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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.