Beekeeping for Beginners: A Step By Step Guide

Set Up Your Bees The Right Way This Spring

Bees returning to a beehive, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Darren_Sutherland / Getty Images

If you're a beginner at beekeeping, you might be confused as to where to start. But if you want to keep bees, this guide will show you how, step by step, from ordering the bees to choosing your hive to getting everything set up when they arrive.

  • 01 of 05

    Buy the Bees

    Honey bees (Hymenoptera) on honeycomb

    Jan Tove Johansson / Taxi / Getty Images

    It might seem strange to order bees before you get everything else together for beekeeping, but it's important because most places don't have bees for sale by the time spring is well underway. January is the time to order your bees for shipment or pickup in April or May.

    Local beekeeping associations are a great place to start asking around for bees. And you'll want to decide whether package bees, nucs, catching a swarm, or buying an already-started hive is the right choice for you. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

  • 02 of 05

    Choose Your Hive System

    beehives in corner of sunflower field
    pixinoo / Getty Images

    Two main systems are used in beekeeping. One is called the Langstroth hive, and it's composed of boxes that are stacked on top of each other, each containing frames where the bees build their comb and store honey. You pull the boxes out like drawers to access the bees, harvest honey, and perform maintenance tasks. You can add boxes vertically if your hive needs more space.

    The other is a top-bar hive, where the bees' frames are arranged horizontally, not vertically. The bees make comb without foundation in this system. Each bar, containing comb and honey, is pulled up out of the hive from the top.

    You'll need to choose which system is right for your needs. Most beekeepers use a Langstroth hive.

  • 03 of 05

    Gather Beekeeping Supplies

    Beehive with smoker
    ANITA BLAKER / Getty Images

    Keeping bees requires an investment upfront in supplies. Once you've decided on the type of hive, you'll need to purchase that, but you'll also need a few bee tools, some protective clothing, and feeding supplies. You can also brush up on your bee information by reading some beginner beekeeping books.

  • 04 of 05

    Introduce Bees to the Hive

    A beekeeper installing package bees into a hive.

    Molly Watson

    Now comes the fun part! Your bees have arrived, and it's time to set up the hive and get them settled. You need to safely and comfortably introduce the bees to their new home. Depending on if you are receiving them by mail or picking up a NUC, set up will be different. The mail order variety will come with a queen packaged in her own little wooden box who is introduced to the hive over the course of a few days. Worker bees chew threw a candy plug to release her from her small box to the rest of the hive. If starting from a NUC, you will already have bees who are familiar with their queen and who have already started work on building comb. Then, sit back and let them settle in while you observe the comings and goings.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Keep Your Bees Healthy and Happy

    Bee hive on a frame.
    Daniel Milchev / Getty Images

    Month by month, season by season, bees need ongoing care. But they don't require a huge time investment. You must check on them somewhat frequently, but observation is a good percentage of what you'll do to keep your bees happy. Just watching hive activity can be relaxing and informative. You can organize beekeeping tasks by the season, from setting the bees up in spring to harvesting honey, to preparing the hive for winter.

Article Sources
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  1. Beekeeping Tips for Beginners. University of Missouri Extension.