How to get started with bees
Becoming a beekeeper with your own bees is a wonderful way to connect with nature and help the environment.
The beehive creates an absolutely stunning smell around your backyard. It’s also a great way to get some exercise and spend time outdoors.
But before you can start as a backyard beekeeper, there are a few things you need to know.
In this article, we will discuss the basics of beekeeping so that you can get started on this rewarding hobby.
Bees are as local as it gets
Becoming a beekeeper obviously takes “local produce” to a whole new level. Besides the wonderful smell and much sweeter and tastier honey, it’s a great deed to help the environment.
The more colonies of bees are around, the more pollination that occurs. For food production to thrive it’s important to have many colonies of them doing their job.
A colony usually consists of 20,000 individuals, but if they are well looked after, the colony can grow even bigger.
What you need to know about bees before you get started
First of all, bees are not as dangerous as you might have been lead to believe. While it’s true that some people are allergic to bee stings, the majority of people do not have a problem with them. Also, there is no reason for you to fear bees.
They know how important they are to the environment and don’t want to sting you. They only do so when they feel threatened, and chances are that won’t happen unless you try to handle them yourself.
What about bee stings? While it’s not pleasant to get stung by a bee, the fact is that if you respect bees and their habitats, the likelihood of getting stung is quite low. And even if you do get stung, it’s no serious concern. A bee sting can cause some discomfort, but it will go away within a few days.
Bees are natural to our environment, and they are incredibly important to the environment. Without bees, there would be no plants or flowers.
With out plants and flowers, us humans wouldn’t have food or oxygen to breath. Keeping bees can help you to comprehend this importance on a much more personal level.
Bee life cycle
Just like with most animals, bees have a life cycle consisting of mating, birth, death, etc. A queen bee will mate with lots of drones throughout her life in order to produce more bees.
Afterwards, she will take multiple trips out of the hive in order to laying eggs within cells within the beehive.
These baby bees are called “larvae” and they grow into adult bees through a process known as “pupation.” These bees are raised within cells within the beehive until they reach adulthood.
After this time, the adult bee will chew its way out of the cell and live on its own as a fully grown bee.
Bees can become infertile after several years. When that happens, it’s not uncommon for bees to take “drone flights.” During these flights, infertile bees will leave the hive to locate younger queens.
This is done because young queens are much more fertile than older ones. These bees will then insert their sting into the young queen in order to kill it.
After doing this, they will go back to the hive and begin feeding larvae to produce more drones until they themselves die within a few months.
That’s why new queens are created every year – so that the bees can keep on pollinating plants and flowers.
Bee colony location and size
Bees produce a wonderful smell during the mating process. This smell is so powerful that it can often attract predators. To keep these predators away from your bees, you need to place your bee colony in a secure area.
Bees will not remain in an area where they feel threatened, so try to think about what kind of predators are in the area you live. If there are bears, mountain lions, etc., place your beehive far away from these areas where they will feel safe.
Also, make sure that your hive is not in direct sunlight or in an area that has strong winds because bees dislike both of these things.
The best location for a beehive is a place that has lots of space, is out of direct sunlight, and is protected from strong winds.
Bee hive size
It’s important to note that the more honey bees you have in your hive, the better pollination you will get, which means a bigger crop for you!
The standard beehive can hold up to 100,000 bees. The only problem with having that many bees is that they might become overcrowded and begin fighting each other for food.
Types of beehives
There are three types of beehives:
- Wedge Hive – This type of hive is very simple. It’s basically made up of a log with open ends covered by thin wooden strips. The bee colony lives inside the log. It’s important to note that if you are looking for honey, this type of hive is not advised because it’s very hard to remove the honey without destroying the entire colony.
- Box Hive – This type of hive consists of a box-shaped wooden box with either one or two covers. The bee colony lives inside this box and honey is harvested from the outside. It’s important to note that it isn’t advised to use pallet wood because pallets often contain chemicals to prevent fungal growth. People should instead use untreated, unpainted pine or other similarly-treated wood.
- Beehive – This type of hive consists of a single hive box that contains several frames. The bee colony lives inside this hive box and honey is harvested from the outside.
Bee hive components
There are 5 components to a beehive: the box, the bottom board, the stand or legs, frames, and queen excluder.
You can purchase bee colony kits that come with all of these components, which makes it easier to start beekeeping.
- Box – This is the most important part of a beehive because it’s where the bee colony lives. Most hives are made from wood, but you can also purchase hives that are made from metal or plastic.
- Bottom board – This is the floor of the beehive. You never want to cover this with hay or straw because it will attract mice.
- Stand or legs – This is simply what supports the box. It’s important to note that some hives have legs while others don’t, so if you are trying to find a stand for your beehive, make sure it’s tall enough to cover the bottom board.
