FAQs & How-To's

 

Can I keep BEEcosystem in a high-rise apartment or upper level of a multistory building?

Yes, absolutely!  Bees are not afraid of heights.  Rooftop beekeeping is becoming an increasingly common practice in many urban areas, and bees will navigate normally to hives kept at higher elevations.  Any standard sliding window will work for installing the non-invasive window unit connection.

 

If I setup my BEEcosystem hive indoors, is it secure? Can the bees escape inside?

The BEEcosystem hive includes multiple features that make its setup for indoor applications much more secure than any other observation hive; however instructions must be followed carefully during setup and care taken throughout its ongoing operation.

Bees enter and exit an indoor BEEcosystem hive via an entrance/exit tube that routes the bees to the outdoors.  This tube fits snuggly into a pre-cut gasket (hole) in the window unit, which is comprised of a durable insulating foam block that can be cut-to-length to fit into any standard sliding window (either vertically double-hung or horizontally sliding)—this is very analogous to putting an air conditioning unit into a double-hung window, except much smaller and lighter weight.

When deliberately moving the hive or by accidental disconnection, any time that the entrance/exit tube is removed (either at the hive attachment point or at the window unit attachment point), a spring-loaded safety hinge automatically closes off at the window unit (so bees cannot enter from outside) and/or at the hive itself (so bees cannot exit the hive into the indoors). This simple failsafe helps to ensure that bees do not enter an indoor space.

Sturdy construction and oversized latching mechanisms are designed to make the BEEcosystem hive as resistant to breakage as humanly possible for a wood product. However, a hive body that is full of beeswax, especially when filled with honey, can be very heavy.  BEEcosystem hives must be mounted onto a structural stud, never just into loose drywall—BEEcosystem’s design allows for modular expansion in part because the hive’s dimensions correlate to the standard “sixteen-inch-on-center” stud arrangement such that each hive body center is 16 inches from the adjacently attached hive body center. Stud-mounting (or otherwise adequately supportive wall structure, such as masonry) is required in order to create modularly-expanded BEEcosystem setups that include multiple HexHives.

 

What if my bees sting someone?

Honeybees are non-aggressive, and will typically only sting when defending their hive or deliberately provoked—stings are even rarer when bees are flying outside away from their hive.

That said, if you know that you have a child or neighbor with a severe allergy to bee stings, we encourage you to exercise caution and obtain their explicit approval before installing a hive. Under no circumstances can BEEcosystem, LLC or GreenTowers, LLC be held liable for bee stings.  Customers, as beekeepers, bear the responsibility of consulting and complying with any local or state regulations and ordinances.

 

Is beekeeping legal in my area?

Even in dense urban cities, rooftop beekeeping is becoming increasingly accepted, so when regulations exist, they tend to favor the local beekeeping community. However, some local municipalities and state governments do regulate laws pertaining to beekeeping in specific areas, and customers should review any local regulations that might exist in their area before purchasing BEEcosystem or beginning beekeeping.

 

What if my bees die, or my colony swarms and leaves the hive?

During the winter months, even in many moderate climates, honeybee colonies become quite dormant, and will be visibly less active. This is a normal part of their life cycle, slowing their metabolisms and conserving energy throughout the winter months when they cannot fly to forage for pollen and nectar, and must rely solely on their stores of honey reserves for calorie intake.

Colony Collapse Disorder presents a serious ongoing problem, but BEEcosystem customers can become a part of the solution: creating more localized honeybee genetic diversity, and getting more people (especially young people) interested in beekeeping. Even expert beekeepers will often experience a loss of 1/3 of their colonies each year due to CCD. This means the death of a colony it is not a failure—but a part of helping to make a difference. BEEcosystem colonies that fail can be re-started the following season with the installation of a new nuc colony or package of bees sourced from a local breeder.

While generally not desirable to beekeepers, swarming is a natural reproductive process, and can happen for a number of reasons—these include the congestion of available brood space where the queen runs out of room to lay her eggs, a colony that perceives their queen to be weak or failing, poor hive ventilation, and even genetic factors.  Swarming can be discouraged through hive management, including providing adequate space for a colony to grow before they need it (by adding another HexHive to your BEEcosystem) and by destroying swarm cells.  If a colony does swarm, its chances of producing a large honey crop are very diminished—but on the plus side, swarms that successfully establish themselves elsewhere create a greater honeybee genetic diversity in the local gene pool.

BEEcosystem Hive Maintenance & Care

All BEEcosystem customers will be provided with a downloadable PDF ebook that provides a crash-course on the basics of beekeeping—while not required for success, first-time beekeepers will always benefit from having access to another more experienced beekeeper!  If your area has one, we always recommend that you consider joining your local Beekeepers Association or Guild!  There is a tremendous amount of knowledge, resources, and support to be found throughout the beekeeping community, and practically all beekeepers enjoy sharing their passion and experience with new beekeepers. Becoming a part of a local beekeeping community is a fantastic way to learn more quickly, gain camaraderie, and multiply your impact.

