Getting started with beekeeping: A complete step by step guide

Most first time beekeepers just “jump in” , as did my son when he found a neglected deteriorating beehive at the back of his new rental home. He decided to try and save them so he got a little advice and from the local beekeepers and “just started keeping bees”.

While this has worked out well for him, there is a protocol that will help deflect problems before they arise. After researching this obscure protocol for details, this is what I have found:

Getting started with beekeeping is a multistep process that starts well before the purchase of anything.

How do I get Started With Beekeeping?

  • Check your local ordinance for beekeeping regulation.
  • Choose and Prepare the beehive location site.
  • Choose the type of beehive that appeals to you.
  • Purchase the beehive.
  • Purchase beekeeping equipment.
  • Obtain and install the bees into the new hive.

Check your local ordinance for beekeeping regulation

Are There Laws And Regulations For Beekeeping?

  • Federal laws pertain primarily to importation of adult bees into the United States.
  • State laws are not prohibitive. They are mostly registration or inspection requirements and vary state to state.
  • City and County regulations are permissive, restrictive, or silent on the matter.

While many municipalities are becoming much more accepting of backyard beekeeping, and many are passing ordinances permitting beekeeping, there are still many cities that do not permit residents keeping backyard beehives.

If the beehive is located in an incorporated area (a city), contact the city attorney’s office and ask if there is a beekeeping ordinance in your city. If the hive is located in an unincorporated area, contact the county attorney’s office with these same questions.

If there is no beekeeping ordinance, ask if there is an attorney’s opinion recorded. An attorney’s opinion is not an ordinance. Attorney’s opinions merely give the city more authority should a beekeeper have a complaint filed against them for keeping a beehive inside city limits.

If a prospective beekeeper decides to keep honey bees in a city with an attorney’s opinion that states “beekeeping within the city limits is illegal”, the beekeeper is not breaking any laws as this is merely an opinion. The city would need to issue a cease and desist order if they wish to enforce the attorney’s opinion. Or the city council could simply pass an ordinance banning beekeeping within the city limits.

The legal consensus seems to be that if a city does not have a beekeeping ordinance, the city is silent on the subject, then beekeeping within that city is permitted.

I am not an attorney and am not giving legal advice, just sharing information I have found. If there is any doubt about the legality of beekeeping in your area of residence, ask an attorney of your choice for their opinion and possible consequences. A one-time consultation with an attorney is much less expensive than finding out all the beekeeping equipment, purchased in preparation for becoming a beekeeper, is useless.

Most cities and counties do not actively search for beekeeper. They usually become aware of the beekeeper’s presence because of a complaint filed, usually from a neighbor being bothered by the bees or fear of being stung by the bees.

The takeaway here is, don’t let your bees bother your neighbors!

The honey bees will bother your neighbors when:

  • They visit the neighbor’s bird bath or swimming pool in quest of water.
  • The bee population in the neighbor’s backyard is excessive.

Bees drown easily. The neighbor will see dead bees in the bird bath and swimming pool. Avoid this problem by providing the bees with bee-safe watering stations near the beehive.

Bees also can be a bother to neighbors yards having bee-attracting plants. Avoid this problem by planting more and better bee-attracting plants on the hive owner’s property.

And chose a hive location that does not drive bee traffic over the neighbor’s property. Bees require about 20 feet to take-off and land. If the hive entrance is pointing towards the neighbor’s property, set the hive back from the property line greater than 20 feet.

The nervous neighbor is usually nervous because of what they see. There are many hive designs that are much less noticeable than the traditionally painted bee hives. If the neighbor does not see the hive, and is not bother by the number of bees visiting their backyard, chances are the neighbor will not even know the hive is there.

When harvesting honey, sharing a jar of honey with the neighbors aware of the hive’s presence goes a long way to acceptance of the hive’s presence.

Choose and prepare the beehive location site

How do I find the right place to put my beehive?

