Frequently Asked Questions
- I only have a small suburban lot. How much room do I need to keep bees?
- How much does it cost to get started in beekeeping?
- Where can I buy local honey? Do you sell honey?
- Where can I learn more about beekeeping?
- An organization I belong to would like to have a speaker at one of our meetings come and tell us about bees. Can you help with that?
- I have a “swarm” of bees at my house. How can I get rid of them without killing them?
- Can I use honey to treat allergies? If so how?
- Can I use honey to treat wounds? If so how does it work & how do I do it?
- Questions about beeswax
- Can I use Bee stings to treat inflammatory disease?
- Is there a better time to start a backyard bee hive?
I only have a small suburban lot. How much room do I need to keep bees?
The Best Management Requirements published by the Florida Department of Agriculture specifies the maximum allowable number of hives (colonies) on non-agricultural land. You are allowed to temporarily exceed these numbers for swarm control. Refer to the document for details. If you are a registered beekeeper, this applies to everywhere in the state unless you are covered by a Home Owners Association that does not allow beekeeping.
- One quarter acre or less tract size – 3 colonies
- More than one quarter acre, but less than one half acre tract size – 6 colonies
- More than one-half acre, but less than one acre tract size – 10 colonies
- One acre up to two and a half acres – 15 colonies
- Two and a half to five acres – 25 colonies
- Five up to 10 acres – 50 colonies
How much does it cost to get started in beekeeping?
Like just about everything else, the answer is, “That depends.” You’ll find links to some local vendors on our Classified ads page. Here are some very rough estimates.
- Nucleus hive of bees (a complete colony ready to be moved into the hive) $120 – $140
- Brood box, telescoping cover, bottom board, 10 frames, 10 foundations, gloves, veil, smoker, book $200
Where can I buy local honey? Do you sell honey?
If you don’t know your beekeeper, then you don’t know your honey. Farmer’s markets are usually a good place to find local honey, but be careful that you’re not just buying honey that someone has bought from a wholesaler and is just repackaging it. Ask exactly where the hives are located.
Florida has a Cottage Food law that allows the sale of honey that meet certain criteria, and honey sold this way is probably the best way to assure that you are truly getting local honey. Cottage Food honey may only be sold face-to-face by the person who produces it. If you can order it on-line or buy it through a retail outlet or anywhere other than directly from the beekeeper, then it is not Cottage Food honey. For more information, take a look at the summary of the rules. (To answer the second part of the question: No, we do not sell honey. We can help you find someone who sells honey under the Cottage Food law, but the Beekeepers of Volusia County cannot sell honey.)
Where can I learn more about beekeeping?
If you’re in Volusia County, we hold monthly meetings (details here at bottom of page) where you can learn about a wide variety of beekeeping topics. Even better though, you can meet beekeepers in your neighborhood who can help you get started, and ask a Master Beekeeper specific questions about your situation.
An organization I belong to would like to have a speaker at one of our meetings come and tell us about bees. Can you help with that?
Although we don’t have a formal speaker program, we can often provide a speaker to give a presentation to your group.
I have a “swarm” of bees at my house. How can I get rid of them without killing them?
For a good overview of bee removal, read the University of Florida recommendations on that.
First, let’s see if it is a “swarm” or an established colony. A swarm is a clump of bees that has left a hive and is looking for a new home. Approximately half of the hive remains and half leaves – that’s how they reproduce. A swarm will only stay in place for a day or two at most before they leave to the new home that the scout bees have found. A swarm is very passive since they have no home to defend. Just leave them alone and the swarm will be gone in a day or two, and they won’t bother anyone in the mean time.
If the bees have been there for at least several days, then chances are that they have decided that this is their new home. Unless they are bothering you or there is some other reason that they need to be removed (such as someone with a severe bee sting allergy), then just leave them alone and enjoy the increased garden produce and abundance of flowers that bee pollination gives.
If they really need to be relocated, some beekeepers will be willing to remove the bees for you. Florida law allows registered beekeepers to remove bees without a pest control license under certain conditions. The first place to check would be the Bee Removal classified ads section of this web site.
There are commercial bee removal services for those cases where it is impractical for a hobby beekeeper to do the job.
