How to be a beekeeper- tips for complete beginners

You have your honey bees and your beehives, so what happens next? Beekeeping is not as easy as it seems. How to be a beekeeper is the question that bothers lots of newly bee owners. People practicing apiculture have to do more than just harvest the honey. The honeybees have to be looked after all year round; they demand much attention and dedication.

As we have already pointed out information is a must if you want to become a successful beekeeper. Thus, you have about apiculture, beehives and bees, bee equipment and many others

Learning about apiculture

Getting reliable and useful information might turn out to be very difficult for a beginner beekeeper. There is plenty of information available but much of it is either too superficial or wrong, while other information is given using an exaggerated academic language, understood only by a few professional beekeepers.

There are lots of different points of view concerning the same issue that is difficult for beginner beekeepers to find the correct and relevant information. It is very important to read books, articles and magazines about bees and apiculture. However, the information must be filtered so as to choose only the one that is given by experts in the domain.


Books about bees and beekeeping

The majority of people use books when they want to gather information on a certain subject. If you want to find a proper answer to the question: How to be a beekeeper, you should know that many beekeeping associations have their own libraries, but you will find books about bees and beekeeping in bookshops or you can buy them from various beekeepers' sites. Unfortunately, lots of books on apiculture have numerous mistakes and are just a mere plagiarism of old apiculture books. Moreover, there are books written by people who have little experience in the domain. If you are the proud owner of two beehives, it does not mean that you are an expert beekeeper and you cannot automatically write a book on the subject, giving other people advice on how to handle their colony of bees. The best books are those recommended by the Beekeepers' Association.

Use the internet in order to enrich your knowledge

The World Wide Web is a valuable source of information. But, like in the case of books there are lots of sites dedicated to the activity of keeping bees. However, the best thing to do is to read the sites from your country of residence because they are more relevant for the type of apiculture practiced in your country. For example, the treatment applied to various honeybee diseases varies from one country to another.

Apiculture magazines

The majority of beekeeping magazines has a general theme and contains articles dedicated to beginners, teaching them how to be a beekeeper. Learn from your own experience It is very difficult to obtain new information in the domain if you do not do a bit of research and documentation. It is all right to work on your own, but on the other hand, it is helpful to have around a person with whom you can share your ideas and opinions. Therefore, it would be great if you could benefit from the advice and assistance of an experienced beekeeper.

Should I join a beekeepers' association?

The answer is a definite "yes". It is easier to learn how to be a beekeeper when you are part of an organized group. You can attend conferences and symposia and share your experience with others. In the past people used to practice the so-called "individual beekeeping". The people practicing this occupation used to put three tiers in the beehives in April and then take them off in August, without harvesting any honey. If the honeybees did not produce enough honey they were not fed and if they gave the much desired honey, the received some sort of food and treatment for their disease. This was a type of apiculture that did not involve too much work.

Nowadays, people no longer practice the "individual beekeeping". People who keep bees must have knowledge in the domain and be much more responsible for the life of their honey producer insects.

What knowledge does a beginner beekeeper need?

Basic knowledge about how to be a beekeeper

Any beekeeper must know everything about the life cycle of every type of honeybee that lives within the beehive. This will help him/her understand the honeybees' life and realize when the beehive inhabitants are about to swarm. The swarming is a natural process of any hive, thus it is very important for the beekeeper to understand the queen bee's life cycle so as to put into practice the anti-swarming techniques.

Learn about bees and their disease

BeesThe honeybees like all the other creatures living on Earth suffer from various diseases. If you want to become an expert in the field of keeping bees, you must learn the symptoms that tell you that your colony has a health problem. Once the disease identified, you have to know which the most suitable treatment is. The most important diseases are the American and European Loca. This disease is difficult to identify and lots of beekeepers have no even a clue of what is happening when their hives are struck by the Loca.

If nothing is done to treat the infected individuals than they will spread the disease and all the bees living in an apiary might die. The most important thing is to immediately recognize the symptoms of the disease. It is very important to recognize which sapling is ill and which is healthy. However, you needn't worry too much because this disease is no longer so wide spread as it used to be in the past.

Another honeybee disease is the one named Varro. Whether they like it or not beekeepers have to treat their bees against this parasite at least once a year, preferable in autumn before the bees gather in a cluster for the winter. Honeybees that are not given an anti-Varro treatment in autumn are likely to die in winter.

Beekeepers must know the honeybees' life cycle in order to apply various treatments. Monitoring is particularly important to see if the applied treatment has the desired effects. In order to find more about bees' diseases access the site section dedicated to this aspect.

What bee equipment do I need?

In the beginning it is not necessary to acquire some sophisticated equipment or which is rarely used even by experienced beekeepers. Here are the items that you should purchase during your first years as a beekeeper.

