So you want to know how to get started with honey bees?
- You have probably heard that honeybees are an endangered species and need our help.
- As it is that time of year, you have probably been to a country show and seen a bunch of people in funny white suits with a cut down of a hive and were fascinated about what the honey bees were doing inside it.
- You have seen a TV program that was telling you that the world’s bees were in danger of being wiped out by dangerous chemicals and they need our help.
- You received an email from a environmental charity asking you to do something to help our bees from planting wild flower seeds in your garden to taking part in a country wide bee count.
- Or you have a friend who is always talking about their bees and how passionate they are about them and you have started to wonder what this bee thing is all about.
However, before you jump in with all your enthusiasm what you need to ask yourself is:
Do I know if I am allergic to bee stings?
People know that bees sting because that is the first thing they get told. What they don’t get told is that bees only sting if they feel threatened or afraid, which 98% of the time they are not, and are the most lovable, friendly insects imaginable.
However, that odd 2% of the time they will have a go at you!
If you are allergic to the contents of the sting you are either:
- going to come away with either a mild swelling that itches for a couple of days or,
- a trip to your local hospital’s A&E department as you have gone into a anaphylactic shock.
If the latter you should seriously think again about keeping bees.
Am I ready to start keeping bees?
You need somewhere to keep your bees, No, I don’t mean a hive. I am thinking about space for a hive and type of location.
Siting your bee hive, Where?
If its going to be in your back garden you have to make sure that they are far enough away as not to cause your neighbours any grief or, that there are no local ordinances stopping you from keeping bees.
If you have a farmer as a friend he will most probably welcome you with open arms so long as he knows that there will be no crop spraying anywhere round your hive. Also, nowhere near public footpaths or bridleways.
The hive should be placed on a level piece of ground which is free of weeds. Most of the hives I have listed are provided with a stand but ideally, you can raise them up even further onto blocks to avoid too much bending which will save the old back and will keep the floor of the hive dry.
Protect the hive from wind but avoid putting it under overhanging trees as to avoid moisture and rain from dripping onto the hive.
I have my hive facing in an easterly direction so that the early morning sun can start to warm up the hive and get the ladies up and out foraging.
If you have them in your garden place the hive near a fence to force them to fly upwards to avoid a flight path that crosses your neighbour’s garden.
Take your time in choosing the site carefully so as to avoid having to move the hive later on as its in the wrong place. This doesn’t mean you can’t move the hive at all but if you do it has to be done 3 feet at a time.
If you are still reading this chances are that you know where you are going to put your hive and you are still interested in giving it a go. Here are a few things you need to get organised:
Ordering your honey bees
That’s funny I hear you say, why get bees when I don’t have a hive to put them in?
The simple answer, is bee farms only have bees at certain times of the year and no matter when you think that you want to start you won’t get any bees until January of the following year.
You need to start looking online for suppliers and make contact with them and find out what kind of honeybees they sell. More importantly, what kind of temperament do the bees have.
My advice is go for a bee with a mild temperament and doesn’t mind being handled by a clumsy beginner. The last thing you need when starting out is to have a colony of bees that are going to attack you as soon as you get anywhere near the hive.
When you order them you will be getting a Nucleus (Nuc) of bees. This consists of 5 frames of healthy brood and food, Queen bee and a good amount of bees (between 10 and 15,000) give or take a few. The majority will be worker bees (female) and a few Drones (males) thrown in for good measure.
My bees are Buckfast Bees and they are renowned for being docile, easily managed and tend not to swarm.
Ok, you have got your bees ordered and you know when you will have to collect them. NOW, you can think about getting the equipment that you will need.
Provided you have a hive and equipment you are now ready to start your new hobby of beekeeping when your bees arrive.
If you have found this information useful to you please leave a comment at the bottom of the page.
If you have any questions please email me at the address in my Contacts Page.