Follow our steps on how to start beekeeping and avoid many of the issues that discourage beginning beekeepers.
A beehive is a manufactured structure that mimics a natural honey bee nesting site. Beekeepers use them to manage honey bees and harvest hive products like honey. Bee hives are typically made of wood though other materials may be used. Beehives consist of either vertically stacked boxes or a single, horizontal cavity.
There are dozens of potential gifts for beekeepers in your life ranging from relatively inexpensive tools and books to top of the line equipment. And there are plenty of items that beekeepers might not think to buy themselves but would love receiving.
You can buy honey bees for pick up from local beekeepers or distributors. Online suppliers will ship bees to you. You can trap a swarm to get free bees, though we do not recommend it for beginners. Reputable local beekeepers are the best source for honey bees. You can buy starter colonies or mated queens.
The best bee smoker fuels are nontoxic organic items that smolder and do not burn quickly. Many options are free (or cheap), including cotton fibers, burlap, dry pine needles or grass, and herbs. Suppliers sell fuel. Never use chemicals, treated material, plastic, or rubber that can harm you or the bees.
Begin to add honey supers when a beehive’s upper box is about 75% full of drawn comb with brood or food. If it is early in the season, bees can use the new box for brood. If honeyflow has begun (or is imminent), using a queen excluder keeps brood out of the added honey super, reserving it for ripening nectar.
Honey bees are flying insects that live in complex social organizations called colonies. They build wax comb in nests to raise young and store food. Adult bees are either male or female. Females consist of two castes: queen bees and workers. Honey bees divide labor and work collectively for the benefit of the colony.
A drone bee is a male developed from a queen’s unfertilized egg. Larger than workers, a drone’s sole purpose is to mate with a virgin queen. Drones perform no other hive tasks and cannot sting. Since they have a limited function, the colony controls the drone population, so they do not burden resources.
A worker bee is an infertile female unable to reproduce. A queen bee’s pheromones suppress the workers’ reproductive organs. In their 45-day lifespan, workers perform most of the tasks needed in a hive. Workers forage for resources, make honey, nurse brood, and guard the hive, among other responsibilities.
A queen bee’s role in the hive stems from being the colony’s only fertilized female. Her primary roles are egg-laying for population growth and the production of pheromones to guide colony behaviors. Though she does not rule the hive, a healthy queen bee is critical to the hive’s survival and productivity.