  • Choose a beehive location site that is flat or can be made flat.
  • Choose a site that allows the hive to face in a direction that is not conducive to foot traffic.
  • Choose a site that does not direct bee take-off and landing flight pattern into a neighbor’s property, or set the hive greater than 20 feet away from the property line.
  • Prepare the site with a surface that is hard and solid enough to support the weight of the hive on stand legs the size of rebar.
  • Choose a site that has enough room for the beekeeper to comfortably move around the beehive, especially in the back of the hive.
  • Choose a site that allows the hive to be in full sun in the morning.
  • Choose a site in hot climate areas that the hive will receive afternoon shade.
  • Choose a site that has windbreaks such as hedges and fences.

A flat surface is preferable for a beehive using a screened bottom. A screened bottom will not collect and hold rainwater, and excessive moisture is a hive killer. And a screened bottom will provide better ventilation allowing the bees to maintain temperature and humidity issues more easily.

For beehives using a solid bottom board the hive should slant to the front of the hive at 3 degrees. This will allow any rainwater to be drained away quickly.

A site that allows the hive to be positioned so that the bees take-off and landing flight pattern away from foot traffic will greatly decrease the bee’s potential to identify any foot traffic as a threat to the hive.

Choose the type of beehive that appeals to you

What Style Of Beehive Should I Choose To Start Beekeeping?

Choosing the correct style of beehive is a decision based on the new beekeeper’s philosophy and strength to handle the different beehive design styles.
Langstroth is the standard in beekeeping but Warre and Top Bar hives are the top choices of the “natural” beekeepers.

There are five common types of beehives beekeepers of the world prefer:

  • Langstroth hive.
  • Warre hive.
  • Flow hive.
  • Horizontal Hives.
  • Nucs.

There are 4 common types of wood used to build beehives:

  • Pine
  • Cypress
  • Cedar
  • Poplar

Langstroth Hive:

Langstroth is the beehive structural style most people think of when they hear the word beehive.

Langstroth hives are the oldest and most favorite beehive design of seasoned beekeepers in general. The Langstroth hive design was patented in the United States in 1852, six years before Abraham Lincoln became president.

The langstroth hive is much more “engineered” than other hive designs. It incorporates specific metrics in hive box and frame designs. These specific metrics are the catalyst causing honey bees to build honeycomb in a specific way, preventing a lot of cross-comb connections and burr comb production.

Cross comb connections make it extremely difficult to do hive inspections without damaging the two or more honeycomb connected by this burr comb.
Check out Langstroth hive prices on Amazon…..

Warre Hive

The Warre hive is similar to the Langstroth hive in box design, however, Warre hives use a unique “roof” design instead of a top “lid” found on the Langstroth hive.

On top of the highest box containing honeycomb, the beekeeper places a top-bar cover cloth. On top of the cover cloth is placed a “quilt” box in which wood shavings are placed for insulation.

On top of the quilt box is placed a “roof” box that has a front to back ridgeline instead of the flat lid box of a Langstroth hive. The roof box has venting slots incorporated into the eaves and ridge line of the roof.

The primary differences between a Warre hive and a Langstroth hive is more about technique than design.

Warre hive beekeepers do not use “frames” or “foundation” in frames. Instead, they use top horizontal bars with a bottom edge wedge-shape to encourage bees to build out their honeycomb without any foundation.

At the appropriate time, new hive boxes are added to the bottom of the hive to allow the bees to continue building their honeycomb downward.

Many beekeepers feel the Warre hive has the advantages over a Langstroth hive because:

  • It allows the honey bees to build out honeycomb in a more natural way.
  • Hive inspections are much less frequent thereby greatly reducing the amount of time required for beekeeping with Langstroth hives.
  • There are no toxin-laden frame foundation.
  • They feel there is a greatly reduced incident of hive destructors such as Varroa mites.

Check out Warre hives prices on Amazon…..

Flow Hive

Flow hives are the newest design change in beehives in a long time. Some beekeepers love them. Some beekeepers despise them.

The hive itself is pretty much the same as a Langstroth hive with two exceptions:

  • The hive boxes have observation windows.
  • The supers contain a specially designed honeycomb frame that allows the beekeeper to mechanically “break” the individual honey-laden cells that subsequently drain through tubes into containers outside the hive.

Flow hives are mostly about the ease of honey extraction with a little beehive observation thrown in for the curious.
Check out Flow Hives prices on Amazon…..

