Beekeeping for Beginners – Complete Guides

Even though you may be having utmost knowledge on honey, this may not be the case when it comes to bees. Beekeeping for beginners may be quite a hassle. There are quite a number of things you should consider starting off from where you should buy them first. You also need to know the best hive system among other things.

You may not really learn everything there is to learn about bees at a go. Taking this into account, we’ll be taking a look at some of the important things to take into account if you want to be a successful beekeeper.

Well, let’s start off by looking at how you can get yourself some bees…

About bees

Bees have been known to mankind since time immemorial as one of the most social species. Normally, bees live in colonies which is made up of the queen, the worker bees and the drones.

The queen is the most important since it lays the eggs and ensures the growth of the colony. The worker bees on the other hand build the hive. They are the hardest working bees.

As for the drones, these are the male bees and their work is only to mate with the queen who lays eggs. They also carry the genetic material of their present hives to other hives.

Beekeeping for Beginners– Step By step

When it comes to purchasing bees, you don’t have to wait till you’ve completed building your hive and gathered all the beekeeping equipment. As a matter of act, you should consider making your order off season since by the time spring kicks in, they would have already sold out.

Buying Bees

This is one of the most important parts of beekeeping. When purchasing your bees, you need to weigh out the best possible options at your disposal. Normally, you can either go for a swarm, a nucleus or packaged bees. Let’s have a look at each of these and what you should consider before going for either

Nucs, Package Bees, or Swarm?

A swarm

If you want the best possible deal when it comes down to purchasing bees, then this is definitely it. A swarm is composed of the queen, the worker bees and some drones. It is formed when a portion of a larger colony splits itself to start a new colony.

A nucleus

Considering that it can be quite a hassle to get a swarm, the second best option to purchase is a nucleus. This one is much easier to obtain as compared to the swarm. What the beekeeper basically does is take a few combs containing a lot of pollen and honey. He or she then a couple of worker bees, brood and a single queen.

A package.

A package is the last option you should go for. Normally, unlike the nucleus and the swarm, the bees in a package are unrelated. The composition is however made of the worker bees and a queen who is normally artificially reared. Though it may take some time, the other bees will finally accept the queen and the colony will bond

What to consider

Before purchasing either a package, a swarm or a nucleus, here are some of the things you should consider.

  • The cost- though they can be able to thrive just fine naturally, keeping bees can be quite costly. You should be ready to carter for both the starting and maintenance costs of the bees.
  • Where to keep them- at a radius of about 5 feet from the hive, there’ll be a lot of bees hence potential to get stung as well. Ensure that you have them at a safe distance from your house.
  • Are you willing to do all the lifting? – it’s not always fun when it comes to beekeeping, the honey is quite heavy and more so, when the hives need to be expanded, there’s a lot of physical strength involved.
  • How much time are you willing to invest? – beekeeping is time consuming. You need to have a closer loo at your schedule to keep your bees both healthy and happy.
  • Legal requirements- you need to comply with the legal requirements pertaining beekeeping in your locality. If you have a local beekeeper’s association, you can learn more about what the law says.

Choosing the hive system

As a beginner, you have the option to choose different types of hives. Each of the hive systems has got their advantages and disadvantages. It is therefore up to you as a beekeeper to go for the hive that will suit you best. Here, we’ll be looking at the 4 most common types of hive systems. Let’s get started, shall we?

The eight frame Langstroth Hive

As far as commercial beekeeping is concerned, this one just so happens to be the best. First of all, this was the first beehive design to contain removable frames which in turn makes it easier for you to inspect the bees as well as harvest the honey.

It is composed of a bottom board and honey supers which normally vary according to the design used. In addition to the suppers, there are the inner covers, outer covers, and the frames.

As compared to other designs, Langstroth is easily movable since the components can be disassembled and more so, the ventilation is the best. These kinds of hives are also designed to minimize drone production and increase the production of honey.

Warre Hive

Second, we have the Warre hive. Other than the Langstroth hive, this one is the second most popular hive set up you can get in the US. it is simply a vertical set up and is one of the easiest to come up with. Think of it as a vertical version of the top bar hive. Something else that is worth pointing out is that its cost is cheap and more so, management won’t be a problem.

