First, join a local beekeepers association and go to as many meetings as possible.
Every state has numerous associations, choose one close to you and you will find a plethora of great advise, encouragement, and probably some new friends. These associations are eager to help new beekeepers and existing members will range in experience from decades to newbies just like you. The meetings typically last an hour or two and you will be a sponge absorbing opinions, knowledge and facts, by all means… ask questions ! Don’t get discouraged or intimidated by all the complexities and nuances of beekeeping… it seems daunting at first but think of it as finding a new love…. somewhat anxious at first but it could very well last a lifetime !
Second, learn the basic hive components.
The most common hive in use today is the Langstroth hive and is by far the most recommended hive for beginner beekeepers. You will soon find that with beekeeping there are many differing opinions about equipment and bee management especially on subjects such as super configurations, queen excluders, and pest treatments, but most would agree that buying a quality, reasonably priced beginner hive kit is a good choice. This removes some of the guess work and Bee Exchange offers very economical and high quality beginner hive kits that are not only beautiful pieces of equipment, but will last for many years. That’s one of the attractions of beekeeping… you can experiment, try different methods and choose what works for your particular location and apiary.
Third, pick your hive and frame configurations:
- Basic hive size – 10 or 8 frame, this decision is basically a weight consideration, a 10 frame hive will hold more honey and brood (eggs, larvae, pupae) but will weigh 20% more than an 8 frame hive regardless of the super (deep, medium or shallow) used.
- Frame size – deep, medium or shallow supers and frames describe the depth of the hive box. The bottom box or super is the main nursery or brood chamber for the bee colony and typically uses a deep or medium frames. The supers stacked above the brood chamber are called honey supers and contain most of the harvestable honey, however they can also contain brood at times. Medium and shallow supers are typically used for honey supers for weight considerations…. a 10 frame, deep super full of honey would weigh approximately 90 lbs… ouch ! A 10 frame medium or shallow super would weigh approx 60lbs or 40lbs.
Hive and frame configuration is a good example of the different opinions that exist in beekeeping circles. Using deep supers for the brood chamber and medium or shallow supers for honey is very common, but recently there is a rising desire for standardization and the use of medium supers for both the brood chambers and honey thus making hive components interchangeable throughout. It’s purely personal preference. Bee Exchange offers beginner hive kits in both configurations plus various super options and associated hive components. blog
Fourth, get your bees…
You will need to order a package of bees or a nuc colony online unless you know a beekeeper that will sell you bees from an existing colony. A package of bees including a queen (sold by the pound, typically 2 or 3 lbs)usually consists of between 5000 and 9000 bees. There are numerous articles and online instruction for installing the bee package into your new hive. A nuc consists of frames, usually 3 to 5 frames, with bees, brood, honey and a queen from an existing colony. A nuc is the most efficient and easiest method of establishing a colony because it is already established and operating with an accepted queen.
What type of bees? The most common types are: Italian (most common), Russian, Carniolans, and Caucasians. They are all fine and have their pros and cons. Take your pick.
You can spend hours online reading differing opinions on establishing a new colony or the characteristics and preferences for types of honeybees. Again, this is where joining a local bee association is so helpful.
You will need to feed your new colony a sugar syrup consisting of a 1:1 sugar/water mixture until they are establish and populated with enough bees to produce adequate honey and pollen for the entire hive. Bee Exchange has an excellent top hive feeder offering that allows feeding with minimal disturbance to bees and an associated vented super that improves ventilation for bees in both summer and winter. blog
Fifth, pests and diseases:
There are a variety of afflictions that can affect bee colonies, all can be treated, mitigated or prevented by monitoring your hive for symptoms. Brood appearance and bee behavior are two very important areas to direct you attention. There is an abundance of material on the web to educate the beginning beekeeper on the identification and treatment of these afflictions.
Mites (tracheal and varroa), small hive beetles, foulbrood and nosema are the most common. Beekeepers in your local associations will have first hand experience on detection and deterrence so yet another reason to network locally. blog
Finally, enjoy your beekeeping experience!
It can be one of the most rewarding hobbies you will ever have plus you’re helping bees, plants and the environment stay healthy. Beekeeping is a hobby for most of us so don’t get too stressed about it and be patient… beekeeping teaches most of us that being patient and making changes slowly is the most productive and rewarding path. Good bee management requires forward planning and recognizing potential problems before they occur, all good practices to use in life.