Frequently Asked Questions about owning bees

Eco Honeybees FAQ's (Trust us. They're long but interesting!)

Why do I want a beehive at my home and why are they so important?

Beehives are one of the single most important things in the world today. They are one of the true innocents in this world that we couldn’t survive without. So much of what we eat grows only because bees are out there pollinating day in and day out during the growing season. Even the meat we eat is dependant on bees pollinating the fodder to feed the animals! We all are aware of what mankind has done to harm up Mother Earth’s ecology. Luckily we’ve gotten to the point that we’ve started to try to give a little something back to improve this planet we live on and share.

We’ve all made great strides in cleaning to our world but we all know that the clean up job has barely started and will take hundreds of years to fix what we’ve all taken only decades to ruin.

One thing that our increasing scientific expertise has told us is that the environments damage runs deeper that trash lying around and people dumping trash into rivers. There are certain small indicators out there that we’re only just learning about but have a proportionally huge impact on the health of the planet and the continuation of humans being able to survive on the Earth. Bees are one. Plankton in the ocean is another, frog’s yet one more of many. When problems are seen with these base indicators then serious problems affecting everything up the food chain are imminent. And because of what we’ve done to the planet, the worldwide bee population worldwide is in serious decline. Between insecticides, pesticides, fertilizers, bad water, and general pollution, the bee population has the deck stacked against them in many ways. Current studies have shown that 90% of the wild bee population has disappeared! And over 60% of the hives kept by beekeepers have died only recently. In 1946 there were over 2.5 million beehives in the U.S. Now there are less than 200,000. And, oh yeah, we’re trying to feed more people now, too. Agriculture does not exist without bees. Without agriculture humans do not exist. It is that simple. If this doesn’t bother you, it should. We know you’re not hearing this first here but you’re hearing it again. The problem is here, we created it, and everyone owes it to his or her own future generations to do his or her utmost to fix the problem. The problem is to the point that every government in the world should require every community in their country by law to have hives on the roofs of every municipal building but don’t look for that to happen anytime soon.

If you’re the type of person that drives a hybrid, turns out lights when they leave the room, reuses grocery sacks, or just simply hopes for a future that includes your great grandchildren then you’re on the right track and good for you! Now take one more step and make a difference that will benefit your community and home area immediately, get a beehive, tell a friend what you just did, and really start doing something that Mother Earth and your great grandchildren will thank you for! Yes it is a baby step that many more people need to do to make a difference but we do have everything to lose. This is a trend well worth starting!

Is a beehive “fun” or educational to have? After all, aren’t they just bugs?

Oh Goddess, Yes! Bees are fun! At our home our lawn furniture if arranged right out front of our hive so we can sit there and watch them work and fly in and out of the hive. They are extremely relaxing and peaceful to sit and watch. It is also very satisfying to be weeding your garden seeing your bees working right there with you doing their thing. It might seem an odd partnership but it is a fulfilling one. Hives are also a lot of fun to show off to neighbors, friends, and relatives especially at family functions or garden parties because the initiated always think you’re doing something dangerous. We think they’re a lot more fun than showing off your Hybrid car.

Upon request, especially for our clients with children, we can provide hives with an observation feature so that parents can actually open a hive and children can safely look inside through windows to watch the bees at work inside the hive creating their brood, combs, and honey. This is great for school projects!

Bees give us the gift of life and are themselves a true gift from the Earth to us. Rightfully we should take the time to learn and enjoy as much as possible about this gift. We’ve taken them for granted but they’ve been our best friends for thousands of years and only now we’re only just starting to realize that we can’t survive without them. But at least now we have the ability and resources to fully take advantage of the educational possibilities.

We’ve read several articles about problems with beehive collapse recently in the country and that there is a serious crisis with the lack of bees worldwide. What’s all that about?

Those articles you read and specials you’ve seen on National Geographic, Discovery, and Learning Channels weren’t lying. There are serious problems with bees that will have a dramatic effect on everyone in the world! Here is the U.S.A. during the past 20 years, tracheal and varroa mites have become major bee pests that seriously threaten the industry in the United States. Mites have killed more than 90% of wild honeybees and 60% of commercial bees in the U.S. and small hive beetles are also becoming a serious problem that beekeepers have to contend with. Overseas, owners of pear orchards in China that are hundreds of years old are now having to pollinate the pear flowers by HAND using Q-tips wearing rubber gloves because pollution has killed every bee in their region and new hives don’t survive (why would I want to eat a pear grown in that kind of wasteland). If they didn’t do this they would have no crops at all. This is where we’re headed if the problems aren’t addressed. If it is already happening elsewhere, it can surely happen here.

