FAQ/ASK

Some frequently asked questions.?? Also please send in your input, suggestions, questions on bees to the MBA web committee, or Zachary Huang.

Simply leave a “comment” here.

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FAQ:

1. Do I need to register for my bees before I start beekeeping?

Answer: No, Michigan has no inspection program and registration is not required.  You are encouraged to join the Michigan Beekeepers Association or a local club to learn more about beekeeping.

2. Does Michigan provide an inspection program?

Answer: No. We used to have one.  Michigan no longer has a regular inspection program.  However, if you move your bees out of the state, you may be required to provide a certificate showing the bees are healthy.  This kind of inspections are handled by Mike Hansen, the State Apiarist of Michigan.  His phone number and email are in the “Officer” section of this web.

3. I have bees living inside the drywalls and I do not want them. I have called a few exterminators and was told honey bees are protected and they could not legally kill them. Is this true?

Answer: No. There is no law in Michigan, or in any state, to prevent the home owner from removing/killing the honey bees, if they are a nuisance.  Typically I would let them alone unless someone in the family is severely allergic to honey bee stings.  If you really want them to be removed, find a local beekeeper, and pay him/her to do the removal.  Unless it is a swarm, almost no one will do it for free because it requires extensive work to remove bees.

4. I live in the UP, and noticed small holes in sandy areas of our yard. Today I noticed what I think are bees sticking their heads in and out. I’m wondering what kinds of bees these could be.

Many types of bees nest in the ground. The most common ones are sweat bees and digger bees.  For more info, visit http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/2000/2143.html

5. We have a nest of honey bees inside the drywall, can we simply spray into the nest to kill them?

Answer: No. Unfortunately, the only way to get rid of bees inside your walls would be take the walls apart (at least the sidings, etc), expose the nest, then remove the bees by relocating them or kill them using a pesticide.  It is not enough to kill them with a pesticide without removing the nest.  Because the honey left behind will attract other bugs.  In addition, honey and wax will melt inside the wall during summer, creating a mess inside your house.  This is because live bees regulate temperature at 95 F, so honey and wax never melt when live bees are in there.
Try to call an exterminator and ask if they would remove the siding to get into the nest (remove all the honey, vacuum up all the bees etc).  DO NOT allow them to simply kill the bees inside without doing anything to the nest.  It is possible to kill the bees using a dust formulated insecticide, wait until they die, then open the walls to remove the nest (all honey would be contaminated, so do not use for human consumption or feed to bees).
Trapping does not work very but can be tried if it is difficult to take the walls apart. This publication has details on trapping with a diagram: http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/2000/2079.html

6. How many hives are required on our property so that it can be taxed as “agricultural use?”

Mike Hansen answers:

The answer quite simply is that utilizing a property for an agricultural purpose does not cause or require a change in the zoning or taxation of that piece of property.  Zoning and property taxes are a function of local government. Depending on the structure of the local unit of government, a person should be in contact with their zoning administrator, local zoning board, treasurer, or perhaps the township clerk to find out how their community is zoned, and if their community allows for changes in zoning based on a change in use of the property.
Simply increasing the number of honeybee colonies on a property will not support a zoning change. In zoning, the local government looks at a number of variables which could include a township or county master plan, the value of the property for development, the use of neighboring properties, etc.  Such plans are valuable as they prevent spot zoning, and often limit spot development of land identified in the plan for agriculture, recreation, etc.  Agricultural production is generally allowed in most zoning categories, but implementing an agricultural process to force re-zoning of a single property to decrease a tax liability is usually not successful.

As noted above, Zoning a property taxes are a function of the local unit of government. This question comes up quite often at tax time, or as landowners get notice that their local tax tribunal will be holding hearings. I recommend having this discussion with local government at a time of year when they don’t have a line of property owners at their door.

