How To Get Into Beekeeping
Welcome to CompleteBeehives.com! With this website my aim is to share my love of bees and beekeeping, as well as help those interested in learning how to get into beekeeping. First I will discuss the history of beekeeping, followed by the many benefits of beekeeping.
Then I will break down exactly how to get into beekeeping, including beekeeping laws, beehive location, types of beehives, and all the supplies you will need. I think you will find that bees and beekeeping is a very interesting and rewarding hobby.
What is Beekeeping?
Beekeeping is the art and science of maintaining bee colonies. Beekeeping is also called apiculture, and a beekeeper is called an apiarist.
Beekeeping has been around for a very long time. There have been depictions of people collecting honey that date back as far as 10,000 years ago. Honey has even been found in the tombs of ancient Egyptian pharaohs.
Evidence of beekeeping has also been found in ancient Greece, Israel, and China. In the 18th century Euorpean philosophers began to study bee biology. Glass observation hives were built and this was the first time scientists were able to learn about how queen bees mate with drones.
At first honey was extracted from beehives in a very crude way. It left the comb and brood destroyed. But the 19th century saw the invention of the movable comb hive by Lorenzo Langstroth. His hives made it possible to harvest honey without harming the bees, comb, and brood. Langstroth’s hive is still used in beekeeping today.
An interest in the environment and sustainability has led to an increase in urban beekeeping, or backyard beekeeping. Traditionally, beehives have been kept on farms or other rural areas. But now people living in urban areas have found ways to enjoy beekeeping as well.
Whether it be on rooftops, or tucked away in a backyard, urban beekeeping has been embraced by gardeners, beekeeping hobbyists, and people who want to save the bees. An interesting fact about urban beekeeping is that urban bees tend to be healthier than their rural counterparts. That is attributed to less pesticides and more biodiversity in urban areas.
What are the Benefits of Beekeeping?
Now that you’ve learned about the long history of beekeeping, you may be wondering, what are the benefits of beekeeping? There must be a reason that beekeeping has been around for so long. There are 3 main benefits to beekeeping – honey, pollination, and to save the bees. Not only that, but bees are fascinating creatures. It is truly fun and interesting to raise bees.
Learn More About the Benefits of Beekeeping Here
There are many benefits of beekeeping for both humans and bees. For humans, we get to harvest delicious honey. Anyone who has tried fresh honey from a hive will tell you that it tastes so much better than store bought.
Not only does honey taste good, it’s also healthy. Honey is rich in antioxidants and contains some compounds that can lower blood pressure. Honey has also shown to have a positive effect on cholesterol, raising good cholesterol and lowering bad cholesterol.
In addition, honey is often used for burn treatment and wound care. Beeswax, propolis, and royal jelly have multiple uses and can be harvested from beehives too.
From home gardens to the produce industry of the US, bees are essential to pollination. Any gardener will tell you that bees are responsible for a bountiful garden. Pollination is the transfer of pollen from a flower’s anther to the stigma. This needs to happen for plants to produce fruits or vegetables. Bees do this naturally as they fly flower to flower, collecting pollen and nectar.
Save the Bees
You may have heard by now that bee populations are dwindling. Beekeepers have reported massive losses to their colonies since last winter. Parasites, disease, and pesticides all play a role in the bees sudden decline.
Some apiarist enjoy beekeeping because they want to help restore the bee population and the ecosystem. Beekeeping gives bees a safe place to live and raise brood.
Beekeeping can also be profitable. Of course commercial beekeepers can make money selling large amounts of honey, but even hobby beekeepers can make a profit from their hives. In addition to selling honey, beeswax or products made from beeswax can be sold.
How much money you can make really depends on how many productive hives you have. Of course, more hives = more honey. But what is the beekeeping profit per hive?
To determine the beekeeping profit per hive you must first look at how much honey 1 hive can yield. A strong hive with no problems can produce 100 lbs of harvestable honey. (Remember, you must leave some honey for the bees to eat during winter.)
However, outside factors such as weather, temperature, and disease can affect that amount. Taken that into account, lets say your hive yields 60 lbs of harvestable honey. Local, quality honey can easily sell for $10 a lb, so that would be $600 profit per hive.
Of course, this doesn’t take into account the cost of jars and labels you’d need, and perhaps any kind of advertising you may do. There are a lot of factors that play into determining the beekeeping profit per hive, so it is hard to come up with a definitive number.
Beeswax and beeswax products can also be sold for profit. Soap, candles, and lip balm are frequently made from beeswax. Right now on Amazon a pound of beeswax sells for about $14.
