How to Start Beekeeping For Honey
The idea of becoming a beekeeper is intriguing to many. Seriously, who wouldn’t want to harvest their own honey. And everyone knows that keeping bees is cool. Learn how to start beekeeping for honey on your homestead or in your back yard.
Yes it is possible to produce your own honey right at your home. Many backyard beekeepers have a hive or 2 that produces enough honey to supply family and friends.
You could be bottling your own honey sooner than you think.
Keeping bees is a traditional skill that has regained popularity in recent years. A decline in honey bees has resulted in a renewed interest in beekeeping. But, we humans do things that cause problems too.
This extra media attention has resulted in the availability of a lot of beekeeping information.
You should have no trouble finding books, articles and videos on how to become a beekeeper.
If you think keeping bees is some you are destined to pursue, prepare yourself well before bees arrive. Your journey starts right here with a good plan.
Raising Bees for Fun And Pollination
Not everyone who keeps bees is wanting to make a large honey crop. Many beekeepers have bee colonies in order to provide pollination.
A couple of beehives in your neighborhood will benefit area gardens. Vegetable gardens and orchards produce more fruit if bee hives are nearby.
Pollination is the major contribution of honey bees to our culture. Those who become beekeepers for pollination manage bees differently. It is not necessary to manage the colonies as intensively. Hive strength is not as important.
Beekeeping For Honey Requires Strong Colonies
Okay, lets get back to the purpose of this article. Backyard beekeeping for honey. If you want to start beekeeping for honey production , it is even more important to learn proper bee management.
Your colonies should be healthy and strong to be able to produce enough honey for themselves and surplus for you.
Learning to manage large honey producing colonies requires some skill. Being a good beekeeper means learning what to do for your colonies and getting it done.
Mistakes will be made but that’s okay. You will get there with time and practice.
Large Colonies Can Be More Defensive – Protect Yourself
Plan Your Budget To Begin Beekeeping
Getting started in beekeeping is not cheap but it doesn’t have to be unattainable.
Plan a budget based on current prices for basic equipment and bees in your locale.
The price can vary greatly from one part of the country to another. Shop around to avoid over paying for beekeeping essentials.
It is wise to check equipment prices from several companies before you purchase. And order early, there will be seasonal shortages.
As you plan your beekeeping budget, start small. Many new beekeepers get in way over their heads.
Grow your bee yard slowly with just a few hives. You can add more each year until you get up to the number of hives that you require.
Growing too big too fast is a good way to experience failure in beekeeping.
It is easy to underestimate the amount of money and work that is involved when you start beekeeping for honey. A hive management plan for pollination is different and does not require such strong colonies.
For honey production: The cost of bees, equipment for the bees, boxes to store honey can easily reach into hundreds or thousands of dollars.
You may find some ways to save money on items that you need. But, be careful of buying used equipment. You may save money but it has risks of disease.
Beginner Beekeeping Gloves – You Can Go Cheap
Beekeepers learn how to be frugal. (ok, we can be cheap.) I use disposable nitrile gloves for working my bees on a normal basis. They are inexpensive and allow greater dexterity while working my my hives.
The only down-side is that my hands do sweat inside the gloves during hot weather. That is rather yucky but not as bad as getting stung.
Protective Wear For Beekeepers
It is a good idea to have a beekeeping jacket or hat/veil combo. In fact, I believe that a beekeeper’s veil is absolutely necessary.
Protective wear helps you feel confident and soothes those new beekeeper nerves. Beekeeping suits and jackets come in many different styles. I prefer the dome shaped hoods as they are more comfortable to wear. (The Cowboy veil is soft and a great choice to use when taking bee photos with my Nikon. )
Take care when choosing protective wear . You will find numerous sources for beekeeping wear. No problem with saving money, but take quality into account as well. The cheapest equipment does not necessarily save money in the long run.
Remember, for the minimum in beekeeper wear, purchase a hat/veil. Protect your face and eyes.
Prepare Before Raising Bees
Those who take the time to study before bees arrive will have the greatest chances of success. When I first started beekeeping I was just a little bit afraid.
Yes I was excited but I had never opened a box with 60,000 stinging insects. With time, my confidence grew and beekeeping became more enjoyable.
Consider your beekeeping goals as you make plans for your first hive. Arm yourself with knowledge and join a local beekeeping club if you can.
Buy A Few Good Books
Beekeepers love books and there are many good books available. My beekeeping library consists of about 30 titles. Several of my books offer advice on how to start beekeeping and the first few years.