Beekeeper costume

This is the most important item from the equipment that each beekeeper needs. There are lots of experienced beekeepers who work within their apiary without any kind of protection but generally this is rather dangerous and not at all recommended to a beginner. Do not be brave without a cause. Being stung in your head or between your eyes is not pleasant at all. A beginner in this domain should use a costume that has wide, front pockets. The costume must have elastic cuffs and detachable veil and hat. Here is some supplementary information you might find useful:

a. Make sure that your trousers are well tucked into your socks so as to prevent the bees from getting into your clothes

b. Rubber gloves are pretty good, but no type of glove offers a 100% protection against bee stings.

c. The gloves can hinder your activity and therefore there will be times when you have to take them off


Make sure you buy a qualitative one which you can handle easily.

Beehive boxes

Lots of beginners in the beekeeping domain ask themselves the same question: "What are the best beehive boxes to buy?" At present there are around six types of beehives on the market. It often happens for a beekeeper to start his/her activity with a particular type of beehive which he/she ended up hating and thus change it with another type. There are many factors that influence the decision of purchasing a particular type of beehive; among these we can enumerate price, material, the advice received and the information gathered from different sources. There are lots of people who got into the apiculture business because they either inherited or received severe bee colonies. If you are in one of these situations it is advisable not to change the beehive boxes until you get the necessary experience.

Before taking any decision that you might regret latter, try several types of hive boxes and see which one suit you best. Nowadays, the majority of boxes are made of fir trees. However, lately the manufactures have started to use other materials as well. Thus, you can purchase polystyrene hives. Before rushing into buying them, make sure they are compatible with the wooden ones and bear in mind that they cannot be burnt if the bee colony inside them suffers from Loca. It is better to put into balance the advantages and disadvantages before purchasing these kind of hive boxes.

Beehives The box is more of a beekeeper's tool, since the honeybees do not care so much about their living space. Their do their job well, whether in the hollow of a tree or in a modern hive. However, you should pay the utmost attention when choosing your hives. You are going to work with them for a long time.

If you really want to learn how to become a beekeeper than it is advisable to make your own hive boxes in the beginning so as to get familiar with the various parts of the box. It is not difficult to build up a hive box if you have a minimum of carpenter's tools and you are a bit handy. However, it is better to get some information before starting to work. You can find lots of hive boxes drawings on the internet, in books or in magazines. Problems might occur when building the interior; the exterior is quite easy to build. Fir trees wood is the best material for building hive boxes. You can use other types of wood, but it is advisable to avoid those having an inferior quality.

The honeybees

The type of the beekeeping hive and the kind of honeybees inside it, cause more controversy among beekeepers than any other subject related to the world of bees. However, do not panic because the solution is quite simple. Prolific bees need more space while the less prolific ones need a smaller space. Do not let yourself be fooled by the idea that the queen bee capacity to lay eggs is proportional with the number of honeybees inside the hive and the amount of honey produced.

A beginner beekeeper should start his/her apiculture career with a swarm of bees that does not occupy more than three to five frames within the hive. It is not wise to buy forty honeybee colonies if you do not have the slightest beekeeping experience. There are high chances for you to lose all your honey bees by the next spring. It is much easier for a beginner to take care of a small colony of bees. However, pay attention because the honeybees are not waiting for you to do your job. Thus, it is better to do research in advance because the little swarm will soon turn into a big, swarming bee colony with lots of problems to deal with.

If you purchase your honeybees for a fellow beekeeper you should pay the utmost attention and make sure they are healthy. Thus, it is better to go "bee-shopping" with a person that has at least certain knowledge in the domain.

Other useful bee equipment

If you have no attention in turning beekeeping into a profession than the above equipment is enough; you do not need sophisticated devices if apiculture is just a hobby for you. However, it is better to buy a feeder since honeybees need to be fed especially in early spring when the weather conditions are unfavorable for longer periods of time.

For those who are interested in becoming honey producers and distributors, than a more sophisticated bee equipment is needed.

Honeybees' stings

You are definitely going to be stung; there is no doubt about it. Even if you take all the caution measures, you will still be accidently stung when you work in your apiary. The swallowing of the stung area is something normal and this reaction does not mean that you are allergic to bee venom. The softer the stung area is, the more it will swallow. It is advisable to cover your head whenever you are near the apiary and use a smoker whenever you want to work with a hive. If you wear rings, you'd better not wear them while you unfold apiary activities.

The "bee fever"

Once hooked by the "honeybee fever", you might lose your sense and rationality. Apiculture is such a fascinating domain, that is understandable the beginners' desire to have as many colonies as possible. It is a good thing to multiply the number of your colonies but it is a huge mistake to double your livestock as long as you have not learnt yet the basics of beekeeping. You must know exactly what happens within a beehive before starting to multiply your honeybee families. It would be a pity "to kill" your little workers.


Lots of people get into the apiculture "business" and want to learn how to be a beekeeper after they retire, saying that they have always wanted to become beekeepers but never have the necessary time. Although, this is a very nice way to spend your retirement years, if you are serious about beekeeping you should start earlier. There are so many things to learn about bees that you actually need an entire lifespan to have a faint idea about their world. Thus, if you want to become professional beekeepers, do not wait for your retirement. Start now! Otherwise you deprive yourselves from lots of hours of relaxation and satisfaction.

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