An attorney answers:

I trust the following is a good beginning point.  Back in 2003, I used, among other items, the following to win an appeal at the Michigan Tax Tribunal (obviously the cites and quotes would have to be checked and up dated):
Qualified agricultural property is defined by MCLA Section 211.7dd and states in pertinent part:

(d) “Qualified agricultural property” means unoccupied property and related buildings classified as agricultural, or other unoccupied property and related buildings located on that property devoted primarily to agricultural use as defined in section 36101 of the natural resources and environmental protection act, 1994 PA 451, MCL 324.36101.  Related buildings include a residence occupied by a person employed in or actively involved in the agricultural use …

and MCL 324.36101 defines agricultural use:

(b)? “Agricultural use” means the production of plants and animals useful to humans, including forages and crops; grains, feed crops, and field crops; dairy and dairy products; poultry and poultry products; livestock, including breeding and grazing of cattle, swine, captive cervidae, and similar animals; berries; herbs; flowers, seeds; grasses; nursery stock, fruits, vegetables, Christmas trees; and other similar uses and activities.  Agricultural use includes use in a federal acreage set-aside program or a federal conservation reserve program. …

MCLA Section 211.34c. states in pertinent part:

(1)? Not later than the first Monday in March in each year, the assessor shall classify every item of assessable property according to the definitions contained in this section. …

(2) The classifications of assessable real property are described as follows:

(a) Agricultural real property includes parcels usedfor agricultural operations, with or without buildings … . As used in this subdivision, “agricultural operations” means the following

(i) Farming in all its branches, including cultivating soil.
(ii) Growing and harvesting any agricultural, horticultural, or floricultural commodity.

(iii)Dairying.

(iv) Raising livestock, bees, fish, fur-bearing animals, or poultry.

(v) Turf and tree farming.
(vi) Performing any practices on a farm incident to, or in conjunction with, farming operations. . . .

MCLA Section 211.7dd states:

A parcel of property is devoted primarily to agricultural use … if more than 50% of the parcel’s acreage is devoted to agricultural use.

227 comments to FAQ/ASK

  • Inger Griffin

    Hi, I was wondering if you know of any one that does school programs for learning about bees. We have a Green Team at St Michael’s in Livonia and I would love to have some one come in next fall to talk about bees and their importance to our ecosystem.

  • Stephen Tilmann

    Inger,
    There are a number of beekeepers and beekeeping clubs in your area that would be happy to help. The first place to contact is the SEMBA (South East Michigan Beekeepers Association). Contact is Clay Ottoni at email ceottoni@gmail.com. SEMBA’s web site is http://www.sembabees.org. Other bee clubs in your area can be found on the MBA web site at http://www.michiganbees.org/about/clubs/.

  • Gary Ester

    Hi,I will be starting my very first hive in the next week or so. The question I have is controlling Mites,Broodfoul, and any other problem I may have.
    I have read control methods with and without the use of chemicals.(powdered sugar for mites is an example)
    Were can I get reliable information on how to control pests and disease if they occur? Natural control or through the use of medication or chemicals.
    I would rather go natural,But there is way to many home remedies on the web and would just like some professional guidance.
    Thank You.

  • Stephen Tilmann

    Hi Gary,
    You are about to embark on a remarkable journey. Disease and pest management in a bee hive should be a major concern. We agree that there are a lot of opinions out there and a lot of stuff shows up on the web that is questionable, at best. While foulbrood, nosema and a host of other pathogens are not good, the true concern lies in the varroa mite. This critter is responsible for “x” percent of the problems we are seeing with honey bees (you supply the value… 75, 80, 90?). There are more and more choices available to deal with the varroa mite these days, ranging from hard chemicals to more “natural” ways. Your choice will be driven by your comfort level. There is no one perfect solution. You are wide to question what you see on the web.

    If possible, we would recommend you hook up with your nearest bee club (see the MBA web site for a list). Management techniques are almost also a topic at the meetings and you can meet and talk to other beekeepers. Also, if you can, find a mentor.