If you need to extend the hive, you’ll have to add the new boxes at the bottom. This, besides being easy promotes the natural tendency of the bees to build downwards. What this gets you is a healthier environment for the bees

Top-bar hive

This one consists of wooden bars that are suspended over the cavity of the hive. Though they have not been used that much in the United States, the top bar hives have been around for centuries in different forms.

So as to come up with this design, you’ll need a wooden bar with wax strips attached to the underside. This is done so as to facilitate the building of combs and there is no artificial foundation added used. Normally, the setting up of these bars is at a low cost and in addition to this, only one frame is present hence it is easier to work on it.

On the downside, temperature regulation in the hive may be a problem for the bees. The honey production is also inconsistent and it may be more difficult to raise the queen in such a setup.

Ten-frame Langstroth Hive

Heavier than the 8-frame variant is the ten-frame Langstroth hive. This one came way earlier before the 8 frame design was adopted and the main difference between the two is that it is heavier. On the bright side, you’ll be getting more bees from this design and obviously more honey.

Other than being heavy, you will have a lot of lifting to do when doing the inspections. Even though you’ll do these perfectly, it will be cumbersome to do so. It’s not about the weight but rather about the time, it will take you to finish the inspection. All in all, the benefits obviously outnumber the downsides since we all want one thing- to get ample and quality honey.

Gather up the beekeeping supplies

If you’ve settled your mind on keeping bees, you’ll need to come to terms with the fact that you’ll be needing an upfront investment in supplies. Upon setting up your mind on a particular hive design, you can now move on to purchasing some of the tools that will come in handy

The Beehive

This is probably the most difficult or rather confusing decision you’ll have to make when it comes to gathering up the beekeeping supplies is what beehive you should go for.

So as to select this, you have to take into account a number of things. You should, first of all, consider the intended purpose for you to practice beekeeping. If you’ll major on commercial beekeeping, consider getting the Langstroth hive to maximize honey production.

If you want something simple and permanent, consider going for the Warre or the top-bar design. you should also consider the management of the hive before deciding what to go for. If you may find frequent maintenance much of a burden, go for a design that won’t be difficult to set up.

The honey bees

Besides the hive, getting the honey bees is also quite important. The honey bee population is composed of the queen, the worker bees, and the drones. Upon making your order, you will normally get the queen, the drones, and the workers.

If you can, you should purchase a swarm since this way, the bees are bonded and more so, it’s natural selection in action. The numbers will be in just the right proportion. The nucleus is the second-best option you can go for and unless you have no other option, you should go for the packages.

All in all, you should ensure that you learn as much about bees as you can- their anatomy and behavior regarding different seasons and surroundings.

Protective gear

It may seem rather ironical that something so small can cause such quite some damage. When it comes to beekeeping for beginners or experts, the significance of protective gear should not be overlooked whatsoever. How about we have a closer look at the protective gear you should always have with you when handling a hive?

Why do you need the veil?

From a personal point of view, the veil is the most important of all your protective gear. The reason I’m saying this is that a sting on your hand is completely incomparable to a sting on your face or the neck not forgetting the eyes. The veil is meshed to allow you to have complete visibility of what you’re doing and keep the bees outside. You can choose between the fenced, the square or the round veil

Choosing between the bee suit, one-piece or jacket and pants combination

A one-piece suit is the most common type. It is normally the most secure as it has got less areas of vulnerabilities to let the bees in. with this, you just have to get a durable pair of gloves and boots and you’re good to go. On the downside, it’s not the most comfortable choice

An alternative to the one piece is the separate jacket and pants combination. This one has got the jacket and the pants separate hence you can use the jacket alone for lighter tasks. The benefit of this is that it is comfortable but you need to be careful there are no areas of vulnerabilities.

Get yourself a nice pair of gloves

The hands will be doing all of the hard work. When honey is present in the hive, the bees are more aggressive than usual which calls for utmost protection. For the gloves, you should go for a thick choice without compromising comfort at the same time. You should also be careful not to squash the bees as you handle the hive. With thick gloves, it may be easy for you to do this.

