Note: Beekeeping 101: 5 Things to Do Before Your Bees Arrive is part of the 30 Ways of Homesteading series. You can read more about the series at the end of this article.
Thinking about getting bees? Awesome!!
At the time of this post, I’ve just finished installing the last of three packages of bees. There are two hives at our mountain house and one at the community garden in town. Here are my girls down at the garden…
It’s exciting!! I just know you’re going to love beekeeping, too. However, to get to this point, there are some important steps you need to take. And to make it easier for you, let me share what I’ve learned so far. Consider it a little Beekeeping 101. 🙂
Before you pick up bees from a supplier, there are five things you need to do:
1. Ask yourself important questions.
Why do you want to keep bees? Examine your motivation for getting into beekeeping. Do you just want bees to pollinate your garden or are you hoping to become a honey distributor?
Are you allergic to bee stings? There’s really no way around it. You will get stung at some point. Some swelling, itching and redness are normal reactions to bee stings, however a small percentage of people will have a life threatening allergic reaction. If you or someone in your family has a severe bee sting allergy, this probably isn’t the hobby for you. If you’re unsure whether or not you’re allergic, it’s a good idea to get tested by an allergist.
Are you committed to beekeeping? Beekeeping isn’t considered a time intensive hobby, but during your first year, you will inspecting your hives frequently, as this will help you learn more about your bees. Also, be realistic about the time you have. Don’t go all out and start with more hives than you can manage.
What will your neighbors think? If your neighbors are opposed to your new hobby, you may just need to explain basic beekeeping to get them to come around. For example, the community garden where my bees are located is on a church’s property. (A church with a weekday preschool program!) It took a little educating and some convincing but ultimately the bees won. If your neighbors are so against your bees and are making your life miserable, you may have to find a different location for the bees or not get started in beekeeping at all.
2. Get Educated
Start by reading books and watching videos about beekeeping. The best books I’ve read are Beekeeping for Dummies by Howland Blackiston and Kim Flottum’s The Backyard Beekeeper.
Then, take a class. Call your local Cooperative Extension and ask about beekeeping classes or google beekeeper associations in your state. Most associations offer a beginner beekeeper class and some will even pair you with a mentor once you complete the class.
Also, educate yourself on the local ordinances. Check with your town or city government and find out if beekeeping allowed. In some places, it’s illegal to have hives (usually in urban communities). Other communities allow hives, but have a restriction on the number allowed. And some places require you to register as a beekeeper or obtain a permit.
3. Order your bees early.
Yes, that’s right. Ordering your bees is on the list of things to do before your bees arrive because if you don’t order early enough, there’s a good chance you may not have bees arriving at all!
At the bee school I attended, the instructor handed out a list of recommended bee suppliers on the first night (another benefit to taking a class) and said, “Order your bees now.” Yikes! I still hadn’t completely made up my mind if I wanted to get into beekeeping and now, I had to order bees!?! But, the students who didn’t follow his advice were out of luck. The suppliers ran out of bees.
The best time of year to get bees is early spring but you need to place your order well ahead. During the winter, usually 4 months or so before spring delivery dates, contact your supplier and get your order in.
4. Buy beekeeping equipment.
There are several different styles of hives. The most common hive is the Langstroth hive. All the equipment suppliers will sell the components for the Langstroth but not all manufacturers’ equipment matches. It’s best to choose a supplier you like and stick with them. (Both books I mentioned above list the names and contact info for equipment suppliers.) I purchased my hives from brushymountainbeefarm.com. They were super patient and helpful answering all my beginner questions. Also, they make it easier for beginners by offering 8 or 10-frame beginner kits, and of course, you can always order items separately.
Either way, here is the equipment you need for a Langstroth hive:
- hive bottom board
- hive body (Also called a brood box or deep super. Another option is to use two medium supers instead of one deep. They are easier to handle when full of bees and honey.)
- shallow super
- inner cover
- telescoping top
- 9 1/8” frames (I prefer pre-assembled frames.)
- 5 3/8” frames (I prefer pre-assembled frames.)
