This is a “beginner’s guide” on how to keep bees. Beekeeping can be a fun hobby. It also has a few benefits. Who doesn’t like honey? It is great in so many of the foods and beverages we consume. However, not all honey we get from bees is used for human consumption.
Bees also make royal jelly, which can be sold to manufactures, for use in skin care products. Another benefit is beeswax. Beeswax has a lot of uses and sells for almost double the price of honey. This can be very profitable to you. Beeswax is used in several different things such as candles, soaps, cosmetics and other items.
You can also use your bees to pollinate and earn money at it.
If you decide beekeeping is right for you, there are some things you should know and do before you get started. Before you invest your time and money into your new hobby, register as a beekeeper with the right state agency and learn about your states laws and regulations regarding proper beekeeping.
Study and learn about the different varieties of bees and beehives. You will need to know how to keep bees and how to keep bees happy so they will be productive. Before you can start, you will need the necessary supplies. Remember safety is first.
(Learn how to build your own bee hives here)
A beekeeping suit, that is full length, yet light and allows you to move freely. A hat, veil and gloves are important. It’s also crucial that your face is well protected to avoid any chance of getting stung. Now that you have the proper attire, let’s talk about what else you will need.
You should know ahead of time if you are allergic to bees before you begin your adventure. While bee stings can hurt really bad, death by being stung is rare. Once you have your suit, you will need your hive. The main things you need in order to stark keeping bees include:
- A Smoker
- Hive, or Hives, depending on how many you plan on keeping.
- Hive tool
A smoker is very important. It’s purpose it to help calm the bees. There are several options you can use for fuel. Some good sources include rotten wood, cardboard, twine, pine needles, or even paper. Why does one need a smoker? It will reduce the effect of pheromones the bees release. It also aides in confusing the bees, so to speak, enabling the bee keeper to collect the honey.
Another important tool to have is a hive tool. This is used to open your hive. A honey extractor is also used to extract the honey without causing any damage to the hive. Once you collect your honey you will need a container to put it in.
Now for the most important part, other then the bees themselves. You will need a bee hive. You have several options when it comes to hives. You can buy ready made hives or you can build one yourself from a kit. Your kit will surely come with instructions on how to assemble, and you can also check online for tips and tricks if you need additional assistance.
Your kit will contain the following pieces, which are pretty simple to put together. A brood chamber, so the bees will be able to raise their young is necessary. Now on to what you’ll need for building your hive.
Bottom boards are needed to make an entrance to your hive. Entrance reducers control traffic, temperature and ventilation in your hive.
Hive frames can be either plastic or wood to hold the wax foundations with hexagonal worker cells. Inner covers, are wooden boards with a hole in the center. They are used to keep bees in the hive when the outer roof is removed. It also helps to keep the hive free of excess moisture. A metal outer cover is needed for protection from bad weather.
You may also wish to add a feeder to your list of supplies. A feeder is used to feed your bees sugar syrup as a supplement just in case food sources are scarce.
You will also need bees. After all, all the work you are doing to build your hive and all the necessary supplies you have gathered would not serve a purpose without the bees. How do you obtain your bees? There are a few places you can purchase them from.
You can order them from a mail order company, bee auctions, or you can contact your local bee keepers association. They should be able to help you locate bees.
Once your hive is complete and you have your bees and are ready to begin your bee keeping journey, you may still have some questions. You may be wondering how much care your bees require. Surprisingly they require very little care.
However, it is important to check your hive from time to time to make sure the queen bee is laying eggs, to clean the hive and to make sure you have enough honey stores. You will also need to remove any dead bees. Make sure the bees have enough room to lay their eggs and store honey. Check the frame of your hive and replace any parts that are old or worn.
You will want to place your hive near fruit trees, preferably in a sunny area. Making sure they are away from any pets you may have. If there is no water source, you will need to proved one. A large container of water will do, as long as you attach a stick to it, so the bees can stand on it. Bees will drown in water.
How to keep bees happy. There are a variety of plants that will do the trick. Lavender and Rosemary are great plants for bees. Be sure to avoid using any pesticides. They are harmful and will kill your bees.
Whether you choose beekeeping as a hobby or a career, enjoy all the benefits you can reap from it. Enjoy your bees and enjoy your honey. Enjoy how your flowers will smell.
I have been to the farm stores and seen the over priced packages of stuff labeled “organic fertilizer” that has very
low content of the three components that actually work as fertilizers in the mix and the store sales persons tell me that that it is really a soil amendment that does not waste the fertilizer ingredients it has in it as
run off the way as the inorganic version do. A 2008 report of
the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and
Technology for Development, developed by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Environmental Programme, found peasant
farmers to be most effective in alleviating the pains of
hunger. Stores pitch the idea as one to help the local community.
These various chemicals are absorbed through your baby’s skin and possibly could cause allergies, skin irritations, rashes or
more serious skin and health conditions. As it is nothing but a
mixture of plant and animal materials that are easily available,
any farmer can make it in his own home and use it for a better produce.
