If you are interested in beekeeping, you’ve come to the right place!
Tubbs Berry Farm is southern Idaho’s source for beekeeping supplies! We have beekeeping equipment on hand for sale in our store year round. We are an authorized Mann Lake Dealer and carry many of their products, plus other items we have tested and love. We also teach beekeeping classes, and sell package bees. If you are in the Twin Falls area, or stopping through, give us a call and come see what we have to offer!
Beekeeping Menotorship Blog!
Wish you had an expert to mentor you, ask questions, and show you what is happening in our unique Southern Idaho beekeeping environment? Check out our online Beekeeping Mentorship Blog and get access to all current beekeeping postings and videos including a year of biweekly hive inspections, information about what is happening in beehives in Southern Idaho and the biology behind it. See what Kirk is doing in the bee yard and why, what new products he is trialing, and our recommendations for success. go to our BLOG to get access to the videos and posts!
We recommend that if you can afford to do it, start with 2 hives, or find a buddy that has a hive close by. For one thing, 2 hives gives a new beekeeper an opportunity to compare one hive to another.
The main reason though has to do with the ability to help bees if there is a problem. If you have one hive and something happens to your queen or your bees, you may be done for the season. If you have more than one hive, you can often use frames of brood or eggs from one hive to give strength or the opportunity to replace a queen to another hive. You may also be able to combine 2 weak hives to end up with colony strong enough to overwinter.
If you have 1 colony and have a problem, you may be done for the year, but if you have 2 you can generally end up with at least 1 colony even if you have a bad season!
If you can’t take a class, read up on caring for bees. Beekeeping is not difficult, but please keep your bees and the other bees in the area healthy by knowing how to care for them. First Lessons in Beekeeping is a great starting book (yes, we have it in stock). It is about $10 so it isn’t expensive, and I believe the Twin Falls Library does have a copy.
MagicValleyBeekeepers.org is here in Southern Idaho. They meet the 3rd Tuesday of odd number months, go to their website to get on their email list!
If you have contact information for other local groups, let me know!
Breeds of bees are like breeds of cows. Some people have a strong preference for one or the other, but if a hive is a good one, it is a good one regardless of the breed. That said, there are a couple of traits that each breed is known for.
Italians tend to be golden colored bees and are known for having large colonies that are good honey producers. Italian queens generally lay regardless of weather or nectar flows. Advantage is great buildup to take advantage of spring nectar flows, disadvantage is that they can starve if there isn’t a nectar flow. Italians tend to winter with large clusters so they need a lot of honey left in the hive to feed the large colony through the winter. It is important to feed Italian colonies during poor spring weather, or during dearth so they don’t starve. On the other hand, they can be excellent honey producers if the weather is right!
Carniolans are generally darker colored and are known for winter hardiness because they winter in smaller clusters. The queens decrease their laying in cold weather or when nectar flows slow. The smaller cluster means they can winter on less stores. Disadvantage is that they may build up slower in the spring and miss some of the early nectar flows, advantage is that they can often survive a cold, wet spring! Carniolans do very well where there is a slow but steady nectar flow.
Unless you live in an extreme climate zone, either bee should do fine, you can even do a mix. We run a mix here at Tubbs Berry Farm. Some years Italians do better, some years the Carniolans do!
We have offered nucs in the past, but there are a few good reasons that we recommend people start with package bees instead. First, in our area, the packages have outperformed the nucs every year. Our guess is that when you dump a package into a new hive they look around and since there is nothing there they get right to work building foundation and getting the queen laying. Even though nucs have drawn comb ready to go, we have found that they build slower than packages introduced at the same time.
The second main reason is disease and contaminants. Unless you are certain the nuc came from a disease free hive you may be introducing brood diseases or other contaminants right off the bat. This is the same reason we don’t recommend using old frames unless you know they come from a disease free source. Spring nucs are generally made up by commercial beekeepers as an income source after almonds from colonies used in pollination. They can purchase some queens, split their hives into several nucs, add a queen, and send them off. Some are probably really great, but many are made of old frames (if you were getting rid of frames would you send your best?) However, if you have a trustworthy source, or are making your own nucs, they may be a great way to go!
You don’t need anything fancy to pick up your bees! They come in what looks like a screened in shoe box. Generally it is impossible for the bees to get out of it. You can simply set the box on the seat or the floor of your car and drive home! If you have a long drive we recommend that you bring a spray bottle with some sugar water in it to spray the screen of the box to feed the bees, and you may want a garbage bag or newspaper to put on the seat or the floor to protect it. Propolis and beeswax can be sticky! Bees travel great at between 60 and 70 degrees, so if you are comfortable they should be too! We recommend packages be hived within 48 hours. If you have a long drive and arrive home too late to hive that day, or weather is bad, keep them in a cool, dark, well ventilated place overnight and spray the outside of the cage with sugar water several times so they have food.
