Beekeeping beginners tips

When and how we inspect a honey bee hive?

Before we start to inspect a hive, we need to know what and how we will work and what we will do if something goes wrong. We need to prepare in advance everything we need, or we might need

We pay particular attention to hygiene. First, we take a shower and clean ourselves up. Then we put on some bright clothes made from natural materials. Bees are very disturbed if they sense the smell of perfumes, sweat, or the smell of the barn on our skin/clothes

When we are working with bees, we must do that calmly. Our movements must be careful, calm, and without shaking or kicking the hive. Some beekeepers use hand-held water spray, with water mist to calm bees down. I prefer a bee smoker. For fuel, I usually use dry wood fungi. Wood fungi burn with low heat, produce a lot of smoke, and burn for a long time. On the other hand, you can use dry wood chips mixed with bay leaves.

Some beekeepers help themselves with clove oil or mild apple vinegar. The smell of these aerosols calm bees down, and they don’t attack that often. You can sprinkle your clothes, beekeeper suit, and hands/gloves. We must focus on an area where we are most exposed or sweaty.

It is recommended that we approach the beehive form backside. After hive inspection, it is vital that we disinfect the tools. Because this is how we can prevent the spread of disease from hive to hive or bee stand to bee stand, it is only so much to prevent the diseases spread from hive to hive. I usually use a gas torch burner for the tools that can withstand fire. For bee brush, frames or plastic, I use sodium lye. I make a 2-5% mixture of sodium lye and then cooked tools or frames at 60 degrees for 10 minutes. Afterward, I wash all with fresh, clean water

It is best that we inspect beehives when bees are not aggressive.

I like to work with my bees in the morning hours in nice sunny weather when pasture bees are away. It makes a big difference if it is a few bees, less in a hive. If it is preparing for bad weather and if the air pressure is falling, it is best to leave the bees alone. If the air pressure is high or rising, it is the best time for the beekeeper to work.

bee inspection
Beekeepers help bees take care of themselves

How can we get bees

If we want to start beekeeping, we don’t have to go through the woods like we used to, and look for the beehives in trees. Today, we can get bees in the following ways:

  • Buy natural swarms
  • Buy artificial swarms
  • Buy the whole hive with bees

The cheapest and easiest way to buy honey bees is to buy natural swarm. Honey Bee swarming is a natural phenomenon by which the bee family ensures the existence of the species. When purchasing natural swarms there is no possibility of bees returning to their old place of residence/hive. If you decide to buy a natural swarm you must prepare a hive and new honeycombs. When I have my swarm, I put the swarm in a cellar for two days. When honey bees are swarming, they take with them two days of food. In two days, they eat all their food. This is the bees way to get clan bees and prevent getting diseases such as AFB (American Foulbrood). In my opinion, this is the best way to start beekeeping.

Another way to start beekeeping is to buy an artificial swarm. From the beehive of normal size, we take three frames with brood and two frames with honey and pollen, which we place in a breeder with bees of all generations and with a queen. Such swarms are more expensive than natural swarms, but they are complete and in full development. If we buy such swarms in May or later, they develop into average families by winter. Such swarms should not be purchased near our stand because bees will return to the original hive. Bees can return to their hive up to 3 km or 1.8 miles. It also depends on geography

The third form of buying bees is to buy a whole beehive, which is the most expensive and risky option for a new beekeeper. Due to a lack of knowledge, beginners are not able to take advantage of such a family, so they are often disappointed with their results. This investment can represent risks of buying old hives that are often infected or have unstandard dimensions that are useless in the spread of beekeeping.

When buying bees and beekeeping, we need to be aware that bees are also domestic animals that they need beekeepers to care for. If we offer them this, they will return it to us with an abundant crop of healthy and natural foods. The benefits of bees are not only material in nature but also spiritual, which is impossible to measure

How to handle honey bee pastures?

The entrance of hives must never be closed or detained for no particular reason. When abundant pasture occurs, we must open the whole entrance to powerful colonies. This enables them to fly in and out. Enlarged entrance improves ventilation in the hive so that bees can remove excess moisture much faster.

