Get Ready – Beekeeping is a series of decisions that leads to a successful colony
To make the best decisions it takes knowledge.
- I suggest starting with a good book and my favorite first book is Beekeeping for dummies . It is an easy read and is a great start
- Beekeeping class – available online or in person locally
- Join a bee club, I prefer the local club: Beekeepers Guild of Santa Barbara
Get Set – There are only a few items that are needed to start beekeeping and below is a short list.
- A safe home for the bees either Langstroth, Top Bar, or Warre.
- Protection from stings: start with more protection, then with experience, reduce to what you are most comfortable with.
- Smoker and hive tool
Go – How to get bees
Package vs swarms
Package – Most common method of getting bees (and certainly not the best) is to purchase a package of bees. A package is an artificial swarm created by a beekeeper by shaking bees out of a hive and adding a queen. Because the bees were not planning on swarming they do not build up as fast as a swarm.
Swarm – A swarm is the honey bees natural reproductive method. The bees are programed to create comb and the queen will lay very quickly. Bees produce many swarms as in the wild they have a low chance of survival. Proper care can increase their chances, but the first few weeks are critical. The issue with the swarm is that the health and genetics of the bees are unknown. The unknowns are more difficult the less experience the beekeeper has. It is a good low cost way to get bees, but the bees have diseases or poor genetics which lead to spiciness or poor mite resistance.
Nucs vs Full sized hives
Nucs – A nuc is short for Nucleus colony which is the smallest colony which with proper care will grow into a healthy colony. The nuc is taken from a larger hive and usually has a queen that has been in the nuc for weeks to prove her laying ability and genetics.
Full sized hive – Often there are opportunities to purchase a full-sized hive that an experienced beekeeper is getting rid of. One of the issues is that the selling beekeeper has greater knowledge about the hive, its condition, and possible diseases than the buyer. It is very important to beware of full sized hives if you do not know the beekeeper. A second and possibly more important issue is that a beginner will not have the skill to handle so many bees at once. The hive will grow and if not cared for properly may swarm or become honey bound.
I suggest getting a swarm trap and capturing a swarm and if interested in getting a nuc, getting in a reservation as soon as possible as historically it has been a 6-month wait. I hope that the rain speeds this up this year. To purchase a swarm trap or purchase a nuc email or call me for details.