Getting started

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A backyard apiary in Natrona County.

Getting started in beekeeping

First, why keep bees? Maybe this short video (5:22 - "10 Things to think about before becoming a Beekeeper") will help clarify.

Now, you may want some background on honey bees, this video (53:52 - PBS Nova: Tales From the Hive) is a good presentation on the basics of bee biology and how a hive works. There's quite a bit more to it than even what's presented in this video! You ready to study?

Classes

It's strongly suggested you get involved with a club and/or take a beginner's course. At least, find and work with a local keeper, a mentor.

For several years now - and hopefully many more - the Laramie County Ag Extension office of the University of Wyoming has sponsored the Wyoming Bee College. Many of us attend every year. They provide a 'getting started' track, and you get a chance to meet many other beekeepers from Wyoming and neighboring states. It's a good time!

Here's a beginners class offered online by the Ohio Beekeepers Association. It is a good baseline to start from.

The University of Montana offers an online program, with courses starting at the Apprentice level all the way through to Master. If you're considering going into production bee keeping, this is a good place to start. This Video (3:57 - University of Montana, "Beekeeping Certificate") offers an outline and background to their offerings.

Regulations

As with all things legalese, I am not a lawyer. Do not take any of this information as legal advice - it's not. The burden of compliance and accountability ultimately falls to you, the beekeeper. If any of this is a help - cool. It's still up to you - not us - to ensure you're doing it right or face the consequences on your own.

As with anything that can affect others - there are laws and regulations for beekeepers. Just remember, what you do not only reflects on all of us, but can affect everyone keeping bees around you. Hobbyist or commercial. I know there are keepers who pretty much "do their own thing" regardless. And as long as their hives are healthy and not creating a problem for others - likely no one will notice. We know this is done, but we don't condone it. All it takes is one keeper to have a problem they don't know about or respond to a problem ineffectively, have that problem spread and the resulting disaster will color all of us in a bad light. As well as have the potential to take down a multi-million dollar industry ruining lives and livelihoods. We encourage any and all keepers to follow the rules and more! Keep 'em healthy and be successful. For all of us.

I'd assume a commercial venture would already know most, if not all of this. Or better yet, would have their own resources for legal information. What's presented here is not legal advice by any stretch.

I've structured this area sort of like a 'tree' with Wyoming State Laws and regulations first (since we all must abide), then a section of County Seats and finally by town. Expect the structure to change as it's fleshed out. Please, feel free to add your town and links to pertinent laws for your location. (Note: we do only want towns and laws within Wyoming.)

Wyoming

Wyoming Statute Title 11, Chapter 7 the "Wyoming Apiculture Act (WAA)" governs beekeeping in Wyoming. The intent of this law is mostly to prevent the spread of disease and allow for disease control. (Sorry, that site won't allow a direct link to the laws. You'll have to click on them to read them.)

This PDF file offers procedures for non-compliance, conflict, penalties and other issues: APIARY REGISTRATION REGULATIONS.

Essentially, all yard locations must be registered. There are some limits to the number of hives you can have, depending on your yard type. There are restrictions and allowances for where you can site your yards, depending on who owns the land and permissions. You must allow for inspections by the State Inspectors and a few other details. Not very burdensome at all. Do read through the regulations and be aware of your responsibilities.

The Yard Registration forms can be found here. And, yes, they must be mailed in via USPS. It doesn't appear there is an option for online registration.

Here's the contact information for the State folks - including their web site

Wyoming Department of Agriculture 
Division of Plant Industry
Assistant Manager: Polly Cross
Address: 
    6607 Campstool Rd. 
    Cheyenne, WY 82002-0100
Phone: 307-777-7324 
Fax: 307-777-1943 
Email: polly.cross@wyo.gov
Website: 
     wyagric.state.wy.us/divisions/ts/sections-a-programs/plant-industry

Under the WAA, there are different categories of apiary. They are (as of 2015):

General Apiary

§ 11-7-202. General apiary registrations.

(a) In order to control, limit and prevent the spread of bee diseases, bee parasites or bee pests among bees, hives and apiaries and to control, limit and prevent interference with proper feeding and honey flow of established apiaries, general apiaries registered to different persons shall be located at least two (2) miles apart, except as otherwise provided in this article. The department shall not register or issue a certificate of registration for any general apiary that is located less than two (2) miles from a general apiary registered to another person, except as otherwise provided in this section.

(b) Any person may register a general apiary that is situated less than two (2) miles from another general apiary he has registered, if the location of the general apiary being applied for is at least two (2) miles from general apiaries registered to other persons.

(c) A general apiary may be registered even though it is less than two (2) miles from any registered pollination apiary, landowner apiary or hobbyist apiary.

(d) A person with an existing apiary that is located less than two (2) miles from an existing general apiary registered to another person may register his apiary as a general apiary under the following conditions:

(i) His apiary is established and registered with the department as a general apiary under the department's rules in effect prior to December 31, 2009; and

(ii) The registration of his apiary has not been forfeited or abandoned.

Pollination

§ 11-7-203. Pollination apiary registrations.

(a) The department may grant pollination apiary registrations to commercial seed and fruit producers or other commercial agricultural producers under the following conditions:

(i) The applicant must own, lease or rent the land upon which the pollination apiary is to be located and the applicant must use the land for the purpose of growing a commercial seed, fruit or other crop which is dependent upon bees or other insects for pollination;

(ii) The applicant does not own the bees or the hives which are to be placed upon the pollination apiary;

(iii) The only purpose of the apiary is to pollinate a commercial agricultural crop;

(iv) The applicant shall provide the department with all pertinent information necessary to determine if pollination apiaries are needed to pollinate the applicant's crop adequately;

(v) The department may refuse to register a pollination apiary based upon its own investigation of the matter, but if the department approves the application, it shall specify the number of hives and location of pollination apiaries needed for the purpose of pollinating the applicant's commercial agricultural crop adequately; and

(vi) A copy of the pollination contract between the seedgrower and beekeeper shall be sent to the department.

