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Thinking About Beekeeping?

Hello fellow honey bee lovers, and welcome to our first blog post of 2024! We are so happy to have you so let dive right in!


If you've been thinking about bee keeping and what is required to begin your journey you are in the right place. Bee keeping is hard work, but with the right tools and knowledge you can start your journey in no time.


As a bee keeper there are many factors to consider outside of just having a colony of bees. You will need to consider your time time commitment, pocket book and willingness to learn. A lot of beginning bee keepers fail within their first year to common problems sometimes problems that are out of your control.



 



Beginner Beekeeper Checklist

Time

Education & research

State/ county laws and ordinances

Honey bee colony supplier

Beehive equipment

Beehive tools

Bee keepers suit

Local bee club information

Mentor services

Land

Honey bee books, journals, articles, social groups

Pest control

Food

Information about your area within 6 miles


Honey bees on capped brood frame
I like to call this a light medium baked brood frame


 

Beekeeping Essentials

The first items to consider when beginning your beekeeping journey is to educate yourself before you purchase any type of bees. If you are allergic to bee stings you'll want to consider either protecting yourself at all times or passing on the profession as a whole. You will incur a sting or two, it's just part of the job. You will want to look-up your state and county laws and ordinances on beekeeping, the last thing you want to do is purchase bees and find out that you may not be able to keep them on your property. If you live in a neighborhood you should reach out to your HOA if you have one. If you don't it's good to speak with your neighbors and let them know you plan to have bees.


If you are allergic to honey products that shouldn't deter you from your beekeeping journey there are plenty of bee keepers that don't use or sell honey bee byproducts, but love honey bees and provide a safe living environment for our valuable friends.


After you have educated yourself with the basics of beekeeping your next steps to think about are time, land, and living environment. Beekeeping can be very tedious throughout the year depending on the health of your colony so being able to address issues and maintenance as it presents itself is something you'll want to keep in mind. Neglecting your colony can affect a number of things and cause issues that can cost you time and money.


Thinking about your initial investment is also essential to your beekeeping journey, at the time we started our journey with one hive that quickly turned into two, we spent around $800 to $1000 dollars. Keep in mind your start-up cost may not be as much as ours, it all depends on what you can afford and what you can handle when starting out. After you have decided how much time you can commit to beekeeping think about your space.


You don't have to have a farm or even a single family home to keep bees but you do need to know your area and your limitations. Urban beekeeping, backyard beekeeping, and leased land beekeeping have become extremely popular in many states within the last two decades and has made it much easier for individuals to have hives in what may seem like unconventional spaces.


For those who may live in a big city rooftop beekeeping may be a great option to pursue. You'll need to make sure to speak with the building managers and work something out that doesn't affect other tenants. Most rural or suburban apartments and condos may not have this option available for a number of reasons so many people lease land from people they may know, local farms, individuals with acreage, and other beekeepers. This option may or may not come with a price tag so it's important to get a clear picture and plan on how you want to approach this option.




 

Finding a honey bee supplier should be next on your list. I would make sure to read reviews, follow on social media, and if you are able pick-up your bees from the supplier instead of having them shipped. Granted if you don't have this option that's ok, there is nothing wrong with getting your bee's shipped this can be very convenient for those who don't have the time to drive.


I prefer to always pick-up my bees from the supplier this way I can get to know that actual company I bought my colony from. Most times I have great conversations with employees and other beekeepers who may be picking up bees or equipment. I reside in Georgia so my preferred suppliers are Mountain Sweet Honey and Blue Ridge Honey Company. They are super friendly, I get a lot of information when I go up to Blue Ridge Honey Company and the supplies seem endless all at great prices. Both locations have an open window where you get to see all of the honeybee packages on their way to their new homes.





Beekeeping Equipment & Tools


I love new equipment, theres just something about new wood and fresh frames that makes me happy. Deciding on a standard hive means you'll need to choose either an 8 frame hive or a 10 frame hive. I have had experience with 5, 8 and 10 frame hives, check out the pros and cons of each below.


5 Frame beehive

A 5 frame frame hive is the same size hive that a newly purchased "nuc" comes in and is great for keeping small colonies and really honing in on becoming familiar with the inner workings of a colony without the overwhelming feeling of more bees than you can concentrate on as a new beekeeper or a seasoned beekeeper. I have been able to build up small splits into full colonies using a 5 frame and I really got to make sure my girls were doing well and on track to expanding.


The downside to keeping 5 frame nucs is the equipment is usually sold more so at actual bee supply companies than let's say amazon. Your honey product is much smaller in comparison to an 8 or 10 frame hive and the bees will usually outgrow the 5 frame unless you cap the population in a sense. Thinking about the winter months of smaller colonies is also something to keep in mind.


8 Frame beehive

8 frame are a great starting point for the new beekeeper and for those who don't like dealing with extremely large populations. Even just 2 extra frames can add around 5,000 more bees to your colony per brood box. Bees tend to fill an 8 frame hive quicker than 10 frames. Sometimes honey bees don't like the amount of space that comes with a 10 frame hive especially when starting a hive from a package of bees. 8 frame hive equipment also seems to be easier to find than 10 frame hive equipment even on amazon.


8 frame hives have a limit on honey product and may not yield as much as a 10 frame hive. My bees always seem to outgrow the 8 frame hives much quicker than 10 frame. I started with 10 frame hives and so when inspecting an 8 frame I get a little confused sometimes mixing and matching hives in an apiary should be done in such a way that you remember the size and temperament of each.


10 Frame Beehive

If you want to start big 10 frame hives are the way to go. My first hive exploded in growth very quickly when I started even though they were in a 10 frame, from that one colony I ended up with 3 beehives. Now that I am better able to manage population growth I do like have 10 frame hives because I know exactly when to add a deep (brood box) and if the colony would be better suited in a smaller hive. I can take more resources from my 10 frame hives than I can frome my 8 frames, which has been a life saver for a few of my colonies.


  1. frame hives have very large populations so sometimes inspections can be overwhelming especially when I am teaching classes. These hives are the heaviest of the three from the deeps to the honey supers and can make inspection a weight lifting exercise. Spending the time with the hive open and having to examine up to 20 frames or more can get exhausting especially in the heat. If there are honey supers on and you have to do an inspection remember to cover the supers so you don't put your colony at risk for robbing.


Tools

I have about 5 different beekeeping tools that I may use during an inspection. I don't use all of them at one time but I like to keep at least 5 because, I'm a person that will set something down and forget where I put it. Some hives may have a better tool to work with so having options is a plus. You always want to make sure you having a protective suit, smoker, beehive tools, mesh covering, frame holders, feeders, queen clip and marker. Extra frames, deeps and mediums are also essential equipment to have as a beekeeper as well. If you don't start with all of this equipment it will be something that you will acquire over time trust me. Hive beetle traps, varroa treatments, mite wash container and nuc boxes are essential equipment for hive pest management and possible transport of bees or a place to set frames during an inspection.


Nonetheless, having extra tools and equipment will be just as important as making sure your bees stay healthy and happy. So if your thinking about beekeeping grab a notepad and start creating your timeline and plan on how you plan to achieve this goal. Backyard beekeeping is becoming extremely popular and information and resources are available to you in most states here in the US. If you reside in Gwinnett County, Ga send us a message on how you can sign up for classes, training, workshops and mentorship. Until then stay tuned and subscribe to our email list for part 2 of "Thinking About Beekeeping?"


 


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