If you’re a beginner at beekeeping, you might be confused as to where to start. But don’t worry, if you can garden, you can be a beekeeper.
One of the joys of gardening is the harvest you produce. And while the main benefit of beekeeping is the honey, the added bonus is that the bees help vegetables and flowers thrive! Your garden will never look so good or produce more than when you keep bees.
Learn what it takes to start a hive and help it thrive.
9 Tips for Beginner Beekeepers
1. Bee prepared.
From the types of bees and hive to all your beekeeping supplies, you’ll make an investment in beekeeping upfront, but a successful hive will continue to pay off.
First, choose a hive. Then, pick up basic beekeeping tools such as protective clothing, smoker, pellets and feeding supplies. You can also grab a book on backyard beekeeping for more in-depth information.
2. Source your bees.
Order bees in January for shipment or pickup in spring. Ask your local beekeeping association for advice on where to order. Also ask for advice on buying packaged bees, nucs (small honeybee colonies), a swarm or an already-started hive. Each has pros and cons.
3. Choose the best location.
Bees like it warm, but not too hot. Face hives south and keep them off the ground to protect from water and critters. Choose a spot that also has protection from wind.
4. Keep fresh water close.
Be sure bees have access to fresh water near the hive. Fill a large plant saucer with river rocks or stones and place next to the hive. Ensure water is refreshed daily.
5. Keep young bees well-fed.
Young bees do all the hard work and support the queen. Whether you make your own nectar with sugar water or provide store-bought food, the young bees need to be well-fed. Use a frame feeder to reduce the chance of attracting wildlife.
6. Provide plenty of privacy.
Keep hives at least 50 feet away from high-traffic areas such as swing sets, pools or patios. A green or man-made privacy screen also keeps bees and people happy.
7. Check hives regularly.
Inspect hives about once a week for the first few months. Once you feel confident, check every two weeks. Ensure the outside of the hive and landing board are clean.
Check for mites, ants and other pests. Treat if necessary.
8. Use a smoker.
A smoker is a beekeeper’s friend. Smoke signals danger and triggers the bees to move their hive. To prepare for the move, they consume honey which makes them lethargic.
This slower activity makes bees more manageable and creates a safer work place. Smoke doesn’t guarantee you won’t get stung, but it does decrease the chance.
Bees spend the first year building up their hive. You can typically harvest by the second spring or early summer.
Tip: Plant a variety of edibles and native flowers around your garden to provide food for your hive.
- Hive frames
- Hive stand
- Beekeeper protective clothing: jacket, coverall, apron, hat, gloves
- Bee brush
- Bee feeding patty
- Book on backyard beekeeping
- Large plant saucer
- River rocks or pebbles
- Bee smoker
- Bee smoker pellets
- Honey extractor
- Honey strainer
- Glass jars
- Native perennial flowers
- Vegetable plants