Horizontal hives

There are two types of horizontal hives:

  • Top-bar hives
  • Long box hives

Horizontal hives are not stacked boxes like a several story building, they are just one long box with a pitched roof design.

The difference between Top-Bar and Long Box hives:

  • The Top-Bar hive body of the box is rectangular in shape.
  • The Top-Bar hive encourages honeycomb to be drawn in a triangular foundationless shape while the Long Box hive allows frames with foundation to be inserted for the bees to build honeycomb upon.
  • A honey extractor cannot be used to harvest honey from a Top-Bar hive.

Check out Horizontal hive prices on Amazon…..

Nucs

Seasoned beekeepers frequently recommend a new beekeeper start with a nuc and just add nuc boxes to the original purchased nuc box in the same manner as if it were a full-sized hive. They feel this lessen the risk of losing the hive in over-wintering as well as give the new beekeeper the opportunity to learn beekeeping on a smaller scale before moving to full sized beehives. The new beekeeper will be much more comfortable handling the bees after learning to work the bees in a nuc.
Check out Nucs prices on Amazon…..

Type of wood to consider

What type wood should my beehive be made from?

  • Your beehive should be constructed with the best wood affordable.
  • Pine is the most popular because of price.
  • Cedar is the most preferred.
  • Cypres can last a century.
  • Poplar is the worst.
  • Mixing woods in one beehive is never a good idea.

Pine

Pine is the most common wood used to construct commercially available beehives. Pine is the least expensive wood of the four wood types used to build a beehive

There are two types of pine:

  • Knotty pine
  • Clear pine

Either is suitable for beehive construction.

Pine is subject to early rot because of the big “water/sap channels” inside the wood that, when dried, leave large air pockets that allows water to accumulate. The water then speeds up the rotting process. Because of this, pine beehives are usually protected by sealing them with several layers of exterior grade paint, polyurethane or marine varnish to seal out water accumulation.

The good thing about pine is that it grows everywhere in the United States, reaches maturity quickly, and is easily replenishable.

Cedar

Some say ceder is the perfect wood for beehive construction. Cedar produces a natural oil that diminishes wood warping. The oil also retards rotting and insect infestation.

Cedar does not grow everywhere in the United States making it a more difficult wood to find in some parts of the country.

Cedar also has a reputation of splitting easily. Everything should be pre-drilled before using nails or screws in hive construction. This will add to the cost of construction of a commercially constructed cedar beehive.

Cypress

Cypress grows in water. Because of this the cypress has close tight growth rings with small water/sap channels. This results in much smaller air pockets, where the water/sap channels were prior to the drying process.

While cypress dried wood cost double that of pine, it will last at least five times longer than pine.
Some say Cypress doesn’t need sealing and can last a century before showing signs of rot.

Cypress also produces an oily substance, similar to sap, that discourages mold growth and insect invasion.

Poplar

Poplar is the least favorable wood to use in beehive construction. It is very soft and does not hold up well to the environment. It is quick to suffer rot damage.

Heavy application of some sealant (exterior paint, polyurethane or marine varnish) is mandatory for protection.

Unfortunately, because of poplar’s softness, it becomes damaged by the hive tool, which breaks the sealant’s protection.

Mixing woods

It is never a good idea to mix different types of wood in a single beehive box. Different woods contract and relax to temperatures and humidity at different rates, which will put unnecessary strain on the construction joints.

Sealing the beehive wood:

How should I seal the wood in my beehive?

  • Painting is the most common sealant.
  • Polyurethane or marine varnish are options also.
  • Beeswax is also used as a hive sealant.
  • Polyurethane, varnish, and beeswax allow the natural beauty of the wood to come through.

Sealing a beehive adds life to the hive structure as well as helping the honey bees control the interior humidity.

Avoid dark paint colors as dark colors absorb heat from the sun making it difficult for the bees to control temperature on hot summer days.

Sealing the hive with exterior polyurethane or marine varnish are options also. Marine varnish tends to be more durable. Both will need periodic re-application, as will exterior paint.

Choosing polyurethane or marine varnish allows the beekeeper to stain the wood for a natural wood appearance. This option allows the beekeeper to make their beehives much less visible and attracts much less attention.