First, you don’t want to miss all the Bee Days fun!
More importantly, we go to great lengths to make sure the bees arrive in excellent condition. They are driven overnight in a climate controlled vehicle to make sure they are as healthy as they can be when you come to pick them up. Once they leave our care we have seen people expose them to hot or cold temperature extremes, not give them enough air flow, or otherwise harm them. If you trust someone to bring them to you, make sure they are going to take good care of them along the trip!
There are 2 main types of hive lids. The migratory cover sits flat on the top of the top hive box. These are inexpensive lids that don’t weigh much and are used by most commercial beekeepers that move their bees to warm climates for winter. They are great for summer use here, some even have ventilation holes or upper entrances!
An inner cover and telescoping lid system is our recommendation for hobbyist beekeepers, and for those who will be wintering bees in cold climates. We have found that bees winter better with the extra air space provided by the 2 lid system. For those who like to look into the hive often, the 2 part lid allows you to remove the outer lid and see your bees without diving into the hive. The inner cover allows room for pollen patties to rest on the frames inside the hive, and can be used to hold bakers sugar for emergency feeding. The inner cover can also be used as a make-shift hive top feeder and as a way to remove bees from honey supers with the addition of an inexpensive bee escape.
Screen bottom boards are used as the base of the hive and have a screen instead of a solid wood piece for the floor of the hive. They are generally used to allow mites to fall down and out of the hive, and to provide ventilation for bees in the summer. If you are using powdered sugar as a treatment method, you must use a screen bottom board for it to be effective.
The screen bottom boards we sell at Tubbs Berry Farm are manufactured by us and have some features that are unique because of our experience and research. Our bottom boards are tall enough that the distance from the screen to the mite tray is enough that coating the board with oil isn’t necessary, the mites can’t crawl back up and into the hive. The landing board at the front of the hive is the angle that studies show as being the optimal landing angle for bees. In addition, the pull out tray with a grid board can be completely removed for summer ventilation, and put back in for mite count and to close up the hive for winter.
Generally you can expect somewhere between 0 and 80 lbs. Generally, you shouldn’t expect to get any honey off of a new colony in a new hive because they will spend most of the season building the wax foundation for their hive. It takes the bees about 7 lbs of honey to build one pound of wax. You should get a taste though! If hives are healthy, the average for the Twin Falls area is about 20-30 lbs on hives that stay here. This is dependent on weather and what is around your bees so sometimes you get more and sometimes much less.
If you are looking for cheap honey, beekeeping is not the way to get it. However, if you like the bees and want some great honey, we recommend it!
The answer to this depends mostly on your comfort level. Some people are simply more comfortable working bees in a full suit, others are fine with just a veil.
We probably use a jacket most often here at Tubbs Berry Farm, although we have all three. A jacket with attached veil is easy to get into and not as hot as a suit. If you are planning on pulling bees out of buildings I would recommend a full suit. Suits are also nice when pulling supers or working lots of hives simply because you keep your clothes clean (bee suits aren’t white very long). I would recommend at least having a veil. Bees are conditioned to go for the face and sting near the eyes. They don’t want to sting, but why take chances. I personally feel better in a jacket with a zip on veil, a veil alone always makes me feel like bees are climbing in underneath.
Hint for working bees in hot weather-put an icepack in your suit or jacket pocket!
First, bees don’t hibernate, they cluster in the winter. They eat honey for energy to produce heat and maintain the temperature of the cluster. They do not heat the hive, just the cluster of bees. So, first thing you want to do is make sure they have plenty of honey stored. In the Twin Falls area we recommend going into winter with 2- full 10 frame deep hive bodies (around 80-100 lbs).
The time to start preparing for winter in the Twin Falls area is late August or early September (there is a reason our Preparing for Winter Beekeeping Class is generally held then)! You want to harvest honey, treat for mites, and make sure they have plenty of pollen (or add a pollen patty) and feed early in September so you have time to take action if necessary. You want the bees that will raise the winter bees to be healthy! If there are issues that might affect winter survival, you want to address them early!
As the nights get cold enough that bees will cluster, put on your mouse guards and make sure there is some sort of windbreak on the windy side (in Twin that is the west side). Then, just wait and hope they make it through the winter!
If you have a swarm of bees in your tree, call us and we will do our best to find a home for it! Please note that swarms are usually only there for a few minutes to a day and will generally not sting if left alone. They can be a bit unnerving, especially if you have a fear of stinging insects. Don’t panic, they are simply looking for a new home! Give us a call and we’ll do our best to help!
If you are interested in capturing swarms you may contact Magic Valley Beekeepers and get listed on their online swarm list. That way people can contact you if a swarm is sighted in your area! firstname.lastname@example.org or www.MagicValleyBeekeepers.org