Getting Started

 

What Do I Need to Get Started in Beekeeping?

This is a question I am asked repeatedly by people in my circle of influence, so I thought it wise to formulate an answer here on our website to serve the masses of cyberspace!  First off, let me break down my experience for you in a table form, as I do tend to be wordy in my presentation.  Please remember, there are as many ways to get started in beekeeping as there are beekeepers, this is just my own experience.

 

Year one

 

Package bees

 

IPM bottom board (screened)

 

10 frame deep hive bodies (x2) + frames to fill

 

10 frame honey supers (x3) + frames to fill

 

Inner & Outer Covers

 

Don’t forget to get the hive up off of the ground

Cement blocks

Hive tool

 

Veil

 

Smoker

 

Queen excluder

Though, I’ve never used mine

Device to feed bees

Hive top feeder is one way, but there are others.

 

 

Year Two

 

Queen

I’d suggest getting an Ohio Queen Initiative queen!

Nucleus hive body + frames to fill

 

IPM bottom board

 

10 frame deep hive bodies (x2) + frames to fill

 

10 frame honey supers (x3) + frames to fill

 

Inner and Outer Covers

 

Device to feed bees

 

Hive stand of some sort

There are fancy ones available, if desired check out a bee equipment distributer (Brushy Mtn., DadantMann Lake, etc.)

 

I began beekeeping in 2009. I’m only a third season hobbyist beekeeper, still a newbie in my own right. I keep two colonies and I do not have a desire to grow my apiary, one of the reasons I have a two colony limit is because of the amount of equipment (particularly boxes and frames) needed to responsibly care for these two colonies. I began with just one colony, where I purchased package bees (from the “sun belt”) and pre-assembled hive components (2 deep brood chambers, 20 frames to fill with plastic foundation, and one honey super, 10 frames to fill it with wax foundation). I also purchased a screened bottom board, inner and outer covers, veil, smoker, hive top feeder, queen excluder (which I’ve never used), and a hive tool. I would say that my investment cost about $400.

My second year I grew my colonies 100%! I decided to get one more colony, but this time I did things a little bit differently, and I believe a better method. I purchased a nucleus hive (called a “nuc”) with a 5 frame deep box, a bottom board, inner and outer covers. I had an experienced beekeeper’s invaluable help in this process (thank you again Price Smith!), and I believe that is the key to success, it helps so much to be SHOWN how to do this, so I will be able to repeat the process if needed. Then we took 5 frames from my established colony (3 frames with approx. 50% capped brood and the workers on the frame, 2 frames with honey and pollen and the workers on those frames as well) and put it in this nuc. We were sure to inspect each frame carefully, ensuring that we did NOT get the queen on these frames we removed from the established colony. Then we placed a new mated queen that I had ordered from my mentor (he had ordered over 100 of these queens from an apiary in northern California) in between the frames (she was in a small cage with a few attendants) in the nuc and then just left the colony alone for a few days. We did move the nuc a good 100 yards from the established colony to prevent any of the workers from flying back into the old hive. Then a few days later, I went back into the colony, removed the cork from the queen’s cage and put her cage back in between the frames. Behind the cork was candy that the bees would have removed to free the queen, and by this time they would have (I hope) accepted her as the new queen. The brood that had been capped would have emerged and there should be plenty of room for the queen to begin laying eggs in those empty cells. As time marches on, the nuc colony’s population increased to where they began to be crowded, so I then had purchased a 10 frame deep hive body (screened bottom board, inner and outer cover) and I took those 5 frames and put them into this box with 5 additional frames of foundation. And as they filled that box I then put another 10 frame deep hive body on and I actually put 3 honey supers on that colony and by summer’s end, I harvested honey from this colony! I would say that my investment in this colony was somewhere around $100-$150. There was slightly more work involved, but I feel it was less stressful for both the bees and myself.

 If someone asked my opinion on how to get a colony started I would suggest either creating a nuc or purchasing one (even smarter) from a local beekeeper. Sometimes established colonies have to be split to discourage swarming, a smart beekeeper will create income by creating nucs and selling them! You can usually get one for approximately $125. These nucs would already have the queen laying, all you would have to do is move the colony into the larger 10 frame hive when their population calls for relocation.

Is there anything I might do differently? Yes, as I am a small woman, I might have chosen to use medium hive bodies instead of deeps, or even 8 frame mediums instead of 10. They sure are heavy when filled with brood, honey, pollen, and bees! The beauty of beekeeping is that it is still possible to make that transition, nothing is set in stone. And what works for me, may not work for you, and that is okay!

Another question people ask me is how much do you have to DO with the bees?  Well, to this I ask, are you going to be a beekeeper or a bee-haver? If you are going to be a beekeeper then you will need to tend to your bees on an as needed basis. To know what is needed, you will have to regularly go into your colony. I would say that on average most beekeepers go into their colonies every 10-14 days. Some more, some less, but the key is knowing what your bees need and doing it. Remember, as with all livestock, you are responsible for their well-being. Even though they collect their own food and essentially care for themselves, there are still stressors on the colony that you will have to manage in order for them to be a successful colony. So get on that protective gear, fire up that smoker, and KEEP your bees!

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