Preserving the planet’s bees should be at the top of our priority list.
Bee colonies continue to be destroyed by pesticides and the loss of their habitats through human encroachment.
If you want to make a difference and start a beehive, you’ll be pleased to know it isn’t as hard as you may think.
You don’t need lots of space or even a degree in apiculture. (If you do, even better!) All you need is a little spare time and commitment.
The most challenging aspect for many in the beginning is getting close to the bees.
Once you receive your buzzing bees, you will have to release them into your beehive but don’t worry as there are very few cases of anyone being stung when releasing the colony.
There are many requirements you need to begin a beehive but we are going to focus on the steps to start your very first one.
- Build or purchase a beehive - You can build your own or find fully assembled models. Then, you just need to find a suitable location.
- Purchase protective gear - This includes protective clothing to ensure you don’t get stung
- Order a colony of bees or catch a swarm - The best time to do this is in January or February as they can be hard to get a hold of in later months.
- Setup your beehive - When spring approaches, you should find the location for your beehive. This is ideally away from other homes or public areas where the wind isn’t strong. The best locations are under a tree or on the east side of your home.
- Coat the top bar in melted beeswax - This is to encourage the colony to build combs on the bar.
- Install your bees - Do this as fast as possible after you receive the bees.
Is it easy to start a beehive?
Starting a beehive is easier than many people imagine. All you need is some courage and time. There can be some difficulties, however.
These include the season you decide to begin your beehive. It is recommended that you start your beehive journey during the spring.
This is because it is the busiest season for most bees after they emerge from winter and begin looking to forage from flowers again.
It can prove difficult to start earlier than this because of the colder weather conditions. You will have to supply the bees with extra food.
Although they stack up on honey before the winter, they will eventually start to run out so you will have to be ready to provide them with additional resources.
As we mentioned, starting a beehive is relatively easy but there are many things to consider. Some of these considerations include:
- The bee’s stings - There are very few reports of people being stung when starting their beehive but it can happen. A single starter beehive can hold as many as 15,000 bees so you and your family will have to share this space with these buzzing stingers. Educate yourself on bee stings and how to treat one.
- The cost - Although not expensive, a beehive comes at a price. Consider buying a starter kit for a cheaper introduction. The cost is usually around $400 to $800 including the bees.
- Your time - It isn’t a time-consuming hobby but you will need extra time, in the beginning, to become accustomed to the bees.
How many beehives should I start with?
Deciding how many beehives you should start with is one of the most important challenges for a beginner beekeeper.
While you want enough beehives to make it worthwhile, you don’t want too many where you could end up with a bee disaster.
Most newbie beekeepers should not begin with more than 3 to 4 hives. The recommended number of hives for your apiary can vary from person to person.
It depends on if you’ll be doing all the work yourself and how much time you have to look after the bees. However, most beekeeping classes recommend a new beekeeper should start with 2 beehives.
Many new beekeepers become discouraged after their one colony dies. Having more than one hive gives you more resources to work with if another colony is having difficulties.
You can start with one beehive but it can be a struggle without an additional hive in your apiary.
Having two gives you the chance to compare how each colony is faring and the characteristics of the different buzzing bees.
How do you start a bee colony in your backyard?
When starting a bee colony in your backyard, you need to know about the different members of your incoming bee colony.
These colonies consist of worker bees, drones, and a queen. When you buy a colony of bees, you will usually find that the queen has been marked.
Firstly, you will need to buy bees. It’s important that you order the bees early so they’re ready to arrive at your home around April or May.
These are the ideal months for bees to start foraging in plants.
You will also need to purchase the right beekeeping supplies such as beekeeping clothes to protect you against possible stings, a bee smoker to calm the bees at first, and honey extraction tools.
The bee smoker is a portable, metal pot where you light a little fire inside to create smoke.
Another piece of equipment you should invest in is a metal bar to separate the hive’s frames. This is so you can inspect the honey or brood.
You can also catch feral bees with swarm traps. These are also known as bait hives or bait boxes and tend to look like apiary hives.
Your goal should be for the bees to start building honeycomb in the bait box and then bring them safely home to begin your beekeeping journey.
Can a beehive be left alone?
It is possible to keep bees and leave them to their business (or bees knees...sorry). Think about it, bees have been living on this planet for millions of years and they didn’t need humans to evolve.
Therefore, they know exactly how to look after themselves.
There are examples of honeybees occupying absconded beehives for 10 years or more without any human intervention.
Such instances usually depend on the size of the hive they are living in. If one is not large enough, it can be difficult to sustain a colony population over a certain amount of time.
When a beehive is left completely alone, it remains sealed up. This sealant is actually torn apart every time we inspect a hive.
When left alone, the hive is altered to suit the bee’s purpose and facilitate the colony’s cycles. This can lead to a swell in populations as the bees give birth in swells and the colony renews its genetics to become more adapted than before.
So, you can keep a beehive and leave it alone. However, most hives left on their own will ultimately fall apart as the wood rots.
But if you place your beehive where it is protected from wind, standing water, and safe from predators, the hive and bees may have a better chance of surviving longer.