Do you want to jump into beekeeping but have no clue of how or where to start? Your reasons might be for the sweet honey or other hive products, as a hobby, for pollination assistance and commercial purposes, Right? Regardless of your motive in starting beekeeping, below are some incredible tips for a beginner like you.
Here are some of our other similar articles for when you’re done with the epic 100 list we’ve put together for you on this article!
1. Have Nuggets of Knowledge about Bees
As a beginner new in the field, don’t just read about beekeeping. You should read everything about their biology, evolution and behavior. This will enable you understand how bees operate and how to manage them. The more knowledge you garner about bees, the better a professional beekeeper you’ll make.
2. Give Beekeeping your 100%
When you start in beekeeping, make sure you are able to commit all your time into it. This is because bees still need to be taken care of, despite being independent creatures of nature. As a beginner, practice is the key to becoming a successful beekeeper, thus as the old adage goes, ‘’Practice makes perfect”.
3. Join Local Beekeeping Clubs and Associations
Consider joining these associations as it will mentor and help you expand your knowledge in beekeeping. Joining these associations means that resources like books, magazines, videos and loans will be readily available for you. Some even offer short courses on beekeeping.
4. Be Financially Ready
When you want to start beekeeping, you should consider future costs. Thus, you need to have money for purchasing beekeeper’s equipment.
5. Inform Your Neighbors
Not everyone is a fan of bees due to their stings. Make your neighbors aware that bees are only aggressive when provoked. Inform them on the specific day which you do a hive check. This will enable them to take extra precautions for their safety. Understanding neighbors will have zero issues if you take the time to keep them informed.
6. Get Full Beekeeping Equipment and Clothing
For you to be a successful beekeeper, you should have essential beekeeping equipment like a hive, smoker, hive tools, queen catcher, a full bee suit, gloves, feeders, queen marker, sugar, essential oils and a sturdy pair of boots.
7. Purchase Quality Honeybees
Purchase bees that have mixed races and are free from diseases. As a beginner there are basically three types of bees that are recommended for you. These are Italians, Russian and Carniolans Bees.
8. Store Bee Packages in a Cool Dark Room
Of course after purchasing bees, they will be given to you in a package. After arriving home with them, store them in cool dark room with an average of 65̊F to 70 ̊F. This will prevent them from unsuitable weather conditions.
9. Feed Packaged Bees by Sprinkling Sugar Syrup over the Screen Surface
Before you sprinkle them, balance the amount of sugar and water in a ratio of 1:1. Sugar syrup provides them with energy that enables them to warm up in the package. Thus, it will provide them with energy to fly after installation.
10. Install Bees into Their Hives in the Afternoon
You should install them in the afternoon because they are usually calmer at this time. Temperatures in the afternoon also prevents them from drifting thus, gives them time to settle down for the night.
11. Decide Which Beekeeping Approach to Follow
There are four types of beekeeping approaches. They are medicated beekeeping, natural, organic and combining approaches. Before you order your bees, you should have decided which beekeeping approach to follow.
12. Opt for Frames
Frames will enable bees to regularly keep on building combs. It will also enable you to easily inspect the hive, remove honey, do splits and use an extractor. For best conveniences, choose a hive with movable frames.
13. Know How to Stimulate Brood Rearing
It is important to know this method because it results into strong and increased production of colonies. This method will also come in handy when there is shortage of pollen and a down flow of honey production.
14. Know you State Laws and Regulations
Make sure you understand your state laws and regulations. This is because every law requires beekeepers to maintain the bees in a way that they do not attack neighbors. Adhering to apiary code of conduct of your state, is expected of you. Always be ready for some charges if you own several hives.
15. For Starters, Avoid Foundations
For a beginner like you, it is wise to go foundationless. This is because bees prefer the freedom of building their honeycomb from scratch. It also allows them to build worker cells and drone cells at any time and place of desire. Going foundationless also saves you from expenses.
16. Set up Two Hives
This might be expensive but it’s worth it because it gives you more backup options. For example, a queen less hive that doesn’t have eggs, can be supplemented from a healthy hive. In another instance, pollen, brood and honey from a stronger colony of a second hive can be transferred to the weaker colony.
17. Keep the Hives Close
Keeping the hives close will enable you keep an eye on the bees and you won’t spend so much time travelling. During extreme weather conditions, it will be easier to visit your bees, for example between showers if they are closer to you. If you have limited time, maybe due to work, you will be at a better position to look after your bees.