    We would also suggest that you take a good look at “IPM” methods (integrated pest management). With IPM, chemicals are tools in the arsenal but only when appropriate and only when called for. Before you bring on the chemicals, there are several management techniques that you should be doing: mite level monitoring, sugar dusting, drone brood trapping, using local survivor stock and brood cycle interruption… to name a few. Subscribe to a bee journal or two (American Bee Journal and/or Bee Culture). Your MBA membership entitles you to a discount for the journal. These magazines will contain sound information.

    Going “natural” is the goals of most, if not all, beekeepers. Depending on the situation, some are able to implement “going natural” easier than others. There is a price a price that will be paid for going “natural”, meaning that you may experience higher mortality. But then again, there is a price that is paid by using a chemical control regime, as well.

    Good luck!

  • Edward Stark

    Hello.
    I live on a piece of property in Pontiac with wild hives on the lot behind me. I would like to set up an appiary to help those bees expand their shelter and perhaps harvest some honey. I would also like to set up equipment at my parents’ house in Greendale Twp. I would not be able to attend to them but once a week. Would that be a problem for maintenance sake? Thanks

  • Gary Ester

    Stephen,Thank you very much for your response.And I will use the information and sources you have recommended.
    My next question(and I am sure I will have many more) is in regards to starting a new hive.
    Is there any preventive measures you recommend at start up? Or more exact,any treatments of any sort you think a new hive should receive to help it get a good start?

    Being involved in the livestock industry,I have come to the conclusion that raising bees is really no different than raising livestock.
    1. Attention to detail.
    2. Preventive measures.
    3. Keep stress levels down
    4. Access to fresh food,air,and water
    5. Education
    6. Observation,Observation ,Observation
    Thank you,Gary

  • Stephen Tilmann

    Gary,
    As far as preventive measures when starting a new hive… Using any kind of medication as a preventive measure (ie, prophalatically) is not recommended. You should only medicate when called for, and only then after you have implemented management strategies that help the health of the hive. There was a time when, for example, beekeepers used antibiotices in the hive before any sign that they were actually needed. As in the cattle industry, we all know what happens when that occurs; treatment resistance arises, the drugs affect the overall colony, and the meds make it into the wax and honey.

    The number one insult to the overall health of a honey bee colony are varroa mites. Read up and learn the non-chemical methods to control this mite. Then use these methods.

    A new colony should be fed (1:1 sugar syrup) particularly if you have new foundation without any drawn comb. Keep feeding until the bees quit taking it, which will happen when the natural sources of pollen and nectar become available. Reduce the size of the entrance to give the bees a smaller area to defend and prevent robbing. Once the colony begins to grow (which will take at least three weeks), the opening can be enlarged to normal size. And be careful as to the number of times you open the hive to inspect as every time you do so stresses the colony and sets them back a bit.
    Steve Tilmann, Treasurer
    Michigan Beekeepers’ Association

  • Stephen Tilmann

    Edward,
    Bees are quite capable of managing their affairs without human intrusions; they have been doing so for millions of years. So not being able to attend to the hives “but once a week” would not be a problem. In fact, the less you open up a hive the better; doing so stresses the bees and sets the hive back a bit.

    This time of year (mid-April) is a bit late to get started beekeeping. You will probably start with packaged bees or a nuc. These items are being delivered now and most suppliers are sold out. There are a few sources still available, but this window will be closing in a couple of weeks.

    You could try to catch a swarm or two. Swarms should start appearing in May and into June. Catching swarms is fun, but you have to be prepared to move on a moment’s notice.
    Steve Tilmann, Treasurer
    Michigan Beekeepers’ Association

  • kurt

    Where can I rent or buy hives and the Traverse City area.

