Like any new hobby, new beekeepers have a lot to learn. They can learn a lot through reading and watching videos, but the best learning experience is hands on. All new, and even experienced beekeepers will make a mistake time to time, it is inevitable. Below I have compiled a list of common mistakes new beekeepers make, in an effort to help you avoid them.
1. Inadequate Equipment
It’s pretty common for new beekeepers to start out with a lack of equipment. This may be due to trying to save money, or because they simply underestimate how much they need.
While beekeeping starter kits do come with many necessities new beekeepers need, they shouldn’t stop there. Healthy colonies can expand rather quickly, so it’s best to have your equipment beforehand. It’s best to have extra frames and hive bodies available at all times.
Once your hives are 70% full, you should add another box to them. If you don’t do this in a timely manner, the bees will begin to build excess comb in unwanted places.
Most people do not have a store that sells beekeeping equipment nearby. That’s why many people must order their supplies online. With shipping and handling times, it could take a week for your items to arrive. By planning ahead, you will have everything you need ready in advance.
Another item new beekeepers do not buy enough of are beekeeping suits. Starter kits come with 1 suit, but if other people in your family want to get involved, you need another one. You should plan to have 1 suit for each person that will work the hives.
2. Choosing the Wrong Location
Before you even start beekeeping, you need to decide on the best location for your beehives. Some people do not think it through enough and choose a location that is inadequate, or difficult to get to.
You want your beehives to be on level ground and accessible with ample space to work around. Allow for 2-3 feet of open space around each hive.
Another thing new beekeepers may not take into account is where their hive entrance is facing. Be aware that the hive entrance will have lots of bee activity. Therefore, you should avoid facing your hive directly towards areas with a lot of foot traffic.
3. Not Using a Smoker
For new beekeepers, using a smoker can seem intimidating or troublesome, but it is something that should not be avoided. The truth is, the use of a smoker is the best way to prevent bees from attacking you.
Smokers work by tricking bees into thinking that there is a fire nearby. Instinctively, they will begin to gorge on honey, to prepare for evacuation. This effectively distracts the bees from what you are doing in their hive. Another thing the smoke does is it blocks signals that the bees send to each other. That way, they are not able to organize a defense against you.
If you do not use a smoker, it is very likely that the bees will react defensively and begin to sting you. This may not bother you because you’ll be wearing a bee suit, but remember, when a bee stings you it will die. In the end, you will end up unnecessarily killing a lot of your bees.
Not only that, the colony will become quite agitated. This could potentially endanger neighbors or people nearby. Therefore, I definitely recommend learning how to use a smoker and having it on hand every time you work your hives.
4. Not Recognizing Your Hive is Queenless
This is a mistake many new beekeepers make, as a queenless hive isn’t something that is very obvious at first. The colony’s population and traffic at the hive’s entrance will seem the same. Inside, you’ll still see lots of bees and honey.
But, if there is no queen to lay eggs, the population will begin to decline. If this is not caught in a timely manner, there will be no eggs or brood remaining in your colony. In the end, a colony cannot survive without a queen.
That is why hive inspections are important. During the hive inspection you must be able to recognize eggs. If eggs are present in the hive, you can be sure that you had a laying queen at least 3 days ago. All beekeepers should check for eggs at every single hive inspection.
5. Taking Too Much Honey
First time beekeepers may be eager to harvest honey for the first time, but in reality, it is recommended that you do not take honey at all the first year. The reason is because new colonies are rarely able to produce excess honey.
Bees need quite a bit of honey during the winter. In warmer climates, 40-50 lbs should be enough, but colder areas could need 100 lbs. When beekeepers harvest too much honey, the bees will starve by the time spring arrives.
Remember, the entire reason bees make and store honey is so they can survive through the winter. New colonies are usually not strong enough to make enough honey and need every bit they make. Leaving all the honey for the colony for the first year gives them the best chance of survival.
If you make a mistake as a new beekeeper, do not get discouraged. Everything is a learning experience. Here I’ve listed the top 5 mistake new beekeepers make, so hopefully you won’t make these same mistakes as well.