- Frames – These are what hold up your honeycomb. If you want to harvest honey, you need at least 10 of these inside your hive.
- Queen excluder – This is a flat piece of metal that separates the bottom box into two sections (one with open space and one with honeycomb). Honey bees can move through this, but it’s designed so the queen cannot.
What are honeybees?
Honeybees are bees that produce honey. When you are busy with your beehive, this bee will be the one that you notice most often because it is always flying around trying to help its colony.
There are three distinct types of honeybees:
- Italian Honeybee – This bee is the most popular breed in America. It has a gentle nature and produces lots of honey.
- Carniolan Honeybee – This breed is native to Europe and tends to be gentler than other breeds. It can survive in poor conditions and cool climates.
- Caucasian Honeybee – Originating from the mountains surrounding the Black Sea, this bee is quite aggressive, but produces large amounts of honey.
Social castes of honeybees – an overview
A bee colony consists of three social castes:
- Queen bee – This is the only fertile female in a beehive. She can lay up to 2,000 eggs per day and lives up to 5 years. After this time she dies and becomes food for other bees in the colony.
- Drones – The male honeybees with undeveloped stingers. They are responsible for mating with the queen. Once they mate, they become infertile and will most likely die within two weeks.
- Worker bee – These are the females that make up the rest of the beehive population. Their main job is to keep the colony clean and free of parasites. They also gather food, care for the queen and drones, manage the temperature of the hive, and build honeycomb within their colony.
How to get started with beekeeping
The first thing you need to do before you can get started is to purchase bees. You can buy queen bees (the queen bee is the only female in the bee hive who lays eggs) or a beehive with worker bees already living in it.
We recommend buying your first hive of bees, which comes with worker bees who are already acclimated to their new surroundings. This will make it much easier for you to get started.
Once you have your bees, place them in an area where they can be exposed to the sun and air. You need to give them a way to get fresh water, so placing your hive near a river or lake is ideal.
Bees don’t like tall grassy areas, so be careful about where you set up your hive.
After you have the bees, all that is left to do is sit back and enjoy watching them work! Bees are extremely busy workers, constantly coming in and out of the hive doing their pollination magic.
So what does this mean for us? Well, it means that they are getting rid of the pollen that sticks to their body and flying it around your backyard.
This is basically pollinating all of the plants in your area, giving you more fruits and vegetables than if they weren’t there.
What beekeeping supplies and equipment do I need?
There are many different types of beekeeping equipment and supplies that you can use in order to collect wax and honey from your beehive.
Go get your own honey production, we’ve tried to list some of the most popular beekeeping equipment and supplies for harvesting wax below:
- Bee smokers – Bee smokers are used to help calm bees. When you use a smoker, it causes your bees to become less defensive when opening the hive. If you do not use a smoker, your bees will be very defensive and may become quite agitated when you try to get honey.
- Bee hive tools – If you are new to beekeeping, it is probably best if you buy an all-in-one bee hive tool . This will help you with the beehive since it has several different functions (e.g., prying open the hive, scraping off propolis and wax from the hive).
- Beekeeping gloves – Beekeeping gloves are a must if you hope to harvest honey or wax. You obviously do not want your bees stinging your hands while you try to get honey! This will only cause them to become agitated and defend their hive even more than they already would be with a smoker.
- Beekeeper suit – Beekeepers suits are not necessary, but they can help protect you from bee stings! If you plan to become a serious beekeeper, then consider investing in one of these suits because it will make harvesting honey and wax much more convenient.
When you’ve harvested your beeswax, don’t forget to read our article about the Best uses for Beeswax around a Farm Home.
Other items that you might need for your first beehive include:
- Beekeeper hats – A beekeeper hat or veil is necessary if you plan to harvest honey more than once. If your bees become too familiar with your face, they may not be afraid of it and will sting you when removing the honey from its cells! Always consider using a beekeeper hat and veil to protect yourself.
- Honey containers – It is always handy to have honey containers set up so that you can get the honey out of the hive and away safely. You can find many different types of honey containers online or at your local beekeeping supply shop.
- Bee equipment – Beekeeper equipment makes it easy to harvest wax and honey from your beehive without disrupting your bees too much. Some examples of bee equipment include:
- Bee escape – Once you decide to collect your honey, the only way to get it out of the hive is by using a bee escape . This special tool helps your bees stay in the hive while allowing you access into their living area so that you can remove the honey without killing them or getting stung.
- Bee brush – A bee brush is used to gently remove bees from the honeycomb. This helps you get the honey out of the hive without having the bees fly around and become agitated with you. You can also use a bee brush after making a cut in a honey comb so that your bees do not make a big mess while trying to defend their hive from your intrusion.
Where do I get my bees?