(b) A pollination apiary registration is valid only for the time period the department specifies, and all pollination apiaries shall be removed within two (2) weeks after the end of the bloom period of the crop to be pollinated.

(c) No certificate of registration of a pollination apiary may be leased, assigned or transferred and no person other than the pollination apiary registrant may exercise in any way any rights or privileges authorized by the certificate of registration.

Land Owner

§ 11-7-204. Landowner apiary registrations.

(a) The department may grant landowner apiary registrations under the following conditions:

(i) The applicant shall be a landowner, as defined in W.S. 11-7-131(a)(xiii) and shall own the land upon which the apiary will be located;

(ii) The applicant shall own the bees and the hives that will be placed on the apiary; and

(iii) The applicant shall personally manage and operate the bees and the hives.

(b) No certificate of registration of a landowner apiary shall be leased, assigned or transferred and no person other than the landowner apiary registrant shall exercise in any way any rights or privileges authorized by the certificate of registration.

Hobbyist

§ 11-7-205. Hobbyist apiary registrations.

(a) The department may grant hobbyist apiary registrations to hobbyist beekeepers under the following conditions:

(i) The applicant shall not own a total of more than five (5) hives, and all of the hives must be placed on the hobbyist apiary;

(ii) The applicant shall own the bees and the hives and shall personally manage and operate the bees and the hives;

(iii) Only one (1) hobbyist registration is allowed an applicant and only two (2) hobbyist apiary registrations are allowed a family unit; and

(iv) If the department determines that too many hobbyist apiaries are being registered within too close proximity of each other or of other established apiaries so that there is danger of the spread of bee diseases, bee parasites or bee pests among bees or apiaries or that there will be interference with the proper feeding and honey flow of established apiaries, the department may refuse to grant any further hobbyist registrations in the locality and area of the danger.

(b) No certificate of registration of a hobbyist apiary may be leased, assigned or transferred, and no person other than the hobbyist apiary registrant may exercise in any way any rights or privileges authorized by the certificate of registration.

Apiaries in Natrona County registered with the WY Dept of Ag, as of Nov 2014. Natrona County has 59 registered apiaries managed by a total of 7 business IDs/beekeepers. Use This Link to see the current, 2016 apiary registrations for WY. Click on the apiaries to see who owns them. Also note the class of license. H=Hobby L=Land Owner

Local Laws

Please, feel free to update, correct or add. Do include links to sources! We don't want "I heard" or "That's the way we've done it" type information. But actual cited references so folks can not only find what they need, but be in compliance.

There are 99 incorporated municipalities in the state of Wyoming. Below is listed each County Seat for our 23 counties in WY. I've not yet found county level regulations or laws. And, since the 'county seat' is typically the largest municipality within that county, I've listed the county seat and linked to their Municipal codes.

Each city name is a link to a page with that town's municipal code and short discussion on whether it appears you are allowed to keep bees there or not.

County Seats

(lots to do in here, yet)

Wyoming Counties
County Co Seat
Albany Laramie
Big Horn Basin
Campbell Gillette
Carbon Rawlins
Converse Douglas
Crook Sundance
Fremont Lander
Goshen Torrington
Hot Springs Thermopolis
Johnson Buffalo
Laramie Cheyenne
Lincoln kemmerer
Natrona Casper
Niobrara Lusk
Park Cody
Platte Wheatland
Sheridan Sheridan
Sublette Pinedale
Sweetwater Green River
Teton Jackson
Uinta Evanston
Washakie Worland
Weston Newcastle

Other States

The Apiary Inspectors of America may provide the information you need for states outside WY.

Getting started

Now that the legal stuff is out of the way - time to learn.

Learn your forage

Bees need food. They need an abundance of blooming flowers to prosper and produce honey. Better yet, they need a sequence of blooms over the summer season so there is a relatively constant source of forage. NASA has an interst in bees and has published the Bee Forage Regions interactive map. Not only can you see what forage zone you're in, but click on your location and find out what forage is typically available for your area.

Here is an abreviated chart of common WY forage and it's bloom times:

Common Name Begin Month End Month
Willow 2 8
Dandelion 3 9
Cottonwood 3 6
Cherry 4 6
Alfalfa 5 10
Sweet Clover 5 10
Alsike clover 5 9
Star thistle 6 10

Gather equipment

Well, this takes more than I want to put on this page - so, lets make a whole new page just on Beekeeping Equipment.

Getting bees

Practically, there are 4 primary ways to obtain bees for a colony when you're first starting out:

  1. Capture a swarm - make a page on plans, lures, etc
  2. Buy a package
  3. Buy a nucleus colony (nuc)
  4. Buy an established hive

If you can, there are advantages to buying bees from colonies that have already overwintered in your area. That means you'll have to find a local supplier or keeper willing to sell either packages, nucs or an entire hive. If that's not possible, then your best bet is to capture a feral swarm. There are those that think captured swarms are the best possible method. That takes patience, equipment and some skills. For most, the easiest start - and one many are successful using - is to buy a 3 pound package of bees with a mated queen.

Beekeeping activity

Beekeeping is very much a participatory activity! You can not just setup a hive, abandon it and expect things to go well. Every month, there are things to be done. Even in winter when bees are not nearly as active as in the summer months.

Winter

Winter is a particularly anxious time, special for a new keeper. Did you leave enough stores? Are the gals doing OK? This page has some good info on Winter feeding, making fondant and how to feed your hives for a good spring build up! From the keepers up in Vancouver B.C. - they know winter!