HOW TO SUCCEED IN BEEKEEPING

postimgThinking about starting your own backyard beehive? 80% of new beekeepers quit after the first two years. So, why do so many call it quits and what does it take to succeed? Read this article to find out how to avoid becoming part of the statistic! 

In my opinion, the main reason new beekeepers quit is because they don’t seek out the resources they need to succeed. Many beginners have the misconception that beekeeping will be easy because it doesn’t require a huge time investment. While it is true that maintaining a couple of backyard beehives takes only about an hour a month, new beekeepers should expect to spend many more hours learning about what they should actually be doing in the single hour.

So, what resources should a new beekeeper look for?

Books are an excellent place to start. Don’t rely on a single book though, make sure you pick up a couple so that you can get an understanding of different methods. There’s never just one way to do something in beekeeping. When choosing a book, consider where the author lives. The success or failure of beekeeping practices could vary based on regional conditions such as weather, temperature range and local pests. You may also want to find out what style of beekeeping the author prefers. Are they using the same hive as you? Are they practicing natural beekeeping or conventional? Are they teaching hobbyist beekeeping or commercial beekeeping? My favorites: The Practical Beekeeper by Michael Bush & Top Bar Beekeeping by Les Crowder.

Local groups & mentors are the single best resource for a new beekeeper. A mentor will not only give you support and confidence, they will teach you things specific to your region that you probably cannot find in a book. I do, however, recommend that you read a book before you attend a group meeting or approach someone about mentoring you. In a group meeting, you will have a much better understanding of what people are talking about if you have done a little research first. If you are approaching a potential mentor, having a basic understanding of beekeeping will show that you are serious about learning and that will make you a much more attractive pupil. I can’t say how many times I have been approached by a new beekeeper in need of help and they couldn’t even articulate what their question or problem was because they hadn’t done any research! If you are in the San Diego, California area, get in touch with me, as I offer private mentoring and group beekeeping classes. Contact me at 619-921-8189 or girlnextdoorhoney@gmail.com.

Documentaries, YouTube and other video format teaching platforms are an excellent way to get information. Want to know how to catch a swarm? Watch a YouTube video. Some things you just have to see to understand. My favorites: Documentary: “Tales From The Hive”, a Nova special, YouTube user: OutofaBlueSky.

Blogs, social media accounts, podcasts & forums are great interactive learning tools for beginners. You can often ask questions and get answers from several different beekeepers. Following a beekeeping themed social media account or blog is also a good way to infuse a daily or weekly dose of beekeeping knowledge into your life. It makes the steep learning curve a little less painful. You may also want to search hashtags on Instagram to help you find helpful accounts. Some of my most used hashtags include: #queenspotting, #beekeepingtips, #backyardbeekeeping, #naturalbeekeeping and #beek. My favorites: Blog: Honey Bee Suite, Social Media: Check out my Instagram feed & Facebook page some of my favorite accounts Instgram: @green_bee-honey, Facebook: Historical Honeybee Articles – Beekeeping History, Podcast: “Bees and Such”  by Jennings Apiaries, Forum: www.Beesource.com.

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24 Comments

Sasha | Do You Even Tourist?

Thanks for all your tips! I’ve been following you on Insta and just love your blog! So cute, good work! My boyfriend and I can’t wait to keep bees when we are finished traveling! Will visit in SD one day! Keep up the good work…bzzz 🐝

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Barry West

I’m just starting out. I built 3 long hives, and have 2 Langstroth hives. I was able to capture a swarm in late August, and believe they are Africanized bees. I live in south Texas right on the Mexican border. These are in my long hive, (a revised top bar hive with foundationless frames). I have ordered 2 sets of package bees to be delivered the first week of April to be put in the Langstroth hives. Do you think I’ll have any trouble having both types of bees in the same area? Also, I set up the Langstroth hives just so they would get a bit weathered before the new bees arrive. Three weeks ago, I found about 15 bees just hanging around the inside of the hive. I took them out and placed them in one of my other unoccupied long hives, this was two days after Christmas. I put an entrance feeder in the hive and left things alone until this past week. I now have at least 300 bees, eggs, larva, and the beginning of 5 foundationless frames with comb. I can’t figure out how this happened other than the 15 bees I caught were scouts and liked the new home and brought the small swarm with them. Only problem, still don’t know if these are Africanized or not. What is your opinion on this?

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Hilary

Hi Barry, you won’t have any problems with keeping Africanized bees next to European bees. I think your guess about the scout bees is probably right. As far as figuring out if they are Africanized or not, it is hard to say without seeing them myself. I guess I should write a post on how to tell when you have Africanized bees! All the feral bees in Africanized zones have some % of Africanized genes. Personally, I don’t think this is a bad thing because they are strong and healthy bees. However, their defensiveness makes them difficult and sometimes dangerous to manage. How do they act when you approach them? When you open them? How far do they follow you after you inspect them and close them up?

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Barry West

I haven’t had any trouble with these bees. I just did another inspection yesterday and they just went upon their business as if nothing was going on. Five minutes after closing the hive, things went back to normal. Now with the ones I caught last August, that’s a different story. Very aggressive, and would follow me all the way to the shop where I keep all the equipment. I felt they were too dangerous to keep In the neighborhood, so I went to the fire station where I used to work before retiring, got a CO2 extinguisher and froze them. I then sucked them into a shop vac with about 1/2 gal. of water and killed them off. This new group so far is very docile and I believe they are normal bees. Of course, the hive is just getting started, and time will tell. I’ll keep you posted on their progress.