About the use of smoke to calm bees. The smoke doesn’t really calm the bees. Bees have to bend their abdomen to expose their stinger. They also have to hold honey in their stomach for 24 hours to make wax. They have 6 glands on their abdomen that produce wax flakes. When bees smell smoke they are under the impression that the hive can be destroyed by fire. Therefore they rush to fill up with honey so they can produce wax in case they are forced to leave the hive and start a new hive they will be able to produce comb to store honey in and for the queen to lay eggs in. When smoke is used and the bees fill up with honey they can’t bend their abdomen enough to expose their stinger and thus are unable to sting.
Very interesting! Thanks for sharing.
One small consideration: bees are considered wild animals and if they inflict injury, the “keeper” is strictly liable. I too considered keeping bees but the possible loss from liability forced me to reconsider.
patrick somerville says
Help says the bees a good bee keeper will not be greedy and leave the bees plenty of honey. Making bees and learning how to control mites in the hive is very crushel to wintering bees and one way to do this is to make splits and letting the hive rear new queens and then the hive will go into winter with a vibrant young queen laying lots of eggs here is a very great website to learn what I am talking about and something I have read over and over and learned more each time so please enjoy. http://www.mdasplitter.com Thanks Mike
william farr says
I would love to have a hive here. There is a wild one somewhere close but dont know where. Bees have been getting scarce around here and my garden and flowers are paying for it. The problem is they cost so much to get started. I don’t want the honey, I just want them to do what they do best. LIVE. I thought of building a hive box and just putting it out and hope a scout finds it when it’s time to swarm but i’m affraid i’ll get hornets or wasps before that happens. Any ideas?
Norman Jones says
Just got my first bees 3 weeks ago. They are Africanized. The meanest bees I have ever seen. It was a swarm and I thought they would be gentle. NOT. I got stung over 60 times. I got two scoops of bees before all heck broke loose. Went to buy some wasp spray and when we came back they were all in my home made Kenya top bar hive. I made it fancy with a Plexiglas window. It will cost me 33 dollars to get a new queen from Cal. I will never collect another swarm with out gearing up. Funny thing I had it all right there to use. Looking at a map, all of Arizona has these mean bees. I can drop the hinged ply wood cover and look into the hive with out getting stung, but if I walk in front of the hive, they attack. My feeder is still inside and will have to go in at night so the neighbors don’t get stung. Thanks Keith for the info. My killers are 100 yards away from houses.My neighbors know about them and I will replace the queen soon.
ALEXANDER CHWICK says
YEARS AGO I TOOK TRAINING IN BEE KEEPING FROM MY SCHOOL. I WAS READY TO GET BEES AND BECOME A BEE KEEPER. THAT WAS THE DAY MY WIFE SAID “NO BEES” HERE.THAT ENDED MY CAREER IN BEE KEEPING. INSTEAD I BECAME A SCULPTORNO .
Robert Noble says
What is the average cost for a small start up in bee keeping
like to know what the average cost to start your B boxes
Keith Wallace says
I’ve been keeping bees now for nearly 40 years, worked for a beekeeper with 3, 600 colonies and taught the beginning beekeeping class on a college level. Bees are absolutely necessary in agriculture. Dustin’s “Beginner’s Guide” is a good information start. Let me add a few comments.
1. Burlap is a good smoker fuel, in fact superior in my estimation.
2. Properly smoking bees also causes them to tank up on honey in preparation for having to leave the hive. I believe the mechanism here is the desire to leave if a fire threatens their hive or in the forest, where they have established their colony in the hollow of a tree. The effect? Well, its like a baby—a full tummy and they become tame and happy. (I have no scientific proof of this one. However, gently smoking them does work.)
3. Add “Bee Brush” to your list of tools. It allows you to gently remove lingering bees from a frame without injuring them.
4. I suggest that you get one or more books on beekeeping and digest them. Learning to keep bees ONLY from working them can be hazardous and a stinging situation. Also find a beekeeper who will show you the ins and outs of working your bees.
5. If you live where the Africanized bee exists as I do, well, don’t keep bees until you are thoroughly trained by someone who knows these “killer bees.” It can be very dangerous to both you, your family, your pets and your neighbors. There is a big liability problem here. Please seriously consider this piece of wisdom as it could mean life or death of someone. I am retired but for a hobby, I eradicate Africanized bees as a small retirement business. And yes, in spite of my knowledge of how to do it, I still get stung. Just the other day I was stung seven times before I could get the situation under control. And the people I was eradicating the bees for ran for cover, big time!
One last thought. Beekeeping is a business you can get stung in!!! — — — But the rewards are sweet!
I’m gonna take this as a God thing.. Right thing right on time.. ya know? I’m visiting my parents on the garden island of Kauai and my dad is now into the 2nd year of being an beekeeper, I on the otherhand live in N. Carolina in the countryside outside of charlotte. My dad is now one of 2 or 3 people on island who capture swarms and unwanted hives typically in peoples walls. He is capturing one tonight! I have been inspecting the hives and how they are built and the equipment used and hope to take this knowledge back with me is about 3 weeks. At home I N. Carolina I typically see 3 bees a week but I see at least 3 drones per day. Thanks for your encouragement with my garden, and will be doing some trees soon too. Gonna move out into the country before long.. just getting my revenue streams inline. Thanks again, been great so far!
