Bee Keeping for Absolute Beginners on Keeping Honey Bees

This is a guide to bee keeping for beginners. Here you will find tips and advice on how to keep honey bees with a year's calendar telling you what to do each season for your bees.

Why do people keep bees? Well, many people keep bees because they want to encourage these industrious insects into their orchards and gardens, and also because they are worried about the declining bee populations and the disappearing bees. Others know the benefits of honey for their skin, health and energy levels and keep bees as a result, giving them a steady supply of pure, organic honey.

Even urban bee keeping has started up in cities and around our suburban backyards! But unfortunately many give up on beekeeping after they have tried to harvest their first lot of honey. We don't want that to happen to you, and with these simple steps, you will see that beekeeping isn't as difficult as you first thought.

Beekeeping For Beginners and Identifying the Bees in your Bee Hive

3 types of honey bees - the drone, the worker and the queen beeAny successful hive will have 1 queen bee, several thousand worker bees, and for part of the year, several hundred drones. The Drone Bees - Picture 1

When the family is large and honey abundant, a brood of drones is reared; the number, probably, depends on the yield of honey, and size of the swarm, more than anything else.

As honey becomes scarce, the drones are destroyed. Drones have large, clumsy bodies, and their buzzing, when on the wing, is louder, and altogether different from the others.

In bee keeping the drones seem to be of the least value of any in the hive. Perhaps not more than one in a thousand is ever called upon to perform the duty for which they were designed. Yet they assist, on some occasions, to keep up the animal heat necessary in the old hive after a swarm has left.

The Worker Bees Picture 2

Basket-like cavities are found on the worker bees' legs, where they pack the pollen of flowers into little pellets, convenient to bring home. They are also provided with a sting, and if attacked, will generally defend themselves sufficient to escape.

Worker bees range the fields for honey and pollen, secrete wax, construct combs, prepare food, nurse the young, bring water for the use of the community, obtain propolis to seal up all crevices about the hive, stand guard, and keep out intruders, robbers, etc.

The Queen Bee  Picture 3

The queen bee, in bee keeping, is the mother of the entire family; her duty appears to be only to deposit eggs in the cells. Her abdomen has its full size very abruptly where it joins the trunk or body, and then gradually tapers to a point.

The queen bee is longer than either the drones or workers, but her size, in other respects, is a medium between the two. In shape she resembles the worker more than the drone; and, like the worker, has a sting, but will not use it for anything below royalty.

BEEKEEPING FOR BEGINNERS, Beekeeping Equipment and Starting Small

It is advisable to start small when first bee keeping and then expand your hives as you become more experienced with your honey bees. It can be a costly project in setting up the hives and buying the equipment you need - about US$200 just for the hive which you can either buy commercially, or use some beehive plans and make your own.

In addition, you will need a smoker, a veil, gloves, feeding equipment and a honey extractor. Again we provide a plan for a homemade honey extractor. Here are the links to some free bee keeping plans for homemade beehives and homemade extractors.

Beehive and Frame Plans

Brood Hive Plans

Honeycomb Uncapping Tank and

Super Dumping Board Plans

Low Cost Beehive Plans

Honey Extractor Plans

Solar Beeswax Extractor Plans

BEEKEEPING FOR BEGINNERS and Learning how to keep Bees

You can read volumes of books and articles, including one like this, but you will never truly understand the art of bee keeping until you do it yourself. Ideally, you will have someone guide you who has kept honey bees before, but if not, you will have to go it alone and recognize when to harvest, how to open and remove the frames, what the queen bee looks like etc.

However, we hope that our simple guide to keeping honey bees for beginners like you, will help in some way to put you on the right path. Don't forget, though, it is no use keeping honey bees if you don't have the right honey plants to allow your bees to collect the nectar and convert it to honey.

BEEKEEPING FOR BEGINNERS and Where to Site the Bee Hives

In bee keeping, the position of the hives of your honey bees is important. Position your hives so that they face east, and make sure that they are protected from the afternoon sun. Also make sure that they have access to fresh water every day. You can achieve this by placing a watering dish close at hand, but if it is rather large, make sure that you have some pieces of wood floating on the water for the bees to rest on and so that they don't drown while drinking.