All wood types will benefit from exterior sealing but pine is the wood that most benefits from sealing.

Always leave the interior of the beehive as natural unsealed wood surfaces. The bees will be much happier if the inside of the hive is more like a hollow tree.

Purchase The Beehive

What are my options for purchasing a beehive?

There are three primary ways new and seasoned beekeepers acquire beehives:

  • Build the beehive from scratch.
  • Purchase a used beehive.
  • Purchase a new beehive
  • Each have Pros and Cons

Build a beehive from scratch:

Should I Build My Own Beehive?

Building your own beehive requires a woodworking skill set and tools. If you have them, building a hive yourself is the cheapest materials cost. If not, the purchased tools and potential material waste from mistakes could be costly.
Langstroth would be the easiest hive to build.

Not having the necessary skill set or tools to build my own beehive, it would appear to my the Landstroft hive would be far and away the easiest beehive style to build. All angles are 90 degrees, all other hives have various angles.

There are Langstroth beehive building blueprints on the internet for free. The design and sizes are specific for this particular hive style, the specifics based on bee behaviours.

If one has the skill set and tools to build a beehive the obvious choice would be to build the beehives from scratch.

Purchasing used beehives

Should I Purchase Used Beehives?

Purchasing used beehives can save money but risks diseases that might be dormant in the hive and equipment.
The cost of
latent disease can be the destruction of the new bees or even the existing hives already in the beeyard.
Always buy used equipment from beekeepers currently keeping bees.

The upside to purchasing used equipment (from a beekeeper that is continuing to keep bees) is the opportunity to connect with a potential mentor. The information available from a seasoned mentor can be priceless.

The downside to purchasing used beehives is the potential for the used beehive to be harboring a covert pathogen that could be devastating to new residents of the used hive. If considering purchasing a used hive, it may be wise to consider purchasing an occupied functioning existing beehive. The bee colony can be assessed for size and health, and the hive would be accessible for doing a hive inspection with the seasoned beekeeper seller of the hive. This first-hand inspection of the hive with a seasoned beekeeper will give the new beekeeper a hugh jumpstart in beekeeping since regular hive inspections are mandatory to maintain a healthy hive.

Another option many beekeepers advocate is for the new beekeeper to consider starting beekeeping by purchasing nucs from a seasoned beekeeper and just work with the nucs until the new beekeeper becomes more comfortable with handling bees and hive inspections.

A potentially big problem with purchasing an occupied function hive is the distance between the beehive’s current location and how far away from that site the hive will be relocated.

Bees are easily disorient with a hive move. There is a old saying among beekeepers: “You can move a beehive two feet or two miles but anything in between will cause a loss of bee population because of their inability to find their way home”.

Purchasing new beehives

Should I Purchase My Beehive Of New Construction?

The benefits of purchasing a beehive of new construction are:

  • There are no latent diseases
  • You chose the sealant type
  • The hive style options are numerous (even custom).

The downsides are:

  • Most require assembly
  • Most require sealant.

The upside of buying newly constructed beehives is there are no risks of purchasing a hive harboring diseases.

Plus the wood can be finished in any way the buyer wishes, not so much with used beehives and no possibility if the used hive already houses a bee colony.

Also, the buyer’s purchase options of a new beehive are almost endless. Used hives are limited to just what is for sale in the purchasing beekeeper’s area.

The downside to purchasing new beehives is the new hive may need sealant applied and new bees will need to be installed in the new hive. The new hive has higher vulnerability until the new bees become established.

Purchase beekeeping equipment

What beekeeping equipment will I need to start beekeeping?

Langstroth or Warre beehive:

  • Hive stand
  • Bottom board
  • Brood box
  • Queen excluder
  • Super box
  • Frames
  • Inner hive cover
  • Outer cover hive lid
  • Entrance reducer

All Styles Of Beehives:

  • Hive tool
  • Smoker
  • Protective clothing

Hive Stands

Hive stands are necessary to get the hive up off the ground to prevent the wooden hive from wicking moisture from the ground and to prevent the hive from freezing to the ground in the winter.
Check out Hive Stand prices on Amazon…..

Moisture is a problem from a hive perspective because wet wood rots much more quickly than dry wood.