Wishing you great success with your bee keeping adventures in North Carolina!
I got interested in bees near the end of the summer of 2012. I spent the winter researching and making lure boxes and frames. I had the lures out a little more than a month before the first swarm took up residence. It was an exciting time to see that one of the lures I built was accepted by a swarm.
I like to sit and watch them come and go. There’s a lot of difference in the activity from day to day. After a rain flowers get all crisp and busy making nectar and pollen and the bees activity rises to a fever pitch to match the flowers’ output.
I won’t get much honey from the bees because this is their first season in the new hive, but I look forward to taking a little honey when they can stand the stress. My reason for wanting to catch the bugs is because of CCD. Many beekeepers report losses of from 30% yo 40% of their hives for the last several years. I think it could be because of the several stresses people put on their bees. I intend to make it as stress free for the bees as possible by not working them so much. I don’t need to stress my bees to make a living.
I look forward to learning more about beekeeping as time goes by. For a beginner its a good idea to join an on line beekeeping forum. The experienced members can answer a lot of questioins that will help the beekeeper and the bees.
Another good source of information is to watch all the youtube videos you can find about bees and keeping them.
Bob Fortner says
Oh Man yall got me started now,I read where some of you are talking about where to get the best bees,and I just have to speak out on this,,Get the bees that are aclimated to the area you live in.Example I bought some queens out of California,They did great till winter and I lost them all,reason was they didnt prepare for winter like they should,so I had to rebuild ,Its the same with some plants,You buy them from down south and the first year in Michigan they dont all ways do so well
Bob Fortner says
Oh I for got to warn you all.Hot biscuits with butter and honey poured over it will make you hurt your self
Bob Fortner says
I have been raising bees 6 years now,It is really to long of a subject to comment on and be helpfull.I will say this if you live in cold country.In line with Mike’s Make baby plants.I suggest you propagate as many pussy willows as you can,thats one of the very first pollen they will be able to get.Also for a cheap feed.I planted 2 dollars worth of sunflower seeds,about 2 lbs.Sow that into a plowed up area and for get em..Hot and dry spell? they dont care.There may be flowers ,but if they havent had any rain,there won’t be any nectar in them,For those that dont know what the bees do with pollen,well they mix it with nectar to make baby food.I used to have more but now I only keep about 5 hives ,thats a stack of about 4 or 5 boxes high.Off of one large box,thats 10 frames,I get about 2 and a half gallons of honey.I dont get rich but plenty for our use and I sell some to friends.Make sure to take your honey ,if there is to much in the hive,they may not have enough room left for the brood,In cold country you need a lot of bees in the box to keep it warm.also moister if worse than cold weather for them.I hope you have a lot of patience,cause all winter you cant do anything but waite and worry about them,lol good luck all.My e-mail Is [email protected] I will be glad to respond about any problem you have that maybe I have allready went thru.
I have never done any beekeeping in my life. My grandfather of the 19th century did when he was alive in the 20th century. As children my cousins and me would watch from in the house as he would retrieve the honey without the gear you described. My father would do the same when grandfather was not able. He would and did the samethings when grandfather died in 1959. A cousin who moved to Miami in the late 50’s early 60’s kept Bees in an unusual way. It intrigued me as I grew. He would take the large jars as the pickleling kind. He also used plywood having holes small enough for the jars when upside down covered the holes. His smoking the bees out of the jars into others, then capping the jars would sell them. I may not have seen the operation but results of the large jars were fascinating when seen.
I do enjoy the raw honey and honeycoomb but is rare up in Massachusettes. As families growing up with bees from my relatives, it has taught me not to be afraid of any kind of bees even wasp and hornets.
I’ve subscribed to your newsletter for years now, and am so amazed at your
commitment to sharing what you know, and helping us in every way. This is such
an important conversation. Thank you and God bless!
Thanks Deborah. My son Duston and my assistant Amber work behind the scenes helping come up with topic ideas and they both create some of the articles that we share. My goal is to help people with just about anything that has to do with their gardens, the outdoors, or country living.
My present work doesn’t allow for keeping bees, yet I continue to study and learn. One of my favorite sites is beethinking.com. They are in Portland, OR and are a manufacturer of fine cedar wood Warre, Top Bar and Langstroth hives, as well as beekeeping supplies and fine education. Great videos and links to learn how to divide a colony and how to attract and collect swarms.
Another consideration is supporting the native pollinators that live in our gardens and are responsible for the majority the the plant pollinization around the world. Bumble bees, wasps, flies, blue orchard bees and mason bees are just some of helpers that are all around us. Keeping colonizing bees(honey bees) is more of a commitment of time and money, while supporting the native insects is as simple as planting things in our gardens that meet their needs. A single mason bee will cover 100 flowers for every one a honey bee will pollinate. Simple bee blocks can be purchased or made at home with tools and materials that you already have on hand.
Google, The Xerces Society to learn more about native pollinators. A great resource for anyone who farms, gardens, grows nursery stock or are just interested in keeping plant pollinators flourishing so that we can still have abundant fruiting plants.
