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Beekeeping 101-What You Need to Know
Have you ever considered having a beehive of your very own? If so, you are in luck because this is a great time to do it. Due to the popularity of honey bees, beekeeping for beginners is a hot topic. You should have no problem learning how to start beekeeping in your backyard.
The idea of becoming a beekeeper is intriguing to many. There are many reasons people want to have beehives. Even some famous beekeepers have enjoyed the beauty of the hive over the years. Though they may not be remembered for their beekeeper skills.
Seriously, who wouldn’t want to harvest their own honey. And everyone knows that keeping bees is cool – once you get past the stinger part.
Beekeeping for Newbies
Raising honey bees is a very rewarding activity. Healthy productive honey bee colonies are the result of beekeeper preparation and proper colony maintenance.
As you begin this new adventure, there are several steps to take to increase your chances of being successful with your beehives. Failure to prepare can result in a waste or your time and money, as well as, bees that needlessly die.
How to Start Your Own Beehive
The first steps to having your own beehives can seem a bit overwhelming. Relax, you don’t have to learn everything in one season. However, give special attention to these items and you will be off to a good start.
- Consider local laws and regulations
- Learn the basics of beginner beekeeping
- Buying equipment for the bees
- Protective wear for the beekeeper
- Beekeeper tools
- How to get bees for your new hive
Is it Legal to Keep Bees at Your Home?
Most areas in the United States do allow beekeeping though some municipalities may restrict the number of hives you can keep on a small lot.
Research any legal stumbling blocks to your dream of becoming a beekeeper before investing your money in bees and equipment.
Assuming there are not legalities preventing you from having bees, be thoughtful of your neighbors. Do you have enough space to manage bees without disturbing others in the neighborhood?
Learn the Basic of Bees and Beekeeping
Are you a beekeeper once you have your first hive of bees in the backyard? Technically, the answer is yes.
However, if you have no idea of how to manage your beehives – you are not truly keeping honey bees. You are still a bee-haver not a beekeeper.
Educate yourself by reading beekeeping books (those written by real beekeepers). Videos are great but good beekeeping books will never lose their place in training new beekeepers.
The Beekeeper’s Handbook – Beekeeping Tips and GuidanceBuzz into Beekeeping: A Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming a Successful BeekeeperNatural Beekeeping: Organic Approaches to Modern Apiculture, 2nd Edition
My beekeeping library consists of over 30 titles and counting. I have a few more recommendations on my page – Best Beekeeping Books for Beginners.
Several of the books in my library offer advice on how to start beekeeping and managing bees through the first few years. Some of my books are more advanced and were put to good use during my journey toward Master Beekeeper.
Take a Beekeeping Class – or 2 or 3
Beekeeping classes are very valuable because they give you a chance to get different points of view on bee management. This is something to get used to because beekeeping involves a lot of opinions – you may as well embrace it right now.
Local clubs offer classes during certain times of the year and you can find beekeeping classes online as well.
I invite you to check out my Online Beekeeping Class. It teaches everything you need to know to get started in beekeeping.
Classes are very helpful and since everyone teaches something just a bit different- it’s a good idea to take more than 1.
Equipment Needed to Start a Beehive
The first year of beekeeping usually represents the largest cash investment. The actual amount of money needed to start a beehive will depend in part on local availability.
There are many different hive designs used by beekeepers around the world. The two most common beehive designs in the US are the Langstroth Hive & the Top Bar Hive.
Both designs are well suited to honey bees. However, honey bee management is different between the two hive types. Most beekeepers who desire larger honey harvest 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.
If you have a desire to build a hive, check out reputable beehive plans before you begin.
Best Bee Hive for Beginners
Langstroth hives are the most common hive style used by beginners. You will need: a bottom board, at least 1 hive (deep) box, a couple of shallow super boxes, an inner cover and a telescoping top. This completes the outside of the hive.
For the inside you will choose the types of frames and foundation needed to give the bees a place to build comb and create their nest.
Also, there are different types of beehives to choose. Expect to spend $200-$300 per hive for the equipment and the bees.
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.
Beekeeping Protective Wear
Every beekeeper needs some protective wear. Having a beekeeping jacket , full bee suit or hat/veil combo makes beekeeping much safer. In fact, I believe that a beekeeper’s veil is absolutely necessary.
Beekeeping Suit or Jacket
Protective wear helps you feel confident and soothes those new beekeeper nerves. Beekeeping suits and jackets come in many different styles.
No harm in saving money but take quality into account as well when you are shopping. The cheapest equipment does not necessarily save money in the long run.
Choosing a beekeeping suit that can be washed is a good investment as it prolongs the life of the garment.
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.
However, goatskin beekeeper gloves offer some protection and good flexibility so they are not a wasted expense.
Beekeeper Tools Needed to Manage Your Hives
You will find thousands of beekeeping gadgets to buy for your beekeeping hobby. Some of them are very helpful and others will just cost you money and take up space in your tool box.
Getting Bees for Your New Hive
Most new beekeepers opt to buy bees to ensure they are able to start their hive this year. However, there is another option if you want to take a chance of having to wait – you may catch a bee swarm.
Buying Honey Bees
The early beekeeper gets the worm..or um bees ! Don’t procrastinate ordering bees. Early delivery dates will sell out – sometimes by the end of January.
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. Waiting to order may result in you have to wait until next year.
Getting Bees for Your Hive for Free
The new beekeeper may decide to attempt to catch a swarm of bees rather than buy a bees in a package. This is a good way to get local genetics but it does have its risks.
You may not be successful in finding a swarm and have to wait until next year. And, the capture swarm might carry pests and disease.
Where Will You Put Your Beehives?
As you gather your materials and learn how to care for your hives there is another thing to consider. Where will you place your beehives?
Perhaps you have room for a few hives at your home. If not, don’t give up yet, some beekeeping clubs- especially in urban areas – have community yards where members can keep a beehive.
Assuming you are able to have beehives in your yard, you now need to find the best location. Look for a place that is well away from everyday human activity.
Read my article on – Where to Put Your Beehive – for full details on selecting the best location.
Keep Good Beekeeper Records
When I say you should keep a beekeeping diary, I do not mean a collection of daily bee thoughts – though that may be helpful too.
Keep notes of when colonies were installed, timing of routine inspections, any mite treatments used, how long they were fed, did they produce honey etc.
Connect with Local Beekeepers
Which flowers produce nectar and pollen for your bees ? It depends on where you live.
Honey bees gather nectar from the flowers and transform it into honey. However, many variables are involved in honey production.
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 new beekeeper. These will also become valuable contacts if you decide to start a bee farm or business from your hives.
A Final Word on How to Start Beekeeping
As you read more about how to start beekeeping, you will notice that all beekeepers experience failures. Hives will sometimes fail in spite of our best intentions.
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.
Beekeeping is not a hobby that can be mastered in a few weeks. Your beekeeper education will continue for several years to come.