In preparation for the honey harvest, I thought I would go over some tips for first time beekeepers. Some of these I have learned the hard way.
When making the decision to become a hobby beekeeper it is important to make sure you have researched and truly want to care for those mighty creatures. There are a LOT of rookie mistakes that can be avoided quite easily. Here are some of them;
- Don’t focus so much on how wonderful the honey harvest will be and forget that the bees need the honey to get through the winter. That is why they produce it. Either leave them some or feed them sugar water while it is still warm out and they are able to cap it.
2. Don’t forget to give them space! After you put them in the hive, you will need to feed them for about 2 weeks, after which you will need to put on medium supers with a queen excluder in between the brood box and the supers. If the bees feel that they don’t have enough room they will SWARM. Also don’t forget stop feeding them when you put the honey supers on or else you’ll just get sugar water “honey.”
3. On the other hand, RESPECT BEE SPACE! This simply means that bees don’t like empty space in the hive. If you take out the middle five frames when you install the package in your hive, and you don’t replace them, the bees will fill that empty space with comb. They do this to make it easier to regulate the temperature inside the hive. Make sure all your frames are tight together and only leave room enough for the bees to crawl around inside or you will find lots of burr comb, or comb that has been made just to fill space.
4. TREAT FOR MITES. Yes they are areal thing, yes they will be the demise of your hive, and yes they are evil. Don’t think what I thought my first year of beekeeping; “I live in a blessed place, my whole life is great! My bees won’t get mites! I will just love them and they will be fine!” NO. They won’t. Just treat them okay?
5. Be sure that you can be calm when faced with a lot of bees flying around. Make certain that you can keep your cool and NOT SWAT. It’s so very important not to swat. It only makes the situation worse. Just breathe, make every movement slow and steady, don’t jerk or run. It’s okay. I would recommend that you use the proper safety equipment but I don’t and that’s something I need to work on. If you go in the hive at the right time of day and in the right conditions, you’ll find that you don’t really need that all anyway.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it’s a start! If you have a real interest in beekeeping reach out to your county extension office and see if they have any classes or programs for beekeeping beginners. Find a local beekeeper (they are usually very kind, considering the fact that you have to be that way when working with bees) and learn everything you can from him or her. Don’t be too prideful to ask for advice or help.
And don’t forget… BEE HAPPY, HONEY!