Buying Your First Hive

Buying Your

First Hive

Learning is the first stop in beekeeping.
Beekeeping is as old as any agricultural practice.

Just as there are hundreds of ways to successfully grow a crop, there are also that many ways to manage bees.

Learning is the first stop in beekeeping.

Beekeeping is as old as any agricultural practice.

Just as there are hundreds of ways to successfully grow a crop, there are also that many ways to manage bees.

Our first advice for every beginning beekeeper is to learn as much as you possibly can.

Books, beekeeping videos, online forums, local beekeeping associations will all be invaluable to your learning and research.Beekeeping management books are key, as are hive specific books that explain management in specific hive types. Bee biology books written specifically with beekeepers in mind will build a solid foundation for your learning, successes, and knowledge base.

Our first advice for every beginning beekeeper is to learn as much as you possibly can.

Books, beekeeping videos, online forums, local beekeeping associations will all be invaluable to your learning and research.Beekeeping management books are key, as are hive specific books that explain management in specific hive types. Bee biology books written specifically with beekeepers in mind will build a solid foundation for your learning, successes, and knowledge base.

Many new beekeepers fret long and hard about where to place their hives. We can make it easy.

If you have a spot that has early morning sun and some shade in the afternoon that is also easy for you and your family to maneuver around, perfect. If you're in a very warm climate, you will probably want more afternoon shade. Bees are very adaptable creatures and can usually make almost any location work as long as there is food and water in the surrounding area.

Many new beekeepers fret long and hard about where to place their hives. We can make it easy.

If you have a spot that has early morning sun and some shade in the afternoon that is also easy for you and your family to maneuver around, perfect. If you're in a very warm climate, you will probably want more afternoon shade. Bees are very adaptable creatures and can usually make almost any location work as long as there is food and water in the surrounding area.

Beekeeping is geographical.

Where you are and where your bees are living will dictate the seasons they encounter, the forage they gather, and the extremity of temperatures they might experience. Of course, beekeeping in Maine is very different than beekeeping in Arizona!

Beekeeping is geographical.

Where you are and where your bees are living will dictate the seasons they encounter, the forage they gather, and the extremity of temperatures they might experience. Of course, beekeeping in Maine is very different than beekeeping in Arizona!

We suggest finding local beekeepers to talk to and local groups to meet up with.

Even if you don’t agree with a beekeeper's management style or advice, you can learn a lot about what your localbeekeeping experience might be and how seasonality will play out in your area.

We suggest finding local beekeepers to talk to and local groups to meet up with.

Even if you don’t agree with a beekeeper's management style or advice, you can learn a lot about what your localbeekeeping experience might be and how seasonality will play out in your area.

What do your bees need besides a sturdy well-made hive?
Food and water, of course!

Something that often surprises new beekeepers to learn is that bees struggle to thrive in rural areas, as there is often not enough seasonally staggered forage to allow them to build up large enough food stores. Monoculture means large swaths of one plant blooming at one time; bees need food at every part of each season, spring through autumn. For this reason, bees often do very well in populated areas. A density of people also often means less usage of agricultural chemicals, which can be hard on and harmful to bees. And since urban areas tend to have an array of plantings, there is usually something for the bees to be foraging upon!

Water is very important for bees. Not only do they need it for hydration, they also use it to bring nectar to the right consistency to create honey or bee bread. A simple way to keep your bees out of your neighbor’s chlorine treated pool, is to provide them with a slope sided bird bath and fresh water or a shallow bowl with a few pieces of floating bark or cork — just something they can safely stand upon while drinking.

What do your bees need besides a sturdy well-made hive? Food and water, of course!

Learn More about Getting Bees

There are several methods for getting bees: catching a swarm, buying a package, & buying a nucleus hive.


Most new beekeepers tend
to buy packages of bees.

 

Packages of bees can be ordered from breeders and shipped through the USPS. A package of bees is about 10000 bees inside a screened box, with a queen in a cage inside. Once received, a package of bees can be gently installed into a hive, with the queen being placed inside. There is a small piece of candy plugging her cage and the bees will eat through that to release her.


A nucleus hive is
a bit more elaborate.

These are good options for Langstroth Hive users (more on hive styles later, but a Lang is the most common hive type, the kind you see on the side of the road in crops when driving down the highway).
A nucleus is a number of fully drawn combs of honey inside a box with bees and a queen. The advantage of a nuc is that the existing comb gives the bees a head start and can be installed right into a hive.


Our favorite method for obtaining bees is by catching a swarm.

In spring, local feral colonies often grow so large that about half of the colony will leave in search of a new home. This is when a cluster of bees will settle on a branch, an eave, a mailbox, or a fence while scouts fly about determining the best place to take up permanent residence.

As a beekeeper, it’s a great time to step in and usher the bees into a box and take them home to your hive. The bees are most often very docile at this time, as they have no brood to actively protect while in the swarm cluster, and have gorged on honey to sustain them for the flight.