Another way beekeepers make money is by renting their bees or hives to farmers. Farmers rely on pollination for their crops and will often pay for bees to pollinate their fields. While the cost to rent bees varies greatly depending on the season and area, most farmers pay $50 – $180 per colony for commercial pollination.
How to Get Into Beekeeping
If you are wondering how to get into beekeeping, there are a few things you must do to get started. First, look up your local beekeeping laws. Those laws will determine how many hives you can have and where you can place them.
Then, you must find a suitable area for your beehive. Next, you can decide what type of beehive you would like, Once you have that decided you can look into beehive starter kits.
When starting out in beekeeping it is important to check your local beekeeping laws first. These rules will give you important guidelines you must take into account when setting up your beehives.
Each state has its own laws and ordinances in regards to beekeeping. These ordinances typically state how many beehives you can have on your property and how far away from public walkways they must be. Some states require you to register your beehives as well. Most beekeeping ordinances can be found online.
Click Here to See Beekeeping Laws by State
Next you need to find a good location for your beehives. The best location for beehives must be safe, accessible, on level ground, and get appropriate amounts of sun and shade. In addition, your bees will need an accessible source of water nearby.
If you have multiple hives, you may want to place them 2 feet apart. This helps bees to navigate to their own hive, preventing drifting.
Learn More About Choosing the Best Location for Beehives Here
Types of Beehives
There are 3 types of beehives used in modern beekeeping today. The most common type of beehive is the Langstroth. It consists of a number of boxes stacked upon each other. The Warre hive works similarly and is meant to mimic a bee nest in nature. The Top Bar hive is different than the Langstroth and Warre in that it is one story and you cannot add more boxes to it.
Beehives can either be bought online, or if you are handy they can be made.
A Langstroth hive is basically a series of boxes stacked upon each other. The boxes come in 3 different sizes – shallow, medium, and deep. Each box has either 8 or 10 removable frames. A good thing about langstroth hives is that they are customizable. You can add boxes to the top of your hive as your colony grows.
The Langstroth hive is the most commonly used beehive today. Most beehive starter kits will feature this type of hive.
Warre hives are ideal for beekeepers who prefer a natural method of apiculture. The Warre hive looks like the Langstroth, but it is smaller. It consists of stacked boxes and new boxes can be added to the bottom of the hive.
The difference between Langstroth and Warre hives is that Warre hives do not use frames. Instead, they use bars for the bees to build comb upon.
Top bar hives look completely different than Langstroth and Warre hives. Top bar hives are single story, consisting of one horizontal box. Wooden bars lay across the top of the hive where bees can build comb. No additional boxes can be added to a top bar hive.
This hive offers a simple, noninvasive method of beekeeping.
More on Types of Beehives Here
If you have carpentry skills you can also build your own beehive. See resources below.
How to Build a Langstroth Beehive
How to Build a Beehive From Scratch
Where to Buy Beehives
Beehives can either be bought online or in person. Unfortunately, there aren’t many places to buy beehives in person. Stores don’t usually carry them, so if you’d like to buy one in person you need to find another beekeeper to sell one to you.
There is a risk to buying used beekeeping equipment. Used hives can possible contain diseases that would be deadly to your colony. It is highly recommended that new beekeepers start with brand new equipment.
Therefore, the best place to buy beehives is online. Many beehive manufacturers sell beehives through Amazon. Another recommended website to buy beehives from is Galena Farms.
Learn more about where to buy beehives here
Beehive Starter Kits
After choosing what type of beehive works best for you, you can look at beehive starter kits for sale. Beehive starter kits are great for new beekeepers because they contain the beehive and several necessary supplies such as gloves, hive tool, and a smoker.
Most beehive starter kits for sale are a good value because it is cheaper to buy everything in a bundle instead of buying everything separately. It’s also faster to get started if you buy a starter kit.
How Much Do Beehives Cost?
The next question aspiring apiarists have is how much do beehives cost? The cost of beehives varies based on size and materials. You can get a Langstroth complete beehive (1 box) for around $100. Additional boxes (including frames) are usually $60.
If budget is not an issue, fancier beehives like the Flow Hive can run several hundred dollars. The cost of Warre hives depends on the size, with smaller ones running around $140, and larger ones (containing several boxes) costing $200 and up. If looking for a Top Bar hive you can expect the cost to be around $400.
The next step in getting into beekeeping is to get some bees. There are 3 ways to get bees. You can buy a package, buy a nucleus colony, or catch a swarm.
Where to get bees
Packages of bees can be bought from bee breeders and shipped to you through the mail. 1 package of bees typically contains about 10,000 bees and 1 queen. You should get 1 package of bees per hive.
