If you are interested in becoming a backyard beekeeper and are wondering how to start beekeeping, it’s really not all that hard. The Internet is packed with merchants that offer start-up supplies designed specifically for beekeeping for beginners. Supplies may be quick and easy to come by, knowledge, however, is a different story. It’s important to take the time to learn how to start beekeeping properly.
Hive Start-Up – If you purchase a beekeeping start-up kit, the only thing it doesn’t come with is the bees. If you’re looking for the best options on how to start beekeeping the easy way, populate your hive with a nucleus colony. This will only work if you have purchased a start-up kit containing a Langstroth hive.
A Langstroth hive employs the housing method of using a wooden box filled with framed honeycomb panels that slide in vertically and rest side by side. A nucleus colony will be a fully established bee colony consisting of a fertilized queen and about 10,000 workers and drones. It is easy to slide out the frames and transfer them to your own hive box. Voila! Instant bee colony. Beekeeping for beginners doesn’t get any easier than that. Before long your new queen should be laying eggs and the population of your hive will be growing exponentially.
Timing – By ordering an established nucleus colony, as soon as bees arrive and get settled, the fertilized queen will be laying eggs. This means you want to make sure it is the right time of year for bee colonies to be thriving on available pollen and nectar supplies. Too early, they starve. Too late, they are not able to produce enough surplus honey to see them through winter and the colony is doomed a slow death of starvation or the beekeeper is doomed a tedious winter of feeding the hive corn syrup.
The best thing to do is get online and connect with a local beekeeping group. Many will publish a helpful calendar of recommended beekeeping duties such as when to:
- Reduce hive entrance
- Clear out the dead from the hive entrance
- Perform observation and inspection of hive
- Clean hive box and frames
- Begin raising new queen
- Add supers (additional hive boxes for surplus honey storage)
- Remove entrance reducers
- Use swarm traps
- Replace old queen
- Order bees
- Harvest surplus honey
For the novice beekeeper this sounds like a lot of beekeeping chores. When you consider that most of them occur during the spring and summer months and are spread out for many weeks, it’s easy to see that beekeeping is really not a high maintenance hobby. However, the duties that are necessary must be performed to ensure the health and happiness of your hive.
Long before spring arrives order your supplies and get everything set up. Become familiar with your new tools of the trade. Try on your beekeeping suit. Set out your box. Get a calendar and fill out your seasonal duty roster. Then, as you see the flowers of spring emerge and bloom, place your bee order.
When you order your beekeeping starter kit, and later your nucleus colony, go ahead and order some books. Beekeepers can never have enough knowledge. There are plenty of books out there that have been written about how to start beekeeping. A few key names to look for in publications are the pioneers of domestic beekeeping:
- L. Langstroth, author of “The Hive and Honey-bee”, first published in 1853
- Moses Quinby, author of “Mysteries of Bee-Keeping Explained”
- Amos Root, author of “A B C of Bee Culture”
- C.C. Miller, author of “Fifty Years Among The Bees”
As bees feed off of local flora and fauna, skilled beekeepers are also knowledgeable about what grows in the area that their bees will like. Here is a list of some bee favorites that produce nectar:
- Bee Balm
- Black-eyed Susan
- Cherry Laurel
- Mexican heather
Many of these plants may be growing in your own garden as well as those of your neighbors. It is easy to see that such abundance will surely help your hive thrive. So, once you have successfully settled your new nucleus colony into their new hive, they should be ready to get to work right away.
By the late fall you should be able to harvest some delicious honey. You will probably have enough to share with a neighbor or two. Which is only fitting considering their flower beds may have helped produce some of that honey. When they realize what you have been up to they very well may ask how to start beekeeping. They will take one taste of that honey and believe you must be an expert! And you can tell them that beekeeping for beginners is easy and that is your first harvest! Chances are they won’t believe you, but, if they do, they most certainly will admire their clever neighbor and consider themselves lucky to live next to a fresh source of delectable honey!