Creating successful beehives is getting harder and harder and requires more and more expertise than ever before. The pollutants, toxins, smoke, chemicals, pesticides, and fertilizers we’ve pumped into the environment over the past 200 hundred years all in an effort to make our lives “better” have done a serious number on all the other inhabitants of the planet. 

So why shouldn’t the bees be dying off like every else in this world? They are and so are we. Autopsies performed on bees show them being riddled with dozens of diseases. And why should we care? Oh, that’s right. Most of what we eat grows only because of bees. Our government estimates that $14 billion worth of yearly crops are dependant on pollination by bees.

Given all this Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) or Hive Death is becoming very common. Diseases and genetic problems are facing bees to the exact same extent as they are afflicting us. Of course we need bees while they really would be better off without us being here. There are also many more instances of parasites in hives that are harder to control and require intervention from experienced beekeepers and medical technology to forestall. It is to the point that, to survive and flourish, the bees need our help to protect them from the problems we’ve brought into the world. We’ve hurt them to the point that they need our science to help save them. Starting your own hive is a great place to start but active assistance and intervention is constantly needed to ensure your hive’s success given the challenges the bees have.

Why should we let you maintain our hive for us?

From what you’re already read here about the plight of the bees and the challenges they face surviving in this environment man has created for them, the answer should be obvious. But we’re all educated consumers here.

A beehive is very different from a used car or new washer/dryer. But, like major appliances and cars, most consumers do not have the expertise to maintain them when they break. The main difference is that an improperly maintained car or home appliance will just break requiring repair causing an inconvenience. In the world of beehives a broken hive equates to 30,000 dead bees lying in a pile around the hive. This is a heartbreaking tragedy. If you love bees the way we do, compare this to driving into your town one morning and finding everyone lying on the streets dead. It is an absolute total heartbreaking disaster and we can’t stress this enough. We’re not into this business to only earn a living. We firmly, passionately, love these bees and want to do everything in our power to have them proliferate and benefit the environment in doing so. They are so desperately needed now and we all have to assume some responsibility to the planet to make sure they are healthy given how we’ve damaged their environment.

Given all these challenges surrounding hives these days, many people who might want to try having one opt not to because of the diminishing chances of success since so much knowledge is needed compared to even 50 years ago.

Beekeeping is a science requiring considerable expertise and learning curve. More so now than ever. Most hobbyist beekeepers don’t have a ready resource like Eco Honeybees that is willing to oversee the care, feeding, and maintenance of their investment. That we’re here willing to do so is the highlight of our service to our clients and community. We can help to provide the best chances for success that you’ll ever have. While there are no guarantees with anything involving wild animals or insects we sincerely hope that you believe in our dedication and commitment to the success of your hive.

How does Eco Honey Bees service a hive and what does a visit include?

When servicing a hive there are many things we’ll be doing and looking for. The first thing we’ll do is a complete inspection to see how well the queen is laying and making sure the brood chambers are safe and producing. We’ll also be inspecting the food and nectar storage and that the hive is operating as an efficient community as much as it can. These days, one of the most important things we can do is to properly inspect to ensure the hive is free from parasites, mites, beetles, and lung diseases. The number of things attacking hives is growing causing the problems everyone is aware of. We also will be introducing medications and treatments into the hive when needed or on a preventive basis to keep potential problems to a minimum and to eliminate any issues we might find.

Before we leave we will be refilling the feeder on the top of the hive to give the bees as much food and nutrition as they can handle! Starvation is the one big thing that kills hives and the simplest thing we can do to prevent! We’ll also be taking notes and leaving you a report outlining what we’ve found and done making you aware of the status of your hive as well as any concerns we might have.

How much honey can our family expect to get from an Eco Honeybees hive?

Honey is the one most obvious benefit from having a hive. It is nature’s candy and also the ONLY food out there that have no expiration date. Honey created right now will still be good to eat 10,000 years from now. It is good for you and, if you suffer from pollen allergies, you’ll be surprised at what eating your own home produced honey will do to help your suffering.

Bees exist to create food for their hive. That food is honey and they need to store it to eat during winter. All the benefits our society and civilization receive from pollinating crops and growing food are secondary to the bee’s need to create honey to feed them through the winter season.

We always try to place hives in the spring so that the bees will have the maximum amount of time to create as much honey as is possible throughout the course of the season to ensure their own survival. By the end of a season a healthy hive can have over 100 pounds of pure honey in it and some portions of a hive might be almost too heavy for one person to lift! But this honey is not ours to harvest because the honey is what the 40,000 or so hive residents will be living off of during the winter months.

The honey that the bees do not consume over the winter can be harvested the following spring once the hive is active again and the bees have plant and flower nectar as well as Eco Honeybees feeding visits to supplement their diets. The spring honey harvest can vary but it is certainly possible to harvest 20-40 pounds of honey for your home and we’re here to help take care of this for you. If you find yourselves totally inundated with success and have way too much honey we can help take excess off your hands to give to shelters, homeopathic allergy researchers, and distributors.