A better option is to buy a nucleus colony. Nucs, as they are called, include an established bee colony and 3-5 frames. This is important because the frames already contain comb, brood, and a laying queen.
Lastly, you can get bees by catching a swarm. This takes some practice, so it is not recommended for new beekeepers. If you are looking to get into beekeeping it is best to buy a nucleus colony (if possible) or buy a package of bees.
See Nucs vs Packages Bees Here
See General Bee Information Here
Another type of bees that can be raised is the solitary bee. Solitary bees, such as mason bees and leafcutter bees, do not make honey, but are excellent pollinators. These bees are a great addition for a fruit or vegetable garden. Solitary bee cocoons can be bought at Crown Bees.
Learn More About Mason Bees Here
In addition to the beehive you will need some beekeeping supplies to get started. If you buy a beehive starter kit many of these supplies are included.
Beginning Beekeeping Supplies
- Bee Veil – protects your face and neck
- Gloves – protects your hands and arms
- Smoker – used to calm bees
- Hive tool – separates frames
- Uncapping tool – removes beeswax to harvest honey
- Bee Brush – gently removes bees from frame
More Information on Beginning Beekeeping Supplies Here
A Bee suit is the protective clothing that beekeepers wear. It is made of thick cotton canvas to protect the wearer from bee stings. There are also ventilated bee suit made out of mesh.
You can either get a full bee suit that covers your entire body, or a bee jacket, which only covers your upper body. Many bee suits also come with a veil.
When starting out in beekeeping it is recommended that you have at least a bee jacket, veil, and gloves.
Learn More About Bee Suits Here
Frames are inserted into the boxes for the bees to build comb on. Your hive will hold either 8 or 10 frames per box. If you buy a complete beehive kit the frames will be included, most likely with foundation already installed.
Beehive foundation is put on frames to guide the bees on where to draw comb. Foundation is made out of either wax or plastic. Beehive frames can last for a long time and are easily switched out when it is time to be replaced.
Click Here for More on Beehive Frames
Click Here to Learn About Foundation
A hive stand is a stand made to elevate the beehive off the ground. It is important to elevate your beehive because you do not want it to be in constant contact with ground moisture. By keeping the hive off the ground, a beehive stand reduces the risk of wood rot and mold in the hive.
A beehive stand also makes tending to the hives much more comfortable for the beekeeper. Without it, the beekeeper would be bending over a lot, so having a hive stand is definitely easier on the back.
Beehive stands are made of wood, plastic, or metal. You can find beehive stands for sale online, or you can make your own. There are plans and tutorials for those who would rather construct their own hive stands.
Many hive stands include a frame holder. A frame holder consists of two metal bars that can hold frames. It is very convenient to have when doing hive inspections.
When buying a hive stand, look for one that is sturdy and durable. It is also important to take note of the beehive stand height. You want it to be high enough off the ground to deter pests, but not so high that you cannot remove supers. A beehive stand height of 12 – 18 inches should be sufficient.
Bee feeders are devices made or bought to feed bees sugar syrup. Most times bees can feed themselves by gathering pollen and nectar. But there are times when you will need to feed your bees, especially when you get a new package of bees.
There are 3 different types of bee feeders – an entrance feeder, the hive top feeder, and the frame feeder. An entrance feeder is an inverted jar on a platform that is placed at the entrance of the beehive. A hive top feeder sits on top of the beehive in an empty box for protection. The frame feeder is placed inside of a box, replacing one of the frames.
Each feeder has it’s own pros and cons. An extensive look at bee feeders can be found here.
Honey extractors use centrifugal force to pull the honey out of the cells. You can choose from either a manual or electric honey extractor. If you choose a manual honey extractor find one with a comfortable handle, as you will be cranking it quite a bit. Honey extractors are made of either plastic or stainless steel.
Flowers for Bees
Bees will fly as far as 2 miles away to find flowers, but it would be nice if you planted some nearby for them too. The following flowers are favorites of bees:
- Bee Balm
For more information on how to get into beekeeping I’d recommend checking out some books.
The Beekeeper’s Bible is a classic that covers everything you need to know about beekeeping. It is chock full of information including the history of beekeeping, apiculture techniques, and even recipes.
Beekeeping For Dummies is the ultimate how to book for beginner beekeepers. It is very easy to read and does a great job and explaining everything as simple as possible.
The Backyard Beekeeper is another really informative beekeeping book. It’s contains a lot of full color pictures, and helpful tips.
I hope this article has provided you with a lot of information on how to get into beekeeping. Getting started in something new can be daunting at first, but luckily there is a lot of resources out there for prospective beekeepers.
Check out the blog on this site for more useful beekeeping material.