18. Comprehend the Correlation between Honey Flavors and the Geographical Area
Did you know that different honey flavors vary with different geographical areas? The difference in flavors is due to nectar sources that bees visit and the area’s climatic conditions. Thus, the taste of honey varies with the bloom intensity.
19. Get All Your Paper work In Line
Depending on your state, you should get your permits and licenses, registration papers and inspections ready in case needed. Don’t wait till the last minute when they are needed.
20. One Bee Hive Style is enough
Only one bee hive style is recommended. As a beginner, learn from the local bee keepers and choose one style that suits you.
21. Find yourself a mentor in Beekeeping
A mentor will ease your mind along the journey of beekeeping. He/she will answer any questions you have, can recommend products and services, can help catch a swarm and help you save money. Plus, they have experience.
22. Build an Elevated Hive Stand
An elevated hive stand keeps away predators like skunks who eat bees and their larvae. It also prevents scavengers who will cause destruction and disturb beehives.
23. Strike a Deal with a Community Garden
Striking this deal will be of benefit both for you and the community garden. This is because bees will enhance pollination in the garden at the same time, they will continuously collect enough pollen for the production of honey. A community garden can also offer a home for your hives.
24. Communicate with Your Landlord Concerning Roof Rights
When bees find a place that suits them (e.g. on the roof) and decide to build a hive on it, this will be totally out of your control. You should note that the landlord is not responsible for this infestation. As a tenant you are required fix this mess and inform the landlord of the changes you’re about to make on the roof.
25. Opt for Quality over Quantity
Having more than one hive can be exciting but quality over quantity is better. If you have fewer bees and they are healthy, you are better than a beekeeper who has many hives but poorly-maintained bees. However, as long as you can successfully manage many hives, then go for it.
26. It’s Okay Not to Know Everything
As a beginner, you should keep in mind that you’re still learning. So it’s okay not to know everything. As you continue your journey in beekeeping, you will get to understand more about its management practices.
27. Provide Bees with Good Water Supply
Just like human beings, bees also need clean water to survive. Bees use water to cool their hive. Water provides them with essential minerals and keeps them hydrated.
28. Study How Bees Make Honey
Learn each step bees take to make honey. From how they collect nectar from flowers to how they produce honey. When you study this, the more you understand the mind of a bee and how they operate.
29. Set a Goal You Want to Achieve in Beekeeping
Successful beekeepers set goals. Goals give you long-term visions and motivation. When achieve your first year’s goal in beekeeping, your second year is bound to be much easier as long as you remain focused.
30. Always be ready for Failures and Disappointments
As a beginner don’t blame yourself if something’s fail to work out, because beekeepers experience both highs and lows. It is your persistence to overcome these failures, which will make you a better beekeeper.
31. Purchase Your Bee Equipments Early
Don’t wait until the last minute to buy bee equipments, start as early as during fall. Imagine rushing into a store on the last minute, only to find that the equipments you wanted are sold out.
32. Start Beekeeping in summer
Beekeeping in summer is convenient because the colony is filled with lots of activity and is in full swing. They also produce high amount of honey in this season. Nectar is also plenty in summer.
33. Learn the Basic Parts of a Hive
Being familiar with hive parts makes it easier for you to operate different types of hives. If you know these parts, you can try building or repairing one by yourself. This can save you extra costs.
34. Learn How to Operate your Hive
When a hive is well operated, proactivity in the hive will be flawless. Thus, there will be increased honey production. Learning how to operate a hive, might help you choose a hive that works well for you.
35. Select a Suitable Location
Select the best location to increase the chances of a strong and productive colony. This place should have conducive temperatures for beekeeping, water, floral vegetation and windbreakers.
36. Start Beekeeping with a Few Hives
As a beginner, you should start with at least 2-5 hives. Small number of hives will be manageable. Once you gain experience and confidence, you can increase your number of hives.
37. Always Feed Your Bees
Using a frame feeder, feed your bees with pollen and sugar syrup. These provide them with a balanced diet of carbohydrates and proteins. They need proteins to raise healthy bees and carbohydrates for energy.
38. Avoid a Bee Hive Race
Don’t be lured into a bee hive race because you want to have many hives at once. If you want to be an effective beekeeper and gain experience, start small with a few hives. Your apiary will eventually grow.