Al Simpkins says
For all! Don’t know how true this is but might be good to try. At least it’s not a drug but natural
Maybe not a direct response, Mike but may be valuable to our members.
CINNAMON AND HONEY
Cinnamon and Honey
Honey is the only food on the planet that will not spoil or rot. It will do what some call turning to sugar. In reality honey is always honey. However, when left in a cool dark place for a long time it will do what I rather call “crystallizing”. When this happens I loosen the lid, boil some water, and sit the honey container in the hot water,turn off the heat and let it liquefy. It is then as good as it ever was. Never boil honey or put it in a microwave. To do so will kill the enzymes in the honey.
Cinnamon and Honey
Bet the drug companies won’t like this one getting around. Facts on Honey and Cinnamon: It is found that a mixture of honey and Cinnamon cures most diseases. Honey is produced in most of the countries of the world. Scientists of today also accept honey as a ‘Ram Ban’ (very effective) medicine for all kinds of diseases. Honey can be used without any side effects for any kind of diseases.
Today’s science says that even though honey is sweet, if taken in the right dosage as a medicine, it does not harm diabetic patients. Weekly World News, a magazine in Canada , in its issue dated 17 January,1995 has given the following list of diseases that can be cured by honey and cinnamon as researched by western scientists:
Make a paste of honey and cinnamon powder, apply on bread, instead of jelly and jam, and eat it regularly for breakfast. It reduces the cholesterol in the arteries and saves the patient from heart attack. Also, those who have already had an attack, if they do this process daily, they are kept miles away from the next attack.. Regular use of the above process relieves loss of breath and strengthens the heart beat. In America and Canada , various nursing homes have treated patients successfully and have found that as you age, the arteries and veins lose their flexibility and get clogged; honey and cinnamon revitalize the arteries and veins.
Arthritis patients may take daily, morning and night, one cup of hot water with two spoons of honey and one small teaspoon of cinnamon powder. If taken regularly even chronic arthritis can be cured. In a recent research conducted at the Copenhagen University, it was found that when the doctors treated their patients with a mixture of one tablespoon Honey and half teaspoon Cinnamon powder before breakfast, they found that within a week, out of the 200 people so treated, practically 73 patients were totally relieved of pain, and within a month, mostly all the patients who could not walk or move around because of arthritis started walking without pain.
Take two tablespoons of cinnamon powder and one teaspoon of honey in a glass of lukewarm waterand drink it. It destroys the germs in the bladder.
Two tablespoons of honey and three teaspoons of Cinnamon Powder mixed in 16 ounces of tea water, given to a cholesterol patient, was found to reduce the level of cholesterol in the blood by 10 percent within two hours. As mentioned for arthritic patients, if taken three times a day, any chronic cholesterol is cured. According to information received in the said Journal, pure honey taken with food daily relieves complaints of cholesterol.
Those suffering from common or severe colds should take one tablespoon lukewarm honey with 1/4 spoon cinnamon powder daily for three days. This process will cure most chronic cough, cold, and clear the sinuses.
Honey taken with cinnamon powder cures stomach ache and also clears stomach ulcers from the root.
According to the studies done in India and Japan , it is revealed that if Honey is taken with cinnamon powder the stomach is relieved of gas.
Daily use of honey and cinnamon powder strengthens the immune system and protects the body from bacteria and viral attacks. Scientists have found that honey has various vitamins and iron in large amounts. Constant use of Honey strengthens the white blood corpuscles to fight bacterial andviral diseases.
Cinnamon powder sprinkled on two tablespoons of honey taken before food relieves acidity and digests the heaviest of meals.
A scientist in Spain has proved that honey contains a natural ‘ Ingredient’ which kills the influenza germs and saves the patient from flu.
Tea made with honey and cinnamon powder, when taken regularly, arrests the ravages of old age. Take four spoons of honey, one spoon of cinnamon powder, and three cups of water and boil to make like tea. Drink 1/4 cup, three to four times a day. It keeps the skin fresh and soft and arrests old age. Life spans also increase and even a 100 year old, starts performing the chores of a 20-year-old..
Three tablespoons of honey and one teaspoon of cinnamon powder paste. Apply this paste on the pimples before sleeping and wash it next morning with warm water. If done daily for two weeks, it removes pimples from the root.
Applying honey and cinnamon powder in equal parts on the affected parts cures eczema, ringworm and all types of skin infections.
Daily in the morning one half hour before breakfast on an empty stomach, and at night before sleeping, drink honey and cinnamon powder boiled in one cup of water. If taken regularly, it reduces the weight of even the most obese person. Also, drinking this mixture regularly does not allow the fat to accumulate in the body even though the person may eat a high calorie diet.
Recent research in Japan and Australia has revealed that advanced cancer of the stomach and bones have been cured successfully. Patients suffering from these kinds of cancer should daily take one tablespoon of honey with one teaspoon of cinnamon powder for one month three times a day.