We will be continually expanding this FAQ in particular into the future, and adding more subdivisions for specific hive maintenance questions—for now, here are some basics on BEEcosystem care:

Install: BEEcosystem hives include step-by-step instructional materials to guide you through the (honestly not-so-difficult) process of “installing” your first bees in your BEEcosystem hive. Unless you are transferring your colony to BEEcosystem from an existing established hive, you will start your BEEcosystem hive from a package of bees.  A 3-pound package includes enough bees to start a new colony, and typically consists of a shoebox-sized box containing ~10,000 bees and 1 young, mated queen who is packaged in her own little separate “queen cage.”  

Package bees can be purchased online from a variety of honeybee breeders that ship nationally, or purchased directly from a local beekeeper—NOTE THAT PACKAGES ARE MUCH MORE AVAILABLE AND AFFORDABLE IN THE EARLY SPRING, so it is strongly advised to find a source and preorder your package bees as soon as possible!  Bees purchased locally are usually considered best, since they don’t have to go through the stress of being shipped through the US Postal Service, and they benefit from a local breeders’ specifically bred stock and genetics.  (If  you are having trouble sourcing your bees locally, let us know, and we can recommend a breeder who sells online and ships package bees nationally.)

Your package bee supplier will provide more detailed instructions; but in a nutshell, once you have your package bees, you simply remove the metal feeder can to open up the package; quickly uncork and gently poke a little hole through the “sugar-candy” fondant plug on the queen cage using a blunt needle or similar thin object, so that the queen cannot yet escape, but has a head start chewing through all the fondant—be very careful not to harm your queen, she is the most important part of the whole package!  Shake your bees into the hive—unless you are a very experienced beekeeper, you will want to wear protective gear during the installation. (Pro tip: it often helps calm the bees to have a 1:1 sugar solution prepared ahead-of-time in a spray bottle—if you spray them down through the ventilated sides of the package before opening it, your bees will be too busy licking one another clean to worry about flying or aggravating you.)  

Once your new colony is in the hive, make sure that your queen cage is positioned so that the workers can chew through the fondant “sugar-candy” plug to free her, and can attend to the queen through the screened side of the cage.  Some bees will always fly during installation—simply close up the back of the hive, brushing bees inside so that hopefully no bees are harmed in the closing of the hive.  Your BEEcosystem hive is now ready to be wall-mounted—place it on the mount, and connect the crawl tube to the window unit if you are installing indoors.  Last, make sure to continually feed them 2:1 sugar solution if they are starting from scratch in building their beeswax comb—worker bees produce the wax from special glands, and it takes a lot of calories for them to produce it!

Continued feeding: At times when the natural nectar flow is low or a colony just needs a seasonal boost, honeybees like to be fed sugar water as “freebie” calories.  Basically, this is a simple syrup made from a mix of 50%-75% sugar by volume.  BEEcosystem’s convenient hive-top feeder allows feeding to be done easily even indoors, by preparing your sugar solutions right in standard mason jars.  Simply heat the water to dissolve granulated table sugar, and always make sure to let the solution cool before feeding; poke a few holes in the lid, and invert your mason jar overtop of your BEEcosystem hive to begin feeding.  Refill/replace mason jars as needed for continual feeding.

Honey Harvest: BEEcosystem honey is harvested raw as unprocessed cut comb.  If you are a first-time beekeeper who has not consulted someone with more experience, we recommend that you wait until the end of your second season to harvest honey—this gives your colony time to strengthen and establish itself.  Overharvesting can be a devastating rookie mistake, as bees will sometimes starve over the winter even if the beekeeper attempts to take corrective actions through feeding.  

If your BEEcosystem hive consists of more than 1 HexHive unit, you may have chosen to install a queen excluders to keep brood comb outside of your honey-only HexHive.  If this does not apply to your situation, you can readily identify honeycomb from brood comb by a quick visual inspection. Capped honeycomb is white, and appears relatively smooth across its surface, whereas capped brood comb ranges from more of a yellow to a brownish color with individual caps that bulge out a bit over each cell.  

To harvest, you will need to open the back of your BEEcosystem hive outdoors, and you will likely want to wear your protective gear and bring along your smoker and hive tool.  Whether you remove a whole top bar frame of capped honey, or just a small section, you can simply cut the honey away with a sharp kitchen knife.  Once you’re done, close up your hive and put it back on the wall-mount, re-attaching to the additional HexHives if your BEEcosystem has multiple. (If you were using a queen excluder and this is your only fall harvest, always remember to remove the excluder before winter.)
Honeycomb can be processed in several ways, by crushing and straining, uncapping and dripping, vacuum extraction, and plenty of other methods. However, honey can also be enjoyed raw as cut comb!  Beeswax is edible, and the honey also dissolves from the wax readily in hot beverages like tea and coffee.  Enjoy the fruits of your (or rather, your bees’) labor!