39. It is Ideal to use Equal Box Sizes
Beekeeping will become easy and trouble-free if you use equal box sizes for everything. It will also allow you to use one size of frame, easily split colonies and make nucleus colonies when the time comes.
40. Don’t use Queen Excluder
A queen excluder is not necessary because it is not important to the colony. Excluding the queen in most cases results to swarming, due to suppression of the brood size. Neither the bees nor you need the excluder.
41. Do Inspection on the Hives Every 7-10 Days
Inspect the hive every 7-10 days because inspections more often than a week, makes the bees unhappy. Hive inspections is necessary to detect pests and diseases. If any, eradication will be greatly feasible.
42. Know How to Properly Place Bees in the Hive
Of course sooner or later you will have to remove the bees from the package. After opening the lid box, dislodge the bees by bumping the package against the ground, remove the feeder jar, open the hive, and then remove 3-4 frames from one side of the hive. Finally, gently brush them into the hive.
43. Protect Your Bees
Keep your bees out of harm’s way by planting windbreaks that provide protection from cold winter winds. Avoid exposing them to harmful insecticides.
44. Don’t Freak About Swarming Bees
Bees tend to swarm during spring or early summer. This is because of a colony’s increase in number therefore, splits into two to search for new home. They are docile when they are in this state, so don’t freak out if you see swarming bees.
45. When Holding a Frame, Grip it tightly
When carrying a frame full of bees, make sure you grip tightly on it. This is because if it falls down, the colony will feel threatened and start chasing after you.
46. Harvesting Pollen is Another Beekeeping Tip You Should Master
You should harvest pollen because it’s both fun and profitable. It increases profits and saves you from buying any. Harvest pollen to save your bees during times of pollen shortage.
47. Plant Bee Friendly Plants
Plant bee friendly plants like clovers, legumes, maple trees, basswood trees, grass, sorghum, willow trees, locust trees Plant cotton, garden plants, milkweed and soya beans. Planting varieties of these plants ensures continuous supply of nectar and pollen to the bees.
48. Don’t Locate Bees near Noisy Places
Noisy places are a nuisance to bees because it stresses them out. It may even cause insufficient surplus of honey. If your hive is in a noisy place like near sidewalks, build a high fence.
49. Set up Sufficient Space
Sufficient spacing allows enough room for walking in between the hives. It also prevents the hives from spreading diseases and from getting used to each other’s closeness and smell. Thus, prevents them from letting their guard down.
50. Avoid Disturbing Your Bees Unnecessarily
As a beginner you are always tempted to stare at your hives like 10 times in a day. Avoid this because the bees are exposed to wind and heat which makes them uneasy. You should keep in mind that they are trying to establish themselves, so avoid disturbing them.
51. Don’t Locate a Hive near Large Rivers
When a tired bee is heavily loaded with nectar and is returning home, it might drop into the water and drown. This is because they must forage by crossing the large wide river.
52. Make sure you know a Healthy Colony
There are more worker brood than drones in a healthy colony. They are also docile and tend to swarm a little if well managed. During summer, a healthy colony has up to 75000 bees thus, bees should fully cover one or two frames in hive bodies.
53. Mark Your Queens
Mark your queen bee on her thorax with a dot of paint. You can easily find your queen in a large populous colony if you mark it. Marked queens of European genes, also helps you to indicate continued existence of gentle bloodline in areas with Africanized bees.
54. Find Homes for your Queens
When you have new queens you should find a home for them. You can keep them for a few days in a queen cage or battery box. Make sure you feed them and are surrounded by nurse bees.
55. Preserve Mutts
Mutts are mixed breed bees. They rarely have health problems unlike other bees. Preserve mutts so that you can breed them by separating your strongest hives and allow them to raise new queens. The emerged new queen will then mate with the local area drones.
56. How to Know a Fruitful Harvest
Depending on the availability of nectar, before winter a healthy colony can produce an average of 50 to 100 pounds of honey. Thus, a fruitful harvest of honey is between 40 to 100 pounds.
57. Treat Bees When Necessary
Treat your bees when they fall ill. Don’t go “treatment free” and leave your bees to fight parasites and diseases by themselves. Not only will the bees die, they might also infect neighboring bee colonies and hives.
58. Place Your Hive in a Good Position
You can do this by placing the entrance away from foot traffic and under a deciduous tree. Place the hive facing between east and south to prevent entrance of strong winds.
59. Replace Frames and Foundation every 3 to 5 Years
You can replace foundation by scrapping off the old comb. This reduces potential issues and minimizes contaminants in the hive that can massively affect the colony’s health.
