So you haven’t even started keeping bees yet and you’ve already been stung. Stung with that lust for everything beekeeping promises to provide. Namely, an endless supply of golden sticky sweet stuff.
Sure, we know the bees will help with pollination and, if we’re really industrious, we could harvest the wax and process it to make our own candles, lip balms, and a wide array of other products. But let’s be honest. Honey.
Before you haul off and invest in your first hive, here are some things we’ve learned during our first two years of beekeeping that you might want to keep in mind:
1.) Real Estate: Contrary to popular belief, we found it easy to move our hive to another part of the yard when we decided we’d rather it be in another place. However, would we want to do it again, no. Be certain you know where you want your bees so you aren’t trying to move a colony that can weigh more than 100 pounds after the sun has gone down.
2.) Woodenware: There are certainly several ways to keep bees from the popular 10-frame or 8-frame langstroth hives to top bars and many more. For us, the problem was that we decided that, while we liked langstroth hive, we’d have rather have the 8-frame “medium” hive bodies. Woodenware can be a very expensive investment. The more hives you can work in-person before buying your own, the better. Then you’ll know exactly what you are getting into and can make the correct investment in your hives the first time.
3.) Pollinating: I know. Honey. But still, if you are into bees, then you are probably into growing food as well. As such, the prospect of your honeybees pollinating your fruit and vegetables might sound enticing. However, remember that our native bees and many other pollinators are the real powerhouses behind pollination. Give them some habitat as well.
4.) Backup Plan: It is possible that something unexpected is going to happen – like a grass fire we had. Our bees were fine, but a pair of gloves, queen clip, queen marking cage, and marker all burned up. Have spares of your equipment, unless you are prepared to wait for shipping time.
5.) Grab a Chair: I’m a chicken. I wear all my protective equipment when I work the hive. However, I enjoy putting a lawn chair a few feet from the hive, off to one side, and watching the amazing aerial acrobatics taking place. One day you’ll rob these bees of a vast majority of their hard work – take a moment to enjoy and respect their efforts.
As with most all things, perhaps the best lesson is to always be in touch with others who practice whatever you are practicing. You will always want to ask a question or see how other people’s colonies are performing. Whether that is a local beekeeping group or a well monitored online forum, seek out friends to go through the journey with you.
Jared Stanley of J&J Acres homesteads in Toomsuba, Mississippi, with his wife Jennifer and children. He also hosts an active YouTube channel you can view and subscribe to here. Jared is also a certified permaculture design consultant and you can view his website here.