  • Jeff

    Hello thinking about raising honey bees, have started a small orchard on my property, have acsess to fresh water, but have dogs would this impede anything…have no experience with beekeeping but heard there is a shortage and find it fascinating, thanks Jeff

  • Stephen Tilmann

    Hi Jeff,
    Beekeeping is a highly rewarding activity; you will always have something new to learn! One reason we started keeping bees is that our orchard (and garden) did not have any bees around. Once we got some hives, the orchard and particularly the garden really took off. We all need bees to pollinate the things we eat.

    We doubt if the dogs will get in the way. The bees and dogs will quickly come to terms and respect each other. Most probably, the dogs will never challenge the bees. If they do, a quick lesson will solve the issue.
    Steve Tilmann, Treasurer
    Michigan Beekeepers’ Association

  • Steve Holodnick

    I would like to know the position of the MBA on the recent changes to the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development on small urban and suburban beekeeping operations.

  • Stephen Tilmann

    Steve,
    We presume you are referring to the recent modifications to the GAAMPS made by the Ag Commission on Monday, April 30. The MBA board is currently discussion this change. One of the first things we did was to request a clarification from the MDA as to whether or not this change to the GAAMPs affects beekeepers. As is the case all too often, you can’t necessarily believe what you read or hear from the press. Mike Hansen, the state apiarist, replies…

    “I contacted Wayne Whitman by e-mail yesterday, and again today in response to the e-mails I’ve received. Wayne offered the following response:

    “Bees are not livestock (or poultry), and the RTF Site Selection GAAMPs do not apply to the placement, keeping and management of bee colonies. Some of the comments following the attached article are inaccurate & misleading.”

    Wayne notified our Public Information office so that calls they receive from reporters can be answered correctly.

    You will remember at the last board meeting I shared that there was discussion ongoing regarding Urban Agriculture and a need seen by the department to address a growing number of requests to raise livestock as part of the urban movement. I explained then that the department sees bees as very important animals for agriculture, but for the Site Selection GAAMPS, bees are not considered livestock. Please also note that the Beekeeping chapter is found in the Care of Farm Animals GAAMPS and not in the Site Selection GAAMPS.

    In short, the writer of the article was incorrect.”

    So it looks like the recent change, at least in the eyes of the Dep of Ag staff, does not affect beekeepers.

    That said, we personally (and by that I mean this writer) are very concerned about any official stance that negatively affects the recent urban/suburban agriculture trend. People are way too removed from their source of food and tend to not understand how fragile this system really is.

    We understand (second hand from a person who attended the hearing) that one lady got up and discussed how her daughter was allergic to “chicken dander” and that she could not go outside because someone was keeping chickens (something like five houses away… or it might have been five blocks away). While such anecdotal stories are emotion laden, science and common sense may not back up such claims. Chicken dander? How does she know it is only “chicken dander” and not, perhaps, “dander” from other members of the avian community (such as robins, pigeons, sparrows and so on). I suspect the true answer is that she does not. Still, such public statements of emotion are only part of the story. It would appear as if the fix was in by the Farm Bureau.

    It is the Farm Bureau’s position on this action that puzzles me. They (the Farm Bureau) state they were only carrying out a position voted on by their membership in theie annual meeting last December. Still, we all know that position statements can be crafted, presented in a very biased way. Wordsmiths (advertisers and politicians) do this every day. Did the Farm Bureau membership truly understand the impact of that position vis-a-vis urban agriculture. If so, does the agricultural community really view urban/suburban agriculture as that much of an economic threat? If so, then that actually might be a good thing in that it would mean that backyard farming has reached something of a milestone.