60. Consider buying new equipments instead of used ones
As a beginner, buy new beekeeping equipments and procure used ones for assurance from the seller. Diseases may be harbored in used equipments and ready colonies.
61. Properly Clean the Hives Regularly
You can do this by scrapping off propolis and burr combs, inspecting loose, rotten or broken frames and boards. Also consider checking the hive’s condition. This prevents bees from diseases and extends the life of the hive.
62. Get ready for lots of dirt and sweat
Beekeeping takes a lot of effort and hard work to get the honey and is not as clean as you have imagined. Handling a lot of dirt is part of the harvesting procedure especially during summer.
63. Opt for what works best for you
If you’re told something by a friend or mentor and there is no reasonable explanation behind it, analyze it thoroughly. After that, you will know if it’s a good idea or not. Keep in mind that not all mentors are equal in knowledge.
64. Be Patient with the Honey-It will come eventually
As a beginner venturing into beekeeping for the first time, you will expect to get quantity of honey in the first season. Don’t be too much in a hurry for the honey, no matter how much time and effort you had put into the project. The first year is also difficult for a new bee colony.
65. Avoid Carelessness
Avoid carelessness like frequent opening of the hive without a plan, harvesting honey too soon, assuming where the queen won’t be and ignoring varroa mites. All these can lead to decrease or a decline of a colony.
66. Practice Good Husbandry
You can practice good husbandry by providing supplement feeds to bees, eliminating trash in the apiary, avoiding synthetic miticides or pesticides, providing a warm, dry sunny hive and suppressing varroa if compulsory,
67. Evaluate a Good Queen
You can know a good queen by its reproductive ability, disease prevalence, over-wintering ability and can have excruciating impact on a colony’s honey production.
68. Relax and Have Fun in Keeping Bees
Beekeeping maybe a little daunting at first, but it’s actually rewarding. Don’t be too stressed about it until you reach a point that you forget about its benefits. Consider the challenges you will be experiencing as part of an adventure in beekeeping.
69. Protect Yourself
When handling a hive, protect yourself by wearing a full bee suit, veil and gloves. After a long day in the apiary, make sure to get enough rest. Don’t be overwhelmed by beekeeping.
70. Do not listen to Misconceptions
Example of a bee keeping misconception; ‘there is the best hive to keep bees’. This is false because bees can successfully live in any hive. Of course this depends on how you manage them. Only deal with facts.
71. Be Ready to Get Stung Occasionally
Now that you’re starting beekeeping, you can expect bee stings once in a while. It is unavoidable circumstance of life but you can minimize the chances by taking appropriate measures.
72. Know what to Do if you’re Stung
As a beekeeper you should know what to do if a bee stings you. Using soap and water, wash the site stung. Apply an appropriate cream on the sting to reduce itching and swelling. Consider taking prescribed pain relieving medicines.
73. You Need Physical Strength
A honey filled box can weigh 50 pounds or more. You will also be carrying heavy ‘things’ to and from the hive’s location. Consider seeking for help to make your work easier.
74. Be Yourself
This is an industry where everybody thinks their opinion is the correct one. Implement what you will be learning as you keep advancing in beekeeping management.
75. Don’t Stop Learning
In beekeeping, even the experts in this field are still learning new things about it. So as a beginner, always have the curiosity about stuff you don’t understand in this field. Always remember that learning is a continuous process.
76. Overcome Sting Phobia
Overcome this phobia by keeping in mind that honey bees are docile and gentle creatures. They rarely sting unless provoked. When handling them, just take the extra precautions needed of you.
77. Watch out For Allergic Reactions
Being stung by bees is normal but you may experience some more serious reactions like dizziness, nausea, swelling of the tongue and face. Use an epinephrine shot if you have these symptoms and go to the hospital even if it works.
78. Avoid Leaving Sugar Syrup or Honey near the Hive
Sugar syrup is basically junk and if they consume too much, it leads to energy burst. If you leave sugar syrup near the hives, bees will not forage for nectar and will end up storing up this in hive as honey. They will not even feed their larvae.
79. Make ‘non-scents’ as Part of Personal Hygiene
Sweet smells from colognes and perfumes can unexpectedly attract many bees thus, you risk being stung. As part of hygiene, also remember to bathe and brush your teeth before you visit your hives. This is because bees hate bad odor and can sting you for this.
