Often, after making the decision to keep bees, the hardest task is actually starting. Many questions arise due to the many options for keeping bees. The following is simply a recommended guideline. It is therefore not the only correct path to starting right with bees. It is more important to know the reason behind each step than simply taking it. This way an educated decision can be made based on knowledge, not based simply on because that was what you were told to do.
Before becoming involved with live bees, often the best advice is to gain a secondhand experience in some form.
Be prepared to read about beekeeping, the more reading you accomplish on the subject, the better informed you will be. There exist a handful of books regarding the subject of beekeeping, which can be found in many libraries and through many booksellers. There also exist many helpful websites and tutorials, including this wikibook, just remember to take all advice with a grain of salt, as beekeepers are an opinionated group. Only follow books or guidelines that you feel comfortable with.
The best way to gain knowledge on beekeeping is through practical experience. If possible locate a beekeeper in your area that may be willing to guide you along or even mentor you during your newfound interests.
Join An Association
Many regions have beekeeping associations or clubs. Joining one of these can be a valuable resource. It may even be advised to join some time before you actually intend to keep bees.
Most beginners to beekeeping start with a standard Langstroth style hive, but this is by no means the only option available. It is, however, the advisable path, due to ease of availability and experience of others. It is more than possible to start beekeeping with a top bar hive, however that is not the way we shall continue.
What To Get
There is a wide range of equipment available to prospective beekeepers. It is advised by most keepers to start with a minimum of two hives and fewer than five. Though you should feel free to expand once you feel comfortable.
Keep in mind the following list is making the assumption that you will be using a Langstroth style hive. The parts on this list will create one complete hive unless otherwise noted.
- 2 Deep Hive Bodies to be used as brood nests
- 20 frames and sheets of foundation to fit the two deep hive bodies.
- A Minimum of 2 supers for collecting honey.
- 20 frames and sheets of foundation to fit the two honey supers.
- A Entrance Reducer
- A Feeder, often a hive top feeder of a large capacity is recommended, though other designs will work.
- A Inner Cover.
- A Telescopic Cover.
- A Bottom Board.
- A Smoker
- A Hive Tool, some beekeepers use a large flat head screwdriver or a pocketknife, but a real hive tool is recommended.
- A Bee Brush
- A Veil for each beekeeper, an extra one is recommended if you ever expect observers.
- A pair of Beekeeping Gloves, this is an optional item but most beginners prefer to use them.
- Enough exterior paint or varnishes to properly weather proof the outside of the hive.
Equipment For Honey Harvesting
Often it is best to wait before buying honey-harvesting equipment, due to the large investment. It may be possible to borrow equipment from an association or use that of an existing beekeeper.
- A Queen Excluder, some beekeepers choose not to use this device.
- A Bee Escape, some beekeepers choose not to use this device.
- An Uncapping Knife
- A Honey Extractor
New Versus Used
Buying new equipment is often safer than used hive equipment, as there is no chance of disease or other pests being transferred. It is obviously more expensive too. Some beginning beekeepers choose to build their hive parts, where as this process can be fun, it is often more expensive to build a single hive than it would be to buy one new.
Bees should only be obtained after all the hive equipment is acquired and setup. There exist a wide variety of honeybee races, you should familiarize your self with their specific attributes and see what works best in your area before acquiring any. Once you have selected your desired race you should look at obtaining bees that best meet your purpose. It is recommended that a beginner acquire bees either from a package of bees or from a nucleus hive.