    We should keep in mind that the action of the Ag Commission was ultimately a political act and, as such, can be changed when the political winds blow hard enough the other way. The agricultural industry is well organized, but so is the small scale farming block. And as more and more people come to embrace the notion of local, healthy food the winds may very well blow the other direction. There are far more votes in the urban/suburban geography than in the big ag community. We suspect that we have not heard the last of the Ag Commission’s position.
    Steve Tilmann, Treasurer
    Michigan Beekeepers’ Association

  • Gary Ester

    Hi again,
    I was wondering if there is a web site that is kept up to date and relevant to central Mi. that has any type of a monthly schedule,or something to that effect on when and how I should be doing certain things with my new hive.
    Thank You,
    Gary

  • Stephen Tilmann

    Hi Gary,
    To our knowledge, no such web site exists. We would like to have that type of info on the MBA web site and would welcome someone stepping forward to take ownership of the idea. A good source of this type of info in at your local bee club. I know that at the COMB club (Center of Michigan Beekeepers which neets at the MSU pavilion the second Monday of each month at 6:30pm) has these types of discussions every month.
    Steve Tilmann, Treasurer
    Michigan Beekeepers’ Association

  • sylvia

    Hi,
    I live in New Mexico. I have some bees in my garden who attack other bees who appear to be only minding their own business collecting pollen. The bees in question also collect pollen, but between collecting nectar, they hover quickly from one plant to another and dive-bomb other bees, sometimes maiming the other bee or even ripping a wing off. The attacking bees are definitely not wasps. I’ve searched the internet for the possibility of fuzzy little wasps that collect pollen. We have some of the striped paper wasps around and they’re totally different. But I also read that bees never attack, they defend. In this case they only appear to be guarding certain flowers. Once the maimed bee is down, the attacking bee leaves it alone, not trying to prey on it. I’ve searched and can’t find information on this.

    Thanks,
    Sylvia

  • Piano Links

    Piano Links

    Hello ;) Thanks heaps for this indeed!… if anyone else has anything, it would be much appreciated. Great website Just wanted to say thanks and keep doing what you’re doing Thx & Regards!

  • Zachary Huang

    Possibly this is a leafcutter bee, yellow with black stripes and a kind of flattened. The males will pounce on females and any other bees (or moving objects), in their determination to mate. A photo of this bee is here: http://cyberbee.net/gallery/index.php/bees-on-flowers/otherbees/bee_unknown

    Zachary Huang, MSU

  • isidor

    Hi Everybody! i’m living in New Caledonia (pacific island) and would like to know how to export bees packages and queens to usa : what is the process and requirements .for our luck we do not have the varroa on our island (bees importation are prohibited) and the disease here are quite light ,a few american foul brood and some really rare Aethina tumida …and absolutly no case of ccd until now!!!
    here the season for breeding bees and queens could be done from september to april …it means that we could export from late october to march.
    the real gift of our bees is the fact that all the bees living in New Caledonia are all derived from two kind of bees : apis mellifera mellifera cross apis ligustica (even pure ligustica on some island like “ouvéa”)
    yes ,we could say that we use to work with a sort of pacific buckfast, in fact those cross bees were bred here before the creation of the buckfast in england…
    i think really extend my apiary now, so if anyone is aware about importation process or maybe is interrested in importing bees packages and queens from us,
    please help me to find out about this posibility.
    regards
    isidor

  • Gary Ester

    Hi, I have 2 questions that i am hoping to get answered.
    Some quick background.I am using a 10 frame langstroth. I have a deep body brood chamber,and on 5/12/14 i placed a medium super.I have one more deep body brood chamber and a medium super left to place.This is a new hive (my very first one) placed 04/26/2014.I have been feeding sugar water.There is a quart jar feeder about 1/2 full, and i will stop using it once it runs out. The bees were going through about a quart every day and a half up until the weather warmed a few days ago. On 5/12/14 I observed the queen. I am not using a excluder,But I have one.
    I am looking for a way to control black ants (big ones) in my new hive.I have the hive sitting on a machine packing crate.I am using a screened bottom board,and when I pulled out the removable insert, about 30 large black ants scattered. When I removed the top of the hive, there were only a few small ants on the inside cover.I have read that cinnamon is a natural repellent.Your thoughts?
    Also,how often do I need to check the brood chamber? I am guessing this means i must pull the honey super off the top to do this. I dont want to mess with them to much.But did not know if I needed to do this to check for ants,or any other observations i need to make.

