Backyard Beekeeping Basics
So you'd like to get into beekeeping? Maybe just one hive or maybe you want to go big but you aren't even sure where to start. We want to break down just the basics for you to maybe help you on your way. Beekeeping is so rewarding. Whether you are doing it just for extra pollinator power or you'd like to collect your own honey. We enjoy it so much, and we would love to help others get started on this awesome journey.
Lets talk local guidelines. Not every state, or city allows backyard bee keeping so it is in your best interest to look up your local laws. State and city websites will usually have this information.
Now that we have that out of the way, lets talk about location of your hives. You will want to make sure you have a spot that gets sun, is off the ground roughly 16inches and is not directly in a walkway. Although your bees are ok with you walking in front of them, you don't want their flight path interrupted constantly and you don't want them knocked over. The corner of your yard makes a great spot. You can build a stand, or even stack a pallet or 2 together. Be mindful that mice and little critters DO like to get into the entrance and can make a huge mess of your hive. Keep that in mind when you pick you location and height off the ground.
Beekeeping will require a bare minimum of equipment to start with. As you grow your bee yard and hives you will acquire more equipment but I want to list what you'll need immediately. You can buy all of these in an entire kits or buy smaller kits that include only things you need or collect stuff from different places including Tractor Supply, craigslist mannlakeltd.com, etc. Here's a rough price list (from our 2020 research).
* FULL KIT (right picture) -$500
* 1 deep Hive body with 10 frames -$70
*Bottom Board - Screened or solid-$20-30
*Cover - Telescoping or not -$20-$50
*Inner cover (only needed with a telescoping cover-$20
*Bee suit - Consisting of full jumpsuit, jacket, or just veil -$50 -$160
*Gloves -$12 -$30
*Hive tool -$11
*Smoker - $30 - $50
*BEES - 5 frame nuc - $150 -$200
Here are some other things you will have to consider during the year:
* Varroa Mite Treatment - $30 -$200
It is very important to treat and protect your hive from varroa mites, not only for you colonies health but for the health of all bees in the surrounding area. There are many ways to treat and prevent varroa mites in your colony and the decision will be yours to make on what method you would like to follow. I suggest researching methods and procedures, YouTube helps. We use the oxalic acid drip method and we've found great success with it.
* Feeder - $30
If you live in a cold climate you will want to feed you bees before winter to insure they are able to store enough food for survival. You may also want to feed them in spring to give them a head start.
Another thing to consider is your year round climate. If you live in a place with cold winters you will want to have a winterizing plan. In Idaho, we have cold enough winters that we cover our boxes with a foam insulation board when the temperatures start to stay in the 30s. Once again, there are many ways to protect your colonies and research is key to figuring out what will work best for you. Reaching out to other local bee keepers might help you make a decision.
Additionally, in areas that experience cold winters, it is vital to add some additional ventilation to the hive so excess moisture can leave the hive. I know this may seem counter intuitive, but it is critical. As Bees breath (just like us) their breath creates condensation, and if trapped in the hive can create mold and moisture can actually collect on the ceiling of the hive and drip on the cluster of overwintering Bees- NOT GOOD! As a mentor of ours once said, Bees can survive the cold, but Bees that are wet will surely die.
Remember, there are many ways in which to tend to bees. With each passing year, you will find which ways suit your hives in your climate, lifestyle, farming goal, etc..
Now to the fun part...Buying your honey bees.
The best time to purchase a new "Nuc" of bees is in spring. This is when you'll find most apiaries are selling Nucs and online retailers are offering packages of bees. These colonies will be ready to thrive and grow quickly.
To the right is the 5 frame Nucs we sell here at Wildroots Farm. They consist of 5 frames full of bees along with a mated queen who will be already laying eggs.
The benefit of buying local, besides the fact your bees will be acclimated to your climate and wont have to travel as far to their new home, is that you can get to know your local bee keepers. Having someone to reach out to for questions and knowledge makes starting your own apiary a bit less intimating.
REMEMBER, its fine to be intimated starting out. All bee keepers had to start somehow. YOU CAN DO THIS!! How exciting to be a part of growing a declining animal population that is vital for our survival.
Lets talk about why bee keeping is more important than just honey. Here are some things to help inspire you a bit more to BEEcome an advocate for our pollinator friends.
As we all know, our honey bee population is declining rapidly. Many factors play a part in this including pesticide usage, global warming ( causing change in habitat and inadequate foraging spots), stress due to continuous transportation (almond orchard pollinations plays a HUGE role in this), new and immerging diseases and untreated invasive varroa mites. That is just to name a few.
Did you know..
*1/3 of our global food supply is pollinated by bees.
*1 in every 3 bites of your meal depended on bees for pollination.
Bees are so vital to our health and the health of our planet. No Bees = No Food
WHAT CAN WE DO??
We can help grow the population back by following simple organic and earth healing practices.
*Never use pesticides or insecticides on your property. Help educate your neighbors on the harmful effects if they are using them.
*Plant native flowers that bloom throughout the year.
*STOP PULLING ALL YOUR FLOWERING WEEDS!! These are vital food sources. Educate yourself on the benefits of these instead of following the "weed free" yard trend. Change your mindset on what beauty is.
*Support local organically producing farms instead of giant corporations that are clearing forests and pollinator habitats for mass production.
* If you are able, have some backyard hives of your own. Be sure you are mite treating them for their health and other hives health around.
*Spread the word. Engage little (and big) minds around you to dig a little deeper into the declining health of our planet and how we can contribute to its healing. Get the kids involved, they are the future!
We got this friends!
*All information included is based on our beekeeping journey and not intended to be your ONLY source of information. We don't claim to know it all or have all the answers. We are just one drop in the pool of bee keeping knowledge. We advise everyone to educate themselves before embarking on bee keeping. knowledge is power!