If you need to have bees removed, here is the information that you’ll need to provide in order to determine how the job is done:
- Location – The address where the bees are located.
- Situation – Are they in a tree, in a shed or other building, in a hole (such as a water valve box), inside or outside, how high up in the air, and any other information tot determine what equipment will be needed.
- Time – How long have they been there (a couple days, months, don’t know)?
- Surrounding area – Are there people or animals that could be at risk if the bees become agitated and aggressive?
Can I use honey to treat allergies? If so how?
Yes, but the application is limited to plant allergies specific to the area near you. There are 2 ways currently that allergies are medically detected. Most recently is a blood test. The other involves placing minute amounts of various substances under your skin by needle to measure your sensitivity to exposures. The most common allergy triggers include: dust, pet dander, trees, grasses, weeds, and molds relative to where you live.
Traditional allergy testing consists of providing exposure to offensive substances in very small amounts to determine if your body will respond to a given substance. In other words, a series of shots at the doctor’s office under the skin to see if it swells. If you react you’ll receive that substance as shots in low amounts to boost your tolerance. Bee Honey by its nature does the same thing. Bees collect small amounts of the local flora and return them to the hive to make honey. You ingest minute amounts of these substances below your allergy tolerance which builds your tolerance over time. Just like the treatment shots do.
Ideally, if the honey is collected within 15-25 miles of where you live raw local honey should alleviate your symptoms over time with continual use. How much? A tea spoon in your cereal or tea should be enough and remember, less is better. Children under 2 years of age should not ingest raw honey, their immune systems are too young to test this much variety of substances on.. Also remember, honey will have no effect on animal dander, seafood or drug allergies. It only helps alleviate symptoms caused by plant life from your living area. And as with any new food, stop use if symptoms of allergies develop.
Last, honey is produced during floral blooms. Some in Spring, Summer or Fall. Allergic benefits are derived from specific blooms. Therefore, specific flavors such as orange blossom do nothing for rag weed. There are a number of ways to deal with this. First, purchase “wildflower honey”. This is usually a mixture of locations near & far with the widest variety of floral sources. Try to speak with the beekeeper to see how it was collected. Tell them you are using it for allergies & they are usually very happy to help. The more it was mixed with other seasons the better.
The new allergy lab tests are expensive and you may need them . I provide the following as reference material for those allergy sufferers who may need them. Allergy blood tests may be referred to as immunoassay tests and include:
- Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA, or EIA)
- Radioallergosorbent test (RAST)
The ELISA test measures the amount of allergen-specific antibodies in your blood.
The RAST test also looks for specific allergen-related antibodies in order to identify your allergy triggers. Since the introduction of the ELISA test, RAST testing has not typically been used.
Other blood tests may be ordered that measure the release of chemicals responsible for allergic reactions.
These tests are expensive I recommend you check with your insurance company to determine your costs before submitting to these procedures. Last, all technology is time sensitive and my references may be out dated in a year. Always double check.
(April 2016) – Tim Blodgett, RN
Can I use honey to treat wounds? If so how does it work & how do I do it?
A. Yes, but in limited applications. Here’s the basics: To heal, a wound needs one or more of the following: drainage, knitting, scabbing, debris removal, aeration, granulation, disinfection or protection from infection. Before any of this can be effective, a wound need adequate circulation of oxygen rich blood flow and/or reduction of swelling in addition to optimal hydration & nutrition. Of all these factors, honey can provide disinfection & protection from infection. Honey has anti-oxidants in it but its effects on healing are negligible unless the basics are addressed first.
Honey has an antibiotic effect. Antibiotics work in 1 of 3 ways: they compete for a micro-organism’s food source; alter the organism’s cell wall; or impede the infection’s reproductive process. Honey affects the cell wall by creating a hyper-osmotic living environment that pulls the fluids out of the micro-organisms and disinfects the wound. It also creates a barrier to new infection allowing the wound to heal.
Opinion: Honey should only be used on cleaned superficial wounds, preferably under a gauze dressing changed daily. Also, you must bear in mind that as fluids enter the wound, honey will become saturated, diminishing its ability to kill micro-organisms. As a former University Hospital wound care specialist, I would prefer using generic triple antibiotic from your local grocery store. It’s time tested, economical, and from the lab results I saw for years, it’s the best/strongest treatment for the widest variety of circumstances. As always, bear in mind technology is time sensitive & everything I write here may be out of date next month.
