Beekeeping License

Photo from Grandpa Arthur Andersen's collection in the 1970's.

In the State of Utah, beekeepers need a beekeeping license through the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food in Salt Lake City. 

They keep a record of all beekeeping licenses online, including name, license number, city, county, application and renewal dates, and whether it is active or expired. Anyone can view this. 

You can get an application at http://ag.utah.gov/documents/1201a.pdf

Or you can call 801-538-7184 (UDAF Information).

There is a graduated fee, based on the number of hives. 

1-20 hives $10
21-100 hives $25

101-500 hives $50


A year in the life of a beekeeper

Wonder what goes on in the life of a beekeeper? Here is a quick summary of what we do on the Wasatch Front in Utah.

January, February, March. In January, many commercial beekeepers are preparing their hives to send to California for pollination. I read yesterday that the California almond groves will require 75% of the nation’s bees! Wow! Once bees are gone, it might be the slowest time of year for beekeepers. Stan uses this time to build and repair beekeeping equipment, organize, and prepare for the coming season. 

Truck with a load of pollinator colonies.

February and March is the time most bees starve. In Utah, warm, sunny, spring-like days are mixed with blizzards. On the sunny stretches, the queen starts laying eggs to increase the work force. Bees have also eaten most of their winter honey storage. When flowers begin to bloom, workers can harvest more nectar and pollen. When flowers are not blooming yet, but bee numbers are increasing, they could starve. We monitor honey levels within the hive and feeds bees more honey and pollen, if necessary. 

March-April is also the time to order packages or nucs.

Checking a colony's weight/honey stores.

April, May, June. April to June is swarm season. We regularly (every 1.5 weeks) check for swarm cells (new queen cells) and either divides the colony or removes the queen cells and adds a super to give bees more room. Bees usually swarm when they run out of room. Stan also spends time catching swarms when they escape. Bees will usually swarm on a warm day following a cold spell. This is the busiest time of year for a beekeeper.

California bees usually come home in early April.

Installing a package.

July-August. In July, beekeepers can starts adding more supers as needed. This is done one at a time when bees start working on the most outside frames of the top box. It is a good idea to move one frame that bees have been working on into the new super to encourage bees to move up into the new box. Some beekeepers continue adding supers all summer and extract honey at the end. Other beekeepers (like Stan) extract honey as bees produce it and then re-use the supers. 

There are not many swarms during this time of year. 
As dandelions bloom, beekeepers move bees to higher elevations. (See dandelions post)

She's ready to go beekeeping with Dad!

September-November. In September, we are done harvesting honey. Everything bees produce after Labor Day stays in the hive for winter feed. As a general rule of thumb, the 2-story bee box should weigh about 100 pounds going into winter. Sometimes we re-queen in the fall, if we didn’t do it in the spring. 

Extra supers need to be stored in a bee- and pest-tight area. 
Some beekeepers winterize by putting inner covers, entrance reducers, and mouse guards on their hives at this time. 

December. This is time to relax, enjoy the holiday season, do some art, and leave bees alone so as to not disrupt their cluster. 

Stan with Bee Art display at Sprinville Art Museum's Religion and Art Show
"Fish in Honeycomb"

--Alicia Moulton


Should I assemble boxes with the rough side in or out?

Bee boxes generally come with one side planed smooth, and the other left rough. When assembling boxes, you will need to decide weather to put the rough side of the wood on the inside or outside of the box. We recommend putting the rough side on the inside of the box. Here's why.

Honeybees will note any imperfections in the wood and fill them with propolis. Propolis is essentially the bees’ immune system.* It significantly helps fight off disease (bacteria, fungus, virus) and is a sticky, glue-like substance collected from some budding plants. Having the rough side on the interior makes bees add more propolis than they would add to the smooth side.

Research from the Minnesota Bee Lab shows increased disease resistance in hives where the box was coated with a propolis solution. Also, in preliminary tests, even the HIV virus couldn’t live in a petri dish with a propolis-alcohol solution.

However, there IS an advantage to putting the rough side OUT if will paint your boxes. Paint sticks better to the rough-planed side of the box. 

But it seems to us that the advantages to bee health outweighs painting and we put the rough side on the inside.

*(Okay, so technically an immune system is the one that remembers infectious diseases a body has been exposed to in the past and carries antibodies to fight off the disease-causing organisms. Insects don’t have an immune system like this at all.)


