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Monday, March 31, 2008

Pollen Nation, the movie

Several weeks ago, I pre-ordered Pollen Nation, today it arrived.

Here is a brief description and my thoughts:

This film follows the journey of one commercial beekeeper – third generation beekeeper Jeff Anderson -- from the honey harvest on the High Plains to the warm winter-feeding grounds of California. It also explores the history of human interaction with bees, a story that reflects the development of agriculture. In ancient Egypt beekeepers floated their clay hives down the Nile to some of the first irrigated fields; in the 21st century, professional bee brokers help balance the rising costs of maintaining hives with increasing demand from big agriculture.

The Good: Presents a good overview of commercial beekeeping in the U.S., great photography and music, and interviews with known migratory beekeepers.

The Bad: The main film is a little short (25 minutes) and was a broad overview of multiple subjects (if your want in-depth details look elsewhere).

Overall: For $20, it's a nice film that can be show to people generally interested in beekeeping or CCD. I give it 3.5 stars.

For more information: Pollen Nation Movie Website

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Tough Decisions

When I first decided to start keeping honeybees and placed my add in the local paper, I was not sure what kind of response I would get. However, after the first few calls, I knew that the demand for my bees was going to be strong.

Here is the ad I placed:

Since I live in a neighborhood, I have to keep my bees elsewhere and making the decision on where to keep them was based on several criteria. Briefly, here's how I made my decision;

1. Distance from Home - My time is limited and I want to be able to check on my bees often, without having to drive a significant distance. Several people who were interested in me keeping my bees on their land were just a little too far away for my first year.

2. Availability of Food and Water Sources - Bees will fly up to 2 or 3 miles to forage for food, but the closer the better. Some candidates had and abundance of food and others had no food or water source nearby.

3. Disposition of Landowner - This is how I viewed the overall interest and personality of the candidate. Some people were just looking to help out the bee population, other farmers, or the environment. Others were looking for a substantial amount of honey or even "rent". I eliminated these candidates right away and anyone else who just didn't seem to be the kind of person I would want to deal with on a long-term basis. I should note here that it is customary for a beekeeper to keep the landowner stocked with honey (within reason).

4. Overall Site Survey - This included factors such as property size, distance to dwellings and other buildings, visibility from roadway, and environmental factors such as chemical spraying of fruit, wind, sunlight, and drainage.

I'm very pleased with the decision I've made and the location on where I will be keeping my bees. I sincerely appreciate all of the interest in those who responded to my ad and I wish I had the time and resources to put hives on more than the locations that I finally decided on.

If you are one of those property owners who I ended up not putting my hives on, please keep in touch and let me know how your garden or orchard is doing for 2008. Perhaps next year we can work something out. Of course, it all depends on how my first year goes.

Monday, March 17, 2008

2008 Bluegrass Beekeeping School

This past Saturday, I attended the 2008 Bluegrass Beekeeping School in Frankfort, KY. I highly recommend that a beginner in beekeeping attend at least one of these conferences or workshops before getting their start in beekeeping. You can gather a lot of relevant information and resources at these events. At this particular event there were several 'tracks' that one could take, including a beginner track and others covering topics like diseases, beekeeping value added products and services, and more academic topics like honeybee biology and anatomy. Vendors attend these conferences where you can get a hands-on look at beekeeping books and equipment. If you purchase your equipment at these events you can save some money on shipping.

If you decide to attend, be prepared to take lots of notes and ask questions. I'd also suggest shaking hands with and introducing yourself to some of the local experts, officials, and other beginners in attendance. You'll end up really excited and ready to get started in beekeeping.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

My Beginner Equipment

With regards to beekeeping equipment there are numerous ways to get started in beekeeping. You can buy new or used hives and can obtain bees naturally from a swarm, buy an existing hive, or order a new package of bees. I chose to buy new equipment and new packages to start off. Most all of the literature I read before getting started suggested that new beekeepers should purchase new equipment to avoid possible disease and contamination from existing colonies. The rationale is that beginners may not be able to spot these problems and may end up with trouble their first year. It makes sense to me. You may end up paying a little more to get started, but if you don’t have much experience, it may be the best way to go.

For my first year I purchased two hives, both with removable top feeders, queen excluders, and propolis screens. There are various opinions of how to feed bees sugar-water during the first few weeks of the spring. I have choosen the top feeder method due to the higher capacity and ease of refilling it. The queen excluders keeps the queen from laying eggs in the honey chambers and the propolis screen encourages bees to build up propolis which is used for first-aid and handcreams.

As far as the bees go, I purchased two three pound packages of Italian honeybees with marked queens from a breeder here in Kentucky. My research has told me that the Italian breed is the most gentle and very quick at building up a popluation in new colonies. The queen in each package is marked with a dot in order for me to make it easier to find and observe her laying eggs. I'll also know if she has been replaced by the worker bees for one reason or another.

At the suggestion of the Kentucky State Aparist, Phil Craft, I will be treating my bees with Fumagilin-B. This drug protects against Nosema, a known honeybee disease.

I also have various beekeeper tools like a bee suit, smoker, hive tools, and brush. I've held off purchasing any honey extraction equipment until the fall when the honey harvest occurs.

For beginners, sifting through the various equipment can be a challenge. I'd recommend talking to various people and doing some simple research with vendors and on the web before spending any money.


I'm glad that you visited my website. Please sign my guestbook by posting a 'Comment'.


Thank you for stopping by my beekeeping website. As the name implies, I’m a beekeeper here in Northern Kentucky, specifically, Burlington (Boone County) and this is my first year keeping bees. I became fascinated with bees and beekeeping several years while at an agricultural expo with my father-in-law. Over the years, I’ve researched and read about bees and beekeeping and this year finally decided to take the plunge. I’m starting out this year with two hives of Italian honeybees in a rural location just west of town. I’m excited to find out what this first year will bring and glad that you’re interested in following along with the website and podcast.

If you are a beginner beekeeper, I’d love to hear from you. Send an e-mail and tell me about your beekeeping.