Some of my books are more advanced and were put to good use during my journey toward Master Beekeeper. Choose 2 or 3 books for your beginning beekeeper education. Some of my favorites are:
Based on questions from new beekeepers over the last 10 years, I have developed a Beginners Beekeeping Book. EBook available for instant download or In Print
Check out my Online Beekeeping Classes – everything you need to know for your first year with bees.
Order Your Honey Bees Early
The early beekeeper gets the worm..or um bees !
The most popular method of obtaining bees is to buy them from a supplier. Thousands of beekeepers buy honey bees sold in packages made of wood and screen for transportation. Each package contains 1 queen and about 10,000 bees. The beekeeper will move the bees to a permanent hive.
Bee packages are ready in the Spring. However, these bees have been ordered months ahead. Plan to order bees in January or February to ensure availability.
An important part of learning how to start beekeeping for honey production is learning to order early. Bee and equipment shortages are very aggravating. Be prepared or your lack of planning may reduce your harvest.
If you are lucky enough to be able to pick up your package bees from a local supplier, arrive early. The bees should be contained inside the cage.
Many new beekeepers will receive package bees through the postal service. Be prepared to receive a frantic call from your local post office. Buzzing boxes of bees tend to make postal employees nervous. Install your bees promptly into their new home.
Supplemental feeding ( I use pure cane sugar mixed with water) will help give your new bee colony a boost. Sometimes I feed a new colony most of the summer if needed.
Make Good Decisions Based On Your Research
You will have many decisions to make as you prepare to become a honey producer. It is important to remember that beekeeping is a field full of opinions. There are many different ways to do thing. You will have to find one that works for you.
What Kind of Bee Hive Is Best For Honey Production
There are many different hive designs used by beekeepers around the world. The two most common choices in the US are the Langstroth Hive & the Top Bar Hive. Both designs are well suited to honeybees. However, honey bee management is very different between the two hive types.
Most beekeepers who desire larger honey harvests chose a Langstroth 10 frame hive. Those keeping bees for the experience and/or pollination often chose a Top Bar Hive. Of course, both hive types can produce honey & provide pollination.
New hive types come into the market on occasion, research them before diving in and then you may want to give one a try.
Choose A Good Bee Yard Location
One of the most important considerations of beekeeping is hive placement. Deciding where to put your beehive or beehives requires consideration of several factors. In addition to forage, water and protection for your beehive. Accessibility in order to harvest your honey need to be considered. Honey is heavy. You need to be able to get to the bee yard in all kinds of weather.
Start Beekeeping With Realistic Expectations
As you learn more about how to start beekeeping for honey production, take your time. Don’t expect a honey harvest from new colonies during their first year.
A new colony has a lot of work to do : comb building, raising young and storing food.
I tell beginner beekeepers to plan on honey the second summer. In a good year, I have harvested honey from new colonies but it is not something to expect.
The amount of honey you can expect to harvest will also vary from location to location and year to year.
Know Your Flow – Honey Flow
Which flowers produce nectar and pollen for your bees ? It depends on where you live. Climate conditions affect the amount of nectar that is produced by flowering plants.
Honey bees gather nectar from the flowers and transform it into honey. Proper temperatures and rainfall play an important role in nectar production and honey production.
We call the time of year when an abundance of nectar is available the “honey flow”. In my area, the flow is on during April & May. The time of honey production and the quantity of honey produced will depend on the your local foraging conditions.
Making contact with local experienced beekeepers provides valuable information to the beekeeper who starts beekeeping for honey production.
Beekeeping for honey production requires extra equipment. You will need additional boxes/honey supers for the bees to fill for you. Various harvesting equipment is available.
For just a couple of hives, you really dont need an extractor. However if you have more than 4 hive, it would be a good thing to consider. Extraction is slow work when done by hand.
Keep Good Records
Keep notes of when colonies were installed, how long they were fed, did they produce honey etc. If the field I use my voice recorder and then transcribe my notes to the notebook.
My beekeeping journal has hive inspection sheets and monthly “things to do” sheets to keep me on track.
Beekeeping is not a hobby that can be mastered in a few weeks. Your introduction to beekeeping will last at least through the first year.
As the seasons change, so does the bee colony. You have a wonderful experience ahead. It’s time to learn how to start beekeeping for honey in your backyard.
Join our Beekeeping Community
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