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Honey Bee On FlowerBecoming A Beekeeper

Why keep beesWhy keep bees ?

Download E-Book Download our E-Book " About Honey Bees " to learn the basics about Honey Bees, the Bee Hive, who does what and much more. Well illustrated with close-up photos.

A new beekeeper's year starts in the Fall - See the article in this issue of Mother Earth News

Honey bees are truly wondrous creatures, and keeping them can be a thoroughly rewarding  and enjoyable hobby. Getting started though is not always easy. The path may be simple and straightforward, or it may be strewn with difficulties. To ease your way and to make your introduction to the world of the honey bee as enjoyable as possible, consider taking the following steps:

Find an experienced, successful beekeeper in your own area who is willing to help you. Look over his or her shoulder whenever possible, and ask lots of questions. Recognize, however, that years of experience do not guarantee a beekeeper's competence or success. It may actually be one year of experience many times over. Select your mentor with care.

There are a number of good books available about beekeeping. Read two or three of the more recent ones. Acquire one or two of the better ones for your own library. Read them and reread them. In selecting your books, realize that beekeeping is generally the same worldwide. There are some national and regional differences, however, in both equipment and methodology. Beginners will do well to stay with books written  for their own area. A New Englander, for instance, might not be best served by a book written in California  or England.


Start with new equipment of standard design and dimensions. Used equipment or homemade equipment both have the potential to bring problems that the novice may not be equipped to recognize or handle. . Do not experiment the first year. Learn and use basic methods. Then you'll have a basis for comparison if you choose to experiment in future years.

Do not buy a so-called beginner's outfit until you know the use for each piece of equipment and are sure that you want it. You may find that you are better off making your own selection. A suggested list of equipment follows this section.

Start with Italian bees. They are the standard, the most common, and readily available in this country. Those acquired from a competent breeder are as gentle as any other race or strain available. In future years you can experiment, and again, have a basis for comparison.

Start with a "Package Of Bees" rather than with a nucleus hive (a nuc) or an established hive. Once past the initial awe and apprehension, the novice can easily handle and install a package. By its nature a properly bred package is non-aggressive. It is a unit that a beginner can handle and relate to immediately. You will grow in confidence and competence as the colony grows in size.

Start early enough in the season, but not too early. Late April through early May is appropriate for most of New England, and packages are readily available during this period. .Recognize that you may not get a surplus of honey the first year, especially from package bees. The first year is a learning time for the beekeeper and a building time for the bees.

Join your local beekeepers' association. These groups welcome and encourage beginners. You will find kindred souls there. Beekeeping is much more difficult to learn in isolation, and beekeeper associations are a prime source of information about books and other publications, classes and workshops, and beekeeping events in the area. Many associations hold annual bee schools for beginners. You can usually get information on your local association from the county extension office.

Subscribe to a beekeeping magazine. They are full of valuable information for beginners.


Everything you need to know about Beekeeping Clothing.This has been extracted from 'Studio Bee Live' compiled by David of Honey Bee Farms in Illinois. It is an mp3 audio file and clicking on the speaker will call up whatever program you have on your computer that is assigned to run mp3. It is an excellent discussion on the subject which will last 20 minutes. If you wish you should be able to save it to your computer to play in its entirety when you have more time. Courtesy Of Long Lane Honey Bee Farm

Visit our other web site Beginning Beekeeping --------------- Interested in an alternative and economical way of beekeeping ?

Basic Equipment

A look through any beekeeping catalog will show an array of equipment and supplies that can be over- whelming to a potential beekeeper. However, the amount of equipment that is actually required during the first year is relatively small. Experience will guide you in subsequent years. In New England most beekeepers use two full-depth hive bodies as their basic unit, with supers (superstructure) added and removed as appropriate during the active season. The following list includes everything needed to maintain one colony for the entire first season.

Complete Two-Story Hive

Two Story Bee Hive

Basic Hive

Bottom board with entrance reducer.
Hive bodies (2), full depth, 9l/2" 
Frames (20), full depth, 91/8", with wedge top bar and two piece or split bottom bar.
Foundation (20), full depth, 8«", wire reinforced.
Support pins (4 per frame) or frame wire and eyelets.
Inner cover, ventilated.
Outer cover, telescoping.

Honey Supers

Super, shallow, 5 l l/'l6" or mid-depth, 6Ys". 
Frames, ( 10), shallow, 53/8" or mid-depth, 61/4').
Foundation, wired, shallow, 43/4" or mid-depth, 55/8". 
Support pins (4 per frame), or frame wire and eyelets.
In the long run you will want at least two or three supers per colony.

In the long run you will want at least two or three supers per colony.

In the first year you may need only one extra super.

What You Will Need To Start !


3 Ib. package of Italian bees with queen.

Necessary Equipment

Hive tool, 10".
Smoker, 4" diameter or larger.
Veil and helmet. 
Feeder (top feeder recommended).

Optional Equipment

Queen excluder.

Compiled by Richard E. Bonney
Department of Entomology
Fernald Hall
Amherst, MA 01003

Interested in an alternative and economical way of beekeeping ?

For more detailed information on becoming a beekeeper - click here

[Much of this page courtesy of Cooperative Extension University of Massachusetts]


Site updated January 1, 2017

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