bottom board, (1) inner cover (1) roof- gable design, (20) deep-frames, (10) medium-frames. Bees need room to expand so, start with more than one hive the first year.  Each hive shown entered the 2017 winter season with over 60-pounds of honey and 55,000+ honeybees.

Choosing a morning sun location

8-Frame NUC hive.

Bee a good neighbor…

Bee SAFE!

    Finally, “backyard” beekeeping is fun, and it can become a small business which could turn into commercial opportunities, depending how much time you devote to the bees. The first year taught me that beekeeping creates a drive in you which means investing money, time, education, and the willingness to see productive results. Setting up the new apiary went flawlessly. Excitement boomed and willing to learn from companion beekeepers. I hope that all new and potential beekeepers visit one of our monthly meetings and explore the club.

May your new apiary bee-blessed with as much good fortune as I receive and always… Bee Safe, Bee Happy, and Bee Productive, and Bee Thankful!

The Apiary Setting up the first hives. Honeybee on buckwheat - July 2018

Honeybee on buckwheat

Some goals needed proper attention before setting up the apiary. For starters, learn as much as possible from other experienced about building and preserving beehives.  In the beginning I gained some knowledge from my brother, who became my mentor. We worked our way through his Langstroth and top-bar hives and I learned about the difference in how the honeybees maintained each colony. This amazed me! Over 100,000 bees were flying around us and I only received one sting, which I considered excellent odds for a novice beekeeper. Next, I purchased two Langstroth hive body kits; with two deep-boxes, one medium-box, screened bottom board, inner cover, roof, with all the frames and build them in his workshop. This created great excitement in me as I fitted and glued boxes and frames together. Lastly, I stained the boxes and later I hauled these them back to Waynesville, where they became the start of ZBees Apiary.

During the fall and winter months I filled my head with as much honeybee knowledge as this old brain could absorb and still, I barely scratched the surface of the beekeeping world. I built a toolbox for my hive tools, read many published articles and books on “beekeeping,” and listened to relevant YouTube videos. Many of these videos contained information on keeping bees, setting up a hive, treatments for bee pests, and swarming control. I joined the Haywood County Beekeepers Chapter and became their “webmaster” during that first night- based on my twenty plus years of computer and web design experience. Time to “hunker-down” and get serious about honeybees, for they would be arriving in only six short months. “Bee-Day” arrived on April 15, and I received two packages of bees from KT’s Orchard and Apiary in Canton, North Carolina. These new hives were ready for honeybees and I prepared for this day yet, I still had many thoughts.

Plan, prepare, and perform your apiary setup strategy before you begin placing the hives. Ask questions when you do not know the next step or how to achieve it. “My wife tells me she likes the ‘new’ me” because I am planting flowers, studying the trees around the house, and absorbing as much “bee-knowledge” as possible. My disposition is better because I thoroughly enjoy beekeeping and I always find myself looking for new information about bees as the rest of the family cheers me on in this new adventure. The “science of honeybees” involves much studying in the fields of apiculture, botany, horticulture, pests, and even weather if you want your apiary to survive year after year. Thankfully, I belong to a local club of beekeepers where great presentations happen each month. When you need a mentor there is always someone available to help you. Thank you, Rich Byers for the Haywood County Beekeepers Chapter, for helping me that first day the bees arrived in April 2017.

Never… bee- surprised who shows up around your apiary. The honeybee does like to draw nectar or pollen from the Purple Coneflower- Echinacea purpurea, However, it is the bumblebee who seems to enjoy this flower’s nectar the most. Even butterflies will visit these cone flowers more often than honeybees. My research during the past three honeybee seasons has revealed that they will target the most delicious nectar in season- typically tree pollens and nectars. Thus, when more highly desired tree nectars are available the honeybees will work those foliage’s first, every time. Only when there is no predominant tree nectar or pollen available will my honeybees move to the nearby flowers or the grasses in search of a tasty meal.

Conversely, I find that bumblebees prefer to forage down low and will often be found on the various flowers around the apiary. Might I suggest that you take an hour of your time and watch your apiary. Note where your honeybees are heading when they leave the hive. Observe each variety of tree, shrub, and flower within 100 yards of the hives and look for evidence of honeybee activity. You may be surprised at what you see! This will also help you understand which foliage is most desirable to the bees. You may have to plant more flowers with varying bloom times to help the bees during a dearth period.

Honey or Bumble… that Bee the question?