9 Tips from a First Year Beekeeper

April 3, 2013
It has been almost 1 year since I started out on beekeeping.  I hardly know everything, but the learning curve has been steep and I can say with confidence that I am a beekeeper.  I read all that I could get my hands on.  I took a local beekeeping class and joined the local beekeeper’s association.  I networked with those around me.  My bees survived their first year and so did I.  Today, I thought that I would share with you some very important tips that I have picked up along this past year’s journey. I cannot guarantee that these will work for you, but I can certainly share what has worked for me as a first year beekeeper.

Bees clean  honey and nectar off burr comb I scraped from between the deeps.

Feed your bees.  From most preliminary data gathered this year, it seems that most of my fellow beekeeper’s hives perished this winter from starvation.  Bees need to eat and sometimes, we are located in places and climates less than optimal for them. All too often, Mother Nature does not provide as much as we would like.  Be sure to check the feeders once per week.  Try to keep them refilled on a regular consistent basis.

Become a believer in Honey B Healthy.  This stuff works.  It smells great and I believe really helped my hives to get off to a great start.  It is also wonderful to mist on your bees instead of the smoker.

Keep more than one hive.  Two hive are truly better than one.  Keeping two hives allows you to make comparisons between the two and become aware of issues earlier, discover what is “normal” vs. “abnormal”, allows you to combine hives if one is not thriving come the colder seasons and also helps you to re-queen a hive absent of a queen and any brood.

Find a Mentor.  If are lucky enough to find a mentor who has at least kept bees successfully for 3 years than consider yourself to have one of the greatest assets in the hobby.  Treat them to lunch or dinner now and then and the relationship will grow and thrive.  It is a nice way to return the favor of their time and expertise.

Never underestimate the supply of bobby pins at the local drug store come spring.  Every spring around here there is a huge shortage because folks are building their frames and support the foundation with bobby pins.  Watch all year round for sales and pick them up during alternative times.  They will sell out.

Watch Sugar Prices.  Hungry bees can gobble up to 5 pounds or more of sugar in a week.  Look for sales and watch the club stores.  Always keep an extra 10 pound bag on hand for those unexpected situations.

Check on your bees.  Open your hives on sunny warm days when the bees are flying and the breeze is minimal.  Take a quick assessment and be sure there are signs of the queen. It is not always necessary to find the queen.  Just be sure she is there, laying a healthy pattern of brood.  Be sure to assess for any pests, parasites or signs of disease.

Watch your bees.  Get in the habit of watching your bees from outside the hive.  See if they are returning to the hive loaded down with pollen.  Monitor for robber bees.  Watch for any signs of impostors entering the hives and be on alert for bee predators such as skunks.

Follow beekeeping practices as others do in your area of the country.  Be sure that you are adapting practices of keeping bees that are appropriate for your gardening zone and climate.  Some folks never deal with freezing weather.  Some people harvest honey year round.   Some beehives spend all winter covered in snow.

Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest

 

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Melissa

Hello friends, welcome! Follow along on our chicken, beekeeping, gardening, crafting and cooking adventures from Cape Cod.

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21 thoughts on “9 Tips from a First Year Beekeeper”

    • I always wanted to keep bees especially after learning about the troubles they are facing with declining populations. I live in a place where beekeeping is allowed and I felt if my family and I could make a difference, why not try. Welcome to the Blog Hop!

  1. Great tips on the bees. We don't have bees here, but we plan to on our new homestead. Good to know that by using the support in the beekeeping community, you can feel confident in a year or so! Enjoy!

    • Thanks daisy! I think that there are a great many resources available to people online and in bookstores that make beekeeping information readily available for those who would like to try their hand at it. It has been a wonderful learning process for all of us.

  2. We too are hearing that so many hives didn't survive the winter…it was a very cold one here and still is only in the 30's during the day. May I ask how you're feeding them now when it's still below freezing or just above during the day? Are you using fondant since sugar water will freeze? Can they break away to get to fondant if it's still chilly? Thanks a bunch!

    • Oh yes, it is still chilly out. Thankfully, as we are insulated by the ocean, our high and low temps are not as dramatic as inland. So, we are keeping above freezing at night and in the 40s during the days. Earlier in the week, I converted over to the Spring time 1:1 sugar syrup using bucket feeders on top of the hives. Prior to that I made candy boards that I was very pleased with. I put them on in December and they lasted all the way until non-freezing temperatures. Here is the link: https://www.tillysnest.com/2012/12/a-winter-beehive-candy-board.html

  3. Great tips! Thank you so much for sharing. We are first time beekeepers this year and can't wait to jump in. We met a very experienced beekeeper through a local meeting and we are getting a nuc from him around the first of May. I am nervous, but excited!

  4. Don't hate me but a few years ago I would have stomped on a bee as soon as I saw one. I got stung years ago and had a reaction to it and became petrified of them – seriously petrified. But when I started gardening up here I learned more about Bees and began encouraging them to the garden with flowers etc despite still being petrified. Once I got fruit trees though I began watching the Bees doing their job and I remember the very first time I stood perfectly still as a Bee landed on me. Normally i would have run off screaming and flapping but something told me the Bee wouldn't hurt me, and it didn't. I'm no longer scared of Bees and I love watching them and getting as close as I can to photograph them. I'll do everything I can each year to encourage more Bees to the garden (I'm not brave enough for a hive though lol) and I'm even building bee hotels for the winter. On the other hand show me a wasp and I'm back to that screaming idiot lol.

    Linda

    • Oh Linda, I can completely and understand where you are coming from. I am so happy to hear that you can come so far from years ago. I would love to see you beekeeping photography. I bet the photos are beautiful!

  5. Could you share with me how to use the Bobbie pins to support the foundation in the bee frame? I am getting ready to made a second hive and would like to my be use your method for the frames. Thanks

  6. Congrats on a first successful year! My husband and I also took a bee keeping class a couple of years ago, but haven't taken the next step. I enjoyed this post and when I do finally enter the world of bee keeping it's nice to know I can come here for tips and advice. (I'm starting my bobby pin collection now!)

  7. Great list! I couldn't agree more on all your points. I love Honey B Healthy and introduced my 2 mentors to it. I noticed when we went to purchase supplies recently they both bought a bottle. They learned something from a newbie. I spray all my new foundation down with it before introducing it to the bees. It seems to make them work it faster.
    I am also a fan of the bobby pin method.
    One of my bee friends told me the key to success is feed and treat.

    Jennifer

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Sharing an inspired life from the New England seaside. Chickens, Bees, Gardens, Art and Yummy Goodness.