Recent studies have shown that the sugar content of honey is more helpful rather than being detrimental to the strength of the body. Senior citizens, who take honey and cinnamon powder in equal parts, are more alert and flexible. Dr. Milton, who has done research, says that a half tablespoon of honey taken in a glass of water and sprinkled with cinnamon powder, taken daily after brushing and in the afternoon at about 3:00 P.M. when the vitality of the body starts to decrease, increases the vitality of the body within a week.
People of South America , first thing in the morning, gargle with one teaspoon of honey and cinnamon powder mixed in hot water, so their breath stays fresh throughout the day.
Daily morning and night honey and cinnamon powder, taken in equal parts restores hearing. Remember when we were kids? We had toast with real butter and cinnamon sprinkled on it!
I would love, love to try my hand at beekeeping! Unfortunately my HOA says I cannot. Instead I am educating my Nieghbors on the importance of pollinators and when, how, and which insecticide to use… I reccomend sulfer and refined kaolin products sprayed just before blooms open or after the blooms are gone sprayed at dusk so the bees have already crawled back in bed. I also strive to have multiple plants blooming in my yard throughout the growing season. With multiple size flowers for all the different size pollinators. Right now I have cosmos, nasturtiums, day lilies, hydrangea and carnations bringing them in. My crusade seems to be doing wonders for my veggie garden! I may not be able to keep my own bees, but I can still do a lot to help them and reap the rewards in exchange for my efforts.
John Thorp says
I raised bees for many years and came to the conclusion that the African long box hive is the very best way to do it , for the small bee keepers.
Thank you everybody for your expertise and your valuable advice regarding this very important business, hobby or past time depending on your level of commitment. What we know for sure is that we need more bees.
My husband and I have been beekeepers for almost 45 years. At one time, when we were much younger, we had 45 hives. It is a delightful and rewarding hobby, but to do it right, it does take patience and a lot of lifting. We are investigating 8 frame hives which will be much lighter to lift when they are full of honey. We have learned that there are two types of people who keep bees. There are the “beekeepers” who properly care for their bees, and then there are what we call “bee havers” who have bees for the honey but rarely inspect them or care for them properly over the winter.
To me, there is no smell as wonderful as the smell of a healthy hive when you open the top cover.
A few tips for newbies: wear only light colored clothing and NEVER wear dark gloves. Bees tend to sting where things are dark and not be bothered with light colors. Never go near the hive with something that smells like fur or animals. (They are not very kind to dogs). Do not work the bees too early in the morning or near dark, or when it is quite windy or overcast. You want to inspect them when the weather is mild and clear and most of the bees are out doing what bees do. If you are in the country, be sure to find out if neighboring farmers are planting corn or soybeans. If they spray products containing nicotinoids on the crop, or use a systemic fertilizer, or use Monsanto seeds this could cause you to lose your hives through colony collapse. Not fun – and not much you can do to prove that it was a Monsanto or Bayer product that killed your bees.
Also, do not buy used hive equipment. We did, and were assured that the colonies that had occupied them were healthy. We lost several hives to foul brood as a result. We should have asked “why do you have all this extra equipment?” This happened over 40 years ago and there were not that many diseases and problems with mites then.
I want to Honey Bee school but haven’t had the money for the start up cost as of yet. I also had disc surgery which because of the 30 to 60 lbs. I would have to loft it has been somewhat prohibitive also. BUT! I learned about Mason Bees. Those little buggers are able to take care of my orchard better than Honey bees. Check them out at one of the web sites about them. They don’t give you honey but the do pollinate better than a Honey bee. So until I get my Honey bees I will depend on them.
Bob Fortner says
Hi Roger,Bad back? well even a good back has trouble lifting the large box full of honey,I use the super box 2 high for the brood area,and I dont ever mess with them much,on top of that I put the medium or smaller boxes for the honey making,I only use the 2 sizes else you end up with a lot of pieces to have to match up all the time.I finally got tired of building wooden frames,buying wax foundation ,went with the plastic frames above the brood,they seemed to take to them ok,if one gets all messed up and the will sometimes,you can just scrap it clean with a puddy knife and drop it back in,they will rebuild the comb pretty quick,sorry about your back ,hope this idea helps you,Bob
Husband keeping bees for five years as hobby – we’re both hooked. I plant the flowers; he works the bees.
First and most important lesson: it’s not as easy as you’re told. Colony collapse is real and has multiple causes, from pesticides, mites and disease, all of which apply to hobbyists, and, in my view, the practice of moving bees around constantly to pollinate mono-crops.
Second hard lesson to learn is that, despite best practices, some locations are much tougher than others; we live in a very windy area and have had a couple of long, wet winters. First 2 years were great – 60 lbs of honey from 2 hives and “happy” bees; plenty of swarm activity/hive splitting, and hence additional hives. Next 2 were rough – lost most hives and took no honey, leaving it all for the bees instead. Beekeeping friends in calmer, warmer locations lost fewer hives and collect more honey.
Third lesson; not all suppliers are equal. This year we added new packages and queens, but the queens were small and apparently not mated properly before sale. Best advice here; if there’s a local beekeeping group, join it. You’ll learn lots, exchange ideas, and hopefully learn where to purchase your bees from a respectable supplier. Unfortunately, this was a new supplier and several of us were caught.
