2018 was my first year in beekeeping. The colonies that survive the winter will give me a honey crop in the spring of 2019. It’s difficult to predict how much honey you’ll get from a hive. In my area, a healthy hive can produce as little as 10kg of honey in a year if the weather is bad, or as much as 80, even 90kg if the weather is great. I have no idea of what to expect, all I know is, I need to buy harvesting equipment this year.
The first years of beekeeping are notoriously expensive. I was properly warned by everyone around me about the price of lessons, equipment and bees, so I wasn’t caught by surprise. I just really hope that this spring I can reap some of the rewards I’ve been looking forward to.
At this point, planning the apiary for me is mostly about getting hold of the equipment I need. I will need an extractor, an uncapping tool, uncapping tank, strainer, mixer, and appropriate food-grade buckets for storing and maturing honey.
I’ll also make myself a solar wax melter. I’ve seen the models that are commonly for sale and I’m not happy with the design and with the price. Luckily, I have a father who knows more about building things than I do, and he was able to tell me for how much I could make one myself.
Hives will be a returning cost for as long as I’m beekeeping and if I keep growing my number of colonies. It’s common practice in my area to extract at least one new colony from every old colony. This is done in part because it reduces the risk of swarming, but it’s also done as insurance against bees dying of because of diseases or harsh winters.
Because I have three hives, I’ll be buying three new Simplex 11 frame hives and two 6-frame Simplex swarm trap hives. As opposed to… probably most beekeepers around the world, it’s uncommon here to order hives that you need to assemble yourself. It’s also cheaper to buy ready-made hives than to make them yourself from scratch. The only job I need to do to prepare my hives is paint them.
It’s important to keep working on the habitat your bees get their resources from. Crocus flowers are great, early sources of nectar and pollen for honeybees. They will be especially attractive to your hives if you plant them in large quantities. I have collected lots of seeds from sunflowers from my own garden, mostly Lemon Queen seeds. It’s a good idea to invest in wildflower areas and perennials. I want to spend most of my time beekeeping, not maintaining flowers. Phacelia, borage, malva and cosmos are some of the flowers that will do well on low maintenance and I’ll be planting more of. Bi-annual/perennial hollyhocks and echinacea are prepared in the greenhouse now, they will be planted out in spring.