Beekeeping/Frequently Asked Questions

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This section of the beekeeping wikibook exists as a place to quickly answer some frequently (and perhaps some non frequently) asked questions. Answers will generally be brief and possibly point in the direction of a pre-existing module on the subject. Any items that go into particular depth and don’t have a related module may eventually become a new module. Because of the ease and simplicity involved in answering (most) quick questions, there may, and likely will, exist information within this module that is not present in other modules.

Please keep in mind that most questions have a wide range of possibly correct answers. An old saying goes “if you ask 100 beekeepers the same question you will get 101 different answers.” Though some beepers may disagree with that statement, which does not change the fact that there will be different opinions as to the correct answer to a question. Because of this, hopefully more than one answer may be supplied for each question. If you choose to answer any questions, please do not simply remove answers you disagree with, rather add reasons to support your decision and let the reader gather information as they please.

If you have a particular question that has not been answered within the overall beekeeping wikibook, or have a question for this list which you wish to know the answer too please submit it to the frequently asked questions discussion page.

Getting Started[edit]

How much does it cost to get started beekeeping?
This depends completely on the new beekeeper, equipment can be build, and items purchased new or used. Depending on how many hives are desired, access to bees and so forth. A complete hobbyist beginner may spend any where from $0 to $1000.
How much time does it take to keep bees?
Beekeeping is a seasonal task. During the winter there is little to be done, during the spring your time may be completely occupied. Once a beekeeper becomes accustomed to keeping bees it may take any where between five to thirty minutes per hive per week during the active season. However, this is not to say that beekeeping can’t consume more time if desired.
Is a license or permit required to keep bees?
This is wholly dependent on where you live and possibly the number of hives you wish to keep. If you call your local agricultural department they can likely point you in the right direction.
Do I need to join a local association or club to keep bees?
Joining a club or association will likely never be a requirement, though doing so is greatly advised. Some clubs require yearly dues, but often this money is quickly more than paid back through the resources that the club provides.

Bee Stings[edit]

How often do beekeepers get stung?
This is dependent on many factors, including the race of bees the keeper keeps, the temperament of the individual colonies, the number of colonies and the beekeepers attitude and skill. Every beekeeper that does his or her job properly will get stung at some point, it is rarely the goal, but sometimes the result. A beekeeper may expect more stings as they begin keeping bees, and fewer as they continue.
Does being stung hurt?
It can, and likely won't depending on where the sting occurred. The best protection against being stung is not to bother the bees, however the second best is to wear the proper protective gear such as a veil or bee suit. Some beekeepers even purposely get stung around ten times a season to build and keep a tolerance to bee venom, causing intermediate stings to hurt and swell less.
How many people in the US die as a result of bee stings?
Statistics show that lightning is more likely to lead to death than bee stings.
I was stung by a bee, how should I remove the stinger?
The stinger should be removed as soon as possible by scraping it out, such as by using a finger nail or credit card. Squeezing the stinger, and attached venom pouch, may cause the release of more venom in to the skin.
Do bees really die after stinging a person?
Yes, if the bee that stings is a worker bee it will lose its life shortly after stinging. A queen bee may survive after stinging, however it is extremely unlikely to be stung by a queen.
I was stung by a bee and received some redness and swelling in the immediate area, was this an allergic reaction?
No, this may be a standard reaction to a bee sting, however consult a doctor to be sure.

Hive Population[edit]

How many bees live within a colony?
There may be any where between 10,000 to 80,000 bees in a colony. Population is highly dependant on the activity and season of the bees.
How many queen bees exist in a hive?
Normally there only exist a single mated queen bee within a hive, though it is not unheard of to have two, but it is even rarer to have three.

Bee Flight[edit]

How fast can bees fly?
Bees can fly between 12 and 20 miles per hour.
How far do bees fly in a life time?
Worker bees may fly up to 500 miles during their foraging existence which may last on average between 5 and 30 days.
What is the radius bees will fly from their home site in order to forage?
Bees will only fly as far as they need to, but may fly as far as 5 to 10 miles from home.

Foraging[edit]

Nectar Collecting[edit]

What percentage of foraging bees collect nectar?
Around 50 to 80 percent
How many trips will a single bee make a day to forage for nectar?
As many as 30 trips for a single bee have been recorded
How much nectar can a bee collect during a single trip?
A full load of nectar may weigh about 85% of the body weight of a bee.

Pollen Collecting[edit]

What percentage of foraging bees collect pollen?
Around 15 to 30 percent
How many trips will a single bee make a day to forage pollen?
As many as 50 trips for a single bee have been recorded
How much pollen can a bee collect during a single trip?
Rarely more than 15 mg

Castes[edit]

Queen Bee[edit]

Does the queen sting and lay eggs with the same body part? (Submitted by AlbertCahalan 25 Apr 2005)
Yes, other than its use to deposit eggs in the center of an empty cell, the queen bee's stinger secondary function is inject other competitive queens with venom in order to eliminate them. The bee’s stinger is a modified ovipositor, which developed in to a defensive mechanism.

Eliminating Bees[edit]

How can neighbors be prevented from keeping bees? (Submitted by AlbertCahalan 25 Apr 2005)
In most areas there is no legal way to prevent a neighbor by force from keeping bees on their own property. If a law does not already exist preventing beekeeping in your community, you may wish to speak to a local government representative in order to instate one. However, there is often no good legal reason to instate such a law and beekeepers associations tend to fight as a group preventing any such law from being created. Checking zoning laws may be a secondary option, but most allow beekeeping as long as the hive population is below a certain level, which is often in the hundreds. The best option is to speak to your neighbor and explain your grievances in order to work out compromise, though be aware that in most cases they have no legal requirement to make you happy.

Hive Products[edit]

Honey[edit]

Isn't it somewhat unsafe to eat honey produced in residential areas? It could be contaminated with rhododendron or azalea nectar, and thus poisonous. (Submitted by AlbertCahalan 3 May 2005)
While it is true that bees can forage nectar from plants with human toxic nectar, you have to consider the distribution of such flowers. If poison-nectar plants are the predominant source of nectar for forming honey, don’t eat the honey produced. However, in most cases such nectar sources are few and far between on the foraging path of honeybees. This in combination with the sheer amount of nectar that must be gathered to make a small amount of honey makes the occurrence of honey poisoning extremely rare. Experienced beekeepers should be aware of possible toxic honey their hive may produce, this honey is often collected and used only for feeding back to the bees. If there is any question, avoid using any honey that you don’t trust.
Is it a good idea to feed infants or people with immune deficiencies honey?
No, honey should not be fed to infants under the age of 1 or to people with severe immune system deficiencies. This is due to possibility of botulism spores being present within the honey. This level of botulism present should have no ill effect on a healthy person.