Finally – no regrets! Unless you’re doing it for the money and can’t sustain potential losses, then it’s a wonderful hobby. We learn something new all the time; a thrumming hive of bees is a glorious sight and sound; they’re normally peaceful (unless they react to your robbing their hive) and quite happy to ignore you while gardening nearby, and the structure and job allocation within hives is remarkable. Good luck and enjoy!
My hubby and I kept bees for 15 yrs and loved it. We were the first beekeepers in Yukon, Canada to successfully overwinter our bees from year to year. We sold our honey mainly to the tourists and it was delicious!!
I miss the connection with the seasons – putting the hives out when the willows are in bud, going into the yard and hearing the buzz of the bees before you see the hive, extracting honey in mid August and leaving the rest of the honey for the bees for winter food. We overwintered our hives in an insulated shed with an exhaust fan as an air exchanger. We tried overwintering outside with hay bales as insulation but that was not successful, hence the move to indoors.
We unfortunately had to sell our sideline business as our major bee sites were being converted to shopping plazas and other sites were being vandalized my 2 footed jerks.
Kathy Presley says
I have had bees since 2000. All of my backyard hives died last year but I have hives in two other places, one of which is an organic farm. If you keep bees they will fly up to an 8 mile radius to find nectar. This means that you are at the mercy of your neighbors. Mine use lots of pesticides. Plus the bees were flying over to the county fair and getting in the garbage to lick up all the lemonaide and soda and the employees sprayed them.
Do not bother with Italian bees, they are too high maintenance. I buy hybrid “mutt” bees. I get mine from Fat Beeman in Lula, Georgia. Look for Fatbeeman on Youtube. He has lots of instructional videos. He too got hit by pesticides and lost over $40,000 worth of bees. In his case it was vandals that came from the road and directly sprayed the hives. Some suspect that some city folk moved up there and didn’t like all the bees getting in their swimming pool.
Turned 60 in October 2012 and wanted to start a hobby especially since Ma wants us to cut out sugar. Well I have been a fan of sweets from the beginning of time and am not about to stop now. The light bulb came on brightly — Beekeeping (sweets with a perk), Why not? We put in our first two hives this spring. All seems to be going well at this point. They seem to be very active. Just put the Supers on one week ago. Both hives appear to be going strong. Ma got her first sting when we added the Supers. She isn’t a fan of beekeeping YET, but she is getting there.
Kathy Green says
just this morning I was thinking about getting a bee hive for my backyard. I realized that I know very little about beekeeping and probably have no business with a hive. Than along comes this post by Mike and now I might reconsider! I have friends who are beekeepers and I know our pollinators are going away fast. I told hubby this morning that the only bees I’ve seen this year besides the bore bees are the little carpenter bees (I think that is what the little black and yellow ones are). I don’t actually live in the country any more but my property backs up to woods and a city green-way. Thanks for the post Mike!
I am a 6 year hobbyist beekeeper. I have from 1-3 hives at any given time. It is fun, easy, and cool to do this both for your soul and the environment. This spring, I extracted 5 gallons of honey from two hives, both of which had died over the winter. Great honey, sad beekeeper. The hive starved in it’s winter cluster with all kinds of stored honey just inches away. I believe the colony/cluster was too small to move within the hive. Be prepared to lose hives regularly. It goes with the territory. But starting over with a new package and queen is pretty exciting. My hives are in a roughly 10,000 square foot back yard. Lots of shrubs and flowers but I believe the bees range far and wide for forage. But you really don’t need much space at all. The bees are peaceful, leave you alone if you leave them alone, and just want to go about their business of surviving. Whatever honey you get makes great gifts for neighbors and friends. And your natural, local honey tastes better than any store bought honey. All in all, a fun, low time- intensive hobby that calms the mind and helps mother earth.
Bob Fortner says
You got it Ed.I did the same thing,I left too much honey in the hive ,thinking they would come out real strong next spring and I could do acouple of splits.But they died because not enough room in the brood area,If you have a box you started and they dont seem to have enough bees to winter over,try the news paper trick and combine a box off one of you strong hives,Bob Fortner [email protected]
Janelle Roach says
I began keeping bees last spring, 2012, after taking an all-day class in Indiana. We kept three hives (Langstroth)throughout the summer, seemingly doing very well. After this past winter, we discovered in February that all three hives were dead. Not many piles of dead bees, but no live ones at all. They had been alive and making cleansing flights the end of January, but by the end of February not one was “buzzing”. It’s very disheartening, but then after learning that more than 30% of hives (experienced and newbies) died last winter, I’m determined to try again. We have started with a new hive this spring and already running into trouble with our queen. We’re not giving up, but having a mentor here helps a lot. We are re-queening this week and we’ll see what happens later. I still wouldn’t discourage anyone who wants to try beekeeping to do so; we NEED more bees!
joyce Harris says
I kive in a rural area of N. carolina,we have fire and other ant populations around. How would these impact Bee keeping?