An easy swarm catch would be a large cluster on a low branch that can be shaken into a box.

We do not recommend doing swarm catches that require climing high up on a ladder. Most often, it just isn’t worth the risk of falling or losing the swarm.

 

 


Bees are good at dying. There. We said it.

Learn More about Natural Beekeeping

Philosophy

Natural beekeeping can be defined several ways, but overall, natural beekeeping means letting the bees do what they have done for millions of years with minimal human intervention.

It also means fostering stronger genetics, bees that can thrive in the face of the chemicals, pests, diseases and imbalance our environment presents to them, by increasing strong colonies, and letting weak colonies die off. This can sound harsh, but the difference is propagating strong genetics or fostering weak ones in a species that is already facing so much difficulty.

One of the biggest differences between natural and conventional beekeeping is the use, or not, of foundation. Foundation is a pressed wax (or plastic) sheet that is shaped like honeycomb. The idea is that it urges uniform cell size for brood development and gives bees a “head start” so they don’t have to build all of their own wax.

There are multiple problems with foundation. For one, bees do not prefer a universal cell size. In response to the local bee population’s health and propagation and their own colony’s needs, a colony needs to decide for itself how many drones are needed at any given time. Drones need a different cell size than foundation provides (as conventional beekeepers try to deter drones, seeing them as “unnecessary” to the beekeepers goal or more honey).

In studies done by Penn State, pressed wax foundation (which is made from the wax harvested in commercial hives that are trucked throughout the country for the pollination of monocrops) has been shown to be riddled with agricultural chemicals, environmental chemicals and medicated treatments. The introduction of it into a hive absolutely starts the bees off with a less than ideal hive environment.

Furthermore, when given the option of foundation or foundationless frames in which to build, bees always choose to make their own comb. After all, it’s what they are built to do! They can control the cell size, the cleanliness, and rate of production.

Management

So often beekeepers fuss with their bees or take unnecessary, interfering steps in order to feel a sense of management over their colonies, but bees are already equipped to take care of themselves; they have been doing it for millions of years! Giving them the best chance at success by providing logical, regular management and an excellent environment to thrive in goes a long way to foster healthy colonies and genetics.

As natural beekeepers, we do not use or endorse the use of chemicals in the hive whatsoever. We are focused on giving bees a healthy environment and promoting healthy genes. In our own apiaries, colonies that succumb to Varroa or other pests and diseases are not increased the next season. Those that survive, we split from and increase our stock.

As backyard and hobby beekeepers, letting bees do what they do best allows them to satisfy their own colony's needs by relying upon the myriad abilities they already inherently have.

There are many natural beekeeping clubs, forums, and high profile natural beekeepers to learn from and be inspired by.

 

Philosophy

Natural beekeeping can be defined several ways, but overall, natural beekeeping means letting the bees do what they have done for millions of years with minimal human intervention.

It also means fostering stronger genetics, bees that can thrive in the face of the chemicals, pests, diseases and imbalance our environment presents to them, by increasing strong colonies, and letting weak colonies die off. This can sound harsh, but the difference is propagating strong genetics or fostering weak ones in a species that is already facing so much difficulty.

One of the biggest differences between natural and conventional beekeeping is the use, or not, of foundation. Foundation is a pressed wax (or plastic) sheet that is shaped like honeycomb. The idea is that it urges uniform cell size for brood development and gives bees a “head start” so they don’t have to build all of their own wax.

There are multiple problems with foundation. For one, bees do not prefer a universal cell size. In response to the local bee population’s health and propagation and their own colony’s needs, a colony needs to decide for itself how many drones are needed at any given time. Drones need a different cell size than foundation provides (as conventional beekeepers try to deter drones, seeing them as “unnecessary” to the beekeepers goal or more honey).

In studies done by Penn State, pressed wax foundation (which is made from the wax harvested in commercial hives that are trucked throughout the country for the pollination of monocrops) has been shown to be riddled with agricultural chemicals, environmental chemicals and medicated treatments. The introduction of it into a hive absolutely starts the bees off with a less than ideal hive environment.

Furthermore, when given the option of foundation or foundationless frames in which to build, bees always choose to make their own comb. After all, it’s what they are built to do! They can control the cell size, the cleanliness, and rate of production.

Now that you know a bit about the basics of beekeeping,
it’s time to learn which hive is best for you.

Now that you know a bit about the basics of beekeeping, it’s time to learn which hive is best for you. Each hive style has different benefits and drawbacks regarding management time, honey yield, and weight.

Each hive style has different benefits and drawbacks regarding management time, honey yield, and weight.

  • The most common hive design with the most resources
  • Yields the most honey
  • Needs a moderate amount of management
  • Can require heavy lifting (60-80 lbs)
  • Requires no heavy lifting (5-7 lbs)
  • Yields the least honey
  • Most frequent but simplest management
  • Satisfying to work in
  • Great for education
  • Yields a medium amount of honey
  • Requires some lifting (30 lbs)
  • Needs the least management
  • Gives bees a natural colony experience