Getting started with beekeeping

After deciding to become a beekeeper I began reading Books, watching YouTube video and talking to other beekeeper. My Twin brother and I took a class at Big R before we got bees, I also took the Penn state beekeeping course online to further my education. As a new beekeeper there is a lot to learn. For starters, all worker bees are female. Male bees are called drones whose only job is to mate with a queen after which they die. Other than mating and foraging for food, most of the colony’s complex activities such as raising young, storing food, or even making a new queen, all take place inside the hive.

Starting off as a new beekeeper I decided to use the Langstroth hive because it is the most common type and readily available. The langstroth hive dates back to the 1850s and is named after its inventor, L.L. Langstroth, a clergyman and teacher considered to be the father of American beekeeping. Each hive consists of individual, removable frames inside stackable boxes and because they’re so popular, Langstroths equipment is ease to get. But buying a beehive is only the first step in getting setup.

Jess and I bought 2 hives that came with screened bottom boards, 2 deeps which are where your brood will be, and 1 medium super which is for honey storage above the brood, an inner cover and outer cover with a tin covering to help with weather. We bought 10 frame boxes which means there are ten frame in each deep. (A frame is where the bees build there comb) The super has frames as well just shorter than the deep. You can buy everything per-assembled but it will cost more but less time putting them together. Screened bottom boards allow for good air circulation and pest control. You can get a solid bottom board as well, in fact our third hive has a solid bottom board.

You don’t have to go with traditional bee hives, we just found it easier as new beekeepers. We are going to keep exploring different hive stiles till we find what works for us. Don’t be afraid of a screened bottom board though. The screened bottom board exposes the inside of the hive to frosty outdoor temperatures, but it’s an important component of integrated pest management, in this case, control of deadly varroa mites. It turns out a healthy bee population can maintain a temperature of 92 degrees inside the hive as they cluster around the queen, even in sub-zero conditions.

Lift your hive off the ground.  We built our stands for 2 hives per stand, but remember to make it sturdy enough to hold the weight of the hives. Keep it tall enough to help discourage predators such as skunks or raccoon’s, they will have to get up on hind legs, thus exposing its belly to painful stings by alarmed bees. Make it short enough to easily take off 60 pound honey supers.

Get a reliable stainless steel smoker, complete with sturdy bellows. Before conducting any hive inspection, a beekeeper needs a good smoker and fuel (pine needles or dry grass clippings) that puts out cool smoke. Smoking the bees by directing a few gentle puffs of smoke into the front entrance and as you open the outer cover will calm the bees, making them easier to work with. If you don’t have lots of pine needles/grass clippings or other non-toxic fuel handy, buy fuel that’s non-toxic and easy to light.

Choose a hive tool and a bee brush. The hive tool is an indispensable instrument for loosening and prying up frames during a hive inspection. Frames are often hard to remove because they’re glued in place with propolis, the glue-like substance bees produce. Once you’re able to extract a frame, you sometimes need a way to move bees around or off the frame – maybe you want to look at brood, or withdraw a frame to extract honey. A bee brush is the safest way to move the bees off the frame without angering or hurting them.

It is recommended to have a beekeepers jacket and veil when keeping bees. Jess and I just us a veil, t-shirt, gloves, pants and boots when we do hive inspections. They sell full-body suits with veil and gloves or just a jacked and veil. We plan on getting jackets for the one day the hives get mad and are sting happy.

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