One thing that’s really important when it comes to beekeeping for beginners is knowing whether or not if beekeeping is something that’s really for you. One thing a beginner needs to understand right from the beginning is that beehives take a lot of management and this takes time and some knowledge on the subject.
When it comes to beekeeping for beginners beginners first need to understand the social hierarchy of bees. There are three different social classes that one must be aware of:
- The Queen – Each single hive has one queen. She is the one who reproduces for the entire colony in that hive. She will only leave her hive for two reasons. One reason is if she’s a virgin queen and leaves to mate and a more experienced queen will leave on a mating flight to find a “drone congregation area” which usually contains up to 80 drones. Then she returns to the hive to store their sperm for the rest of her life to use for reproduction. Her lifespan is usually around six years.
- Worker Bees – These are sterile females who do everything for the hive. They forge for food to feed the young, for the production and storage of honey and to defend the hive against any kind of intruders.
- Drones – These are the males. The only purpose is to spread their genes of the colony by mating with virgin queens from other bee colonies. Drones that are unsuccessful will return to the hive and eat the honey and the pollen but when the swarming season is over they start to drain resources of the hive and the workers evict them from the hive.
When Should a Hive Be Started?
When it comes to beekeeping for beginners it’s important to know when a hive should be started. The honeybee is totally behavior dependent on the climate they live in. This means that ideal timing for starting a hive is going to vary all depending on the climate that you live in. The best thing you can do is contact an experienced local beekeeper to find out the best time for your area. For example, if you live in the Pacific Northwest the best time to start a hive would be between the end of March and early May.
What Kind of Hive Should You Get?
This is the most common question asked when it comes to beekeeping for beginners. This is a pretty complex question but it actually boils down to the following:
- What is it that you want to get out of your beekeeping?
- Do you just want to focus on pollination and supporting the population of honeybees?
- Do you want to produce a lot of honey or just a little bit of honey?
Generally for beekeeping for beginners the kind of hive you get will be based on these considerations. There are three common hives that are used in the United States:
- Langstroth hive – This is most common one used in North America. It has heavy boxes and needs lots of accessories. They are relatively cheap but the accessories are what can cost you. They have very little maintenance and more boxes can be added early on. Boxes are larger and will yield the most honey because of their size.
- Horizontal top bar hive – Quickly becoming a popular choice for backyard beekeeping because of how simple they are, easy to access, there’s no heavy lifting and very few accessories are required. The cost can range from very cheap if you build your own to very expensive if you’re looking for very high end. Does require a lot of maintenance but there is no heavy lifting. Can produce a good amount of honey.
- Warre hive – Great one for those who are looking for something that’s extremely simple to manage. Not many accessories are required and they can be pretty inexpensive. They have the least amount of maintenance required. Heavier than the top bar but still lighter than the Langstroth. Can produce a lot of honely like the Langstroth.
Every design has its own benefits as well as their own drawbacks for beekeeping for beginners and more experienced as well.
Beekeeping for Beginners Essential Equipment Needed
If you are truly desiring to have your own hive it’s important for beekeeping for beginners that you purchase tools that are essential for your hive to be productive. Below you’ll find some of the most important tools you should have on hand.
- Hive tool – This is one of the most important tools you can have. Honeybees will glue everything in their hive with their resin like propolis. This means as the beekeeper you need to pry these seals open with your hive tool. This tool lets you detach comb from the sides of the hive and the frames of the hive.
- Hive Smoker – This is a very important tool that will help make any aggressive bees a lot more docile. Smoke tends to make bees believe there might be a fire nearby. This then prompts them to eat as much of their honey as they can to prepare for a possible move. This makes them more docile because they have a full stomach and it’s harder for them to tip their abdomens up in the air to sting. There is an alarm that you can look for, their alarm is called pheromone and when they release this you’ll smell something like banana candy might smell like. If you smell that you need the smoker around to smoke them before they attack. It’s also recommended that you don’t eat any bananas before going near your hive, the bees might see this as an alarm.
- Jacket and Hat Veil – Bees have a tendency to attack the face of their intruders so it’s important to not only have a protective jacket but a hat with a veil. It’s always recommended when it comes to beekeeping for beginners advice is that you always wear this veil especially if you are nervous around the bees. Bees can sense the heavy breathing many beginners have due to be nervous and this can cause them to attack.
- Gloves – Beekeeping for beginners tips always include suggesting the wearing of gloves. Bees can also sense your fear by your hands when they are shaking or fumbling around and will attack. The gloves are the best safeguard against getting your hands stung.
- Bee Brush – This tool is often used for gently moving your bees off the honeycomb or off other areas you don’t want your bees to be. This is really important to have when you want to harvest your honey or if you need to repair a comb that’s broken. Use this tool sparingly, the bees hate it and they will begin stinging it mercilessly when you use it.
These are just a few basics you should know before setting up your own hive or hives. It’s recommended that you learn much more as you go.