You probably have been thinking about becoming a beekeeper for a long time and you are ready to finally take the plunge. Like me, you may have received beekeeping equipment from your family as a Christmas gift as encouragement for pursuing your dream. So you say, “alright, I’m doing it in 2018!” But, where do you start? It’s very easy to become overwhelmed and somewhat paralyzed with the loads of information out there. So I'll provide some simple tips and information that helped me to get started and become a beekeeper.
First of all, you want the right location for your hive. There are specific things you want to consider when deciding on a home base. I will go into detail on that in next month’s blog. For now, let's say you have some land/yard/rooftop you know will work. That space is the base but you have to get the pieces ready to place there. Winter is a great time to start buying your hive equipment, ordering your bees and getting your personal protective equipment ready (ppe).
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
As far as protection, you will need a full body suit or a jacket with veil, gloves and foot protection. I use a full body cotton suit that works great but is a bit hot in the TX summers. I always tried to keep my hive checks within 30 min time frames so I wasn’t suffering for too long. There are ventilated suits that are more breathable, but they are also more expensive. You can decide what works for you based on personal preference and budget. Some people just use a jacket with attached head veil to protect their upper body. However, I feel more secure completely covered. I use thick leather gloves with ventilated areas mid arm and they work well. I never had a sting come through the glove, but I did have one go through my suit on my thigh...and it hurt really bad. I typically wore long sleeves and pants under my suit and pulled the suit over my heavy rubber rain boots. Rubber boots protected my feet and ankles from stings and other pests I might walk through in the field like ants, snakes, or prickly plants like Texas Bullnettle or thistles.
Next, you want to buy your hive body, smoker and hive tool. These things can be found bundled in a package or they can be bought separately. There are several large beekeeping supply stores found online and through catalogs. Don’t forget to also shop the smaller local businesses as well. As a beginner, I suggest buying your things assembled and as a kit. Unless you are very good at precise measurements and building. Hive bodies and frames have very specific dimensions so that when put together you have the correct beespace. The most common types of hives are the Langstroth, Warre and top-bar hives. Each is different with their own pros and cons.
I started with a 10 frame Langstroth hive as it was the most common and all the specifications are standard. You can purchase all the components from different companies and they are all compatible between Langstroth hives. This is a real benefit as your hive grows because you are also able to use frames and supers for new hives or splits.
Top-bar hives have a few styles to choose from. From my research, sizes and specifications are not standardized, so not all hive bodies are the same. You don’t need as many extra supplies or tools with top-bar hives as with the Langstroth and the care and maintenance is very different. Warre hives look like Langstroth hives but I believe the care and maintenance more closely resembles the top-bar hive. I’ve included some general links for each hive to give you more details..
Meeting the girls!
Now that you have decided on a style of hive and ppe’s, all that's left is the bees! If you belong to a bee club you might have already had a chance to order bees. This is a great way to get bees because they get delivered to one location and you get a specific date for pick-up. This gives you a target date to get all of your other tasks ready for the spring. One option is to buy a nucleus (nuc) bee colony. A nuc consists of four to five frames of brood and bees, plus an actively laying queen. When you receive your nuc all you do is transfer the frames from the nuc box into your own hive. These frames typically fit into a Langstroth deep body.
Another option is to order a package of bees. A three-pound package of bees contains about 10,000 bees and a single queen. The bees are shipped in a small wooden box with two screened sides and includes a small, screened cage for the queen and a can of sugar syrup to feed the bees during their transport. A package of bees can be placed in any hive style.
There are many resources online for buying nucs and packages. Most are delivered USPS throughout the country. Buying through your local club gives you the opportunity for more education and support throughout the entire process.
As a final thought, I’ll include books, magazines and blogs. Always read about the styles of beekeeping that you are interested in and different techniques you want to try. If you are eager to become a beekeeper, chances are you have already read a lot about honey bees. Don’t stop! Keep reading and keep asking questions. It’s never too late to start on this rewarding journey.
Full Body Zippered Suit with Veil - This suit is cotton and worked well, although it is a bit hot in the summer. I'd recommend a size up to give ample room for squatting and bending.
JACKET WITH VEIL
Half Bee Suit with Veil - This jacket was nice to have whenever I was showing my hive to friends or getting a second set of hands for heavy lifting. The problem with this option is that bees can fly up your pants and get into your shoes! We found that the solution was using painters tape to tighten the pant leg to a tall boot....and wearing heavy pants.
Gloves - There are two styles shown here, vented and non vented. In the texas heat the vents proved to be a nice option.
BASIC TOOL SET
Basic hive tool set - I used all these items at every hive check Smoker, Burlap, Hive Brush, 2 Types of hive tools