What about bee stings? We have children, neighbors, and pets and want to keep them safe and that worry is what has prevented us from having considered this before.

First off, yes, honeybees can sting you and some people are allergic to the stings. The potential is there and we’d be lying to say otherwise. But the reality is that over 95% of bee stings received by people and pets are not from honeybees but rather from Yellow Jackets, Wasps, and Hornets. Yellow Jackets and the like are nasty but very different. It is almost like they exist to sting us. Most people stung are stung later in the summer because that is when the Yellow Jackets and Wasps are mature enough to do so. Honeybees are out there working away come early spring yet very few people ever get stung early when it is only the honeybees out there. 

Honeybees are generally docile and the breeds that our company uses are known for being non-aggressive. Honeybees are genetically encoded to do a job. Like with any living thing on this planet they will defend themselves if threatened but they really need to be provoked. They will not seek you out or follow you around to attack you. They do not stalk. When placing a hive initially we work hard to make sure a hive is in a quiet area and that Timmy isn’t going to use it as a backstop for a game of catch or Snoopy isn’t going to try to take a nap on top of it. All any bee wants is to be left alone to do what they do best. It is perfectly o.k. to put your lawn chair a few feet from your hive and spend a relaxing afternoon watching your bees do what they do best! Yes they’ll fly around you, bump into you as they fly by, and observe you as well, but they’re allowed!

Will our family need to look like aliens in our back yard wearing large bees suits for protection?

Actually, no, you don’t unless you want to impress your neighbors with your fashion sense. Because Eco Honeybees is set up to service your hive for you on a regular basis you won’t need to invest in all the equipment because there will be no real need for you to enter the hive. Most all our hives will have observation windows accessible by your family from the outside of the hive by lowering a wooden panel. While you can observe what is going on inside, the hive is still sealed except for the main entrance way. Simple common sense and being calm and non-threatening goes a very long way to keeping humans safe around any wild creatures.

And please trust us. While people sometimes do get stung these bees are basically docile. We sit for hours on a bench next to our hives just watching them and there is no danger. Many times when we’re feeding the bees and removing the top cover of the hive to do so, we don’t suit up at all or wear gloves at all. The bees don’t mind people as long as the humans are respectful, quiet, and aren’t presenting a threat. Bees will be flying around you but that is pretty much it. We’re sure that the bees are wondering if we’re going to hurt them as much as we worry about them stinging us.

When we service your hive we do wear the proper suits but then we’re actually removing parts of the hive and inspecting internal brood racks, the queen, and doing maintenance. This can annoy the bees more than just plain daily observation but it is something that we’re here to do that you don’t have to worry yourselves over.

Is there anything our family needs to do to our property before acquiring one of your hives?

Most families like to have a hive in their backyards in a quieter shaded area where the bees can quietly go about their business. Many people that have pets will opt to put a small fence around the hive to keep Snoopy from wanting to take naps on the roof. We have a professional landscaping company called Edible Landscapes that are also beekeepers that can design specialized enclosures if you wish to go that route. 

If you live in a smaller neighborhood with smaller yards, you might want to inform your neighbors as to your plans to install a hive. Most of them will be ecstatic and will start planning their own gardens knowing know that everything will grow that much better with a hive close by. You might come across some of those dreaded neighbors that seem to be anti everything because they once saw a 70‘s horror movie about mutant bees and now will fear for their kid’s lives. We all know these people exist and that they have their attorneys accessible on speed dial #1. We can assist with education if needed but this FAQ page does go a long way to educate along with a jar or two of free honey. You want to work with your neighbors because your bees will benefit everyone around you. They need to know this also. Our own lack of education does more to harm us than anything else in this world. 

If you use a lawn service you might want to inform them that you now have a hive. Mostly this is so their staff doesn’t try to run over it with a mower or hit it with a leaf blower. But this is also important because you don’t want a whole lot of pesticides or chemicals being spread. This is, after all, one of the huge reasons why the bees have been dying off nationwide in droves. Even the fertilizers we use to help our gardens oftentimes harm the bees and the residues of all these chemicals are found in the honey, the wax combs, and in the bees themselves when scientists perform autopsies on them, The exact same thing can be said about us and our foods. 

What about those African Killer Bees we see on T.V. and in the movies?

Early on Hollywood and the media realized they make more money sensationalizing whenever possible. One has only to remember how many times Tokyo has been destroyed by reptiles to believe this. Africanized Bees have been becoming a problem throughout this hemisphere since their introduction from Africa several decades ago by a well meaning but misguided researcher in Brazil. While the problem is growing the Africanized Bees have NOT come up towards this area yet and constant strides in research are being made in how to control them. Most of the research involves genetically altering them to enhance their positive aspects and to minimize their aggression. But they are not a problem in our area as they have not yet advanced to the point that they can survive our colder winters.