Moisture is also a problem for the bees. The bees maintain a consistent hive humidity for good bee health as well as working the nectar to a humidity of 12 to 15 percent humidity, the moisture content of the nectar before it is accepted as honey.

Hive stands can be almost anything that gets the hive up off the ground, however, it is best to use a hive stand that prevents ants from entering the hive. To block ants from entering the hive, most beekeepers use some kind of oil interface between the bottom support of the beehive and the beehive itself.

Many beekeepers build a simple hive-stand-platform to set the hive stand on instead of setting the hive stand directly on the ground. This gives the hive stand a much more solid base upon which to be placed to hold the beehive. Placing two concrete blocks at either side of the hive with a support board over the concrete blocks works well, just be sure the support board is level or at whatever angle you wish the beehive to be. Pressure treated wood can be used because the bees do not come into contact with the hive support ground base.

The most effective method I have seen to date is a beehive stand made of rebar. The four support rebar legs sit in an oil bath container (something like a jar lid). The rebar support legs are periodically brushed with oil as well. This oil bath barrier will keep the ants out of the beehive.

The rebar legs do not set on the bare ground steadily as the weight of the beehive tends to cause the rebar legs to sink into the ground under the heavy weight of the hive.

Many beekeepers tend to build a large ground contact support base upon which they can place multiple hives. This practice can set the beekeeper up for an unexpected angry hive at the end of the support base when the hives are being inspected.

Servicing hives on a multiple hive stand support will cause vibration along the entire hive stand support, and bees do not like vibration. The more hives inspected on a multiple hive support stand, the more angry the bees will become downline waiting to be inspected.

Bottom Board

What Is A Bottom Board In A Beehive?

Bottom boards are used in Langstroth and Warre beehives.
There are two types of bottom boards:

  • Screened
  • Solid

Screened bottom boards allow for better hive ventilation.
Solid bottom boards provide better hive insulation.

Usually a bottom board incorporates a white corrugated foam board to see what is dropping out of the hive. These dropping can help the beekeeper determine what is going on inside the beehive.

Brood Box

What Is A Honeybee Brood Box?

A Honeybee Brood box is where the Queen lays eggs and nurse bees rear the babies. The only difference between a brood box and other boxes on the hive is the Queen excluder used to keep the Queen bee confined to a specific hive area.
Brood boxes
rears babies.
Other boxes (supers) store only honey
.

Queen Excluder

What is a Queen Excluder?

A Queen excluder is a screen device that does not permit the Queen to cross because of her size. It does not prevent worker bees from crossing the screen.
Its purpose is to prevent the Queen bee from laying eggs in the boxes of honey the beekeeper intends to
hasrest for the honey.

Supers

What is a honeybee “super” on a honeybee hive?

A Honeybee super is a box that is added to the beehive specifically for the storage of only harvestable honey without any brood in the frames of the super.
It is a box that is added when the hive is becoming overcrowded in an attempt to prevent the hive from swarming.

Frames

What are honey bee frames?

Honey bee frames are inserts into a hive box upon which honey bees build honeycomb for storage or rearing babies.
Not all hive designs or beekeeping philosophies allow frame usage, but the frame is necessary to harvest honey using a honey extractor, a centrifugal device.

Inner Hive Cover

A honey bee hive inner cover is a flat box cover with a hole in the center for adding a container of sugar water to feed the bees when they need a little help with gathering food.

Outer Cover Hive Lid

The outer cover of the hive sits on top of the hive, is slightly bigger than the hive boxes, and allows the lid to act like the eves of a house to help keep water out of the hive.

Entrance Reducer

What is a beehive entrance reducer?

A beehive entrance reducer decreases the full width entrance at the bottom of the beehive to a variable opening size that addresses a specific hive need.
It is commonly used to regulate intruders to the hive as well as a hive ventilation regulator.

Remaining beginning beekeeping essential for ALL hive types include:

  • Hive tool
  • Smoker
  • Protective clothing
  • Bee brush

Hive Tools

There are three common tools every beekeeper needs to service/inspect the beehive:

  • Hive prying tools.
  • Frame grips
  • Frame holders

Hive prying tools are used to separate lids, frames, and boxes. Bees will seal any crack in the hive with very strong bee glue known as propolis. It will require a prying tool to seperate the glued-together hive components.

