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Summary of Florida law on backyard beekeeping

When [personal profile] rubibees first discussed beekeeping with me back around 2009, I called the city we live in (Miami Springs, FL) to see if we could do it. They defaulted to Miami-Dade County zoning for it, which required (I believe) agriculturally zoned land of at least 5 acres to establish an apiary of any size.

A few years later in 2012, the Florida Legislature passed the bill designated as 2012-83, Laws of Florida. It pertained to a few different things, but it included preemption of local beekeeping regulations, effectively opening many properties to beekeeping that could not do so before due to local zoning ordinances. The statute itself didn't provide for how many colonies could be kept on non-agricultural private lands, but did delegate authority to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to develop regulations.

FDACS amended Rule 5B-54, Florida Administrative Code, in 2014 and provided for apiaries to be located on non-agricultural private lands and developed the Beekeeper Compliance Agreement. Pursuant that Agreement, beekeepers can have up to 3 colonies on lots up to ¼ acre, up to 6 colonies on lots between ¼ and ½ an acre, up to 10 colonies on lots between ½ and 1 acre, etc. Those limits can double for up to 60 days to help with swarm management. There are some requirements for keeping water accessible to the bees and inspecting hives at least monthly, as well as fencing if colonies are kept near a property line to help ensure that the bee's flight paths aren't going off the property at a low height that might be a nuisance to neighbors.

Those are the basic legal requirements for backyard beekeeping in Florida!
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April 16, 2017 2nd Week Hive Inspection, the Bee Queen of Casa Raven

The inspection went well. The foundationless frames are 3/4 to 4/5 drawn with combs, and we found the queen on new comb, catching a nice photo. No signs of disease, mites or other problems. There was a bit of cross-combing, but not much. A bit of comb on the edge of one frame was cut away.

The Bee Queen of Casa Raven
The Bee Queen of Casa Raven!
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April 9, 2017 Solo Hive Inspection

I did a solo hive inspection today with a little smoke, a veil, and gloves. The empty frames were about 1/3 full of newly drawn comb. The original frames for the hive were fuller. The colony hasn't started building comb in the super, but there was a small about of comb started on the foundation frames in the brood chamber. Overall, it looks like good comb development during the week, and the hive was calm throughout.
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April 4, 2017 - Moving Day

[personal profile] rubibees and I moved the 5 frames from the nuc to the main hive today and inspected the colony during the transfer. We got the smoker going, I suited up, and she got in a veil, long-sleeved clothes, and some leather gloves. This was our first time doing anything significant on our own, as we'd really just observed the bees before this!

I opened up the nuc and started getting frames out. The hive was quiet and calm for that, but got louder when we used a little smoke on it. I'll keep an eye on whether the smoke is really very useful, as if the bees are just more riled up, the benefits of using it to move them out of the way a bit might not be worth it. I can already move slowly and gently.

We each took a look at the frames during the transfer, but kept them mostly vertical as they are foundationless and some of the new comb wasn't too well attached yet. There was a bit of cross-combing to cut, and I cut a bit of the developing comb off of the edge of one frame to try and discourage that.

Moving the frames over
Moving the frames over

Checking a frame with some cross-combing
Checking a frame that had some cross-combing

[personal profile] rubibees puts a frame in the new hive

Rubibees puts a frame in the new hive
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April 3, 2017

[personal profile] rubibees and I checked on the bees this morning. It was really nice to share that time with her! The returning bees were heavy with nectar and pollen, so they'd definitely found sources for forage. They had lees on them in the evening, so I think what they have found must open up in the morning.
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April 2, 2017 All is well

The bees are calm and active. I was late to my usual Sunday morning Ultimate Frisbee game because I was watching the nuc. Scouting and foraging were going just fine, and I showed the nuc to a couple of friends that came over. [personal profile] rubibees got home that night and got to see the hive, too!
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April 1, 2017 The First Colony

We had the opportunity to get a colony from some friends up in Broward County. [personal profile] rubibees was out of town, but we had all of the equipment and training to get started, so we decided I'd go get them. I packed up a nuc (5-frame nucleus hive) with solid bottom and top boards, some duct tape, bungee cords, the smoker, and my bee suit. I was happy and excited!

I got up to Bridget and Riekin's place at about 5:45 pm, so there was enough time to transfer the frames before dark. Riekin checked over my equipment and recommended that we put a small device in the bottom of my nuc that would held stablize the frames for transport, which we did.

We all suited up and checked the nuc they'd stored the swarm in that recently came off of their "rescue" hive (a small cut out that they got locally). There was a bit of cross-combing between the frames, so Riekin cut through that gently and took a small amount of it off where the bees were drawing comb so far along the edges that they were establishing bee space under the frame bar, instead of between the frames. The frames were transferred to our nuc, which we then put in the same place as their nuc had been so the colony's foragers and scouts could easily find it. The hive didn't get riled up at all, and we all went out to dinner until after dark to let all of the foragers and scouts get back.

After dinner, I screwed a block over the entrance, bungeed everything tightly, and got it into the back of my Camry with the frames aligned with the direction of the car to minimize any problems in transit. I seat-belted the nuc in place, and wrapped it in a sheet in case any bee somehow escaped the nuc in transit (none did). The hive was really quiet the whole way home, and the drive was about 40 minutes. I got the nuc set on a cement block stand by 11:00 pm and got it opened up. A few bees explored the entrance area, but I didn't see any scouting flights right away and left the hive for the night.

The last frame in the old nuc
The last frame in the old nuc

The new nuc with 4 of 5 frames
The new nuc with 4 of 5 frames

The nuc readied for transport!
The new nuc readied for transport!

The nuc at Casa Raven!
The nuc at Casa Raven!
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Equipment List

Hive - 10-frame deep with screened bottom board, gabled roof, 10-frame medium super, queen excluder, inner cover, and frames (10 deeps with black foundation and 10 mediums with yellow foundation.
Nuc (nucleus hive) - 5-frame deep with solid bottom board, top and frames.
Extra nuc body and top
Bee suit - extra large for [personal profile] greenwapiti
Large goatskin gloves for [personal profile] greenwapiti
Viel for [personal profile] rubibees
Hive tool
J-tool style hive tool
frame holder
cement blocks for stands
poultry waterer with stones in tray
greenwapiti: Casa Raven First Queen (Bee)

The Beginning

This is a journal about the bees at Casa Raven. [personal profile] rubibees and I have been interested in keeping bees for a number of years. When she first asked about it, I checked on keeping bees at our house, and we couldn't legally, as our city defaulted to the county's zoning for it, which required 5 acres or more of land zoned for agricultural use. However, in 2012, state law changed to preempt local beekeeping restrictions and allow for broader urban/suburban/backyard beekeeping! We both went to the South Florida Bee College offered by the IFAS Extension Service, and kept reading up on it for a couple of years, as well. A couple friends of ours had begun beekeeping, so we had the opportunity to bring a colony home from just north of us up in Broward County, which is close enough to have well-acclimated bees. I bought basic tools (smoker, hive tool, bee suit, etc.) and [personal profile] rubibees got down to South Florida Bee Supplies to get a hive, frames, and a veil. She chose a hive with a beautiful gabled roof, screened bottom board, a medium super, a queen excluder, and a nucleus hive ("nuc"). Both hives got painted a nice yellow! We also made an even more concerted effort to read up and get ready! On April 1, 2017, I brought the first colony home to Casa Raven!

There will be other posts about getting the colony, the equipment, and the beekeeping laws in Florida, but that's the short story of the beginning of bees at Casa Raven!