DIY / Solutions

A Beginners’ Guide to Beekeeping

Learn the basics of tending to a hive at home.

A Beginners’ Guide to Beekeeping

Here are a few books we recommend as you are getting started!

Natural Beekeeping by Ross Conrad

The Rooftop Beekeeper by Megan Paska

Save the Bees by Rob and Chelsea McFarland

Raising bees at home is a richly rewarding experience. Whether you are searching to source your honey locally or want to support bee health, there are many reasons to explore beekeeping in your backyard. In fact, 1/3 of the food we eat is possible because of pollination by honeybees!

There is so much to learn so consider this beginners’ guide a way to get your brain buzzing with possibilities. Remember as well that it’s important to do your research, connect with local beekeepers in your community, take workshops, and learn what’s legal in your neck of the woods.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you are considering starting a hive in your backyard:

LOCATION

When choosing a location in your yard, find a place on level ground with ample space surrounding so that you can easily access the hive. You’ll also want to:

  • Protect your hive from harsh winds
  • Situate your hive facing the south so that it can soak up the morning sun
  • Ensure that there is ample forage and water close to your hive
SUPPLIES

Retailers such as Dadant provide quality beekeeping supplies, including:

  • Suit, veil, gloves
  • Smoker, hive tool, frame grip
  • Hive boxes, frames, hive stand

For a local supplier, check out Pierce Beekeeping in Fullerton!

HIVE BOX

Below is a breakdown of the constituent parts of a Langstroth Hive. As your hive grows and honey flows, you will need a Queen Excluder and Super box. For now, your hive will comprise:

  • Telescoping Outer Cover
  • Inner Cover
  • Shallow Super
  • Medium Depth (Western) Super
  • Queen Excluder
  • Standard Brood Box—contains 10 frame of differing depths where bees can build their comb to store eggs, pollen, nectar, and honey
  • Screen Bottom Board—helpful for those in warmer climates as the ventilation helps the bees to regulate their temperature
  • Hive Stand—should sit on top of a stand with 4 legs

Check out these diagrams of hives for more information.

SOURCING BEES
  • Source package bees through your local beekeeping association
  • Source your swarm through a local beekeeper
SETTING UP A HIVE

Ready to bring your honeybees home? Before setting up a hive, first talk with local beekeepers in your community for ideas on where to source your honeybees and how to build and/or buy your hive boxes, frames, stands. You can also check out this engaging how-to to learn how to build the boxes for a hive.

MAINTENANCE

The needs of your hive will vary with the seasons. Throughout the year, however, you will want to prevent ant infestation by creating moats under your hive stand using natural solution of vegetable oil, cayenne pepper and Dr. Bronners soap.

  • In the spring, your focus will be on swarm control. Split the hives if you can to lessen honeybee swarm and replace old comb from the brood boxes.
  • In the summer, search for signs of swarm such as Queen cells (supersized cells that hang from the comb). Honey flow is abundant during this season so your focus will be on harvesting honey and expanding boxes.
  • In the fall, honey flow is winding down. You’ll want to leave your honeybees with sufficient honey to carry them through the colder months as well as check for signs of moth infestation. Remove and replace those frames that are infected.
  • In the winter, check regularly for mite infestation.

As you can see, starting hives takes some time. But with the support of your community, a willingness to make mistakes, and an open mind, you truly can tend to you a healthy honeybee hive at home.