There are only a couple of hive prying tools favored by beekeepers. The “standard” hive tool is a metal strip with one end being a flat-blade configuration and the other end similar but with a 90 degree bend allowing it to be used like a garden hoe as well.

The other type hive tool some beekeepers prefer is one that also has a “notch” in the side of it allowing the beekeeper to insert the notched section under the edge of a hive frame to assist in removing the frame from the hive.

Smoker

What is a beehive smoker?

A smoker is used when opening a hive to calm them and drive them down into the hive for easier frame removal without angering the honeybees.
All beekeepers
agree, whether they wear protective clothing or not, that a beekeeper should never service a beehive without having a lit and ready smoker.

I was recently able to attend a beehive inspection seminar, conducted by Randy Oliver from Scientific Beekeeping, in a multi-hive bee yard. Randy is considered one of the top bee experts in the country. Randy did not use any protective clothing during the entire seminar. He inspected multiple beehives for Varroa mites.
Check out Scientific Beekeeping website…..

BUT HE DID HAVE A LIT SMOKER WITH HIM AT ALL TIMES!

Randy considers the smoker to be the primary tool between an uneventful inspection and a potential disaster.
Check out Smoker prices on Amazon…..

He prefers a 4” x 7” stainless steel, dome top smoker with a protective basket around it. The dome top of the smoker better directs the smoke to where the beekeepers want it.

The smoker of choice also has a perforated bottom plate with three legs.

Randy prefers a leather bellow but admits most smoker manufacturers producing a 4”x 7” stainless steel domed topped smoker do not usually come with a leather bellows, so he frequently removes a leather bellow from a less desirable smoker and re-attaches the leather bellow to the prefered smoker’s body.

What is the correct way to use a beehive smoker?

  • ALWAYS have a smoker with you when approaching a beehive.
  • Use fuel that produces a thick white smoke.
  • Never smoke the beehive entrance, smoke the open top of the hive.
  • Never make a move toward the hive if you see ANY bees looking at you.
  • Don’t sit the smoker down on anything that can be damaged by heat.

Smoking the entrance of the hive will drive the bees upward in the hive, exactly where you don’t want them.

If you see bees looking at you, these will be the guard bees ready to attack the beekeeper if the guard bees feel threatened. Smoke the top of the hive and the guard bees will descend into the bottom of the hive. This eliminates the clear and present danger of being attacked. SMOKE THEM!

Protective Clothing

What is the correct protective clothing to wear as a beekeeper?

There is a wide range of protective clothing used by beekeepers depending on the beekeepers experience and the temperament of the bees occupying the hive.
Protective Clothing To Consider:

  • Full beekeeper’s suit
  • Hooded jacket
  • Hooded veils
  • Gloves
  • Street clothes

Many very seasoned beekeepers do not wear any protective clothing although they all agree any new beekeeper should, at minimum, wear a hooded veil. If bees attack a beekeeper they will target the eyes, nose and ears of the intruder. This is just their instinct born of several million years of environmental adaptation.

Most seasoned beekeepers will recommend a novice beekeeper use a light weight hooded jacket until the beekeeper has more experience and better understanding of the bees they are working.

Full Beekeeping Suits

Full beekeeping suits come in a variety of fabrics, fabric thicknesses, and ventilation. The correct selection depends on the beekeeper’s tolerance to heat build up. And remember, the best time of day to do hive inspection is the middle of the day when a lot of bees are out of the hive foraging. And it is also the hottest part of the day.

Check full beekeeping suits prices on Amazon…..

Hooded Jackets

Hooded jackets are usually preferred by even the novice beekeeper because of the increase in mobility and the decrease in heat retention as compared to the full beekeeper’s suit.

All hooded jackets are not created equal. Just like full beekeeper’s suits, they come in a variety of fabrics, fabric thicknesses, and ventilation.

Check hooded beekeeper’s jacket prices on Amazon…..

Hooded Veils

Most beekeepers will use a hooded veil as minimal equipment. If a beekeeper is going to be attacked, the attacking bees will target the beekeeper’s eyes, nose, and ears.