I took a course in natural beekeeping in England last month, which was given by Phil Chandler in Lancashire. From all the research I’ve been doing over the last three years, it seems like the best way to keep bees sustainably is to leave them as much in their natural settings as possible. So, opening the hive every week and letting out the heat and pheromones doesn’t seem like the ultimate good. With Top Bar Hives, you’re letting bees build the wax freely in whatever cell size they wish, rear as many drones as they feel necessary (as opposed to pre-printed sheets of plastic with worker bee sized cells), and queens as they wish, as well. You can either let them swarm and try to catch them, or you can split the hive when they exhibit swarming behavior and have produced queen cells. Bee inspectors can still investigate the hives to check for EFB and AFB (European and American Foul Brood) and how much varroa is present, but you keep the heat, pheromones and hive intact for most of the year. Also, you can harvest the honey in the spring rather than late summer/fall, so the bees have as much of their natural food as possible, just adding extra feed if needed.
You don’t need as much fancy equipment using TBH’s as you do nationals or Langstroth hives, and the bees are left to their business. Honey is a benefit, but you keep the hives mainly for the sake of keeping a healthy, happy colony.
Also, keep bees as natural to your environment as possible – don’t get Italian bees if you live in the north. They’re really high yielding, but they don’t do well with the weather, and there are smaller, tougher bees better suited for it. Also, raise your own bees or buy them locally. Sending bees across the country and buying new queens every year is madness. Are there new pesticide-resistant bees being engineered right now, to be rented or sold to us in a few years? ‘Cause that’s the only answer that makes sense to me with the EPA allowing the use of neonicotinoids, killing off all the natural pollinators. It’s a frightening future indeed.
Bob Fortner says
Hi Katie,Be aware with top bar hive the Bees may be working on one end and the other is unprotected,Here in Michigan around september the wax moths start flying,they will get into your box and lay eggs,the hatched worms make like a spider web thru out the whole hive and will soon wipe them out.But I do like the top bar,I fooled around with it a couple of years
alouette iselin says
I adore bees. We have yet to get a hive to overwinter in our southwestern NH home — but I know it’s possible, because our neighbors are doing it. Tonight we are going to go and collect a swarm from a neighbor’s house (we left an empty hive there, and it now has residents). I look forward to getting better at keeping bees, knowing how vital they are becoming. In our area, there is not widespread pesticide use, and bees thrive — at least in the summer. We have lots of beekeeping friends, and are probably getting too much advice!
Brenda Phillips says
I started bee keeping last year. The bees are amazing little animals. I had two hives but they both died in the country’s bee loss this spring. I believe it was pesticides used in my neighborhood, or around the world.
Beekeeping is so satisfying and fun. Sometimes I feel like giving a frame a big hug because they are so diligent in their work. They don’t mind my visiting the hive now and then. I use smoke sparingly and only wear a big, white, man’s shirt and goggles. I have never been stung while inspecting my hives. I wear shorts and flip flops or slip-on keds. If I felt fear, the bees would no doubt feel it to and would probably go into attack mode. Hasn’t happened yet.
I also catch swarms and sell them at a lower-than-the-going price.
This year I retrieved a swarm for myself, and it’s doing very well. The bees are coming and going, so something great is happening inside the hive. I will inspect it in two more weeks. I wanted them to settle down before I inspect.
I may have lost the queen because I put the bees in an old kennel that had a few holes in the cement (didn’t think about this at the time), but some of the bees huddled around the hole and I suspected the queen went down in there. I covered it with dirt and plan to cement the holes in.
Beekeeping is not work intensive. You check them every two to three weeks to make sure the queen is laying eggs and not a worker (who lays eggs that turn out to be drones).
I have feeders full of water inside one of the supers and a bucket with absorbent fabric over it to keep them “watered,” They visit my pond, but haven’t figured out how to get water. I’m working to fix up a piece of wood to float with fabric attached. I’ll figure something out. I love to watch the bees.
Julia Dickinson says
Yes, Mike, I am a beekeeper, this is my second year and I’m going to add another hive this weI will be retrieving my honey this year for the first time. Last year I left it for the bees to live on all winter. So I will be harvesting this year. I have so many flowers and plants that my l l/2 acres looks like an arboretum. I had three swarms off that hive this spring and no one in our bee clubs had anything like this. So I’d say, I’ve got an over abudance of things for them to get nectar and that is the reason the master bee keepers give me for having so many swarms. I live in the country and I love it. I plan to try and live off this land and when my money is right pan to buy your book, but it is very hard to survive right now with this horrible economy. All I do is travel way into the mountains to work in these small towns for an hour or less. I am a sales rep.
