Beekeeping Tips and Tricks – From A Master Beekeeper
Beekeeping tips and tricks for beginners (and non-beginners.). Why do you need them anyway? Well, when you enter the world of beekeeping, you might feel overwhelmed. Beekeeping for beginners is a whirlwind of the mind with equipment names and unfamiliar terminology.
There is so much beginner beekeeping information available. 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. However, it certainly doesn’t hurt to get a few beekeeping tips and tricks from those of us who have a few years of beekeeping experience. Let’s get started.
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Want to Become A Master Beekeeper?
Let me start by saying that being a Master Beekeeper does not mean that you know everything about bees. Each time I write an article with beekeeping tips & tricks, I realize how much I still have to learn. I can say that working through the SC Master Beekeeper program was a great help in my beekeeper journey. This post is for those of you who are contemplating becoming a beekeeper or wanting to advance in beekeeping. If your state has a Master Beekeeper Program it is a great opportunity to learn a lot about honeybees.
Prepare Before Your Bees Arrive – Research
First, one of the most important beekeeping tips & tricks for the beginner is to take your time getting started. Prepare, read, learn and ask questions months before your honeybees arrive. There are many beginner beekeeping books available. You don’t need all of them as some are repetitive. (Please don’t ask me how many I have. It’s a lot. )
Beekeeping Information is readily available on the internet. Youtube 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. I can not put large pollen patties on my colonies in July. The beetles would over-run the hive. A beekeeper living in a “beetle-free” area can use patties to boost hive population.”
Pollen For The Bees & You
Pollen patties can provide protein, carbs and other nutrients. I use very small pieces of pollen patty in early Spring before the beetles begin to reproduce. (Put a “playing card sized” piece of patty on the top-bars.) Use only as much patty as the bees will consume in a few days.
Dry pollen substitute can be placed in a bucket or feeder near the bee yard. Be sure to protect it from rain. The bees will find the pollen bucket and enjoy rolling around in the powder. They will pack it on their rear legs and fly back to the hive.
Even a new beekeeper can enjoy harvesting a little bee pollen with a pollen trap. Bees collect a large percentage of pollen during the morning hours. As the day continues, some foragers will switch over to nectar collection. 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.
Is Your Equipment Ready
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. The most important beginner beekeeping information I can give you is – get your beekeeping equipment ready early ! If your bees are coming in April, have your equipment ready by early March.
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.
Choose a 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). Beginner beekeeping information is often confusing because of the unfamiliarity of items. A good rule is to connect with local beekeepers in your area and learn from them. After you gain experience as a beekeeper, you might consider trying a different hive style.
More Is Not Better
This is one of the most important beekeeping tips and tricks. Read Closely – maybe twice. Do not judge the quality of a beekeeper (even if it is you !) by the number of hives they own. 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.
Beekeeping Tips and Tricks Can Not Guarantee Success
-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 honeybee colonies through their first winter.
You will experience failure. There may be beekeepers out there who 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.
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.
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. A major beekeeping tip and tricks – find local beekeepers to learn from. Some beekeepers have a good honey harvest two times a year. Again, this is where local knowledge is so beneficial.
Beekeeping is a fascinating endeavor. The most important beginner beekeeping information you will receive is to simply enjoy the bees. The new beekeeper will experience highs and lows. A true “keeper of the bees” will continue to educate himself/herself. It is a constant learning process but the rewards are sweet.
6 Top Beekeeping Tips and Tricks
- Read and learn before the bees arrive
- Start slow with only a few hives
- Get your equipment and location ready early
- Enjoy the experience and dont over manage your bees (let them bee sometimes)
- Dont be in a rush to harvest honey – give it time
- Continue to learn from other beekeepers in your area