Beekeeping Advice – Who to Trust?
These beekeeping tips for beginners can help you get ready for your first hive! Keeping bees is a very popular hobby with a lot of beginner beekeepers coming on board. Information related to honey bees has become big business with lots of free tips to read and learn. Who should you listen to? Real beekeepers can provide the best beekeeping advice and then it is up to you to apply it to your situation.
When you enter the world of beekeeping, you might feel overwhelmed by all of the new terminology.
There is a lot of information out there. That’s a good thing but it can be too much of a good thing too. Can you have too much advice? Yes, you can.
Let’s simplify things a bit and give you some easy beekeeping tips for beginners that applies in almost every situation.
Beekeeping Tips and Tricks
- 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
Learn Beekeeping – Step by Step
For those of you with no prior exposure to bees, starting beekeeping is a whirlwind of the mind. Everything from a decision on the best bees to buy to what you need to buy can cause worry.
Beekeeping equipment comes in many different styles and sizes. You have so many decisions to make.
It takes a while to learn the parts of a beehive and what to do with all those beekeeping tools. You must deal with a lot of unfamiliar terminology.
The good news is you won’t need to know everything right away. Take your time as you learn the basics of beekeeping.
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.
A common complaint is the conflicting ideas of honey bee management in the beekeeping community. While this can be frustrating, 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 beekeeping mistakes? You bet your sweet…. hinny I have. And you will too. But, some good basic info will be a big help.
Set Reasonable First Year 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.
Start Beekeeping Before Bees Arrive
Yes, months before your new bees arrive, begin to learn about bees 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. Once you know enough to order bees and equipment – begin to learn about managing your hives.
Learning what to look for during hive inspections and when it is time to ask for help is just the beginning.
You do not become a beekeeper just because you have a hive with bees. Beekeeping involves learning how to manage your colonies.
Read Beekeeping Books And Watch Videos
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.
New Beekeeper Tips on Feeding Bees
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 a good resource for this issue. They are more in tune with local conditions than any book or video will be.
Should You Feed Your New Bees Pollen?
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.
Do You Want to Harvest Bee Pollen?
In the season of plenty, beekeepers enjoy harvesting a little bee pollen with a pollen trap.
Use care to avoid collecting too much bee 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.
Choose a Common Bee Hive Style
Beehives are available in many configurations. When choosing among the many types of beehives, consider a hive style that is being using locally.
I do recommend standard Langstroth hives for beginners – but that is my opinion. Local beekeeper using the same type of hive will be your mentors.
Later you may try another type of hive such as a Top Bar hive. Each type of hive has fans and detractors (see its that opinion thing again).
Have Your Bee Equipment Ready Early
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 late February or early March. Yes, it is that important. LOL
Choose the Best Hive Location You Have
Not everyone have the prefect spot to keep a beehive. However, some hive locations are worse than others.
Choose a location for your bee hives that is not too close to your house. Lots of sun, easy access, and not too close to play areas or public walks.
Spend some time thinking about what will be the best hive placement in your yard for the new bees. It will be time well spent.
Do You Need a Water Source For 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.
Avoid the Beehive Race
Another good beekeeping tip – 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.
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.
Success is Not Guaranteed When Starting Beekeeping
Be prepared, 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.
Be Prepared For Some Beekeeping Failures
Not every hive will thrive and become productive. And, not every season will mean a big honey harvest.
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.
We All Think We Are Right on Beekeeping Advice !
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 Harvest 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.
Final Word on Beekeeping Tips for Beginners
The best advice I can give to those wanting to know how to start beekeeping is to simply enjoy the bees.
The new beekeeper will experience highs and lows. Prepare yourself before bees arrive and continue to learn.
Don’t forget to check out my Online Beginners Beekeeping Class. It’s a great way to learn more on your own schedule.
Your successes should outweigh the challenges over time. The best beekeeping tip I can give you? Have fun.