Beekeeping requires a lot of learning and hard work. To be able to care for the bees properly the beekeeper has to be familiar with their behavior and lifecycle of different casts. Also, you can notice early warning signs of problems in the hive such as missing queen, disease, etc. If you are a beginner beekeeper, you can get lost in a sea of information. For that reason, we have made a list of several basic things every good beekeeper should know.
You should learn about proper beekeeping practices, but before that, you should learn more about honeybees themselves. Every good beekeeper should have quite a knowledge about honeybee biology, behaviors, different casts and their lifecycles. The more you know about bees, the better the beekeeper you will be. Being familiar with bee behavior and lifecycles can make the work around the hive a bit easier. Once you understand what bees do in the wild, you will be able to solve the problems with bees easier, and also know how to manage them.
The easiest place to start is to pick up some good book about bees which you can take with you to your apiary. Needed information should be easily accessible, and books are just perfect for that.
There is a wide range of different hive designs on the market, but we recommend picking the one with movable frames such as Langstroth hives. Such hives have better support for the comb because of the frame. Also, you will be able to conduct inspections, use an extractor, and quickly swap frames between boxes or hives.
Regular inspection of the beehive is an essential task. In less than two weeks bees can run out of space, make queen cells, and swarm. An inspection includes opening the hive, checking if bees have enough space, and pulling out and checking each frame of brood. You should look for any signs of stress or disease. If you notice unhealthy looking brood pattern, you should check the queen.
When you are just starting it can be difficult to know when and how much honey to take from the colony. As a rule of thumb, you should not take honey from a colony in its first year. The amount of honey you can take from the colony depends on the strength of the colony and geographical location. In colder climates you should leave more honey. In some cold areas bees need more than 45kg (100lbs) of honey. If you take too much honey from your bees, you can lose the colony to starvation. The best advice you can get from experienced local beekeepers.
We recommend starting with two colonies instead of just one. Managing two colonies is not much more work, and the benefits are great. You can compare the colonies and learn far more. If you want to try some new method, you can easily see the difference. Moreover, a second hive gives you the option to transfer honey, pollen, or brood from a stronger to a weaker hive. If one colony loses the queen and doesn’t have any eggs to make a new queen, you can get it from the other hive.
You can ask local beekeepers when would be the best time to start a colony. Starting too early can kill your bees as they won’t be able to find food and keep warm. On the other hand, if you start too late then bees won’t have enough time to make enough honey to survive the winter, or they will miss the first big push of nectar.
Used equipment is cheaper, but it might also have problems that a beginner would not recognize or be able to fix. To save yourself from the trouble of faulty equipment, start with new hives and frames.
If you find recycling old equipment important, then you should let an experienced beekeeper check it out for you. Also, it is helpful to have a mentor who can help you out and teach you what works and what doesn’t.
Our list gives you general basics you should know before you start keeping bees but don’t forget the best sources of information - books and experienced beekeepers. There are many books on beekeeping, types of hives, honey production, and many more topics. However, the best advice you can get comes from experienced beekeepers. They have already went through troubles of being a beginner, so they can teach you a lot. Beekeeping is an interesting occupation, and you get a reward for all your hard work - delicious honey. Good luck!