Julia, In Kentucky
Joseph Belle-Isle says
Dear Mike I am very happy to see someone address the problems and/or instructions of starting your own hive. Last year In my small garden I only saw ONE bee all summer long and the lack of sunlight apparently kept most of my plants as either male or female and any polinating I had to do by hand. I’m in the South, my corn had the hair coming out of inch long ten or so kernels not even cobbs in the lower leaves and NO tomatoes out of 30 plants that never flowerred. I had moved the garden OUT of the blisterring Florida sun and to the back of my property but some trees and an old mobile home I’m tering down, AND ME with degenerative disk disease has been cut back so far to allow sunlight in the Aft. and trees on the morning side have been cut back. The soil was all acid from years of papermill pines dropping 3′ of acid soil over the brown dirt below-3′ deep so I have added hundreds of dollars in topsoil, potting soil, peat moss, and Black Cow and tilled that down to about a foot and a half. Finally some summer squash are blooming right now and I’m having to try and start tomatoes NOW from seed since the store bought hybrids STILL HAVE THE GREEN TOMATOES THEY CAME WITH A MONTH AND A HALF AGO!! nOW i’M GETTING FLOWERS BUT i need bees! iF THEY CAN GROW VEGETABLES ON THE ROOFS IN nyc THERE must BE A WAY TO DO IT IN PAPERMIL PINE COUNTRY OF fLA. jOE
On this mountain in southeast TN, I’ve been getting honey from a local man whose ‘sourwood’ honey is simply delicious. But as I’ve heard from various folks, something is doing our bees in. He has suffered major loss and he’s been doing it for about 3 decades. The idea of getting into bee keeping is kinda scary that whatever is killing his off, will destroy my endeavors. Any suggestions?
We have experience some bee decline but some of that has reversed itself. But I’m looking at your Email address, AmericanAdventures. Take a chance, so what if you lose some bees, life is too short to not take lots and lots of chances.
Hubby & I bought an old fixer-upper in the country almost 2 years ago that came complete with bees (in the house!) The real estate agent knew a lady who keeps bees, so had her trying to draw the queen out.
Luckily, whatever doo-dad she was using didn’t work. Also luckily, I decided to Google this issue and learned that unless I was willing & ready to get into the walls, I definitely did NOT want the bees to leave!! We have shared the house with them peacefully.
However, this spring they swarmed (another thing I had to Google-had no idea why the bees were on my lilac bush!). That got me interested in the idea of keeping bees, since our bees are apparently healthy!! I want to be prepared for the next swarm & become a REAL bee keeper!!
Thanks Donna, your bee story is interesting and a bit entertaining.
If you can find someone to catch your swarm, you’re set. Some oldtimers here used
to bang on a metal trash can lid while standing at the ready with a box; they say
it makes the bees think it’s thundering! 🙂 I kept a hive a couple years ago, but
before i could put up an electric fence, a big bear made quick work of $400 worth
of equipment. I am hoping to get another nuc, and maybe a top bar hive, but at the
moment (currently and hopefully short-term unemployed), that dream will have to
wait. Even so, I enjoyed my bees so much, and even when the remaining ones were
swarming (after the attack), they flew around my head in a sweet fashion while I said “sorry.” I
think EVERYONE should keep a hive. Our pollination is in trouble. Enjoy yours!
Richard Vardaman (Capt44) says
I am a Bee Keeper which is actually a throw off of my backyard nursery.
I catch swarms and do trap-outs on trees and buildings.
A trap-out does not draw the queen out of a building or tree to the hive.
The bees make a new queen in the hive and the old queen leaves from lack of food and water and most of the time will not survive.
A trap-out will take from 6-9 weeks to work.
Here is a picture of a trap-out
eleanor berg says
A couple of problems with beekeeping:
if you have your bees anywhere near areas where crops are sprayed, the bees will be killed. Sweet corn crops are sprayed by the sweet corn packing companies. The companies would phone me late the night before when they intended to spray the next morning. I would go to the places where I had my colonies to ‘lock up’ the bees. Bees travel within a five miles radius so it is hard to be free from crops that are sprayed, in SE Minnesota. Bees still died.
Then there is winter. If you can travel to Florida to winter to bees maybe all will be well. I couldn’t do that and no matter how hard I tried to help my bees survive, wrapping them up, with supplies and in the barn, most of them died.
Then the final blow came when China dumped cheap honey on the market. That was in the ’80s.
So there are things to watch out for in beekeeping and all of the things I have mentioned are beyond the beekeeper’s control.
I love bees. They are remarkable and wonderful creatures and honey is an excellent food. I learned a lot during my years as a beekeeper. Financially it as a disaster. I couldn’t win.
I would love to have a couple of colonies now but the city annexed the area where I now live and ordinances prevent beekeeping.
I haven’t mentioned pollination. We depend on bees in order to produce fruit and vegetables. I used to have some colonies in a neighbor’s field of cucumbers.
And dandelions need a mention also. People seem to have a special hatred for dandelions and spray them mercilessly. Well in this area dandelions are the first pollen producers for the bees.
May the bees survive our efforts to wipe them out with our sprays. We fail to recognize how much we depend upon bees and the work they do.
I always enjoy Mike’s gardening information, always practical and easily understood.
Many thanks to you Mike for continuing to educate us and for sharing your joy in growing plants.
I’ve been a beekeeper for a short time, around 5 years, and its a wonderful hobby. Bees provide entertainment, honey and most important, pollination. I live in the country on 10 wooded acres and love the lifestyle.
A couple of things about beekeeping, its different down here in Fl than in OH. So join a local beekeepers club to get accurate info. I also dont wear gloves so as to feel the bees more and not harm tham as much. Thanks for the interest and your help around the vgarden.
Ted Medley says
I kelp bees twenty years ago and loved it.