Your first beehive will likely come with one or two packaged bees. If you want to get more than one hive started, you can always purchase a “nuc” or nucleus of bees from your local beekeeping supplier.
There are a few other ways of getting your first bees onboard to your own hive.
Swarming bees are is easiest way to get a hive started. If you see a bee swarm near your house, be sure to contact local beekeepers and let them know where it is so that they can collect them and put them within range of your home!
Bait and trap
Queen bees can be trapped in certain “bee traps” to help you get a beehive going. You can also use a “bee bait hive” which is usually an old shed with a few frames of honeycomb inside.
This will attract the bees and they will make their home in your trap or bait hive!
Is quite common to purchase. The bees will come in a little screened box with the queen bee inside.
You can place this near your current beehive so that they can easily travel back to their home once they are released from the box.
A nucleus colony or “nuc” is another way of getting bees for your hive.
A nuc will consist of three to five frames with brood, honey and pollen for the bees to eat while they are developing into a full-sized colony.
Once they are strong enough in numbers, they will be moved into a permanent beehive and will produce honey and wax for you!
Where should I set up my hives?
You will need to place your first beehive somewhere that is free of pesticides and other harmful chemicals. If you find a nice sunny spot near your house, then your bees should be only too happy!
Other than the location of your first hive, you should try to keep it away from busy roadways so that cars don’t hit them.
They should also be at least 20 feet from your home as bees can become quite aggressive if their hive is too close to where you live.
When should I move my hive?
You will probably need to move your hive a few times before settling on a permanent spot! Every year, the weather changes and so do your plant cycles.
This means that the area where you have your hive will die down during winter. If you leave it in the same place for too long, there may not be enough food to sustain all of your bees!
What time of the year should I start?
Your bees should be able to survive all year round if you have the proper equipment. Some beekeepers start them in late winter so that they are ready for springtime!
If you want your first hive of bees to produce honey, then you need to set them up during summer where they will go into overdrive and start producing as much honey as possible.
The benefits of beekeeping
Successful beekeeping can be very rewarding both financially and environmentally. As the owner of a healthy bee colony, you will start to notice how bees are responsible for pollinating trees and flowers all across your area!
If you are located near some farmland, then your honeybees will be responsible for pollinating many different types of crops which in turn helps to keep the food industry growing.
Beekeeping is also a way of saving our honeybees from extinction! These amazing little insects are responsible for helping us grow many different types of crops and flowers.
How much does it cost to keep bees?
There are many costs involved in beekeeping. If you are just looking to save the bees then it will be much cheaper than if you were interested in making money from your hive!
Bees don’t cost too much to purchase, but keeping them healthy and happy will require a few different pieces of equipment which all have an upfront cost.
You should expect to pay around $150 for the equipment that you need to get started. This will usually consist of a beehive, protective clothing, bee smoker and hive tool!
As well as this, you will also need to provide your bees with food throughout the year which includes sugar syrup and fresh honeybee.
3 must have books about beekeeping
There are many different books on beekeeping that can help you to set up your first beehive.
If you want something that is extremely informative then “The Backyard Beekeeper” by Kim Flottum is a great place to start! This book will give you all of the information that you need in order for your bees to live happily and will keep them safe during winter.
Another great book is “The Beekeeper’s Bible” by Richard Jones which gives you information about all aspects of beekeeping, including breeding and diseases! This book will give you a brief history of beekeeping and enough factual information to help you set up your first hive.
If you are looking for a more personal touch, then “Beekeeping for Dummies” by Howland Blackiston is a great option. This book will give you the basics of beekeeping and help you through each stage of it.
FAQ on beekeeping
Beekeeping is a fantastic hobby and it can be very rewarding if you have the right information to hand! There are many different things that you should know before starting your journey as a beekeeper. Read this article to find out!
It will cost around $150 in order to get started with your first hive of bees. This price includes a beehive, protective clothing and a bee smoker! Between one and two hundred dollars is usually the starting price for the equipment that you need in order to keep honeybees alive all year round.
If you are living in an apartment, then it would be extremely difficult to keep bees. There is usually no space for them to move around and stretch their wings which makes the hive very unhappy! You should definitely consider rehoming your bees if they are currently in an enclosed area.
It is important to wear protective clothing when dealing with your honeybees. A beekeeper suit and hat will protect you from any stings that the bees may give, but it is also a good idea to wear thick gloves too!
The number of bees that you need to start with will depend upon the type of hive and beekeeping equipment that you have. If you are using a standard Langstroth beehive, then it is best to start with two to five pounds worth of honeybees. This will give them enough room inside their new home to keep busy during winter.
It takes around 10 to 30 minutes to check up on your honeybees each week! You should make sure that you leave the bees alone for an hour or two after inspecting them in order to give them time to get back into their hive.