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Tips for Starting a Backyard Beehive

Two beekeepers taking a look at a beehive

Backyard bees are often a fun family project that helps improve the local environment while providing you with an annual honey supply if all goes well. However, it’s not as easy as just ordering a bee kit from a supplier and setting it all up. A few considerations can make or break your backyard beehive success.

Find a Sheltered Location for the Beehive

Close-up of bees entering through bottom of beehive

There’s a wide range of requirements for the location of the beehive. It can seem impossible at times to fulfill them all. Getting as close as you can to the perfect location will go a long way toward reducing issues with the hive. But don’t give up if you have to choose a site that doesn’t meet one or two of the requirements. Look for a location that:

  • Exposes the hive to early morning sun but shades it from full noon sun, especially in the summer
  • Blocks wind that might blow directly on the hive, especially in winter
  • Allows the hive to face away from buildings, paths, and other areas where humans will congregate
  • Sits near a natural or man-made water source that is clean and fresh all summer long
  • Protects the hive from natural predators like skunks, bears, and curious humans.

Ensure Proper Nectar Sources in the Area

Bee pollinating an orange flower

You don’t need to convert your backyard to all flowers because it wouldn’t be enough to feed a hive alone. Your bees will roam up to four miles to find potential nectar and pollen sources. Try driving around the neighborhood and seeing what’s growing within that radius of your backyard. Trees that flower from spring through fall, patches of grasses that go uncut and are allowed to bloom, and wildflower gardens in the area all help ensure a steady supply of food. If you have at least a few seasons of planning before actually getting your bees, try noting when flowers are least available in the area so that you know when you might need to provide supplemental feeding.

Avoid Non-standard Hive Designs

Several beehive setup in rows with sun shining behind them

The internet is full of beekeeping gimmicks that claim to make it much easier to get into a backyard apiary. However, hives made with materials like plastic or cranking mechanics that disturb the bees will only increase the chances of illness or mite infestation. Standard top bar, Langstroth, and Warne hives might not be as exciting sounding as a hive that harvests honey all year round. However, it’s far better to keep your bees in a healthy, controlled environment than to gamble on getting anything out of an expensive but untested design.

Protect the Hive From a Wide Range of Mites

Close-up of a mite in a honeycomb

Mites make the news when it comes to beekeeping, and even non-beekeepers have heard about varroa mites. These mites climb on the bees and enter the hive, but they do the worst damage to bee larvae and can stop a hive from reproducing properly. Tracheal mites are less well-known, yet they also threaten the hive by attacking the queen’s breathing system. Using strips treated with various active ingredients inside the hive will best control varroa mite levels. For tracheal mites, a small pat of vegetable shortening mixed with sugar will ensure the queen stays free of the pests.

Locate a Local Beekeeper’s Organization

Two beekeepers each standing beside a beehive in beekeeping suits

Each area has different viruses, fungi, and pests that threaten bee health. There are also variations in local laws regarding backyard beekeeping and even differences in recommended hive types for different climates. Instead of trying to rely on websites or books about beekeeping, look for a local organization. They can offer you one-on-one support and hands-on help with the work of setting up the hive and caring for the bees. It’s much easier to learn certain skills with a mentor close at hand to at least answer your questions.

Invest in Comfortable Safety Gear

Beekeeper in the midst of bees in full protective gear

You may have seen popular viral videos of beekeepers handling their hives with no safety equipment at all. This is technically acceptable if you are sure you have no allergy to bee stings, but it’s not recommended for beginners. It’s all too easy for a beginner to slip and drop a frame or knock over their hive if they’re distracted by some well-placed stings. No suit can completely guarantee you’ll never get an errant sting but wearing gloves, a suit, and a veil will drastically reduce the amount of them. This frees you to focus on taking care of the hive instead of reacting to stings. Make sure the gear you buy is comfortable, not too hot in the summer, and gives you good visibility and grip.

By ordering a variety of bees known for gentle behavior and using the right hive, you’ll minimize the chance of irritating stings. Don’t be afraid to give beekeeping a try in your own backyard. You can introduce new pollinators to the area while reaping the reward of sweet honey.

While do-it-yourself projects can be fun and fulfilling, there is always a potential for personal injury or property damage. We strongly suggest that any project beyond your abilities be left to licensed professionals such as electricians, plumbers, and carpenters. Any action you take upon the information on this website is strictly at your own risk, and we assume no responsibility or liability for the contents of this article.


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