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Beekeeping for Beginners Guide

Besides the alluring taste of honey, it contains many medicinal benefits too, but it’s not a substance that simply grows on trees. You’re probably reading this article because you’re interested in beekeeping for beginners, and you should know the prospect of a person being able to keep his/her own bees and harvesting their own honey is a very interesting and rewarding activity. However, whether it’s just a hobby or you plan to go commercial, there are a number of things that you will have to consider before going ahead with the adventure. Below you will find a selection of questions that beginner beekeepers usually ask.

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  1. Does beekeeping take a lot of time?
  2. Is beekeeping really that hard to do?
  3. What are the costs of beekeeping for beginners?
  4. What are the equipment that I need to start beekeeping?
  5. The types of bees that a beginner beekeeper can choose from
  6. When to harvest honey
  7. Conclusion

Does beekeeping take a lot of time?

The practice of beekeeping is usually dependent on seasons and so will vary greatly according to the time of the year. If you take winter for instance, a beekeeper usually does nothing except for checking on the bees and maybe clearing bee hive entrances blocked by snow. When the seasons change and its summer time, that’s when the beekeeper will be very busy. This is the time when every hive must be checked almost weekly to ensure that no swarming has taken place. It is the time when more honey supers are added to hives. Interestingly, experienced beekeepers will only take just a few minutes to do all this and then go about their business.

Is beekeeping really that hard to do?

Beekeeping does not involve strenuous work at all, even though there are instances when you will be required to move the hives from one point to the next. By joining your local beekeeping association you will learn more about how you can limit the physical labor input that beekeeping may require from you.

What are the costs of beekeeping for beginners?

Costs will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Read this article to get a breakdown of approximate costs.

What are the equipment that I need to start beekeeping?

The very first thing you need to have is of course the bee hive, because that’s where the bees will live. You can build your own hive at home (if you’re so technically inclined) or purchase an already built hive. The other things you will need are the bee smoker, bee feeders, beekeeper suit, beekeeper hat and veil. Some manufacturers are smart enough to package the essential supplies into a beekeeping starter kit which you can order online and have it shipped right to your door.

The types of bees that a beginner beekeeper can choose

There are usually a number of bee races that are kept for the purposes of honey production, cross pollination, and other bee related products. Even though there are several types of bee races their differences are usually not that big. As long as these types of bees are well reared and taken care of, a beekeeper’s objective to get maximum honey will be achieved.

Below are some bee races that a beginner beekeeper can choose from:

The Italian bee

Beekeeping for Beginners: Italian bee
The Italian bee

The Italian bee is a type of bee race that is usually more commonly found in North America. Italian bees use less propolis than the darker types of bees. To identify the Italian bee check out for bands on their abdomen in a brown or yellow color. The major weakness of the Italian bees is that they are usually more susceptible to robbing and drifting.

The Cordovan bee

Beekeeping for Beginners: Cordovan Italian Bee
The Cordovan Italian bee

The Cordovan bees are a subset of the Italian bees, but are distinguished based on their color. They are usually a little gentler than the Italian bee but in contrast to the Italian they tend to rob more. They are distinguished by their distinctive yellow color but they don’t have the color black. Unlike the Italian bees that have legs and heads that are black, the cordovan bees have legs that are purplish and heads that are purplish too.

The Starline bee

The Starline bees are bred from various Italian bee strains. The Starlines are usually very productive and also very active, creating tremendous amounts of honey, however the second generation queen is ineffective and you’ll need to re-queen every year.

The Caucasian bee

caucasian-bee
The Caucasian bee

The Caucasian bees are usually distinguished by a distinctive silver gray to dark brown color. Compared to the Italian bees, they tend to be a little slower during the spring. The Caucasian bees are generally even gentler than the Italian bees. They are usually not as productive as the Italian bees but are less prone to robbing. They are known to do propolis a lot more than the Italian bees.

The Russian bees

Beekeeping for Beginners: Russian Bee
Russian bees surrounding their queen

The Russian bees originally came from Primorsky area of Russia and are known to be very good at resisting mites. They are a lot more defensive compared to other bee races. They are also more productive but working with them can be a little cumbersome due to their defensive nature.

When to harvest honey?

Usually most beekeepers wait for the end of nectar flow to go and find out if they can harvest the honey. Conditions will usually vary depending on your location but the best time start harvesting honey is at the start of summer towards the start of fall. During winter bees usually don’t go out of the hive because of the extreme weather outside. This means that there is no way for them to get food from outside the hive and they will keep themselves from starving to death by eating the honey they have in the reserves.

The bee colony needs at least one full season for a sizable population to be grown that will be large enough to produce a surplus honey for you to harvest. When the frames contain at least 80% of capped and sealed honey you can go ahead and do the harvesting. A little patience however can even be more rewarding for you in the long run.

Honey is harvested using a honey extractor.

Conclusion

Beekeeping is an age old tradition that has been practiced for thousand of years. People usually decide to keep bees for honey, wax, propolis and for cross pollination, whether to pursue a hobby or for business purposes. Beekeeping is usually not very hard as long you have some space that you can place your hive in. As a beginner beekeeper, you need to protect yourself from possible bee stings by purchasing the bee suit and all its accessories such as the hat, veil, gloves and boots. A beekeeping starter kit would really come in handy too.

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