Beekeeping 101 – everything you need to know about beekeeping for beginners
Let’s be honest, no-one can know everything about keeping bees, especially since every hive is so unique. But we can certainly give you some basic information on everything you need to know about beekeeping – for beginners – to help you decide whether a beehive is something you are willing to invest both your time and knowledge in or a romanticized idea that you had last time you sampled some good-quality honey.
To get you started, we’ve compiled answers to 5 of our most commonly asked questions by soon-to-be beekeepers. If you get to the end of this and you can virtually taste honey in your mouth, visit our page about buying a beehive so you can get your hive and get started straight away. If not, then at the very least, you’ll have a new appreciation of what goes into providing the honey you eat.
Beginner Beekeeping questions:
Ok, here goes. We’ll start with my favorite newbie question of all time…
Do I need to know much about honeybees to get started?
Good question. Well, let me ask you this, do you need to know much about a cow to milk it? If your answer is no, you should stop reading right now and buy someone else’s honey…oh, and also, you should never milk a cow.
While you don’t have to be an expert, you do need to know the basics to keep your beehive buzzing along, just like you should probably know which part of the cow to milk if you’re going to keep a cow (you’re right, that could make for an embarrassing moment for an unsuspecting bull!).
Below is some basic, beginner information about bees that you absolutely must know before you begin your bee colony (for more information, see our article ‘Introduction to Beekeeping‘):
- Honey collected from a hive is excess food collected by the bees
- You can collect both honey and wax from a hive
- A beehive contains a fully functioning society called a colony
- Every hive must have a queen because the queen lays the fertilized eggs
- Worker bees are females but don’t lay eggs unless there is no queen (refer to previous point)
- Worker bees born in the summer live for between 4 and 6 weeks; winter-born worker bees live for between 4 and 6 months
- Male bees are called drones and leave the hive to mate with other queens, then they die.
Will I get stung by the bees?
Um…yes, you’re keeping bees. Honeybees are generally easy-going creatures; stinging is their final line of defence…and I mean that in a literal sense because, unlike wasps, once a bee stings, it dies. You’ll also be wearing protective clothing but every once in a while, a bee gets stuck in your protective suit, gets very stressed out and attacks. If you’re allergic to bees, managing a beehive might not be a strategic career move.
Will any species of bees thrive in my area?
One of the most important things to know about beekeeping is that bees are very much influenced by the environment. Your location will affect the bees in many ways eg the kinds of vegetation in your local area, the length of the day in warmer months, how cold the temperatures are in the winter.
Be sure to do some local research into what the general requirements for bees are, specific to your area. Your local association can help with that.
When is the best time to start?
Generally speaking, spring is the best season to start your colony, as plants are beginning to flower, providing your bees with opportunities to collect pollen and nectar. However, your local climate will significantly impact the behaviour of your bees. When you do the research into local beehives (winter and autumn are good seasons to make preparations for the spring), make sure you ask plenty of questions about how your local climate affects bee-havior (see what I did there!).
Where do I find help to get started or to answer the difficult questions?
Beekeeping is growing in popularity and beekeeping clubs and societies are popping up all over. You’ll find they are a treasure trove of knowledge and experience. Most associations have members whose families have been beekeeping for generations and what little they don’t know about beekeeping is probably not worth knowing.
Novice beekeepers would do well to find a mentor in their local area who can work with them through the start up. You’ll find that bee people like nothing more than to talk about bees, so keep your notebook handy!
Every beehive is as unique as its beekeeper. Equip yourself with some knowledge, find a local mentor, plan the process well and you’ll reap the rewards.
As a beginner, this is not everything you need to know about beekeeping but it’s a great start! Good luck!
I’ve never seen a well-managed beehive owned by a regretful beekeeper.