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Beekeeping Beginner's Guide: How to Set Up a Beehive

Joseph is an experienced beekeeper. He has four years of experience working as a beekeeper for a commercial beekeeping operation.

Beekeeping Tips for Beginners

Beekeeping Tips for Beginners

The Benefits of Beekeeping

Beekeeping can be extremely rewarding—you support a healthy habitat, and you get to enjoy the health benefits and delicious taste of raw honey. Here are some tips to get you started. As always, check with local ordinances before you begin.

Basic Beekeeping Tools and Equipment

There are all kinds of other tools specialized to beekeeping, but the ones listed are really all you need to get started. In my time beekeeping, this is really all I used.

  • Smoker: Smoke helps calm the bees and minimizes stings.
  • Smoker Fuel: I recommend dry pine needles. There are various other readily available fuels you can use. There's really no need to purchase any smoker fuel. Hay or dry grass will even do in a pinch.
  • Bee Veil: There are basically three different types of veils. You just have to figure out which one you are most comfortable with. None of them will protect you from stings completely, but they will help to minimize stings. The hat veil covers only your head and face. The jacket veil covers your head, face, torso and arms. Coverall veils cover everything but your hands and feet.
  • Hive Tool: This is a multipurpose tool used for scraping, prying, hammering, and frame-spacing.
  • Leather Gloves: I do not recommend fuzzy gloves at all (the bees will tear your hands up). The best kind of gloves are slick leather work gloves. It helps if the gloves are long enough to tuck under your sleeves.
Set up the hive before ordering your bees.

Set up the hive before ordering your bees.

Other Important Supplies

  • Deep Hive Box: 19 7/8" long x 16 1/4" wide x 9 5/8" deep
  • Lid: To cover the hive and keep the weather out
  • 8 Frames: 19" long x 9 1/8" tall
  • Inside Plastic Feeder: Fits inside the hive beside the frames
  • Syrup: Helps sustain bees when they don't have honey
  • Bottom Board: This is the base that the hive is set on
  • Package of Bees and Queen

How to Order Your Bees

Now that you have all of your supplies, it's time to select a location and put it all together. It's best to get the hive completely set up before ordering your bees. You can find plans online to build your hive, or you can order it ready to go.

There are many great places to order supplies online. It's usually easier to get bees in the springtime. Depending on your location, you may be able to pick them up locally or order them online. You can order early through most companies.

Consider multiple variables when picking a location for the hive.

Consider multiple variables when picking a location for the hive.

How to Select a Location for Your Beehive

First, locate the place where you want your hive to be. Make sure it's level and not prone to flooding. It helps to have it where there is a natural windbreak like from trees or even a privacy fence. Your bees will need a clear flight path to the hive entrance. Don't obstruct the front of the hive where your entrance is.

If you have neighbors with a pool, you will need to provide your bees with some water that they can get in and out of without drowning. I recommend a tote or plastic barrel with fanfold insulation cut into strips and tree branches. Then, you can fill it with water.

This gives the bees a source of water that they won't drown in. Otherwise, you will have angry neighbors with a bunch of dead bees in their pool. (Bees will fly up to two miles to find water, nectar, and pollen.)

How to Set Up Your Hive

With that being said, you are now ready to get your hive together. Here's how:

  1. Put your bottom board down.
  2. Next, place your deep box on top of the bottom board.
  3. Place the eight frames in the box with the feeder at one end. Space them all evenly.
  4. Add the queen first (see how below), and then add the rest.

How to Add a Queen and Bees to a Hive

The queen will go in first. The queen comes in a queen cage—this is typically plastic or wooden with a screen covering it. The end will have a hole that is plugged with candy. Put the queen cage in the middle of the hive between the top bars of the middle two frames. The end with the candy needs to be pointing down.

Once the queen is in place, now you can put your package of bees in. Gently shake the bees onto the top of the frames. Put some syrup in the feeder. When the bees have dispersed into the hive, you can nail your lid on. Use two to four nails driven halfway in for easy access later.

The worker bees will eat the candy out of the queen cage and release the queen. By the time the queen is free, the worker bees will recognize her pheromones and accept her as their queen. If the queen is just dropped in with the other bees without this process of them freeing her, they will likely kill her.

© 2019 Joseph Book