    Thank You,
    Gary Ester

  • Stephen Tilmann

    Gary,
    Normally ants are not a major problem in a bee hive. They are commonly found but the bees seem to be OK with them. If any (uninvited) guest in a bee hive becomes a problem, the bees will usually deal with it. We see ants all the time and generally just leave them alone. Most commonly, we find small ants under the aluminum cover of the top cover; occasionally we see them in the hive itself.

    As for checking the brood chamber. We normally recommend staying out of the brood chamber as much as possible. Going into the brood chamber will disrupt the hive and there is the risk that you will damage the queen. When we do go in there, it is usually to see if the queen is laying well. For that, we just look for the evidence (eggs and sealed brood in a good pattern). When we see that, we know the queen if OK and the button things up. You might also want to check for swarm cells which could very well be present at this time of year (late May). Swarm cells are usually not an issue for a newly installed package of bees.

    That said, many new beekeepers are anxious to look at the queen. Understandable. You are keeping bees for a variety of reasons, one of which is enjoying them. So if you want to occasionally take a peek in the brood chamber, then go for it. Enjoy your bees and you will be a better beekeeper for it.
    Steve Tilmann, Treasurer
    Michigan Beekeepers’ Association

  • I am interested in trying beekeeping as a hobby to see if I would like to do it for a business. I am ready to begin a hive, but I am wondering if I am too late (June 2014) to start one? Please let me know what is the optimal time to begin a hive in the lower peninsula of Michigan.

  • Stephen Tilmann

    Elissa,
    Trying to start from scratch at this late date (June) is rather tough. We recommend you look on the MBA web site for a bee club near you and check it out. There, you will find helpful people that will assist you on your journey. It is guaranteed to be interesting and rewarding.

  • Patrick Daly

    I just started my first hive. My bees arrived one week ago. I was planning on having my first ” inside look ” of my hive tomorrow. I came home today only to see half the hive swarmed out of the hive about ten feet in front of it. I opened the hive and found no sign off the queen or eggs. I tried to gather as many of the swarmed bees as possible, although they were just on the ground, so it was difficult. I put the swarmed bees back in the hive, and put the hive back together. I’ m in a bit of a panic mode, and not sure what I should be doing, or what my ” plan b” should be. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  • Stephen Tilmann

    Patrick,
    Occasionally, a newly package will abscond. When this happens, the whole colony leaves. It is unusual for a new package to swarm (roughly half the hive leaves and the rest remain behind) for a number of reasons. In your case, if the bees were clustered on the ground near the hive it is possible (maybe probable) that the queen was not mated and was taking a mating flight. For whatever reason, she ended up on the ground then the workers clustered around her. If this is the case, then there was a queen in that pile and you may or may not have scooped here back into the hive. Having a virgin queen in the package would explain the lack of brood and eggs. Also, an unmated queen is hard to spot because she is small (undeveloped ovaries). If the bees continued to gather at that spot, then the queen was probably still there (sometimes her lingering scent will attract a cluster).

    If this is what is going on, you might still have an unmated queen and she will still try to take her mating flights. You may have to wait a week or so and see if there is any evidence of a laying queen. However, chances are good that you have a queenless hive. You may want to consider putting a new queen in the hive asap.
    Steve Tilmann, Treasurer
    Michigan Beekeepers’ Association

  • Patrick Daly

    The queen was supposed to come mated, marked and clipped. When she was in the queen cage she did look bigger than the worker bees. It is possible that I missed seeing the eggs and her in the hive. After I put all the bees back in the hive, there were a few small clusters left about outside. I looked through them and didn’t see her in any of them. I don’t think I should open the hive again so soon, but I don’t know? Or would it be best just to consider her lost and just order a new queen right away?

  • Mark Johnson

    I live in Lowell Township on a 5 acre wooded lot. If anybody wants to set-up a hive or two here I’d be happy to have it.

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