How large can our hive get over time?

When Eco Honeybees introduces a standard hive to your home, we’ll start it out with one large box called a Deep filled with ten empty frames, a feeder, stand, and top and about 5000-7000 bees with a queen to lead them. The old truism “busy as a bee” comes to light as few days after proper introductions have been made and the queen gets right to work laying eggs. After your hive is started and the Queen is laying brood properly, we’ll want to come back and add a smaller box on top of your Deep called a Super. The Super is where the worker bees will start storing the honey that they produce over the course of the season. We wait a little while to add the Super to let the hive get properly started. Once your hive starts to produce brood it is very common to need another Deep box with ten more frames placed on top of the first one within 30-45 days of starting after the birthing begins. Toward the end of the season a healthy hive can have between 30,000-50,000 happy bees residing in it and they will need the space! This is a very good thing!

This process will continue the second season and by then our company might recommend removing some of the bees into another location to maintain the manageability of the hive. This is called splitting the hive. Eco Honeybees is also there over time to help monitor the health and age of the queen. Eventually the queen might need to be replaced due to age and a new one introduced. We can also encourage the hive to create another queen on their own if need be.

How far will the bees travel doing their daily business?

Generally bees will range about 2 miles from their hive. Usually there is more than enough to keep them busy and active closer in so they don’t need to but they will patrol out the whole area to find the best sources for nectar. The amazing thing is that bees don’t mind if there are other hives in the area or even closer by. We have several hives at our home and they all get along just fine. Bees generally realize that there is always enough flora and fauna to go around and usually won’t raid another hive unless that hive is very small and can’t defend itself.

So, by having your own, you’re not only benefiting yourself, you’re benefiting everyone in your neighborhood and helping all the gardens grow. Many neighbors, after finding out you’ve started a hive, will be more likely to plant more because they know they have a greater chance of success due to your hive!

What happens if we get transferred or move out of the area and can’t take our hive with us?

This we understand completely as it does happen. If a client has purchased a hive and not a rental and can’t take their hive with them we will do everything in our power to help them out. Usually this is not a big problem because one of your neighbors will most likely be more than willing to take it over and we’re here to help them move the hive to their new location and continue on. 

If circumstances exist that no immediate new home can be found we are willing to take responsibility of moving the hive and finding a new happy home for it at no expense to you.

Is having a beehive at our home legal?

Yes, having a beehive at your home is perfectly legal. Some jurisdictions may limit the number of hives you can have on your property but that usually only effects the hobbyists that get into it on an esoteric level. Sometimes there are loopholes that involve a hive becoming a “nuisance” but we are here working hard to ensure this doesn’t happen by properly placing the hive. As we all know, some neighbors make a hobby out of being difficult and we also know that a lack of education goes a long way to sustain some people but we are here to help through rough spots that might very rarely occur. 

We do know that, currently, there is a Blue Law on the books in the Town of Vienna that prevents someone from starting a hive within the town limits. Luckily the actual town is small. Any bee you see in the Town of Vienna is technically an illegal alien subject to prosecution. Eco Honey Bees will be looking to change this in Vienna.

The State of Virginia does have an official State Beekeeper and he is one person that is empowered to inspect beehives within the state to ensure the hive is healthy. Eco Honeybees works with the state and holds all the health certifications for the bees we provide our clients as well as the reports we generate for clients that opt to have us manage their hives so state inspections are only a formality.

How do I educate myself about owning beehives?

With the Internet there are more education resources out there than you can shake a stick at. Of course, as with everything Internet related, it is very easy to get totally inundated with all the information out there and then, as a beginner, to try to filter through the clutter to find the real information you need. And, given the problems mentioned above about hive collapse much of the information out there is confusing because many beekeepers are in a panic at a loss what to do without concrete solutions.

You’ll find that, in the beekeepers world, educations are gained over time mostly through trial and error. Sometimes more error than trial. And the sad reality of errors is that, with this hobby, an error can result in 40,000 dead bees lying in a pile, a ruined investment, and lost season of pollination and honey. Anyone who has ever started an aquarium has probably already experienced this. As important as bees are and considering how immediate their need is worldwide any hive collapse is very sad but a preventable collapse is a pure tragedy.

This is the primary reason why our company’s expertise is so critical. We want to be the ones you turn to for help cutting through the confusion. If we can’t figure it out we have experts on retainer with combined experience totaling hundreds of years to back you up. Never forget you are responsible for tens of thousands of little lives. You’ll be surprised and gladdened at just how seriously we take this!