We have a major increase in interest for backyard beekeeping, and while we strongly encourage this, and have recently increased our beekeeping supply inventory, we want to make sure that before you order your bees, or build the hive you have a good understanding of what beekeeping consists of.
If you’re still on the fence about whether or not you want to become a beekeeper, consider that having bees around provides a wealth of benefits from eating your own honey, to seeing an increase in production in the gardens, and knowing that you’re helping to save the bees.
It’s important to note that this is a very basic guide for beginners in beekeeping, and there is a wealth of knowledge out there. So, as your first step we recommend getting your hands on as much information as you can. We carry several books for beginners and we highly recommend that you join a beekeepers club; the Plymouth Country Beekeepers Association is a great one.
When to Order:
Once you have learned as much as you can, and you feel confident and ready to welcome in your hive, it’s time to start preparing. It is recommended that you order your bees as early as January or February. There has been a major increase in demand for bees, and with that many people are finding that if they don’t order early enough they miss out. We recommend consulting with your local beekeeping club as they sometimes purchase their bees as a group.
The next step is to pick a good location for your hive. It is recommended that hives be located in an area that is protected from the wind, gets plenty of sun in the winter to keep the hive warm and shade in the early afternoon to keep the temperature in the hive down during the summer. Placing it behind a fence or screen of trees will help to not only protect your hive, but also put your neighbors who may not be quite as fond of the bees as you at ease. Make sure there is a water source nearby as well, this is especially important in the summer. It’s also a good idea to make sure you have pollinator friendly plants in the landscape. While worker bees are willing to fly great distances to find food, having food sources close by will make them much happier and healthier.
When it comes to keeping yourself protected there are some pieces of equipment that are essential.
1.) Suit, Gloves, Hat and Veil: A beekeeper suit and gloves in combination with a hat and veil are the best way for you to protect yourself when working in the hive. Although some people prefer not using gloves because it allows them to have a better feel for what they’re doing, sometimes work must be done more quickly which will agitate the bees more. These items are really the best way to protect yourself.
2.) Smoker: A bee smoker keeps bees from becoming agitated, which allows you to work in the hive more easily.
3.) Hive Tool and Frame Grip: The less you agitate your bees when working in their hive the better. Hive tools are specially designed for maneuvering frames and supers making it much easier and quicker for you to work. Similarly, a frame grip is designed to allow you to grasp and lift even heavy frames and remove them efficiently without disturbing the hive too much.
We have basic hive kits available to get you started, but if you would like to build your own hive here’s a list of the basic components you will need to do so. Most beekeepers buy the wooden pieces, such as the hive body and supers in a kit form, and assemble them themselves as a fun winter project.
1.) Bottom Board: Bottom boards help protect your hive from pests like Varroa mites. We recommend using a screened bottom board as it not only helps with ventilation in the summer, but also reduces moisture build up during the winter.
2.) Hive Body: Just above the bottom board sits the hive body, sometimes called a deep super. This is where the queen will lay her eggs, and where your bees will live. This is also where your bee’s personal food stores will be.
3.) Frames and Wax: Within the hive body are the frames and wax. They act as an organizational tool for the bees, and this is where the bees will create their honeycombs.
4.) Queen Excluder: The queen excluder is a flat rack with holes that are only large enough to allow worker bees through and to, you guessed it, exclude the queen from the upper supers. This prevents the queen from laying eggs inside of the smaller supers that you will be collecting the majority of your honey from.
5.) Supers: This is where the bees will store the honey that you can collect. There are several options for this upper super. You can choose to use another deep super, which can be extremely heavy when full, a medium super or a shallow super. Some people even use all three sizes when creating their hives. The benefit to using supers that are all the same size is that all of the frames will be the same size as well. The drawback is the weight. People tend to find it much easier to have a lighter super on top in order to make the extraction of the honey an easier process. Regardless of what size super or how many you choose to use, they will all serve the same purpose in your hive.
6.) Inner Cover: The inner cover provides several benefits to your hive. The first one is that it makes your job easier. Bees will create propolis or glue down the outer cover of the hive making it almost impossible for you to access the hive. The inner cover is designed to take this bee glue while still enabling you to access the hive. The inner cover can also be fitted with a one way bee escape that can be put between supers to help remove bees from a super that you are going to extract.
7.) Outer Cover: Often called a telescoping cover, this piece fits over the inner cover and top edge of the top super. Having this outer cover makes it easier for you to access and smoke the hive without agitating the bees. It also serves as the roof of your hive and protects it from the weather.
Keep in mind these are just the basics of beekeeping and there is always more to learn about this fun and rewarding hobby. We have everything you need to create a thriving hive, and our knowledgeable staff is here