If the bees are drinking water above average from spring to autumn, this means that pasture is poor. If there are almost no bees on the water feeders, and they are flying in and out of the hive, we can assume that it is an abundance of pasture in nature. How plentiful it is, we will find out by monitoring the beehive scale. Beehive scale is a must-have for every beekeeper.

Honey Bee on flower
Honey bees collecting nectar

At my place, it’s time to increase the bees colony space when wild cherries start to blossom. At that time, I began to add supers to the hive. When the dandelion blooms, we can start to collect pollen. But we must check before that colony is already fully developed. If we decide to collect bee pollen, we must install collectors on all hives on the stand. If we don’t, we can increase the chance that bees started robbing hives. When the elderberry begins to bloom, it is usually time when the spruce begins to produce honeydew(mana).

If we collect pollen, the yields will be higher when there are more uncovered broods in the hive than the covered brood. Therefore, during the collection of bee pollen, it is necessary to move covered brood or remove it. If there is no pollen harvest in a colony, it is a sign that something is wrong with it. The colony may be in a swarming mood, or it may be queenless. On the other hand,  there may not be enough space for uncovered broods.

Honey bee on dandelion
Honey bee on Dandelion

By observing bees on the hive’s entrance can give us a lot of data. We can see pollen collection and some diseases of bee brood and bees, such as May disease (lack of water), diarrhea, nosema,  as well as disabled bees due to varroa mite viruses and robbing.

How to protect bees against ants, wasps, hornets, mice…?

From April to November, we install traps for wasps, hornets, and flies. Hang them in a sunny position in front of a hive stand and clean them weekly. In the insect trap, you can pour water with dilute beer, wine, or apple vinegar. However, the liquid must not be sweet, otherwise, we will trap bees.

Most likely, ants live in the vicinity of our bee stand. In spring, they usually started looting weak colonies. They typically hide in the hive before bees, so they cannot protect their colony. When we are feeding bees, we must be careful that we don’t spill any sugar solution. Also, we must remove all sweet food near the bee stand. Such as rotten fruits fresh, drop sugar, or remnants of honey. We can get rid of ants by pouring cinnamon powder between hives. Ants dislike the smell of cinnamon. But the best solution is to make a bee stand on the pillars. These pillars must be in buckets, in which we pour water or oil. This is the best way because ants can get to the hive.

beehives in the winter
Beehives in the winter

From September to April, field mice can wander into a hive. Therefore, it is desirable to install bars in front of the entrance during this time.

How do we supply bees with water?

Bee colony needs about 50 gallons of clean water in season. When the harvest of honey is low, bees must have good quality water nearby. To relieve bees from collecting water at more distant sources, it is essential, especially in spring and summer, that the bees have a source of water near the hive or water feeder. The water feeder should be located 10-30 meters (30-100 feet) from the hive. The water feeder should be found in a sunny and peaceful position. It is best if the bees have their water from a vacuum feeder placed at such a height that the bees suck up the water from below. Thus, they do not pollute water from above. We can also make a feeder that the water drips on the wooden board at an angle in a container filled with peat. Peat is a known medicine for intestinal diseases of honey bees (nosema). Early in the spring and fall, we can put a small amount of salt in the water feeder. If we place the water feeder near the hive, make sure that it is always full of water, as the bees become accustomed to it. If we place water supply near the hive for the bees, we save them time and long flays to distant sources of water. We also prevent bees from drinking contaminated water and slurry. If you have a bee stand near a farm, you can ask the farmer if he sees bees in the slurry. The answer is probably yes. They also like animal urine. In my opinion, it is because of salt in urine. So there it is vital if we want to have quality bee products, that we provide bees with clean, freshwater.

Water Feeder for bees
Water feeder for bees

Before you start beekeeping on your own, it is recommended that you find yourself a beekeeper mentor. A mentor will teach you basic, and show you in practice how it is done. Another way is to rent a beehive for a year to learn with the community. In the beginning, you will probably lose some colonies. DO NOT GIVE UP. on mistakes we learn. Read more books, talk to more beekeepers, and try more new things. This is how you grow as a beekeeper.