A beginner’s guide to beekeeping
Awareness among the general population about the plight of the bees is growing every day, which is a good thing. However, taking action to help the bees, especially honeybees, which we can all easily keep in our back garden can be improved. Anecdotal evidence from people I have spoken to about keeping bees suggests that most people would like to help the bees, by having a hive or two in their back garden.
Two of the barriers people who would like to help the bees by becoming a beekeeper ,tend to cite as a stumbling block is not knowing how to start and the cost of beekeeping equipment and the cost of acquiring a swarm of bees. This article; a beginner’s guide to beekeeping takes you on a step-by-step journey into getting started with keeping bees.
The article covers how to acquire beekeeping equipment at very low cost, how to acquire a swarm of bees, free of charge
- First thing first, are you allergic to bee sting?
The right beekeeping wear, coupled with treating bees with respect you should not get stung by your own bees.. However in an unguarded moment, you may get stug. Find out if you are allergic to bee sting. Being allergic does not mean you cannot be a beekeeper, it just means you need to take extra precautions, perhaps including having an epipen in your beekeeping toolbox.
- Speak to one or more local beekeepers
Beekeepers are some of the most friendly bunch of people you will ever come across. They particularly like encouraging newbies to take up beekeeping. If there is a local beekeeper near you, speak with him or her. You will find valuable local beekeeping information that way.
- What type of beekeeper do you want to be: natural or conventional?
There are different types of beekeepers. The two main types are the conventional and the natural beekeepers. They both love bees, joining either camp will help you to help the bee. The main differences between them is their approaches to keeping bees. The type of beekeeper you decide to be will influence the type of equipment you buy. The author of this article is a natural beekeeper, so he encourages others to become a natural beekeeper. There are pros and cons to both methods. If your principal reason for becoming a beekeeper is to help the bees rather than to produce honey, then natural beekeeping is the best choice for you.
- Attend a beekeeping workshop in person or online
A beekeeping workshop with hand-on demonstrations
The best way to acquire beekeeping skills quickly is to attend an introduction to beekeeping course. The best type of courses are those with a hands-on component in the course. This gives you the opportunity to actually handle beekeeping equipment and the bees. Because of the COVID pandemic, there are currently limited opportunities for in person beekeeping courses. An online beekeeping course is an adequate substitute.
- Acquire you beekeeping equipment
A Warré Hive, easier to work with than other hives
You now need to acquire some beekeeping equipment. Beekeeping equipment is relatively inexpensive. A hive is the single most expensive equipment you will buy. Here are the most important equipment you need to become a beekeeper:
Hive – A warre hive starts from about £250
Clothing & gloves £40
Hive tools £20
Water spray £1.00 (A smoker is unnecessary
You will find out why purchasing bees is not included in the expenditure as I hope you will be able to acquire your bees free of charge. Keep reading to find out how to acquire bees for free.
- Join your local chapter of British Beekeeping Association
Be sure to join your local British Beekeeping Association and NOT the national association. The reason for this is that you are automatically a member of the national association, once you join a local association. It does not work the other way around. If you join the national association by paying an annual subscription and want to join your local chapter, you have to pay another subscription fee, to join the local association.
- Sitting your hive
You have your equipment, you have the basic knowledge required to be a beekeeper, now it’s time to site your hive. Find a level ground for your hive. Place it so that the hive entrance is facing south-east/east, so that the bees have that warming morning sun to start their day.
8. Acquiring your first swarm of bees
This is one of the differences between conventional and natural beekeepers. Natural beekeepers do not believe in or like buying bees. At this stage of your beekeeping adventure, conventional beekeepers will suggest you buy bees. You can simply ask a natural beekeeper near you for a swarm of bees (It is easier to give you a swarm in spring). You can also set up a bait hive to attract a swarm of bees yourself. Read more about how to set up a bait hive online.
9. Looking after and enjoying your bees
Now that you have a hive and there are bees in your hive, you are a beekeeper! The next step is to start looking after you bees. One of the best things about beekeeping is the fact that you do not need to do much. They bees will look after themselves. You can just look out for them by ensuring they are not attacked by wasps in the summer and not cold in the winter. There is a free book called at the hive entrance which you should read. It trains you on how to see how your bees are doing by observing their going in and out.
10. Winter is the time you bees need you most
When autumn starts giving way to winter, that is when your bees need you the most. You need to ensure they have adequate honey to see them through winter. In winter, you need to check on them at regular intervals to ensure their store of honey is not depleted. If it is, you may need to feed them some fondant.
11. Growing in confidence as a beekeeper
It takes a lot of time and experimenting to become a confident beekeeper. There are a lot of resources out there to help you become a better beekeeper including groups and sites such as The Hive UK. We are always happy to share our knowledge and experience with new and experienced beekeepers alike. Feel free to contact us via our contact page.
Tags: Natural beekeeping, beekeeping courses, beginner’s beekeeping course, anaphylactic shock, bee sting, beekeeping training, free bees, swarm, smoker. BBKA, British beekeeping association,