Beekeeping for Beginners

In recent years, beekeeping has grown as a hobby to help families grow healthier plants while also helping the families be more self-reliant.

You might be thinking that beekeeping is going to be too advanced but in reality, it takes about the same amount of time and means as gardening or other outdoor hobbies.

Check out these tips on how you can start your own beehive at your home and reap the rewards!

Where Will You Keep Them
Bees are like any other pet that you might have and need a place to stay. Think about where you’ll put them in your yard. Is your yard big enough for a beehive? Are they going to be a problem for children? Do you have zoning laws that speak to beekeeping? All these are questions you’ll have to answer.

You’ll also need to consider your neighbors. While it might be OK with the city laws, no one wants to be the troublemaker in the neighborhood. Consider if your neighbors have allergies to bees, if the hive will be too close to their yard, etc. Many times, making a beehive a different color helps them be unrecognizable and out of the mind of your neighbors. You can also set up hedges or walls around your hive forcing bees to come back to the hive at a higher level - flying above the human height range.

A Strong Hive
A strong population is crucial to successful beekeeping. The typical population will reach 75.000 bees during the summer and around 30,000 gathering bees. A good colony is docile when managed and shouldn’t swarm very often. A good colony will produce 50-100 pounds of surplus honey each season. Avoid collecting a lot of honey in the fall - this is what bees use during the winter to survive.

Keep Your Hives Off the Ground
When you’re planning the location of your hives, it’s recommended that you have your hives off the ground to protect them from other animals. A simple stand made of 2x4s will do the job. Not to mention having them higher on the ground will be easier on your back and help you keep the bottoms cleaner.

Learn How Bees Naturally Form a Hive
Bees will typically create hives in cavities of about 2-3 cubic feet. Typically the honey will be stored on top of the hive and around the outside. The main brood food for the bees is usually stored below the honey. The queen bee will usually lay her eggs and raise her young at the very bottom of the nest. Knowing and researching the basic structure of a hive will help you know where to harvest and where to let things be. This will also affect how you design your bee hives - instead of combs hanging down off of a board, you’ll have to imagine that it’s a sphere like a natural hive.

You’ll Need Protective Gear
Obviously you’ll need some type of veil to keep bees from becoming entangled in your hair. You’ll also want to get a sturdy lightweight jacket (ideally that attaches to your veil). You don’t necessarily need a jumpsuit to do light beekeeping work. A jumpsuit is a great idea when you’re going to be doing a lot of manual labor with the hive - moving it, rearranging them, etc.

The Smoker
A beekeeper’s smoker is one of your most vital tools. It’s basically a cylinder with a bellows attached. A slow burning fire is inside the cylinder (made of pine needles, smoker fuel, old burlap, etc.). When you gently squeeze the smoker it will push a puff of smoke towards the bees and two things will happen. First, they will try to get away. Their natural instinct is to get out of the way of fires and they’ll leave if at all possible. Worker bees will duck into the hive trying to eat as much honey as possible before the bail. The second thing that the smoke will do is interfere with the bee’s communication signals. This will allow you to do your work in the hive without a hive that can communicate and swarm.

Building the Hive
You can either purchase a pre-built hive or build your own. Basically the hive consists of long sheets that lay side by side like folders in a cabinet. They can easily be pulled out and scrapped off.

What Type of Bees
The most common bee for beekeeping beginners is the Italian Honey Bee. They are gentle, very productive and easy to manage. They are the most common bee available for purchase. Carniolans are dark bees and demand slightly more time. They are very gentle and winterize better. There population builds fast in the spring and you’ll need to plan accordingly. Russian bees are also gentle and somewhat erratic. They are slower to build in the spring but build fast when they do.

Your Advice
Now, we’ve covered some basics you should consider when figuring if beekeeping is for you. There are a lot of other items to consider including a starter hive, equipment and more.

Do you have bee hives? How do you like them? Comment below to let us know!

13 thoughts on “Beekeeping for Beginners”

  • Patrick

    I thought you may be selling a starter kit for bee keeping. I would have purchased one from you. Maybe you will consider it?

    Reply
  • Naomi

    In the summer we have many bees around on our plants. I have not seen a hive anywhere. Should I put up a hive for them.

    Naomi

    Reply
  • Dan

    Great article,I have raised bees years ago, Greenbeehives have great starter hives and accessories. Keep up the good work.