- 8 1/2” crimp wire wax foundation
- 4 3/4” crimp wire wax foundation
- entrance reducer
- entrance feeder (or another feeder of your choice)
- hive tool
- bee brush
- jacket or full bee protection suit
You’ll also need a hive stand to get your hive up off the ground. Cinderblocks are a good inexpensive option and pallets work as well.
Here’s a video that shows you how all the equipment fits together…
5. Set up your hive.
If you didn’t purchase pre-painted boxes, then the first thing you need to do is paint the outside of the hive body, telescoping top (wood only) and bottom board with an exterior latex paint or a natural sealant.
Next, install the wax foundation on your frames. Watch this video to see how it’s done:
Then, ready your location to receive bees. Don’t wait until the package of bees is in your hands before you get all the location logistics worked out because things rarely go as planned. Decide on the best place for your hive and set up the hive stand. Gather all your equipment and have it ready. And it doesn’t hurt to practice lighting your smoker once or twice before the big day. 🙂
If you’re just getting started in beekeeping, I’d love to hear from you! What questions do you have? What have you learned so far? Tell me how it’s going for you in the comments below.
What is the 30 Ways of Homesteading series?
The Prepared Bloggers Network is a group of bloggers who are living a preparedness and self-reliant lifestyle. We got together to bring you a month’s worth of information on homesteading.
Homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. It is characterized by growing your own food, home preservation of foodstuffs, and it may even involve the small scale production of textiles, clothing, and craftwork for household use or sale. Most importantly, homesteading is not defined by where someone lives, such as the city or the country, but by the lifestyle choices they make.
We are passionate about what we do and we each have our own way of achieving self-sufficiency. Grab your favorite drink and enjoy reading about the 30 Ways of Homesteading!
Crops on the Homestead
Straw Bale Gardening from PreparednessMama
Crop Rotation for the Backyard Homesteader from Imperfectly Happy
Benefits of Growing Fruit from SchneiderPeeps
Succession Planting: More Food in the Same Space from 104 Homestead
Crops to Grow for Food Storage from Grow A Good Life
Winter Gardening Series from Our Stoney Acres
How To Build a Raised Garden Bed For Under $12 from Frugal Mama and The Sprout
How to Save Carrot Seeds from Food Storage and Survival
Animals on the Homestead
Getting Your Bees Started from Game and Garden
Homesteading How-To: Bees from Tennessee Homestead
How to Get Ready for Chicks from The Homesteading Hippy
Selecting a Goat Breed for Your Homestead from Chickens Are a Gateway Animal
Adding New Poultry and Livestock from Timber Creek Farm
Beekeeping 101: 5 Things To Do Before Your Bees Arrive from Home Ready Home
How to Prepare for Baby Goats from Homestead Lady
How to Prevent and Naturally Treat Mastitis in the Family Milk Cow from North Country Farmer
Tips to Raising Livestock from Melissa K. Norris
Raising Baby Chicks – Top 5 Chicken Supplies from Easy Homestead
Making the Homestead Work for You – Infrastructure
Ways to Homestead in a Deed Restricted Community from Blue Jean Mama
Building a Homestead from the Ground Up from Beyond Off Grid
DIY Rainwater Catchment System from Survival Prepper Joe
Finding Our Homestead Land from Simply Living Simply
I Wish I Was A Real Homesteader by Little Blog on the Homestead
Endless Fencing Projects from Pasture Deficit Disorder
Essential Homesteading Tools: From Kitchen To Field from Trayer Wilderness
Homesteading Legal Issues from The 7 P’s Blog
Why We Love Small Space Homesteading In Suburbia from Lil’ Suburban Homestead
Preserving and Using the Bounty from the Homestead
How to Dehydrate Corn & Frozen Vegetables from Mom With a Prep
How to Make Soap from Blue Yonder Urban Farms
How to Render Pig Fat from Mama Kautz
How to Make Your Own Stew Starter from Homestead Dreamer
Why You Should Grow and Preserve Rhubarb! from Living Life in Rural Iowa
It’s a Matter of Having A Root Cellar…When You Don’t Have One from A Matter of Preparedness