Although there is a wealth of knowledge available, and some of it quite technical and scientific, beekeeping is for dummies, too. The important thing is to start out supplied with the basic necessities and armed with enough knowledge to get a hive set up and operational. Experience gleaned as you manage your hive and begin a lifetime of learning about bees will naturally follow. Beekeeping for dummies can help you get started.
The essentials to know before you venture into becoming a beekeeper is to realize that you are going to become a steward of living creatures. This is a commitment of time as well as a commitment to continue to learn. As for actual level of responsibility, you can expect more work than is required to keep a goldfish alive. However, bees are not as needy as a lapdog.
Your level of business to tend to will fluctuate with the seasons. Warm months will mean a thorough inspection of hives to assess the amount of honey being produced and placed into storage. Inspections also determine the happiness of your bees. Are they thriving? Is there a population explosion? Do your bees need more room?
Regions with warmer climates will have a longer season. Bees will be buzzing about, foraging and drones will be mating with the queen. This is the most likely time of the year when a beekeeper will be stung. And, yes, no matter how careful you are, if you take on the management of bees you are going to be stung, eventually.
During cold weather months bees are lying low. You can practically ignore them. They will hunker down in their cozy hive and work their way through their surplus of honey that they tucked away for just such an occasion. The only time they may venture outside the hive is if the temperature is well above freezing. If it warms up a bit they may make an outside potty run or dispose of some beehive garbage.
Beekeeping For Beginners, Step 1 – The Important Question
If you are still sufficiently interested after beekeeping 101 has spelled out the level of responsibility to expect, the next step is to ask yourself this very important question: “Am I allergic to bees?” If you have never been stung before, it is a good idea to expose yourself. It would be a terrible thing to invest money, time and effort in a hobby only to find out that it could make you very sick or even kill you.
Beekeeping For Beginners, Step 2 – The Inquiry
If you are sufficiently resistant to the toxins involved in the delivery of a bee sting, and you are still prepared to become an apiarist, even after the horror of your first experimental sting, it’s now time to contact your local municipality. Most cities, townships and counties have law and ordinances that govern beekeepers.
Beekeeping For Beginners, Step 3 – Basic Knowledge
Devour every book, article and tidbit that conveys knowledge of bees. Novice beekeepers need to understand the lifecycle of their bees, what their needs are, who their predators are, and how the seasons affect them. Anything entitled “Beekeeping 101” or “Beekeeping for Dummies”, or something of that nature, is the best place to start. There are many technical, scientific and historical tomes out there. Start with the basics and grow your base of knowledge from there, coupled with the experience you gain as a newbie beekeeper.
Beekeeping For Beginners, Step 4 – Methods
Although methods may vary, the principles and goals remain the same. Similarities among all methods:
- Wax foundation
- Honeycomb frames
- “Supers” (top boxes for surplus honey storage)
- Treatment and medications for diseases and parasitic infestations
There are natural methods of beekeeping, allowing bees to live closer to their wild bee ancestry, that do not use foundations and frames, foregoing any medical treatment of bees as well. However, beekeeping for dummies and beginners usually focuses on traditional methods of domestic beekeeping. That is because, as a novice beekeeper you will make mistakes, have all sorts of questions and need reliable sources to refer to as well as have a strong support system to back you up. Once you can stand on your own two feet as a skilled apiarist, you can then venture into new, innovative methods of beekeeping.
Beekeeping For Beginners, Step 5 – Start-up Equipment
There is an amazing variety of hive designs available online and in many farm supply stores. However, since you are just starting out, it is probably best to stick with what is most popular, the wooden box variety. Better yet, opt for a beekeeping starter kit. It should contain all the basic essentials such as:
- Hive with framed honeycomb tray inserts
- Beekeeper suit with heavy gloves
- Smoker to subdue bees while performing maintenance, inspection and collection duties within and around the hive
- Tools for collecting honey and other bee products such as royal jelly and propolis
- Hive tool for hive housekeeping and breaking through the glue-like propolis that keeps everything sticking together
- Bee brush to gently move bees from one place to another, although they hate it and will attack it
- Basic hive maintenance manual
Beekeeping For Beginners, Step 6 – Allocating Some Bees
Spring is the time to shop for a hive. Could you catch a local wild swarm? Of course, but not recommended as a suitable colony allocation method for beekeeping for beginners. Search online for reputable bee suppliers who will ship you a starter colony. It usually consists of a single queen who is already fertilized and carrying eggs, and about 10,000 bees.
Perhaps the best recommendation for beekeeping 101 is to opt for a Langstroth hive. This provides a nucleus starter colony already established with a hive box. Upon receipt you transfer the framed honeycomb panels containing the eggs, larvae and stored honey into your own hive.
And there you have it, dummies. You, too, can become a beekeeper.