Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q. What is the Vermont Beekeepers Association?
A. The VBA is a group of hobby and commercial beekeepers dedicated to beekeeping education, and community awareness.
Q. How do I join the VBA? Can I join online?
A. Use the online form located on this site.
Q. How much does it cost to join the VBA?
A. VBA membership costs $15 per year. (Family membership - $25 per year.)
Q. Can anybody join the VBA?
A. Anybody with an interest in honeybees, or bee related topics, would enjoy the VBA.
Q: How do I renew my membership? Will you send me a reminder?
A: Yes again. You will receive an email reminder 30 and 15 days prior to your membership expiration along with a convenient link to renew online. You may join (or renew) using your credit card or PayPal account. Of course you may also mail your check to us. See here for details.
Q. What are the benefits of membership?
A. The VBA represents over 400 beekeepers who raise bees for love and honey. We're as diverse as the 246 towns in Vermont, but unified in our fascination of and love for bees. Most of us are hobbyists, but there are some "sideliners" who try to make extra income from their 25-200 hives. Of course, there are full-time commercial operations who work at beekeeping every day.
We offer the following member benefits:
Two Membership Meetings each year featuring specialists in beekeeping and valuable tips for all levels of beekeepers;
A series of hands-on workshops, from April to September, in two locations (Burlington and West Fairlee), taught by Vermont's most experienced beekeepers;
A wide-ranging, user-friendly web site with an interactive message board;
"Update" subscription (our periodic informational email);
A borrowing library of bee books and videos;
20% discount off a subscription to Bee Culture Magazine, when place by telephone;
Access a mentoring program to help novice beekeepers; and a Beekeeper Certification Program (coming soon!).
Q. How often does the VBA meet?
A. The Vermont Beekeepers Association has two meetings a year. The first is held in conjunction with the Vermont Farm Show. It is always held on the last Tuesday of January. The second meeting is held in the summer at a different location around the state. In addition to our two big meetings, a series of workshops are held in the two VBA apiaries.
Q. Where are the workshops held?
A. One set is held at the Intervale in Burlington; the other is held in West Fairlee.
Q. Why should I join a beekeepers association?
A. Beekeeping is an ever changing profession. By joining a beekeepers association, you keep up on timely topics, learn new methods, and meet a group of friendly folks with an interest in beekeeping.
Q. Are there any other beekeeping associations within the state of Vermont?
A. Yes, there are several. These include:
1. Southern Vermont-Northshire Beekeepers
2. Bennington County Beekeepers Association, Jacob Esh
3. Upper Valley Beekeepers
4. Central Vermont Beekeepers Association, Kim Greenwood
5. University of Vermont Bee Club, Greg Soll
Q. Is beekeeping hard work?
A. Beekeeping does require some strength, and a bit of physical labor, although both handicapped people and blind people have been known to keep bees. There are ways of reducing the physical labor involved. Join the association, and find out how.
Q. How much time does it take to keep bees?
A. Beekeeping is a seasonal hobby, and therefore, the time varies with the seasons. In the winter, there is practically nothing to do except to occasionally check for physical damage or snow blocking the entrances. The busiest time is in the early summer when each hive should be checked weekly to prevent swarming, and to add additional honey supers. This need take no longer than a few minutes once you get the hang of it.
Q. How much will it cost me to get started?
A. There are several bee supply houses that offer a variety of beginner kits. These contain all the equipment you will need to start your first hive. The woodenware can often be purchased pre-assembled. While these kits are handy, they tend to have some things that may not be needed by the beginner, and are a little expensive. They range in price from $215 to more than $300.
Package bees cost between $60-80 and nucleus colonies from $80 to $150.
Q. Where can I buy my beekeeping equipment?
A. There are many sources for bees and equipment. Please check this page for some ideas.
Q. What equipment do I need to start keeping bees?
A. First you will need the hive. This consists of a bottom board, two hive bodies with frames and foundation, three medium honey supers with frames and foundation, an inner cover, and an outer cover.
Second, you will need a smoker and hive tool. Buy a large smoker with guard, and the long hive tool.
Q. Do I need a bee suit?
A. Third, you will need some sting protection. You can buy a veil and gloves for about $25, a full deluxe English type bee suit and gloves for around $100, and several in between to fit your budget. While you may learn to shed your protection with time, good sting protection makes sense when you are just starting out.
Q. How much honey will I get?
A. That depends on the strength of the colony, and the weather. While the Vermont average is around 70lbs, a strong colony on a good honey flow have been known to make 200 to 300 pounds per year.
Q. Will I get stung?
A. To come to the point…yes. But, it really isn’t as bad as you think. Stings on the hands and arms don’t really hurt much, if you learn to remove the sting properly. Some seasoned beekeepers actually enjoy the first stings of the year, for it means that spring is surely here.