(May 2016) –Tim Blodgett RN
Q. Can I use beeswax to make candles?
A. Yes, Due to cost concerns it is rarely done when paraffin(wax from petroleum) is readily available.
Q. Is there a difference?
A. Yes. Bees wax smells nicer in most opinions, bees wax does not smoke. That’s why most people who burn candles in their bathroom have black streaks up their walls & why many places of worship have soot problems on their ceilings. Some religions will only burn bees wax candles because of biblical references to it.
Q. What else can bees wax do?
A. A lot. It can be used for sealing wax, zipper lube, water proofing, lip balm, medicated creams, soaps & shampoo, skin moisturizers & protection. It is also preferred as a sealant for grafting plants and wounds in tree bark.
Q. Can I use Bee stings to treat inflammatory disease?
A. Yes, it is called “Apitherapy” from the word Apiary which means, “Bee Yard”. It is not an approved therapy in the USA. Regardless of approval it is widely used. Let me clarify terms. Apitherapy includes any treatment with bee products. Other than wax, pollen, royal jelly & propolis products, some of these therapies include:
- Bee venom; from live bee stings or venom harvested for injection for the treatment of inflammatory disease such as Lupus, MS, arthritis, tendonitis, etc. and…
- Bee venom oil; for many topical treatments including migraines, sinus problems, psoriasis, exema, aches, pains, arthritis, tendonitis, menstrual cramps, scar reduction, & spider veins.
This discussion will be limited to Bee Venom therapy for the treatment of inflammatory diseases.
Apitherapy requires Bee Venom be injected by live bees or with an insulin syringe in the fat space under the skin called the subcutaneous space. Instructions for this procedure can be found online & is not recommended for anyone with a history of Bee Sting Allergies.
If you use bees you can buy them online from Ferris Apiaries, http://ferrisapiaries.com, they have links to more information & referring to www.apitherapy.org is strongly advised before beginning any apitherapy treatment plan. Ferris also provides bee habitats, handling equipment and supplies needed to maintain your bees while waiting for use.
Ferris also provides bee venom for injection.
How well does it work? Currently a great many people use bee venom injections to treat Lyme Disease and in Bee culture it is well known that you will never find an old Beekeeper with arthritis. This speaks for itself.
It is believed that the bee venom occupies the inflammatory receptor sites within an individual thus reducing your inflammatory response to existing disease processes. To begin a treatment plan it is highly recommended you research the resources available at www.apitherapy.org. Also, the American Apitherapy Society (AAS) has a Network of people ready to give information and assistance. This information is available to society members only.
We cannot make a recommendation other than to point you in the direction of your interest.
Q: Is there a better time to start a backyard bee hive?
A: Nectar source is the key. Traditionally spring provides the most nectar food sources and is the best time to start. Unfortunately, hobbyist beekeepers are last in line to get Queens & Nucs so they tend to get a late start. But if you start in the fall, you will get a jump start for the spring and be more likely to harvest your first honey come May/June. But plan on feeding them from November until Spring. Feeding is crucial. Many problems for new-bees can be averted simply by having a strong hive. This means giving them every advantage they can get by anticipating their needs. Some points to consider to add to success: A screened bottom board can reduce varroa mite counts, hive beetles and wax moths, a good dirty water source like a bird bath or pond provides most trace elements bees need and they prefer it. July& August have less nectar sources than Spring or Fall. November/December have almost no nectar sources. Regardless, if you don’t live near a good variety of nectar sources you will be less successful. Thus, evaluating feeding needs for the first year or so will give you a good idea of the floral diversity in your area. Don’t forget to check pollen storage, bees do not live by sugar water alone. If they can’t make bee bread they won’t last for long. And look into supplements. Those with lemon grass oil have numerous benefits or check YouTube to see what you might want to try for yourself. Try “The Fat Bee Man” he does a lot with organic treatments. And last, don’t over do it. Too big a patty of honey bee health is like ringing the dinner bell for hive beetles. In this case less is better. Good luck.