Beekeeping for Beginners

People are asking questions about how to keep bees. Since bees pollinate our food and give us honey, what could be more logical than caring for them and providing them a place to live and thrive?

Actually, there is a lot involved with beekeeping. Before you decide if beekeeping is for you, answer the following questions.

  1. Since you will occasionally be stung, are you allergic to bees?
  2. Are any family members or neighbors allergic to bees?
  3. How will your family or neighbors feel about increasing the numbers of bees in the area?
  4. Are there laws prohibiting bees in your neighborhood?
  5. Are you physically capable of doing the heavy lifting involved with keeping bee hives?
  6. Where will you keep your bees?
  7. How will you keep your queen safe and protect your hive from the weather, predators (such as bears), diseases and insects?

One of the biggest mistakes a beginning beekeeper can make is not researching ahead of time all that goes into successful beekeeping.

  1. Will you build hives or buy them ready-made?
  2. Do you know the costs involved?
  3. How many hives will you start with?
  4. Where will you get your bees?
  5. What protective equipment do you need?
  6. Do you want to keep bees for a hobby or a business?
  7. Will you do all the work or have help?
  8. What will you do with your finished product?
Photo by Leslie Allen
Photo by Leslie Allen

Let’s assume you have done your homework on beekeeping. You have your hooded suit, gloves, boots and smoker. You have found a reputable supplier for bees. Now it’s time to set up the hive and take care of the heart of your beekeeping operation, the queen bee. According to University of Missouri Extension (http://extension.missouri.edu/p/g7600), two bee colonies are a good number for beginners. One productive hive can produce 50 to 100 pounds of honey each year.

Assemble your hive box and the hive compartments for storing the frames to support the honeycomb (supers). The requirements are very specific and there is a lot of information online on how to build equipment correctly. Order your bees in the fall for an April arrival. Be sure to have your hives ready before the bees come.

You bee colony will need an abundant source of nectar and pollen. In town, most ornamental trees and plants can provide this. One caution, bees are extremely sensitive to pesticides, so know the spraying habits of people around you. They will need a supply of clean water within a quarter mile of the hive. If one isn’t available naturally, provide a shallow pan with water and rocks for the bees to rest on. Keeping water available near the hive will help keep bees out of neighbors’ yards. Face the hive southwest or south with a windbreak behind it. Use deciduous trees (those that lose their leaves in winter) to provide shade in the summer afternoons.

Keeping bees can be very rewarding, but it is also a lot of work.