    Reply
  • PrepSteader

    Different beekeepers have different insights based on differing experiences. For instance, I have always seen bees as livestock, not pets (just try cuddling a bee and you'll see my point). I have also found my Russians to be mean as all getup, a common trait along with being considered "hygienic" (keeping a cleaner hive). I've recently switched over to all Italians. I have a small write up which includes advice on where to obtain bees local to you, and it also has with lots of good links for resources, at http://www.thebasiclife.com/doku.php?id=food:livestock&#honeybees. Feel free to email me at PrepSteader@TheBasicLife if you have any questions about getting started, I love to help people. Beekeeping can be an expensive hobby, and I advise starting off wisely, with forethought and with sound planning. If there's any interest I can definitely increase the info on my site's beekeeping section. Patrick, I think you would get some benefit from my site. Naomi, if you have bees in your yard they already have a hive within a few miles. What you should do is buy a hive box with frames and pheromone lure. When the wild colony splits (a Spring activity), you have a chance of having then make their home in your hive box!

    Reply
  • Cindi

    Just started my two hives this weekend! It is funny, I spend time just sitting watching them go in and out!

    Reply
  • Tom

    Join your local Bee club!

    Reply
  • Ben from Texas
    Ben from Texas April 30, 2013 at 3:49 am

    For those of you who can't afford to buy a beehive but need them to pollinate your garden plants and vegetables,just leave about an inch of Dr Pepper in the next can you buy ,bury the can half way in the ground so the wind or critters WON'T knock it over...Bees in your area will find the Dr Pepper and fly inside the can getting the sugar..DO NOT USE DIET Dr Pepper,it has no sugar and is poison because it coontains ASPERTINE that has been proven to cause cancer..Warning !!AVOID FOODS AND DRINKS WITH ASPERTINE!!

    Reply
  • Melissa

    I took a beekeeping class with Round Rock Honey this month. By far the best class I have invested in!! And I learned allot of these tips from them too. They sell starter kits but if the Ready Store is getting into the beekeeping business I might consider buying from You all. I was quoted just under $1000 to get totally set up with 1 hive including all equipment necessary. Once we get our own land and put a house on it I will be starting my bees and garden together.

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  • MMP

    Dr. Pepper is junk food to humans and bees. Sugar water is better.

    Reply
  • Bob

    This link answers the question no one addressed above as to acquisition: http://www.sears.com/search=bee%20hive%20boxes?storeId=10153&catalogId=12605&vName=Lawn+%26+Garden&cName=Outdoor+Tools+%26+Supplies&viewItems=50&sLevel=1

    One experienced player suggests gentle bees for beginners- " "Buckfast" was the genetic line- at least five pounds and buy two swarms to assure success. By mail or roll the dice by taking a wild swarm someone wants removed, you buy swarms. Do not take wild bees near Africanized regions as an amateur. They look alike but the African strains are dangerously aggressive. Really.

    This man in Ireland has an alternative hive construction and management plan and plans for building: http://www.rosebeehives.com/

    Join a local beekeeping association. You will need help with disease and mite problems someday. Plant lots of flowers that open all year. Bob

    Reply
  • Jack

    Melissa, your getting stung !!!!! I've been doing bee keeping for about three years now and it should only cost you around 500 dollars max including the bee's. Three pounds of bees and a queen should only cost you around 100 to 110 dollars. Look around for hives before you buy from the company that said it will cost around 1000 dollars.

    Reply
  • Toby

    If you plan on beginning bee keeping you are almost too late to buy bees. Most apiaries are sold out already, with some later shipments still available. Dadant is a good equipment source, and you can find hive bodies and frames on Ebay, but watch the shipping. I like Italian and Buckfast bees. Buy a good suit, nothing slows a beginner more than a cheap suit with bees inside! It is a great hobby, and there is Nothing to compare with the smell of a hive just opened! Find a local club, for regional specific advice, and have fun!

    Reply
  • Ben from Texas

    I've joined a bee keepers school last month near me here in east Texas..Its every last Sat for 6 months.About 3 hours each class..The enrollment fee was 100 dollars but normally 200 dollars since this is their first time teaching bee keeping.The teacher and his wife and boys have several hives.The book they gave us to read and study from is called>The Beekeepers Handbook ''Fourth Edition'' by Diana Sammataro and Alphonse Avitabile.Here are some books and email sites they gave me to order from>>> www.BrushyMountainBeeFarm.com....www.dadant.com....www.mannlakeltd.com I'm out 550 dollars so far with classes,bee suit with hood,long sleeve gloves ,smoker,and tools, plus one hive with bees..They said we could expect 3 to 5 gallons of honey from each hive each year depending on the rain and wild flower production.You can also make money from tending other hives for people who don't want the hassle of tending the hives.The teacher charges 100 dollars to remove a bee colony from peoples property,plus with luck he'll get a Queen bee plus the honey and hundreds of bees to boot.Taking them home and put in a new hive..I have aq friend north of me who has 17 bee hives.When he gets agressive bees he just replaces the Queen..Killer bees are rare around here but they are in Texas and caution should be made when working a strange hive..Bees love to sting black cloths.Wear all white cloths.

    Reply
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