Beekeeping Bees Hive Maintainance

12 More Beekeeping Tips for Newbies

Tillys Nest- beehives in garden beekeeping tips

I’m now headed into my 5th year of beekeeping. Today I wanted to share some of my favorite beekeeping tips. Over the years, I’ve learned quite a lot and have had plenty of successes and failures. Some of those were expected and some of those were unexpected.  That seems to be the course for keeping bees nowadays. These days it’s not an easy venture, as so many things can affect what happens inside the hive.  Today, I thought it would be good to share my top beekeeping tips that I think every newbie should tuck in their back pocket. These tips range from keeping the hives healthy, saving money and learning how to help amazing insects.

Tip 1

Try using bobby pins, the type for hair, to keep the foundation in place when you are adding new foundation to the frames. They are durable, cost effective and reusable.

Tip 2
Feed your bees. No matter the season or time of year, pay attention to the food reserves in your hives. Sometimes you have to feed in the summer due to a dearth. Remember, no matter how much honey the bees have heading into winter, they should always have a winter reserve of food placed over the top of the cluster. Lastly, if your honey supers are on, you should not be feeding your bees. They will turn the feed into fake honey.

Tillys nest bobby pin beehive frames

Tip 3

Have a mentor and be sure to use them. Pick their brains. Ask them questions. See if you can watch them inspect their hives and vice versa.
Get involved in a local association. This is how you can meet fellow beekeepers. It is always a great thing to be able to learn from one another and have a place where you can bounce thoughts off of one another. They’ll also keep you in the loop regarding local issues that could possibly affect your bees including pests, new laws and practices.

Tip 4

Check your hives. Be sure to inspect your hives regularly for pests and monitor for varroa mites. 2015 was a very bad year in the Northeast for varroa and I would encourage you to explore how and when to treat your hives.

Tip 5
You cannot force your will on insects. No one truly keeps bees. You only are there to help them. Think ahead and promote a healthy hive. With proper IPM, environment, doing timely splits, re-queening and so forth, the bees will stay put and thrive.

Tip 6

Never underestimated the power of a good bee suit. Don’t let the fear of bee stings steer you away from keeping bees. A good bee suit can help to protect you and make the hobby much more enjoyable.

Tip 7

Beekeeping is an expensive hobby. Getting started with beekeeping can set you back approximately $500 per hive including the equipment and bees. Purchase quality equipment and bees from a reputable apiary.

Tip 8

Don’t count on honey the first year or ever.  Keeping bees never guarantees a honey harvest for you. Do not rob the bees of their honey to feed your cravings.

Tip 9

Bees do best with food they make. Sugar water, pollen patties, fondant and the like are not substitutes for honey and pollen that the bees store in the hive. Be kind to your bees. Leave plenty of extra honey. I use a 3 deep method on my hives. One deep is specifically for them to store honey. Only once that deep is full do I begin to add the honey supers for a potential harvest.

tillys nest bee on echinacea

Tip 10

Seek out locally raised bees that are accustomed to your climate. Local bees are best, especially if you have an apiary that overwinters them near you. Over wintered queens are strong and we want them to contribute to the local available gene pool.

Tip 11

Diversify your breeds. Queens will not mate with their own drones to prevent inbreeding and diversify the gene pool. Consider keeping different hives of bee breeds that are available to you. With diverse genetics come stronger bees and stronger queens that may lead to better overwintering and improved resistance to common bee pests.

Tip 12

Proper hive placement is essential to success.

I hope you find these beekeeping tips helpful. I’ve chronicled my beekeeping adventures from the beginning. You can find them at the top of this page under the beekeeping menu. Check it out for plenty of beekeeping inspiration, shared experiences and DIYs.

  • Santa Walt

    I’m sure you have heard the axiom that if you have five bee keepers, you’ll give seven opinions on any given subject. That said, I do not like pins, including bobby pins to hold foundation. Wire is to cheap and holds the foundation better–in my opinion. 🙂

    • Yes, you are right about lots of different styles. Just to be clear, I wasn’t talking about the perpendicular wire that is in the wired foundation. I was talking about pushing the bobby pins through the 2 holes on each side of the frame to hold the foundation in on the sides. Take a peek at the second picture to see what I mean. Thanks for your comment!

  • Carol

    We started a hive last spring by purchasing a 2lb package. By late August they colony was in great shape. By mid October they had 11 frames of honey between the 2 boxes. We thought the were well prepared to handle our Minnesota winter. When we got a 60 degree day a few weeks ago we decided to take a peek and see how they had done over the winter. To our surprise we found the hive empty. There was still plenty of frames with honey, so we don’t think they left in search of food. Has anyone had this happen or know why it may have happened? We would like to have bees again, but want to understand what we may have done wrong and how we might prevent it before we start up again.

    • Yes, it sounds like the hive absconded. From my experience, I would say that the bees probably had a high varroa count. It happens and it is one of the major reasons why bees abscond. I would be sure you have good IPM next time you start up and stay on top of the varroa.

    • Gayle

      What was your Varro count? If your count was high they could have absconded.

      • Yes, on the Cape we treat twice a year with mite strips for that very reasons. Like you say, research is indeed pointing to high varroa counts for absconding. Sometimes though it still happens. So much for researchers to learn about bees.

  • rana

    Very good article

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  • Penny

    I am interested in bee keeping. Your blog is great. Can you describe the parts of the box in which the bees live and their function? I heard (read) the terms but don’t know what they are or their function. Thank you.