9 Beekeeping Tips for Beginners
Keeping bees is a very popular hobby. And, why not? Beekeeping is a fascinating endeavor. It is an exciting time but it can be confusing too. Enjoy these 9 beekeeping tips to help you and get ready for your first hive!
When you enter the world of beekeeping, you might feel overwhelmed. Most new beekeepers are confused with all of the new terminology related to beekeeping.
There is a lot of information out there. That’s a good thing but it can be too much of a good thing too. Let’s simply things a bit and give you some easy ideas to consider.
Tip #1: You Don’t Have To Learn Beekeeping In A Day!
Starting beekeeping is a whirlwind of the mind for those with no prior exposure to bees. Beekeeping equipment comes in many different styles and sizes.
It takes a while to learn the parts of a hive and what to do with all those tools. You must deal with a lot of unfamiliar terminology. The good news is you won’t need everything right away.
Take your time as you learn the basics and read through the vast amount of information out there.
In fact, the large amount of beekeeping information available may be part of the problem.
Slow down. Don’t worry. You don’t have to learn everything in one week, or month, or year. Becoming a beekeeper involves a lifetime of learning.
In spite of a lot of conflicting ideas, learning from different resources has its benefits.
And, it certainly doesn’t hurt to get tips from those of us who have a few years of beekeeping experience.
Mistakes? Have I made mistakes? You bet your sweet…. hinny I have. And you will too. But, some good basic info will be a big help. Let’s get started.
Set Some Reasonable Beekeeping Goals
When I became a beekeeper, I had modest goals. I did not plan to go through the Master Beekeeper program in my state. However, I am glad I did.
Do the bees care? No. But the more effort you put into learning about your bees, the better your chances of success will be.
Don’t get in over your heard at the beginning. Start slow with a few hives. How many hives should a new beekeeper have? That depends on several factors involving finances and time.
But a good rule of thumb is to start with 2 beehives. Having more than 4 hives is quite a commitment for a new beekeeper. This is especially true if you do not have a helper.
If your state has a Master Beekeeper Program it is a great opportunity to learn a lot about honey bees.
Tip #2: Start Beekeeping Before Bees Arrive
Yes, months before your new bees arrive, begin to learn and shop for equipment. This avoids a mad rush to do everything the week before bees arrive.
There is more involved in the art of beekeeping than putting bees in the hive.
Learning what to look for during hive inspections and when it is time to ask for help is just the beginning of tasks to learn.
You do not become a beekeeper just because you have a hive with bees. Beekeeping involves learning how to manage your colonies.
Beekeeping Books And Videos Help
Don’t rush to accumulate 25 hives of bees. Prepare, read, learn and ask questions months before your honey bees arrive.
There are many beginner beekeeping books available. You don’t need all of them as some are repetitive – especially the cheaper generic ones.
Choose 3 or 4 in the beginning. (Please don’t ask me how many I have. It’s a lot. )
Beekeeping Information is readily available on the internet. You-tube videos are great for general information but please don’t believe everything you hear and read.
Please remember management techniques that work well in North Dakota, may not be a good idea in Florida.
I have heard stories from beekeepers who killed their healthy hives by applying techniques that did not work in their climate.
“One example : We have Small Hive Beetles in our area. This pest can destroy a weak colony of bees. Small hive beetles are not present in all states. Management plans have to take local conditions into consideration.
Tip #3: Feeding Bees – Usually Necessary
Most beekeepers will need to feed their new colonies at some time. Learning the proper techniques of feeding bees takes time and practice.
Knowing how to feed bees is one thing. But it is just as important to know why you are feeding and when to stop.
Feeding can be a boost for a weak colony in a time of nectar dearth. However, nectar is always the best food for bees. You should not have to feed all hives all season.
Local beekeepers will be your best resource for this issue. They are more in tune with local conditions than any book or video will be.
Giving new colonies supplemental pollen is another common practice. But how you use it will depend on the status of Small Hive Beetles in your area.
Pollen patties provide protein, carbs and other nutrients. I use very small pieces of pollen patty in early Spring before the beetles begin to reproduce.
You Can Harvest Bee Pollen Too!
Beekeepers enjoy harvesting a little bee pollen with a pollen trap. Bees collect a large percentage of pollen during the morning hours.
Use care to avoid collecting too much pollen. A common suggestion is to only collect pollen every other day and only for a short time.
Of course, I would only collect pollen from established colonies. You may save the pollen to give to your bees in a time of pollen deficit.
Tip #4: Choose a Common Bee Hive Style
Beehives are available in many configurations. A beekeeper might choose a 10 frame or 8 frame Langstroth box.
