Last updated on April 5th, 2023 at 04:37 pm
Beekeeping has become incredibly popular in the last decade.
From beekeeping education to awareness around the plight of bees, there are more and more people choosing to keep their own colony at home.
So to get you started on the right foot we’ve created our definitive list of beginner tips for soon-to-be beekeepers.
Join a local beekeeping course
One of the best and easiest ways to learn how to start beekeeping is by enrolling in a local beekeeping course.
They’ll carefully explain all of the science behind keeping bees and let you ask all the questions you’re probably desperate to have answered.
Next, they’ll get you geared up before getting you out and about around the hives learning and undertaking all of the day to day beekeeping activities.
A beekeeping course consists of a lot more than just learning how to keep bees. You’ll be:
- Learning all the basics of bee biology, including life cycle and anatomy.
- Understanding how bees interact with our environment and each other like their communication methods and social structure.
- Learning how to care for your bees, how they gather food, make honey and raise young.
- How to select the best spot for your hive, design hives that are suitable for your climate, prepare them for winter, manage pests like mites or ants and how to move your hives around.
We love local beekeeping courses because they allow potential beekeepers to try this wonderful pastime without having to invest in a hive, bees, protective clothing or any of the other costs associated with keeping bees.
Contact your local beekeeping association
Your local beekeeping association is full of other people passionate about bees.
They can provide you with knowledge and advice gained from years of experience keeping bees in your local climate.
This is incredibly helpful as a new beekeeper when you’re just trying to find a suitable beehive location, purchase your hive tools and learn about some of the common types of issues you could encounter.
Find a suitable location for your bees
There’s quite a lot to consider when it comes to the location of your new hive. In the wild, honey bee swarms can spend several days trying to locate the perfect spot for a new nest.
As a beekeeper you’re going to need to make this critical decision on behalf of your bees, so let’s discover exactly what you need to look for when you place your hive.
*Pro tip – Don’t forget to check local zoning laws and communicate with your neighbours before you install a new hive on your property.
Bees are very temperature dependent, too cold and they won’t fly out to forage, too warm and they’ll spend their time fanning their wings just to keep the colony cool.
As a general rule, you’re going to want to place your hive in the sun (unless you live in a particularly warm climate).
Hives located in the shade are at a much higher risk from potential issues like small hive beetles and potential mould.
By facing your hive toward the rising sun you’ll actually increase productivity by warming the inhabitants up earlier in the day and initiating foraging flights.
Seek shelter from the wind
Sadly, strong winds are more than enough to blow over a managed hive, particularly if it’s stacked a few boxes high.
It goes without saying that the effects of this could be catastrophic so it’s key we take some steps to reduce this risk as much as possible.
The easiest way to do this is to place your new hive somewhere that it won’t feel the full force of the wind.
If there isn’t any natural shelter consider creating a simple windbreak with a small fence, hay bails or even construction materials left around the house and garden.
In the longer term, you can even plant some new species to create a windbreak in the coming years and provide some easy access forage for your honey bees.
Good sources of pollen and nectar are essential for a healthy hive. This one’s fairly straightforward but essential to get right.
Bees can fly as far as 6 miles to find food sources but this isn’t sustainable for a long time due to the energy required.
The closer the food source is to the hive the less energy is required to retrieve it leading to a healthy, well-fed colony.
Did you know a busy hive can consume up to a gallon of water in a single day?
Now we know how thirsty our furry little friends get it’s no wonder that you need to think long and hard about hydration.
Streams, brooks and riverbanks all provide the perfect natural route to bee hydration but what do you do if you don’t have one nearby?
You can create your own water sources for your bees by filling up a container with water. Just make sure to add some pebbles or pieces of wood to create islands for the bees to land safely and drink from.
What looks like a perfect wildflower meadow in mid-summer could be a bog after just a few days of heavy rain.
Make sure you check your new hive site after heavy rain to see if the ground becomes waterlogged because this could lead to your hive toppling over after torrential rain.
Get some beekeeping equipment and calculate the costs
Before you start to look for some beers you’re going to need to create a suitable location to house them and some protective equipment to help you manage them.
What you’ll need:
- Protective gear – $100-$400
- Hive and frames – $300-$500
- Hive tools – $40 – $100
- Basic feeder $10 – $20
Beekeeping equipment can vary wildly in price based on brand, manufacturer location and bee suppliers. Keep in mind that the prices above are for new and you can find some much cheaper pre-loved alternatives from a close by backyard beekeeper.
When it comes to hives it can all get a bit confusing, from top bar hives to Langstroth hives it can feel like quite a lot to take in.
To keep things simple we recommend anyone looking at keeping their first bees should opt for simple Langstroth hives over some of the other more complicated options.
Purchase your bees
So you’ve picked a perfect location, found some protective equipment and got all your basic tools, now it’s time to add some bees.
You’ll need to purchase a nucleus colony, often referred to as a nuc.
It’s essentially a micro hive that contains bees in various stages of development alongside food, a laying queen, and enough workers to cover roughly three to five combs.
For the best quality nucs, we recommend investigating with your local association that can recommend the best possible suppliers for your local area.
Understand how much time is required to keep bees
Keeping bees is an incredibly rewarding pursuit but beginning beekeepers can worry about how much time they need to devote to their new inhabitants.
You’ll only need around half an hour a week from roughly April to October to keep a single hive, you’ll need to multiply this up if you have more than one hive.
Over winter this decreases to sporadic check to ensure you’re bees are staying healthy as they overwinter waiting for the early spring.
Read some beekeeping books
Now you’ve made your first steps towards becoming an accomplished beekeeper you can extend your learning by starting to read books on beekeeping.
They cover everything from proper equipment use, how to pick the right protective beekeeping clothing and understanding the science behind why bees do what they do.
Now you’re all set to start keeping your own bees with the peace of mind you’re on the right track.
Don’t miss our related articles below packed full of helpful information on everything bee including our reads on our lesser-known solitary species.