Beekeeping is a noble yet demanding activity that will take most of your free time, especially in the first year. If you plan on becoming a beekeeper, you should start in early spring but you’ll find more info here about everything it takes to start producing honey.
Beekeeping has increased in popularity in the past few years, with more people being interested in living an organic lifestyle and growing their own products, as well as harvesting their own honey. However, starting the process won’t come easy, especially for those who don’t have a clue about bees in general. Let’s take a closer look at the process and find everything you need to know to become a successful beekeeper.
What time should you start beekeeping?
Most specialists suggest that the best time to start working on your new hobby is early spring. Depending on where you live and how warm the weather is, anytime from late March or early April to the end of June is considered the right season to pick up beekeeping.
It is when most honey bees engage in colony reproduction and start looking for plants to pollinate. Spring is also the season when nature comes back to life, and all plants and trees start blooming once more, which helps bees produce that sweet golden nectar you are looking for.
Is there anything you should do before spring?
Technically, the busiest time of the year for beekeepers is spring but this doesn’t mean that your work won’t start until then, especially if it is your first year. On the contrary, there is a lot of preparation that must be done in advance, so you’re looking at at least 3-4 months of work before spring comes.
Some people will start as early as six months in advance to have enough time to catch up with the reading, and prepare everything necessary for the new beehive. We suggest starting with the basics, and that is acquiring as much information as you can about beekeeping, bees, hives, and everything related.
Beekeeping can be treated both as a hobby and as an additional source of income but it is up to you to help your hives thrive and your bees produce the delicious nectar.
Thus, it would be best to attend some classes where you can learn the basics or at least read some online books, articles, and blogs to prepare yourself for the entire process. Of course, you’ll need to get in touch with your local beekeepers’ association, and have all necessary permits and licenses in order before spring comes.
Secondly, you’ll have to look for the perfect location for your hive. Make sure to find a place with easy access to trees, flowers, and water.
And, even though you can start with just one hive, professional beekeepers recommend having at least two to be able to compare the development of the bee colonies, and learn more. Therefore, you’ll need a bigger place, preferably a large backyard or an additional location.
It would also help if you talked to your neighbors in advance and told them about your new hobby. Keep in mind that some people might be allergic to bee stings, so they should know to stock on proper medication in case some of your bees go rogue.
Last but not least, order everything necessary to start beekeeping as soon as spring comes. This includes all accessories, tools, protective equipment, hives, and bee colonies. As we previously mentioned, you will need at least two colonies, two hives, tools, a pair of protective gloves, and a beekeeper suit.
Apart from the online classes and additional reading material, you’re looking at a minimum investment of $500 to start thinking about that honey.
When should you order bees?
You can’t start producing honey without bees, right? Figuring the perfect time to order your bees is crucial if you want to turn beekeeping into a real activity.
Professional beekeepers suggest that the best time to place your order on the bee colonies is January or early February in order to have them shipped by the beginning of April. Based on the day they arrive, you may have to feed them until May before allowing the bees to get outside their hives and start the pollination process.
It goes without saying that you should only buy the bees from a trustworthy source or else you may risk receiving an ill colony that will die.
Beekeeping tasks by season
Spring may be the busiest time of the year for beekeepers but this doesn’t mean that you’ll get to just hang around and wait for the honey the rest of the year. On the contrary, beekeeping is a year-round activity, so here is what you should expect.
In early spring, after having your bee colonies shipped, you may need to keep on feeding them for a couple more weeks. Make sure the insects have enough food until flowers start blooming and provide the necessary nectar.
Spring is the season when you should harvest honey from an established hive. Don’t forget to also harvest any honeycombs that were not used during the wintertime.
You should also do a thorough hive inspection and replace all the bees that might have died, including the queen.
By the time it’s hot and sunny outside, your bees would have already learned to look after themselves, meaning you will only have to check up on them every few days. You should stop feeding them too, as the bees will have constant supplies of nectar from flowers.
Keep in mind that bees are quite sensitive insects, meaning their health can be influenced by a series of external and internal factors. Thus, you need to make sure there is always a source of fresh water near the hive to help them quench their thirst.
Also, look for pests or any chemical substances sprinkled over the flowers that might harm your bee colonies.
It’s high time you enjoyed the fruits of your labor, so start collecting that honey. Fall is probably the easiest season for beekeepers as there isn’t too much to do. However, you’ll still need to check them for diseases and treat diseased combs whenever possible.
It is high time you started repairing the hives, as well as completing all treatments against pests and diseases. Check out the colonies one more time and prepare your bees for the winter by insulating hives while also providing good ventilation.
All these tasks shouldn’t take you more than 20-25 hours per hive to complete, meaning you’re free to enjoy the rest of the season. If you only manage a couple of hives, fall is the perfect time to go on vacations and enjoy some quality time alongside your friends and family.
There are a few tasks you can perform before temperatures drop too low, such as completing all remaining disease treatments or making sure the hives are properly sheltered from the wind, cold, and snow.
During winter, you should monitor your bees frequently, ensuring an optimum temperature inside each hive. However, avoid completely covering the hives as it can cause condensation which will later negatively impact the bee population.
Don’t forget to also check the food supplies and make sure there is enough for them to survive through the winter, no matter how long it is.
Winter is the perfect season to catch up on your reading about bees, hives, and everything else related to beekeeping. Exchange information with fellow beekeepers, enroll in classes or seminars and even ask other people in the field to help you become more productive.
Last but not least, order new colonies of bees, and consider replacing the used or damaged equipment.
What to expect
If you strictly follow all the steps described above, your bees should start producing honey from the first year. However, don’t set your expectations too high on the amount of honey or the profit you are going to make.
Keep in mind that honey production depends on a variety of factors, including temperatures, climate, air quality, and how strong your bees are. And, since it is your first year, remember that you still have a long way ahead, and plenty of things to learn about bees.