In this article, I will explain the basics of beekeeping for beginners. Without further ado, let’s dive right in.
Honeybees and native bees are important pollinators, responsible for the effective seeding of more than 90% of all flowering plants and the fruiting of 30% of our food.
When foraging, bees become coated in pollen, which they then groom into specialized structures on their legs called pollen baskets to carry back to the hive. Pollen is moved from flower to flower when trapped in “protected areas” on hairs on their backs that they cannot reach.
Bees gather nectar and pollen on their foraging flights to bring back to the hive. The nectar contains carbohydrates, which can be stored and dehydrated into honey when combined with the enzymes in their honey gut. Pollen, which contains proteins and amino acids, is mixed into “bee bread,” which is used to feed developing larvae and the queen.
Bees have a local effect that has global implications. Most species, including humans, depend on honeybee pollination efforts for food, either directly or indirectly.
In This Article
Optimal Location For Your Bees
I recommend facing the opening of each hive in either the south, east, or southeast direction for the best placement. This way, bees will suck up the morning sun (which gets them up and moving) and then cool off in the afternoon shade.
Avoid any high-activity backyard hotspots, such as sidewalks or a swing set. And, of course, position the hives in an easily accessible location for your beekeeping convenience.
You get out of beekeeping what you put in, just like every other hobby. Overall, Repasky recommends allocating one hour each week to handling your bees for every two hives. However, some seasons can be busier than others.
Repasky estimates that a two-hive setup on your first year would cost between $800 and $1,000, including equipment and bees, depending on where you live in the world.
And you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck—protective gear can last for years, and hive woodenware can last for a decade or two (with proper care, that is). The only expendable requirement would be honeybees.
Creating Good Beekeeping Environment
If you want to be a beekeeper, one of the first things you can think about is where you’ll keep the bees. Even though bees can flourish in city communities, even on rooftops, it’s important to keep your neighbor’s and local zoning codes in mind.
Some municipalities will allow you to hold bees on lots smaller than a fourth of an acre, but anything less might not be the best location.
Honeybee hives may not pose a safety risk when properly located, but for those unfamiliar with bees or who may be allergic to stings, a hive right next door may be a little worrying. Look for a location that is away from neighbors and places where children and pets can play.
Place the hive so that the direct flight path of the bees in and out of the hive is 15-20 yards away from houses or areas where people enjoy outdoor activities. A tall barrier, such as a hedge or fence, or a building wall near the hive, allows bees to fly up and away when leaving the hive, preventing collisions with humans.
A nearby water source, no more than a quarter-mile away, is also important. A shallow pan or birdbath filled with water, as well as rocks or a sandy slope for bees to rest on, can help keep bees on your property and out of your neighbor’s yard.
If the water source runs dry, bees would likely seek water elsewhere, such as a neighbor’s lake.
When to Start
Honeybees’ behavior is completely determined by the environment in which they live. The best time to start a hive depends on your local climate and geography.
To learn how others have found success, read widely and interact with local beekeepers and beekeeping groups in your area.
The best time to start a hive in the Pacific Northwest is early spring, between late March and early May. As the risk of frost decreases or disappears, early flowers will bloom, allowing your bees to gather nectar and pollen. We recommend that you conduct all of your research and preparation during the autumn and winter seasons.
Demand for beehives and bees is constant, and it is always too late to begin if you have not secured a source for bees by January or February.
When early spring comes, you’ll want to be fully prepared for your bees’ arrival, with all of your equipment in place and your hive on your farm. You’ll want to be positive and knowledgeable about the job at hand!
Learn, Learn, Learn
As a new beekeeper, you will always be practicing. You’re doing it wrong if you stop studying! As a natural beekeeper, you are part of an ever-changing beekeeping subculture that the wider beekeeping community still does not understand.
You may be mocked or insulted for your hive designs or practices, but take heart: a trend toward treatment-free, bee-friendly beekeeping is underway, even among long-time conventional beekeepers.
Join a local beekeeping association, even though they don’t agree with your beekeeping methods or ideology. Working to educate them on your methods can result in a conversion. Long-term beekeepers can also teach you a lot.
Buying The Bees
It might seem odd to order bees before gathering all of your beekeeping supplies, but it’s critical because most places don’t have bees for sale by the time spring arrives. Order your bees in January for shipment or pickup in April or May.
Local beekeeping societies are an excellent place to start looking for bees. You’ll also need to determine whether package bees, nucs, capturing a swarm, or purchasing an already-started hive are the best option for you. Each has its own set of benefits and drawbacks.
In beekeeping, there are two major systems. The Langstroth hive is made up of boxes stacked on top of each other, each containing frames where the bees create their comb and store honey.
To reach the bees, collect honey, and perform maintenance tasks, you take the boxes out like drawers. If your hive requires more room, you can add boxes vertically.
The other kind of hive is a top-bar hive, in which the bees’ frames are arranged horizontally rather than vertically. In this scheme, the bees create comb without the use of a base. Each strip, which contains comb and honey, is lifted from the top of the hive.
You must determine which system is best suited to your requirements. The majority of beekeepers use a Langstroth hive.
Keeping bees necessitates an initial expenditure on supplies. You’ll need to buy a hive once you’ve decided on the sort, but you’ll also need some bee equipment, protective clothing, and feeding supplies. You can also brush up on your beekeeping knowledge by reading a few beginner beekeeping books.
Now comes the exciting part! Your bees have arrived, and it’s time to get them settled in the hive. You must bring the bees to their new home in a healthy and comfortable manner. Then, sit back and watch the comings and goings as they settle in. That was a lot of fun!
Keeping Your Bees Healthy
Bees need ongoing treatment month after month, season after season. However, they do not necessitate a significant time commitment. You must check on them regularly, but observation accounts for a large portion of what you can do to keep your bees happy.
Simply observing hive behavior can be both calming and educational. From establishing the bees in the spring to harvesting honey and preparing the hive for winter, you can arrange beekeeping tasks by season.
Although you’ve never done it, you probably have an idea of what beekeeping is like in your mind. Here are some often incorrect assumptions about this hobby:
- “You’ll need a large yard” A typical suburban yard (about a quarter of an acre) is enough. A hive should have at least 10 feet of open space around it for easy bee access. If necessary, hives can face southeast (for morning sun) and have afternoon shade.
- “It’s not cheap” The equipment and bees cost about $300. A starter kit that includes a hive, leather gloves, a bee veil, a smoker, a hive tool, and instructions costs about $200. Mannlakeltd.com is a good place to look for gear. Bee colonies cost $90-$100 and are available from local suppliers in the spring.
- “It takes a long time to complete” During the spring and summer, you can visit the hive once a week to check on the queen and the honeycomb-making progress.
- “A swarm is a negative thing” It appears to be threatening, but a swarm is a common phenomenon, and the bees in it are not on the defensive. It occurs when a hive becomes overcrowded and some or all of the colony departs in search of a new home. Swarms can often be found resting in uncomfortable places (in a tree by a school, for example).
Why Do Bee Colonies Die?
Prepare to hear the harsh reality: It’s a safe bet that your bees will die the first time (or two). “There’s a high failure rate, particularly in the first two or three years,”
It is true that beekeeping needs practice and commitment, but don’t give up too soon. In reality, beekeeper error isn’t the only common cause of hive death—pests, especially mites, can wreak havoc on your hives as well.
Additionally, you should avoid buying used equipment, which can be a breeding ground for diseases and dangerous bacteria. All in all, you should keep learning and continue educating yourself about beekeeping to reduce the chances of this happening.
Now that you have learned the basics of beekeeping, you have just improved yourself.
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