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Hilary

Hi Barry,

When bees start to get aggressive like that, you can requeen them. Then you don’t have to kill the entire colony. Just the queen. Also, you can often find other beekeepers who are willing to take aggressive bees off your hands. It’s not always necessary to put down the whole colony.

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Barry West

Thanks for the info. about requeening the colony. I learn something new every day. My problem right now is I’m the only person within 150 miles keeping bees right now. One of the major keepers passed away last year and the family just destroyed everything to sell the property before I could make an offer on the hives. The other person had given up because of the drought we’ve had for the past few years and just couldn’t afford to keep sugar water going on a constant basis. So, I’m he only one doing it now in this area, so I’m learning as I go. Thanks to youtube, books, and especially YOU, I think I’ll be OK. If I run into real trouble, I’ll holler HELP. Right now, I’m just waiting for the first week of April for my package bees. Thanks again.

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Hilary

What a bummer! Good on you for giving it your best, even with the lack of local support.

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Barry West

Sorry to bother you again, but I forgot to ask you, I see where most people keep a hive record on each hive. What would you suggest the categories for this should be?

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Hilary

Hi Barry, yes, keeping records like that are a good idea. Categories I would suggest: Eggs? Y or N, Healthy brood pattern? Excellent or Average or Spotty, Queen sighted Y or N, # of brood frames, # of honey frames, # of supers, Pollen being brought in by foragers? Y or N. Also just a general note box for anything else you might notice.

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Barry West

Thanks. I also want to add date hive started and dates of inspections. Whether swarm caught or packaged hive. What do you think?

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Hilary

Yes, those are good additions. You may also want to add how aggressive or not aggressive the bees were, the time of day and the weather.

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Barry West

Hi Hilary. Just wanted to let you know I’ve changed my email address. You can get me at
liquidgoldbeefarm@gmail.com from now on. By the way, there is a business here in town that has a hive in an old storage shed and I’ll probably go get it this weekend and start another hive. I figure this might be the best time to do it because the hive won’t be too active this time of year especially with the drones run out.

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Hilary

Hi Barry,

Did you enter your new address in the subscription box? That way you will be notified when I make a new post. 🙂

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Barry West

Hi Hilary. Yesterday I was called out to retrieve some bees in a shed. I used my bee vac to get them and put them in a long hive I built that has frames. Later that afternoon, they all came out and bearded at the front entrance. It got into the low 40’s last night, but they were still there this morning. I’m not sure what they are planning to do. Should I just leave them alone and see what happens, or scoop them up, place them back in the hive and close off the entrance for a day. They had no honey, brood or larve in the hive when I got them. I don’t know if they even have a queen. They have plenty of sugar water. Any idea what to do, or just leave them alone and see what happens. Thanks, Barry

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Hilary

Did you transfer their combs into the long hive as well? Can you give them a frame of open brood from another colony?

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Barry

The combs just crumbled to dust as soon as you touched them. I can’t give them comb from my other hive because if you recall, that hive just got started this past December. By the way, that hive is doing great, producing honey, eggs, and brood. Last night, I used the Bee-vac on them and put them all back in the hive, except this time, I locked them all in for the night. I just now opened up the hive when I got home for lunch to see if they will stay or leave. We’ll see. Barry

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Barry West

Hi Hilary. I’M back. LOL. Quick question. Maybe not. I was called out this Friday by an exterminator friend of mine. He had a customer with a hive in the eves of the house, however, everything was brick and stucco except the entrance hole to the hive. He knew I want to get and protect the bees, so I went with him. All I could do was to stir them up enough to get them mad enough to come out. I collected at least 10,000 to 15,000 bees with my bee vac. I know we weren’t able to get the queen and my friend had to eliminate the rest of the hive. I brought the bees home and placed them in a 10 frame longstroth hive with foundation, no comb or brood, brand new frames. I sprayed sugar water on all the frames and added sugar water feeders to the hive, then locked them in the hive for 24 hours or more. They can now come and go. Do you think they will still produce their own queen, of obscond the hive? Thanks, Barry

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Hilary

They cannot produce their own queen unless you give them eggs from a queen. You can take a frame of young brood from a queen-right colony and give it to them. They might make a queen. Otherwise you could buy a queen to give to them. Next time you have a removal like that, you might research doing a “trap out”. It’s a way to get bees out of places that cannot be accessed. Takes some time though.

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Barry West

Hi Hilary. I know it’s been a while. I now have five hives. Two are 8 frame with packaged bees, and three are ten frame hives with wild caught swarms. The seem to be doing really good right now. I put it queen excluders and have added the honey supers to them all. They have two one quart entrance feeders per hive and are going thru sugar water like crazy. Today, I started them on one gallon top feeders, three of them spaced between the five hives. They are already draining each by the end of the day. I have planted what is called “Bee Mix: flowers for them, but they don’t go near the flowers. I’m using a mixture of 1 sugar to 1 water. Can I cut back and go 2 parts water to 1 part sugar, or take the sugar water away all together. This is May 30, and I think they need to be on their own by now. Your comments are welcomed. Thanks, Barry

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Hilary

Try feeding them less and watch them to see if it has any ill effects. I usually judge by watching to see if they stop building new comb.

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