Bee tools and a smoker

Even though they are small insects and can thrive perfectly in the wild just as they would on a man-made hive, their upkeep isn’t an easy task at all. As a matter of fact, you’ll need to get some bee tools and a smoker as well if you want to be a successful beekeeper

Hive tool– a hive tool is simply a small crowbar that is used to lift off and separate hive bodies and supers. It has got a large hook on one end for lifting frames. On the opposite end, its flat for scrapping off excessive wax or other residues from hive walls

Scraper- the scrappers are normally made for the sole purpose of cutting off wax capping from the honey frames you get from your hive.

Uncapping scratcher- this is normally made up of a handle and metal tines on the opposite ends. Though you could use a knife, the metal tines will be more effective.

Honey extractor

When it comes down to getting the honey from the combs, you’ll want to have the best honey extractor. With this machine, you can have the honey out of the combs without destroying the honeycombs. With the extractor, you’ll be removing your honey via the centrifugal process by placing the frames inside and spinning them around using the crankshaft handle.

Upon doing this, the honey will ooze down the inner surface of the extractor and you can then come out of a spigot where you can collect it.

Introducing the bees to the hive

This is the moment that every beekeeper or aspiring beekeeper waits for. After receiving either the swarm, the nucleus or the package, how you will get them to stay in your hive may dazzle you. Here’s how to introduce them to their new hive successfully.

First off, you should calm them down by spraying them with sugar water to make them less aggressive. In the hive area, you should spread a little bit of sugar water so as to attract the bees to the new hive.

You should also ensure that you have the entrance feeder and the entrance reducer. The latter keeps the bees snug in their new home and reduce tendencies of them flying away but leaves enough space for them to fly in and out. After this, open up the box containing the bees; some will fan an orientation scent on the entrance and the rest will follow

Be sure to feed them for a few weeks till they are familiar with their new home.

Keeping your bees healthy and happy

If you’ve set your mind on beekeeping, you should know how to keep them healthy and happy in all seasons. Though they do not need a huge time investment, bees need ongoing care. Monitoring the hive activity, as a matter of fact, is comforting and this is what you should do more often.

Spring task

Being one of the busiest time of the year for both you as a beekeeper and your bees, there’s much that you should do. Let’s have a look at some of the things you should do.

Inspect your bees as soon as possible once the winter cold starts fading away. Determine whether or not your bees made it through the winter and most of all see whether the queen is alive. If the brood is present, it’s a good sign.

Check whether the bees have food. If you can spot honey in between the frames, it’s a good sign. If otherwise, employ emergency feeding. You should also anticipate for colony grown and expand the hive.

Summer task

It is in the summer that beehive activity is at its highest. Nectar reaches its peak in the summer and so does honey production. Maintenance in the summer is less since the bees do most of the hard work.

First off, you should investigate your hive every week so as to ensure it’s healthy and to keep the queen alive too. You may not know how big the colony growth might spike hence you should add honey supers just in case.

Also, look out for attacks from stronger hives or wasps since this can be nasty. Finally, harvest your honey at the end of nectar flow and leave some inside for use during winter

Autumn task

Here are some of the things you should do when preparing your bees for the upcoming winter hardships.

First off, take a look inside the hive to make sure the queen is still present. It would even be easier if you find eggs in each cell. It is better if the eggs are close together.

Ensure that the bees have enough honey. Also, you should feed them a sugar syrup until they are forced to a tight cluster by cold weather.

Do consider treating your colony with antibiotics against diseases. Also, do provide them with adequate ventilation. At the same time, you should wrap the hive in black tar paper to help the bees regulate temperatures.

Winter task

This is the slowest and most dangerous season for beekeeping. Most deaths of bees are actually recorded late in winter or early spring due to starvation hence you should make sure they have enough food. Feed them a 1:1 sugar solution.

Late in the winter when it’s calm, have a peek in the hive and see if there are honey seals in the top frame. If not, begin emergency feeding till they start bringing their own pollen.

Clean off the entrance of the hive of any snow or dead bees. If the numbers are too low, you should order some package bees in advance for when spring kicks in.

Final Verdict

Now that there’s this article to help you, beekeeping for beginners is not that hard now, is it? From the maintenance to the tools and the hive type, you just need to be careful. This way, you’ll have the guarantee that your colony will successfully thrive. Always pay attention to even the tiniest detail.

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