Why Do You Want To Be A Beekeeper?
There’s a variety of reasons a person wants to start beekeeping. It’s well known that honey bee colonies have been declining with managed as well as ferrel bees. There are a variety of reasons, the Verroa mite being one of the largest. Then there’s pesticides, hive pests, and four legged intruders. Your interest could be to help save the honey bee.
Bees keep you learning. They are not set and forget. It can be an inexpensive or expensive hobby depending what your goals are, but in the long run, it will pay for itself. Start with two hives and decide from there. With two bee hives in the same location, you can determine if one is having a problem by comparing it with the other.
Start Beekeeping With Bee Education
Before you start beekeeping, you will need to learn as much as you can. When you feel confident, then it’s time to setup your hives and purchase your nucs.
You will want to learn about beekeeping safety. Bees are normally not aggressive but if you make a mistake, they will let you know. Every beekeeper has made mistakes and when they get lit up, they don’t do that any more. What ever the mistake was. Learn from the experts.
You will need to understand swarming, why and when they swarm, and how to prevent it by doing splits or adding space. When you do a split, you will have another beehive which you can keep or sell. After your first year, you will also be able to harvest honey. Learn about how it’s done, when to do it, and how much to leave in the hive. Research any equipment you will need.
Learn how to manage your hives, conduct inspections, the tools you need, and the hive pests such as verroa mites, small hive beetles and wax moths. A bee colony is considered one living
organism and they can get sick the same as you. Learn about Americn Foul Brood, European Foul Brood, Chalk Brood and other viruses.
Learn how to feed your bees and how to prevent robbing. Honey bees can be quite the burglers during a dearth.
At the bottom of this page there are links to some good resources on Youtube by reputable expert beekeepers. Join a local bee keeping club. They are everywhere and full of people willing to help you. Many of the members are part of a mentoring program. Get a mentor. The UF/IFAS Extension also has a Master Beekeeper class you can take online. These are good places to start.
Find A Good Beehive Location
You will want your beehive to be in a spot that receives a lot of sun. Especially morning sun. Filtered sun light during parts of the day is sufficient but the more sun the better. Bee hive entrances should be facing a Southernly direction.
Avoid wet areas and place them on hive stands. The ground should be as level as possible. Your hive stand will need to be level or the bees will build some crazy comb and you’ll have a mess on your hands.
Food and water sources need to be considered. This isn’t really a problem in Central Florida but how about in a desert? Bees need food and water. If you have a water fountain, place a pile of pebbles in half of it so they have a place to land. They are good at drowning.
An area that has a natural wind barrier such as a line of trees, or something else like a privacy fence should be considered. And be sure to speak with your neighbors, your HOA if you have one, and read the laws for your state. In Florida the hive must be at least 10 feet from the property line and 20 feet from the house. Here we can have up to six hives on half an acre, and 12 temporarily when we do splits.
In Florida, as with other states, you need to register your hives and have them inspected. Here is the link to register: Florida Dept. of Agriculture Beekeeper Registration
Decide On Your Beekeeping Budget
As said above, starting your beekeeping project can be inexpensive, or expensive. It depends on your goals. If you are interested in a small hobby keeping two hives, you can get them started for about $500. Complete hive kits are available online and so far it’s been cheaper to buy them instead of building them. We have links to some hive kits on this page. You will need to assemble and paint them before you get your bees.
The other equipment can also be purchased in kits, and you’ll need a bee jacket. A jacket is much easier to use and wear some loose fitting jeans. Getting in and out of a full jump suit can be a hassle, not to mention the Summer heat.
Other things you will need can be purchased over time when you need them depending on your goals. For us, the first year was just over $4000. But our goal is to continually expand our apiary. Start small and make sure you enjoy it. If you decide you don’t, you can sell your bees and equipment.
Choose A Hive Type And Order It
There are several types of bee hives. Most commonly is the 10 frame Longstroth. There are also 8 frame Longstroths, horizontal hives, nuc boxes, and more. Learn about each. The 10 frame Longstroth hive is recommended. You will find a link to a complete kit on this page.
Order two and get them ready. You will want to place a thin layer of 100% beeswax on your plastic foundation to encourage the bees to build on it and draw good looking comb. Buy good beeswax from an a Americn beekeeping outfit. A local apiary or Ebay is a good source. Stay away from wax from China.
Order and Install Your Honey Bees
Here you have a few options. You can order a package of bees. This is the least preffered since they will be shipped to you. They may be handled roughly and bounced around, left in a hot or cold vehicle, or be delayed during shipment. You will most likley have some dead bees and if one of them is the queen, you’ll have other issues to deal with.
You can purchase a nucleous colony. Find a local beekeeper to find out when they will have nucs available. A bee nuc will have a mated and laying queen. The best time to start is in early Spring. Especially in colder enviorments. You will receive five frames of bees with drawn comb. This will have a much higher success rate and will help you make some local contacts for advice. Your local beekeeping club or apiary is a good place to start.
Another way to get bees is to capture swarms. It can be hit or miss but free bees are very rewarding. You can also set up swarm traps when you have a better understanding of what you are doing. Swarms need to be cleaned up and treated for verroa mites. In Florida re-queening is required do to Africanized Honey Bees.
Continue Your Education
If you decided to be a beekeeper, at this point you will have at least a couple of hives following the advice above. Now it’s time to continue learning. It’s interesting, rewarding and will help with your success. Many first year beekeepers lose their bees the first year. Mainly due to lack of education.
Focus on pests and how to keep them away. Verroa mites, small hive beetles and wax mothes. The viruses mentioned above, how to store drawn comb, and how to help the bees should you find larva from these pests in your hive. It will happen.
Learn how to identify swarm behavior and what to do about it, hive robbing, and how to do splits. Checkerboarding to increase comb building and more. Visit the links below to learn.
Manage Your Colonies
Bee colonies require your management to be successful. Understanding good management practice is essential. Different times of the year will require inspections at different intervals. More so during swarm season, less so during Winter. Every 7 – 10 days is our schedule here in Central Florida.
Treat for mites. Trap small hive beetles and keep your colonies strong. A strong colony will take care of the other pests. make sure they have room to grow by adding more boxes and harvesting honey or making splits. Understand when to add another box. Too much room in the hive causes hive beetle and wax moth infestation problems.
If this article was helpful in deciding whether or not to start beekeeping, please like, share and leave a comment. Thanks!
Resource Links To Help You Start Beekeeping:
Beekeeping 101 – A Great Information Source!