Beekeeping is a wonderful backyard hobby for a gardener or nature enthusiast! We keep bees in our orchard for pollination purposes, but they are fascinating creatures in their own right and nothing beats harvesting your very own honey in your very own kitchen come the end of August.
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I have wanted to have my own apiary (that’s what they call the place where you keep the hives) for a long time and have been able to keep bees for the last eight years or so.
There are a couple of downsides, though. Truth be told, bees are a lot more complicated than, say, chickens. Start with chickens and begin researching beekeeping. Another negative is the intial start up cost. The bees, hive and gear can easily cost you $500 to get going.
- Do as much research as you can on the subject. I checked out stacks of books from the library and watched lots of YouTube videos.
- Join a local Beekeepers club, if at all possible! The classes, resources and community are invaluable.
- Get a mentor, if you can, I found one through my local beekeepers club, but any friend that keeps bees and would be willing to assist you when you have questions would be perfect.
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- You will need to order bees, of course. I would start with what they call a “package”. You will receive a small screened box with 10,000 bees, a queen and a can of sugar syrup. Order this through a local beekeeping supplier or feed store. NOTE- I had to order my bees by January and they only delivered them once a year in early April!!
- For yourself you will need a suit with veil, preferably one piece with elastic cuffs for the arms and legs. Also, invest in goat skin beekeeping gloves, a hive tool (a must have!) and a smoker. I have seen these at feed stores or any of this can be purchased online.
- Finally, you will need a place to keep your bees, we actually bought a kit to save money and built our hives with our kids. But, there are a some beautiful, premade styles to choose from and you can paint them any color and add special details like copper roofs, etc. You will definitely need a bottom board, one “deep” (big box), frames/ foundations (I use ten per box) and a roof. These can be purchased as a kit, as well.
- When you get the call that your bees are in you will need to get there asap and get them in their hive. Try to pick them up in the back of a truck so you don’t have to deal with a stray bee in the car while you are driving.
- Spray down the frames with some sugar water so they feel welcome in their new home and puff some smoke on the bees with your smoker.
- Once you are suited up (I just wore my veil because the bees were so calm that day), you can pull the can of sugar water out of the package and pour out the bees into their hive. They are very docile this first day because they don’t have a home to protect at the moment and they will actually pour out almost like liquid.
- The queen will be in a tiny cage with a marshmallow or something similar plugging the hole that she will get out of. Put her tiny cage in between to central frames and pinch them tight. Over the next few days the bees will eat the marshmallow plug to get their queen out and they will begin making honey comb to fill with nectar over the next few months.
What to Expect
- As the hive grows, you will need to purchase more boxes for them and do monthly hive inspections.
- You probably won’t have enough honey to harvest your first year, but the following year you should have enough. Honey harvest day is super exciting and we always have a big celebration that night. Julie Blanner has the sweetest bee themed party ideas that would be perfect for this special day.
Let me know in the comments if you are interested in keeping bees and, of course, if you have any questions! And, as always, thanks for stopping by the farmhouse.