There are right around 120,000 beekeepers in the United States.
Beekeeping can be a great hobby, but you have to have the essentials tools to do it correctly. Otherwise, you won’t be able to successfully raise bees.
The market for honey is especially strong for local beekeepers or beekeepers that produce specialty honey. This hobby can be enjoyable, but also lucrative if done well!
If you have always wanted to become a beekeeper and don’t know how to get started, keep reading to learn what you need to know.
What Is Beekeeping?
Beekeeping is the act of maintaining bee colonies that are typically in man-made hives.
Beekeepers, also called honey farmers or apiarists, can keep honey bees in boxes, beehives, or other containers. When it comes down to it, these individuals are in the role of scientists, working to keep the bees happy and healthy.
The average honey bee colony will have about 50,000 bees. In the colony, there will be a queen, worker bees, and drones. If you want to become a beekeeper, you need to know about how a bee colony functions and how bees thrive.
What Equipment Is Needed for Beekeeping?
There are basic supplies that every beekeeper will need, but you also may want to get some optional items to make the job a little bit easier.
You will need woodenware, which is what makes up the bee container. It has a bottom, body, and removable top cover. You may want to start out with two hives at first to see what is and isn’t working in case something doesn’t go the way you had planned.
Something else you’ll need is a smoker. This is what beekeepers use to calm the bees and distract them while you are working on their hive. In addition to this, a hive tool, which is basically a long scraper, will help you access the hive easily.
Don’t forget to buy some protective gear as well. You don’t have to buy a full-body bee suit if you don’t want to, but you will want to get a veil that covers your head and gloves. Getting stung can be dangerous for new beekeepers especially because you may accidentally get distracted and drop a frame of the hive.
You may also want to consider getting frame grips. These are commonly used by novice beekeepers to make handling the frames easier.
How Do You Get Your Bees?
Once you have all of your gear ready to go, you still need to get bees to fill your hive with. Remember that it is best to try and get enough bees for two colonies if possible.
You are able to buy a package colony or a nucleus colony to start out.
The package colony has loose bees and a queen bee that stays separated. The nucleus colony will have an active queen and five frames ready to go, so they are already slightly ahead developmentally.
Another option is to attract wild bees. To do this, you would need to use a bait hive and set up a new colony as the bees arrive. Although this may sound intriguing, it can be very difficult and is not recommended as a starting point for any novice beekeeper.
Where Do You Put Your New Bees?
It’s a good idea to place your hives with the opening facing south or east. The bees will get more of the morning sun and then shade in the afternoon.
If this is not practical for you, be sure that the bees are in the best location you have outside for sunlight. Try to find the best spot for good drainage, protection from predators, and less direct wind.
You don’t want to place your bees anywhere that is busy, such as near a playground or an outdoor swimming pool. Keep them away from public areas as well to avoid theft.
Be sure to place your hives somewhere that is convenient for you to access. You will need to spend time with them to make sure they are healthy, disease-free, and prosperous.
Consider the Commitment Before Starting
Depending on where you are, you may expect to spend anywhere between $500 and $1,000 for a two colony set up in your first year. This will include your bees and all of the needed equipment.
Remember that a lot of this gear will last for several years to come, so you’re paying more upfront than you will later on.
If you aren’t putting in the time and effort to keep your bees happy, you won’t get a lot out of being a beekeeper. You will need to make sure that you have about a half-hour to an hour every week available to manage your bee colonies.
In the spring months, you will need to spend a bit more time with them as they are going to start growing after winter.
You may need to commit extra time in the beginning to become a more successful beekeeper. Don’t be surprised if your first or second bee colony doesn’t survive. Although it’s a harsh truth, beekeeping takes practice and you’ll learn from your mistakes as you go.
Are You Ready to Get the Supplies You Need?
With this basic knowledge, you’re ready to start beekeeping! Check out our Learning Center to find even more great tips.
Before you purchase your bees, be sure to select all of the equipment you’ll need and find the perfect location for your colonies. Preparation and timing are important for your bee colonies to thrive.
At Dadant & Sons, we have everything you need from hive kits to honey-selling supplies. Load up on the gear you still need and begin your beekeeping journey today.