Honey Hot Chocolate

Our house was a bit on the chilly side this St. Patrick's Day afternoon. And so my daughter and I decided to make some hot chocolate. And, given our honey obsession, we adapted the Hershey’s Cocoa recipe to make special Honey Hot Chocolate. It was yummy and I wanted to share!

In most recipes, substitute 1/2 as much honey as sugar by volume. I wanted this to be extra sweet and so I substituted 1/3 cup honey for 1/2 cup sugar. 

1/3 cup Honey 
1/4 cup Hershey’s Cocoa Powder
Dash Salt
1/3 cup Hot Water
1 1/3 cup Powdered Milk
4 cups Water
3/4 t Vanilla Extract (I forgot this once and it was still yummy)

Mix honey, cocoa, salt, and powdered milk in a saucepan. Add 1/3 cup hot water. Wisk it well if you want the yummy froth on top. Cook and stir over medium heat until hot. Remove from heat and add vanilla.

Variation: I also make this with a drop of peppermint essential oil to make mint hot chocolate. Yum! Cinnamon is sounding pretty tempting too.

Rethinking Dandelions


It’s time to revisit what we think of this cheerful springtime flower! Historically, dandelions have been used medicinally and as a food source. Remember the stories about Utah pioneers finding and consuming them gratefully? Have you had a fancy salad with dandelion greens? Yum! 

These days, dandelions are often thought of as weeds, which folks try to remove from their lawns and gardens. They even make dandelion-removing tools like this one, and lawn sprays to get rid of dandelions.

Experienced Utah beekeepers know that dandelions are an important marker flower in the early spring. 

Early spring is a pretty critical time for honeybees. Their winter honey and pollen storage is usually about gone. When the weather warms up a bit, the bees gear up for production. This means the queen bee starts laying more eggs, creating more mouths to feed. It is a delicate balance between ensuring enough food, while still getting ready to work, and hoping there will not be another large cold spell which will cause a honey shortage. Beekeepers need to watch honey stores in their hives closely to prevent them from starving. When beekeepers see dandelions blooming, they know nectar and pollen are available for their bees and can heave a big sigh of relief. Dandelions are a sign that bees can fly out and collect, and that colonies won’t starve. Probably.

Dandelions are also a sign that beekeepers can move bees to higher elevations. These beekeeping location can be great honey-producing areas in summer, but harsh for over-wintering bees. In the early summer, beekeepers follow the dandelion bloom and move their hives accordingly. For example, a beekeeper wintering bees on the Wasatch Front can move bees up to Heber once dandelions are in bloom and then again to Kamas a few weeks later as blooms occur there. 

Occasionally, when the weather is just right, we harvest some of the dandelion honey. It is one of my favorites. You can just taste a hint of dandelion flower flavor in the honey.

Hopefully you will fall in love with this cheerful flower omen too!
So go ahead, blow!



Catching a swarm

It’s almost swarm season again here in Provo, Utah. (Already beginning in other parts of the world). Catching a swarm is one way to obtain a beehive of your own. Expect swarms on the first warm day just after several cold/stormy days. You know, just when you are on your way to church on Easter Sunday. 

Below, you can see Grandpa Arthur Andersen removing a swarm from his tree in the 1960's, I think. 

Arthur analyzing the situation

The swarm!

He placed a deep box (with bottom board attached. . . I guess that makes it a hive body. . .) under the branch, with some frames removed, then shook the branch. The bees landed into the box in one big clump. 

We consider ourselves lucky when swarms are this close to the ground (on bee truck back bumper).

Sometimes they are pretty high up! Here, the bee box is balanced on top of the ladder. 

In this example, Stan placed an empty beehive box on a ladder on the trailer and under the swarm branch. Then he shook the branch, causing the cluster to fall into the box. Then he waited overnight for the bees to settle before bringing the box down and adding frames with foundation. Easy, right? . . .

Want to catch your own swarm? In Utah and Idaho, there is a “Swarm List” where people can report honeybee swarms for beekeepers to collect. 

They do not, however, remove wasps nests. (See below for example) Wasp and hornet nests are typically removed by exterminators or brave homeowners. See “Bees vs Wasps” for more information on how to tell the difference between bees and wasps.