You may consider a Top Bar hive instead. Each type of hive has fans and detractors (see its that opinion thing again).
When choosing among the many types of beehives, consider a hive type that is being using locally.
These beekeepers will be your mentors. Later you may try another type of hive.
I do recommend standard Langstroth hives for beginners – but that is my opinion too.
Is Your Equipment Ready?
No matter which hive style you choose, don’t wait until the last minute. You will be sorry!
You need to get your equipment ready well in advance of bee arrival. If you wait until the last minute, expect shortages as the Spring bee season ramps up.
It is not uncommon for bee supply companies to have a 2 – 3 week delay in shipping. This is very frustrating when you have bees scheduled to arrive and no home for them.
If your bees are coming in April, have your equipment ready by early March. Yes, it is that important. LOL
Tip #5 – Chose a Hive Location
Water Source For Bees
If no natural water is nearby (within 1/4 mile) plan a water source. You can create several different water sources.
Over the years, I have built four water gardens for my bees.
Be sure that you never let your source run dry. Also, provide pebbles or something similar to create a shallow drinking area. You will be amazed at how easily bees drown.
You may find a small amount of rocks at a local dollar store. Home improvement stores carry large bags of “pea gravel” and of course you can order more decorative rocks.
One of the easiest beekeeping tips & tricks is to provide a good water source within 100 yards of your hives.
Give the Bees Plenty of Space
Choosing a good location for your bee hives is an important consideration. Lots of sun, easy access, and not too close to play areas or public walks.
You can read more about finding the best location for your hives in my article: Where to Put My Beehive (read more).
Tip #6 Avoid the Beehive Race
Another piece of good advice – Read Closely – maybe twice. Do not judge the quality of the beekeeper by the number of hives they have.
Someone may own 100 beehives and yet be a poor beekeeper. Are the hives well managed ? Are the bees healthy ?
Does this beekeeper put little effort in his management program and have to refill most of the boxes each year ?
A smaller scale beekeeper with 10 hives may be a more effective beekeeper.
Don’t be pulled into the race to be the beekeeper with the most hives. Start small with a few hives and grow your apiary as you gain experience.
It is a waste of money to start out with more hives than you can manage. It is also unfair to the bees that suffer and die.
Tip #7: No Guarantee of Success When Starting Beekeeping
-Be Prepared For Some Hard Work & Failures
You need to realize that beekeeping is hard work. A bountiful honey crop does not magically appear in the hive.
Here in the South, summer beekeeping involves a lot of dirt and sweat.
Full boxes of honey are heavy. Several ingenious strategies have been developed to aid in the handing of heavy boxes. I personally could not manage without my ATV.
Some beekeepers are able to get their truck into the bee yard. Beehives, honey and sugar water are heavy.
Your first goal should be getting your honey bee colonies through their first winter. You will experience failure.
There may be beekeepers out there who say they never have hives die. Maybe, but I don’t believe it.
It is very sad to me when I have bees die. I take it personally and feel that I have failed the bees.
A true fact of beekeeping is that hives will fail sometimes. The best plan is to accept the loss, learn from it and move on.
Tip #8: We All Think We Are Right !
Understand that beekeeping is an opinionated industry. One of the most frustrating problems for “newbies” is the differing opinions they will receive.
It will be okay. Don’t give up. As you gain experience, you will develop a management plan that works with your location, climate, time schedule.
The great variety of conflicting advice will provide you with a lot of ideas and food for thought. You may decide to try some of them someday.
Tip #9: The Honey Will Come
Do not expect to harvest surplus honey your first year. I know this is hard to hear.
You have spent a lot of money getting everything you need. Put in hours assembling and painting equipment and sweated buckets in the July sun.
However, you must keep in mind that those bees have a lot of work to do before winter.
If you harvest honey in June and the bees do not have enough nectar to replace it, they will starve.
This will depend on your climate and regional conditions. Some beekeepers have a good honey harvest two times a year. Again, this is where local knowledge is so beneficial.
Beekeeping Tips to Follow
- Don’t try to learn how to do everything at once
- Start learning before bees arrive
- Be prepared to feed bees if necessary
- Choose a hive style
- Pick a good hive location
- Avoid racing to have a lot of beehives
- No guarantee of success in the beginning
- Be prepared for conflicting advise
- The honey crop will come in time
The most important information on how to start beekeeping is to simply enjoy the bees. The new beekeeper will experience highs and lows.
No amount of beekeeping tips will prevent some failures but your success will improve over time.
Don’t forget to check out my Online Beginners Beekeeping Class. It’s a great way to learn more on your own schedule.