I got my first honeybees this April. I was so excited to add honeybees to our homestead. There are so many advantages to being beekeepers: honey, pollination and beeswax to name a few.
But becoming a beekeeper has a big learning curve attached to it.
So today I wanted to share what I have learned in the past 5 months about beekeeping. I hope this post helps others to avoid some of the pitfalls I fell into this summer.
Lessons I have learned from my bees so far this year:
- Buy more than one hive: I bought one hive to start with, because that is all I could afford. But it is very hard to see if one hive is doing okay with nothing else to compare it to. Also, if one hive is really producing well, you could give some comb to the lesser hive to help them out. So next year I will be getting atleast one more hive (hopefully more) to alleviate this problem.
- Get a mentor: There are so many parts and things that could go wrong in a beehive that you really need to have someone that can look at things for you and help you figure out what to do when things go wrong. You can read books and watch YouTube, but nothing compares to having someone show you what to do in real time.
- Check on the bees regularly: Out of site, out of mind. Our honeybees are out in the back of our property where no one will disturb them. This also means that I haven’t been checking on them as much as I should. They have a water source and they were fine. But I should have opened the hive up more often (about once a month or so) to check on them. It would have made it easier to see when something was wrong.
- Buy a NUC instead of a package of bees: I bought a package of bees (because it was cheaper) but next year I will be buying several nucs for our new hives. Nucs come with not only the bees and queen, but also honeycomb, pollen and honey inside. This helps the bees have a better chance of producing enough honey for themselves if they don’t have to start from scratch.
- Use spacers in the boxes: I learned from a friend that you can buy metal spacers to put in the boxes on the sides. The frames sit in the spacers and make them equally spaced through the box. This helps the bees to build uniform combs and makes it look better too.
- Give them something to start with: As I mentioned above, because I only bought a new hive and bees, my bees had to start from scratch. This made it harder for them to get going in the spring. So next year I will either start with combs already built (if my bees don’t die) or I will buy nucs that already have comb in them to give the bees a jumpstart on the year.
- Don’t add extra supers too early: One of the things I did wrong was to get into a hurry to put another super on top of the hive. I should have made sure they completely filled the first one before I added another.
Now I don’t know if my hive is going to make it through this winter. I had a good friend with many, many years of experience come look at our hive. He doesn’t think the bees have enough comb and honey to sustain themselves through the winter. We added food (sugar water) in the hive for them. Hopefully that will stimulate their production until winter hits and give them extra strength through the cold months.
I will be very upset if I lose my honeybees this winter, but I knew it was a possibility when I started. Anytime you start something new, there is always a learning curve. If you have people to help you, you can reduce the risk but it is still there. I share with you what I have learned this summer so that you may not have to learn things the hard way too.
If I do lose my bees this winter (I’ll keep you updated), I can start over with the same materials and have some comb for the new bees to start with in the spring. Hopefully this will help them produce more comb and honey for the next season.
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Even though I am learning what not to do this year, I am really enjoying becoming a beekeeper. These little creatures are so amazing. They are just fun to watch and see what they can all do when they work together.
Do you have any beekeeping tips to share? Please let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!