Check hooded veil prices on Amazon…..

Gloves

Gloves are usually the first item of protective clothing abandoned as the beekeeper become more secure with working their bees.

Full protection gloves are thick flexibility resistant gloves that greatly decreases the beekeeper’s hand dexterity making it more difficult and cumbersome to service the beehive.

There are a multitude of beekeeper gloves from which to choose, both in materials as well as design.
Learn more about beekeeping gloves…..

Check sting proof glove prices on Amazon…..

Check goatskin glove prices on Amazon…..

Check Nitrile glove prices on Amazon…..

Street Clothes Upper Body

Again, some seasoned beekeepers do not wear anything from the waist up, but this is not usual. Some say wearing a street shirt only tends to trap a bee between the shirt and the beekeeper’s skin , making it likely the beekeeper will be stung. And being stung, even by one bee, can attract other bees to sting that individual. Once stung, there is a pheromone released that attracts other bees to sting that same individual. All the more important to have that bee smoker lit and ready to use.

For those beekeepers wearing protective clothing:
Don’t wear shirts that are tight or hold sweat and stick to the beekeeper’s skin. Keep the shirt loose and dry to provide another layer of difficulty for the bee’s stinger to reach the beekeeper’s skin.

Street Clothes Lower Body

Wear loose fitting thick material for pants if a full bee suit is not being used. Loose fitting blue jeans are popular with beekeepers.

Seal the pant leg hole by using elastic bands at the bottom of the pant legs or place the pant legs under the socks or boots to prevent bees from crawling up the beekeeper’s leg.

Don’t wear socks made from animal fur, such as wool. Bees sense the presence of animal fur and can become agitated and target this area for stinging.

Shoes of preference, for the new beekeeper not wearing a full bee suit, would be a high-top lace-up boot in which a pant leg can be tucked.

Obtain And Install The Bees Into The New Hive.

How can I obtain new honey bees bees for my beehive?

Honey bees can be obtained by:

  • Splitting your existing hive(s).
  • Purchasing bees from a reputable source.
  • Capture a swarm of bees
  • Hunt them down in the wild and migrate them into a hive.

Purchase Bees From a Reputable Source

Many local beekeepers will have nucs for sale.
There are many good reasons to do this:

  • The bees are acclimated to the local climate.
  • Local beekeepers frequently are willing to help the new beekeeper install the purchased nuc.
  • There is the real possibility of connecting with the nuc seller thereby establishing a valuable mentor as the new beekeeper learns about beekeeping.

Capture A Swarm

There are pros and cons of swarm capturing:

Pros:

  • Bees are free.
  • It’s an exciting adventure.

Cons:

  • It is time-consuming.
  • It requires additional equipment such as a bait box and bee attractants.
  • The captured Queen is not a young Queen. When bees swarm it is the old Queen that leaves the hive with about half the other bees, so we really don’t know how old that Queen is, and the older the Queen the more likely she will not make it through the winter.

Even the most seasoned beekeepers are likely to become excited about capturing a swarm. There is just something about swarm capture that is adrenaline producing.

Hunt Bees Down in the Wild and Migrate Them into a Hive

There are some very energetic patient beekeepers that have found ways to find bees in the wild while the bees are foraging, capture them, mark them, and track them back to the hive in the wild.
Again, there are Pros and Cons to this technique:

Pros:

  • The bees are for free.
  • There is even more intrigue for the seasoned beekeeper to actually track down honey bees in the wild and capture them for his own.

Cons:

Capturing bees in the wild is VERY time consuming. It is almost more about the hunt than the actual capture.
It may require the beekeeper to damage a tree to capture the wild bees. It is always a plus to hind the wild bees in a hollowed out dead tree.
After spending all that time tracking down the honey bees “in the wild”, the beekeeper may well find the bees are not “in the wild” at all but in another beekeeper’s hive already.

HAPPY BEEKEEPING

Paying It Forward

Robert Donaldson

I am Elizabeth's father, a physical therapist, and someone who has completely landscaped our family home's nearly 1/2 acre lot after losing our home and landscape to the Thomas wildfire in 2017. All landscaping was done to accommodate our wildlife friends, especially the birds and bees.

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