Q. What do I do if I get stung?
A. Scrape the stinger off with a fingernail, or the sharp edge of your hive tool. This grabs the shaft of the stinger, and pulls it out, leaving most of the venom in the sac. Never grab the bulb (venom sac) of the stinger and pull, because that squeezes all the venom into your skin, like a hypodermic syringe.
Q. If I swell when stung, am I allergic?
A. No, swelling is the body’s natural immune system at work. Some swelling is normal at first. With enough stings, swelling is non-existent.
Q. Do I need a license to keep bees?
Q. Where can I buy bees?
A. Most of the bee supply houses listed above have bees for sale. There are some local producers who sell bees, and many suppliers are listed in the beekeeping periodicals. These are:
“The American Bee Journal” … http://www.americanbeejournal.com
“Bee Culture” … http://www.beeculture.com
Also, look through our Marketplace for any local suppliers.
Q. Can I keep bees in my garden?
A. Yes, you can. It is advisable that you use a gentle strain of bee, and have the entrance facing away from work areas. Sometimes a barrier such as a low fence or hedge placed ten feet in front of the hive, will force the bees to fly up, and away from traveled areas of your property.
Q. Will bees bother my neighbors?
A. No, not usually. Just remember to locate the bees’ flightpath away from traveled areas. Often, if the hives are hidden from view, no one knows that they are there.
Q. I have a swarm of bees in my [attic|backyard|barn, etc.] what should I do?
A. First, don't panic! Bees are, for the most part, not interested in you and are docile unless really, really provoked. VBA maintains a list of beekeepers willing to help you. They will first ask you a number of questions to determine if you really have a swarm of honey bees. (Many people have problems with wasps or hornets so it is important to identify what you are seeing.) If you do have bees, please don't spray them or kill them. Instead, contact someone on our Swarms List for assistance.
Q. How do bees make honey?
A. Bees take nectar gathered from flowers, and mix it with enzymes from glands in their mouths. This nectar/enzyme mix is stored in honeycombs, and ripened until the moisture content has been reduced to about 17%. When this level is reached, each cell is capped over with a thin layer of beeswax, to seal it until the bees need it. Capped honey can keep almost indefinitely.
Q. Why do bees make honey?
A. Honeybee colonies do not hibernate in the winter months, but stay active and cluster together to stay warm. This requires a lot of food…honey…stored from the summer before. Honeybees are special in that they over-winter as a colony, unlike wasps and bumblebees. Although a hive needs 70 to 80 pounds of honey to survive the winter, the bees are capable of collecting much more. This “surplus” honey is what the beekeeper takes.
Q. Is honey sweeter than sugar?
A. On the average, honey is 1 to 1.5 times sweeter than sugar. Liquid honey is approximately as sweet as sugar, yet contains only 82.4g carbohydrates/100g (vs. 100g for sucrose) and provides only 304 Kcal/100g (vs. 400Kcal for sucrose).
Q. Why does the color of honey vary?
A. The color and flavor of honeys differ depending on the blossoms visited by the honeybees. The color ranges from water white to dark amber, while the flavor varies from mild to strong. The color of fresh honey is related to its mineral content.
Q. What is the shelf life of honey?
A. Honey stored in sealed containers, can remain stable for years.
Q. I'm a VBA Member. How do I access the Members Only area of the website?
A. If you visit the VBA website you'll see on the left side of the screen a user menu that allows you to login. Every VBA member has a login password to access the members-only features of the site - we'll explain what those are shortly.
Since every user has a password you need to learn how to access your account. If you've forgotten your password or have never received it you can retrieve it by clicking on the link that says "Forgot your password?" and following the instructions. You can also use this link to change or reset your password. You will be asked to enter the email address you have provided the VBA. (Your email address also serves as your VBA username for the website. At any time in the future if you lose your password you can retrieve it yourself by clicking on this link.)
You will automatically receive an email with a token that you need to copy and paste into a verification field that you will be directed to by a link in that email. (Please note: The token you receive will be a long series of letters and numbers.) You should have no trouble if you follow the email directions but if you do please contact us at the address below.
Once you have logged into the site you will see a few menu choices that aren't available to non-members. For example, at the top of the screen there is a "Members Only" tab that features links to services only available to current VBA members. Another new feature available on the site is a Discussion Forum that allows you to post messages to other VBA members. (At this time the forums are only available to members.) You'll also have access to the list of mentors (beekeepers who will assist you), newsletters, e-publications and more.
Finally, you may experience delays if you are limited to a dial-up connection. If this is the case we suggest closing all other programs, clearing the cache on your web browser and making sure, if you are using a MS Windows-based computer, you have all the latest operating system updates installed.
Q. I'm having trouble logging in to the members-only area, can't find an article, etc.