Keeping bees is not only a great hobby; it’s environmentally sustainable and fantastic for your garden and your local ecosystem. When it comes to how to start a beehive, where do you begin?
There are three main ways to start your own beehive.
- Many beehives begin when an established colony is split off into new, separate colonies. You can purchase a Nucleus Bee Colony. This is a small beehive that fits just four to six standard hive frames. These frames are used by beekeepers to later split the colony into separate colonies. This smaller hive requires fewer bees for the maintenance of optimal hive temperature.
- Purchase a Honeybee Package. This is available from a commercial bee breeder and will usually be comprised of a mated queen plus up to 1.8kg of honeybees. This is a safe way to find a hive without potentially transferring diseases from another hive, yet the bees will have the huge task of building the hive from scratch. You need to provide them with suitable food for the interim.
- Start a beehive without buying bees! This is achieved by capturing a swarm of bees. You place an empty bee box in an area of your yard to which you aim to attract bees, using native bee wax and resin (Propolis) in the box and around the entrance to appeal to the bees. It’s the method of starting a beehive that is least reliable but can be very, very rewarding if it works!
How many Bees do you need to start a Beehive?
When you purchase a package of bees, you’ll get several thousand bees and a queen.
How to Start a Beehive without Buying Bees
While many new hive owners purchase honeybees, you can start a beehive without buying bees to populate it. This is done by capturing a swarm of bees.
Bees swarm naturally in response to outgrowing their existing hive; they leave the original hive and scout for other potential permanent homes nearby. A beekeeper may be able to attract and capture bees to a hive they will accept as their new home. The bees need to be captured quickly upon swarming.
How do I attract native bees to my hive?
- Create hives with plenty of space – bees don’t enjoy cramped conditions.
- Locate your hives in a cool, dry, spot that gets sunlight but is shaded in summer (under a deciduous tree is ideal).
- Locate your hive away from foot-traffic and off ground level.
- Face the hive entrance away from wind direction, especially in winter.
- Have a small opening for the bees in the hive so that they can easily defend it if they need to.
- Select a hive with an existing wax frame. This tricks the bees into thinking they’re moving into a hive that has been previously occupied – which they love.
- Check the hive regularly to see if scouts are checking it out.
- Don’t disturb bees when they are moving in and establishing their new home.
- Don’t over-manicure your yard
- Don’t use pesticides or herbicides
- Plant diverse flowers and other plants close to your hive to attract bees. Note that bees prefer purple, blue, and yellow flowers. Include native wildflowers and other single-petal flower species. These include:
- Bee balm
- Place a shallow dish with sugar water by the hive – don’t forget to line it with marbles or pebbles so the bees don’t drown when they come to drink.
- Bees hate furry and dark things – so keep Fluffy and Rover away from your hives.
How long does it take for bees to make honey?
Your new hive should produce honey within four to six months – but the first honey harvest will be small, as the bees need to establish their hive and build their colony. It may be better to wait and harvest for the first time after the first year, as your colony will be stronger and healthier by this time. You also need to keep adequate amounts of honey in the hive for the bees to live on over winter, otherwise, supplement their feeding.
How many times a year can you harvest honey?
After the first year, you can harvest honey from a robust hive whenever the hive is full of capped cured honey, usually in summer.
Bees are amazing! They are smart, adorable, organized, and they pollinate your garden for better blooms and healthier, more robust vegetable, fruit, and their harvests. Plus, they make honey! It’s a hobby well worth adopting – with many hours of pleasure and tangible rewards to be had for your initial investment.