Tips to Start Bee Keeping

What to Know When You Start Keeping Bees

You know you have the desire, you know you have the interest, you know you have the time. So how do you get started beekeeping? These eight tips gathered from veteran beekeepers are all those things they wish they'd known before they got their first hive.

  • 01 of 08

    Use New Equipment

    beekeeper inspecting movable frame hives
    John Burke / Getty Images

    Sure, used equipment is cheap or free, but it may well also have problems that a beginner won't recognize or be able to fix. Start fresh with new hives and new frames to save yourself an unnecessary headache.

    Note: If recycling old equipment is important to you, have an experienced beekeeper check it out for you and make sure you have a beekeeping mentor who can help you if you encounter problems.

  • 02 of 08

    Start Early In the Season

    Ask beekeeping resources in your area to find the right time to start a colony. You don't want to start too early before the bees will be able to find food and keep warm, but you don't want to start so late that they don't have time to make enough honey for the winter or have missed the first big push of nectar.

  • 03 of 08

    Keep It Simple

    When you start, just focus on learning basic bee keeping methods. Keep experimentation to the minimum. Learn the tried and true first until you have established, healthy hives.

  • 04 of 08

    Check Your "Must Have" List Twice

    Before you order anything, make sure you know what the piece of equipment is for and why you need it. Everyone ends up beekeeping in their own way and has their own quirks and preferences. Keep your initial purchases to the things you absolutely need to get started: hives, bees, a smoker, and protective gear.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Start With Italian Bees

    Italian bees are the standard in the U.S. They are commonly available, known to experienced beekeepers you may turn to for help and are easy to handle.

  • 06 of 08

    Start With a Nucleus Colony

    Starting with a nucleus colony, or "package," of bees will give you the chance to establish a colony, which will teach you a lot about bees and raising bees in your specific circumstances. Collecting wild swarms is popular in many beekeeping groups, but they aren't the best option for novice beekeepers.

  • 07 of 08

    Consider Having Two Colonies

    This may seem counterintuitive since two colonies are obviously more work than one. Two colonies will give you two things: the chance to compare colonies, which will help you spot problems earlier because you'll see a difference, and a colony to work with in case you lose one, which is common with novice beekeepers.

  • 08 of 08

    Know You May Not Have Honey That First Year

    Depending on your location and the weather that year, it isn't uncommon that new colony of bees wouldn't produce enough surplus honey their first year for you to harvest any. Beekeeping is something to take up with a long view. There is, in many ways, no end-game in beekeeping.