The lives of bees are fascinating. Their cramped homes, sometimes containing up to 100,000 bees, are mysterious and complex. The honey they provide is sweet and delicious. They pollinate the plants in your yard. Whatever your reasons for wanting to raise bees, you should understand that the task is challenging but rewarding. If you’re interested in giving it a shot, here’s everything you’ll need to foster a happy, healthy, and productive hive.
A beehive is the first thing you’ll need to buy if you decide to raise bees. The most popular type of beehive is the Langstroth. It was first designed in 1851 and has hardly been altered since. The design prevents bees from connecting the frames and walls with honeycombs, allowing you to easily access the hive without destroying any of the bees’ handiwork. Before the creation of the Langstroth, this was impossible!
Another popular type of beehive is the Commercial beehive. This hive is larger than most, with a simple, deep structure that’s good for first-time beekeepers. It allows you to access the hive without disturbing the bees or destroying the honeycombs.
This is the most important piece of equipment you will buy, so be sure to shop around online first to compare sizes and prices.
A bee smoker is a device that helps calm the honeybees so that they are less likely to sting you. It smolders fuel, which makes smoke that you can blow around your body so the bees will ignore you.
Any size will work fine, but larger bee smokers are easier to keep lit. Smaller smokers are likely to blow out due to wind or a lack of fuel, so beginners should invest in a larger smoker.
Bee gloves, hat, and veil
Wearing protective clothing is an important part of beekeeping. You could buy a full beekeeping suit, but these are expensive and often unnecessary. Using a smoker will help ensure that the bees will ignore you when you are spending time at the hive, so you’re not at a great risk of being stung.
However, you will definitely need a bee hat with a veil and gloves to keep your exposed skin safe when you are with the bees. With this gear and a thick jacket and pants, you’ll be safe from any ill-behaved members of the hive.
There are two main tools you will need to raise bees: a bee brush and a hive tool.
The bee brush is a soft-bristled brush that you can use to gently and easily remove the bees from a surface in the hive. This is useful if you are taking out a honeycomb frame to extract the honey. These brushes are fairly cheap and very handy.
The hive tool is a small, J-shaped metal tool that helps with multiple other beekeeping tasks, such as separating sections of the hive and harvesting the honey. You can use a flat-head screwdriver if you already have one, but an actual hive tool will be much more efficient because it’s specially designed to minimize damage to the honeycomb.
A top feeder provides the bees with a nectar formula of water and sugar, which gives the bees the energy they need to build the honeycomb. The feeder is a gallon can with little holes in the cap that fits into the hive’s cover.
Invest in an internal top feeder, as they hold a lot of syrup and are easy for you to fill. Avoid buying an open air feeder, as it will attract other wildlife like raccoons, skunks, and wasps. It also exposes your bees to any diseases affecting other bees that choose to use the feeder.
Once you have your hive fully set up, and have purchased your feeder and smoker, it is time to buy the actual bees. There are three ways to procure your bees. The most difficult method of getting bees is to find them in the wild. You’d do this by looking for a group of bees that no longer have a hive. These bees are often docile and may move into a hive if you put it below them.
However, this DIY approach is a slow and unpredictable process better suited for more experienced beekeepers. It is much easier to buy your bees from an established beekeeper in your area, or—the most popular method—order bees through the mail. Yes, you can buy a packaged box of around 10,000 worker bees and a queen bee for a relatively small amount of money. Make sure to ask for a reminder at the post office so you don’t neglect them there!
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