Make sure that the hives are not resting on damp ground by placing the hive on a row of bricks. Damp hives will result in sick bees. If you live in an area with skunks, bears or raccoons you will need to protect your hives as far as possible from these animals, as they will raid your hives if you don't. Finally, don't keep more than 2 colonies per acre. Good bee keeping management will result in about 45 kg of honey per hive.


To start off bee keeping you will need 3 eight-frame, medium depth boxes for each colony. Make sure that any additions that you make to your hive come from the same manufacturer as dimensions are not standard, and you will not have a good fit if you don't.

a beekeeper robbing a hive in his protective suit, gloves and veiled hat

BEEKEEPING FOR BEGINNERS and Wearing Protective Clothing

Getting stung by bees is inevitable with bee keeping. Therefore, it is sensible to buy protective clothing. This should be an overall which has elasticated arms and legs, a veil and hat where the veil can be tucked down into the overall. Finally a good pair of leather gloves. The downside of using gloves is that when you are trying to extract the frames, the gloves make it all rather cumbersome. Some people are brave enough to ditch the gloves when working, others cut off the fingers to allow for a better grip. In the end it is what is comfortable for you.


Your smoker should be large and stainless steel as it will last longer and make sure that it comes with a protective shield. You can burn compressed sawdust or compressed cotton fibers that can be commercially purchased from suppliers. However, there are other fuels that are freely available and cost nothing. You can burn pine needles, sawdust and chipped wood mulch is all suitable. Just make sure that the wood that you are using has not been treated with any chemicals.

bee keeping and removing the capping

BEEKEEPING FOR BEGINNERS and Collecting the Honey

To see whether the honey has matured enough to be harvested remove an uncapped comb containing honey and turn it on its side. Give it a good shake. If nectar comes out of it, put it back and wait a few weeks more as the honey isn't ready. When it has matured, you can now harvest the honey, but always leave some for the honey bees. They will need that honey to survive on, especially during winter months, and if you remove all the honey, your bees will die. However, if you are removing honey during spring you may want to remove more honey than you would for an autumn harvest to prevent swarming.

Don't remove honey from the brooding boxes. The honey here is darker, and dislodged brood and larvae will contaminate the honey.

Although there are a number of ways from shaking the frames to turning the hive on its side, the best way is of course to use a smoker as it makes the bees drowsy and far less aggressive. Aim the smoker at the hive and try and prise the lid off the hive so you can get to the frames. Keeping the smoker going lift the frames and brush the bees off the frames with a brush that is specifically for this purpose. Make sure that it is clean. You could also free the bees from the frame by shaking them off the frame. Remove as many frames as you want to in this manner and replace them with clean frames.


Take the frames back to your house and with a hot knife remove the cappings. Make sure the knife is sharp. You can also buy a special scraper from a supplier which is used in a similar way. 


To get the honey out of the frames the best way is to use a honey extractor. These can either be manually driven or electric, it just depends on how much you want to invest, how many colonies you have and how big an operation you want to run.
To see what you should be doing throughout the year, season by season, see our Beekeeper's Calendar for hive management during the year.

BEEKEEPING FOR BEGINNERS and Pests and Diseases 

Bee keeping is not without concerns to their health and safety. Unfortunately, bees are susceptible to mites; tracheal mites and varroa mites. Where the tracheal mites lay eggs in the trachea of the bees, the varroa mites attach themselves to the bodies of the bees and become a parasite living off the bees' body fluids.

You can treat tracheal mites by mixing 50grams of menthol with 50 grams of vegetable shortening and spreading it thinly on cardboard sheets that are placed on top of the frames for a total of 25 days. This is done in the spring and autumn times of the year where the temperature is at least 60°F. Make sure too that the opening to the hive is as small as possible to allow for the vapors to be distributed throughout the hive. However, I worry about possibility of tainting the honey's taste, as menthol has a very strong smell. I prefer neem.

Neem is a wonderful organic treatment for whole variety of pests in the garden, but is particularly useful with keeping the mite population down in your hives. By adding 3 ml of neem extract to 1 liter of sugar extract this will reduce both types of mites in your hives.

Mites are difficult to get rid of once you have them. The best way to avoid them is to check the hives for mites, and to make sure that your hives are clean.


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Keeping Honey Bees - PART 1

Keeping Honey Bees - PART 2

Keeping Honey Bees - PART 3

Keeping Honey Bees - PART 4

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