80. Understand Genetics
After learning about bees, now try to figure out what makes them the way they are. Understanding geneticists might help you solve problems relating to bees functions and develop solutions for them.
81. Have Realistic Expectations
Don’t expect too much of honey harvest in your first year because a full season of foraging isn’t of benefit to a newly established colony. Besides honey production depends on the weather. So know how much to expect in different weather seasons.
82. Extract Honey with the Right Equipments
Honey extracting equipments you should use are uncapping knife, honey strainer, double uncapping tank, uncapping fork and a bottling bucket.
83. Know When to Harvest
Harvest honey when 80% or more of capped honey is in the shallow frame. You can also leave your frames and do harvesting prior to the winter months which is the best time. This can prevent loses.
84. Replace Queen Bees after One or Two Seasons
Queens can live for two years, but replacement of an older queen guarantees maximum productivity and colony health. You must be wondering why replace them while they are still alive. Well, a queen’s egg-laying capability slows down as she ages. As a result, broods will be lesser each season causing a low production of honey.
85. Make Gentle Movements when in the Apiary
Don’t make exaggerated movements when doing any activity in the apiary. Gentle movements will maintain the bee’s calmness and you will easily maneuver into the hives.
86. Never shove at Bees
You should not shove at bees when they fly around you. Shoving at them causes them to be alarmed and can sting. They are naturally explorers, so this is totally normal.
87. Maintain Yard Equipments.
You can do this by inspecting and repairing trailers, loaders, trucks and forklifts. As a beekeeper, also practice fire safety measures when the bee smoker is in use.
88. Implement Hive Security Measures
Secure your hives by practicing discretion about your hive’s location, identifying the hives with a name or brand, sign and secure contracts over “wintering deal”. You can also secure your equipments by keeping them in a simple way that can be identified.
89. Don’t Cut All Bee Cells
Bees cells should not be cut because they are not pathogenic and don’t cause death. In fact if you cut it, the colony might fail and even swarm away.
90. Know the Difference between Normal and Abnormal Bees
At the entrance, there are normal bees who are foraging and the abnormal ones who are robbing the hive. Abnormal bees are not weighted down with nectar when they approach the hive and have aggressive behaviors. They also leave the hive heavily loaded with honey.
91. Never Fail To Recognize a Nectar Dearth
You should be able to recognize a nectar dearth. This prevents bad things like starvation of the colony, loss of honey and invasion of wasps. The colony might also be robbed.
92. Improvise Pollen to Boost Bees Immunity
If bees receive sufficient pollen, their immune response will be greater to overcome certain diseases like deformed wing virus and defend the brood from invasion.
93. Note Where Your Bees are Before Putting Your Fingers on a Frame
Note where the bees are, then gently coax them way by pushing them aside with your fingers. This will prevent you from being stung and crushing any bees.
94. Learn How to Inspect Brood Pattern
This is also an important activity you must do as a beekeeper. This will help you determine the queen’s status. If its patterns are tightly compact, then it’s a sign that the queen is healthy but if it’s conversely spotty then it’s an indication of an old or sick queen.
95. Bees Can Tolerate Certain Chemicals
Bees can tolerate certain chemicals because of their extraordinary capabilities like detoxifying chemicals. On the other hand, man-made chemicals and pollutants are the ones to be wary of due to their deadly effect on bees.
96. Always Use Your Smoker
As a beginner always use your smoker to distract bees while operating on the hive. It might be stressful at first, but it protects both you and your neighbors from being attacked by bees.
97. Have Extra Equipment
As a beginner, have extra equipment like frames and foundations. It will come in handy when there is an emergency like swarming of colonies.
98. Don’t Ignore Your Colony during Late Winter/Early Spring
Winter colonies need attention because at such times, brood rearing begins and those baby bees need food. In early spring, ensure you do a quick food inspection on your colony.
99. Don’t Leave Out Frames
In any empty space you leave out for bees, they will construct rogue combs on it. This can be a real mess to fix, so always remember to fit all your frames.
100. Avoid Attempting Too Much Too Soon
It takes a process to master the art of beekeeping. In your first year, don’t try to do everything like going treatment-free, trying out all the types of hives, raise queens, extract honey and expand colonies. If you try all these at the same time without learning, it won’t result well.
If you keenly follow the above tips, you’ll be sure of a successful beekeeping experience. Not only will it be successful, you will also have established a healthy and productive colony.
At the end of it all, you will also be proud of yourself!