How I became a beekeeper
March 31, 2020
Amateur beekeeping really can be for anyone. Learn quick tips and valuable advice!
Hi! I am Rachel Bevan and I am a beekeeper. When I tell most people, they can’t believe it and usually take one of three approaches. They might say “Wow, that is so cool!” or “Whoa, how did you get into that?” or even “Bees scare me, how could you ever do that?” A follow up question is usually something along the lines “So, do you like have the whole suit and stuff?” Yes, I really have the suit and all the stuff and I LOVE it!
In 2019, I finally decided to finally buy all of the equipment and take the plunge into beekeeping. My cousin bought a property near College Station, TX with some established hives and she told me that I could come down and split a hive. She thankfully had a friend that was able to help me find the queen and split the hive correctly, but it was still nerve racking to drive the 4 hours back home with a beehive in my trunk. I had only secured the opening with a double layer of duct-tape and then had bungeed the hive to cinder block in hopes that it wouldn’t topple over.
How to start your own Beehive!
There are many ways that you can have a beehive of your own. First, make sure to research if there are any restrictions for your home or if you can place a hive on someone else’s land. Some farmers actually pay beekeepers to bring 10+ hives to their fields to help with fertilization.
I was lucky that I could find bees and split an existing hive, but everyone is not that lucky. You can talk to your local beekeeping association, almost every area has one. Sometimes they can sell you a new queen or direct you to someone that collects swarms. Or if you would rather just buy it online, there are plenty of suppliers that sell just queens or whole colonies.
For your brood box, suit, smoker, and hive tools, I bought mine at tractor supply less than an hour before I got my bees. You can purchase the starter kits on Amazon, from a local feed store, Tractor Supply or bee companies. https://www.tractorsupply.com/tsc/product/harvest-lane-honey-unisex-beekeeping-suit-110336299–1?cm_vc=-10005 I recommend getting a full suit, where your hat, netting and body covering are all connected. I did buy the jacket and hat and gloves all separate, but it was a lot more effort to put on and take off each time I checked on my bees.
Types of Hives
I have a classic hive, with the brood box on bottom and a super on top, but there are other versions out there. The FlowHive is an amazing type of hive, but I have never seen one in person and they can be quite pricey ($750+ https://www.honeyflow.com/shop/flow-hive/flow-hive-2-araucaria-6-frame/p/506 ). My brood box came in the starter kit from tractor supply ($150+ https://www.tractorsupply.com/tsc/product/harvest-lane-honey-small-backyard-beekeeping-kit-waccessories ). I am happy with the hive I have, but I am sure there are many pros and cons all types.
(I do not get any compensation for any of the links or stores posted above.)
Some people think that you can get an active bee colony and then harvest honey in just a few months. Unfortunately, that is not the case. I did harvest one frame of honey a few months after I started my colony, but that was because I did not set up the hive correctly. I left too large of a gap between frames and the bees were creating this weird looking growth of honeycomb. Otherwise, last fall I harvested around 12 oz of honey, which was what was in my super at the end of the season. I probably could have gotten a little more honey out of my bees by supplying them with more sugar water or food throughout the season, but it would have probably totaled only about 6 more ounces. I am hoping this year to harvest more honey as my bees’ bottom brood box is still full of honey from last year and I was already able to add my super to the top.
Have faith in your bees and don’t let them scare you!
I am always amazed by the people that do not use gloves or even a suit when they tend their hives. I have not gotten that comfortable with my bees or with bee stings. This spring I found out that I swell up quite badly from a bee sting and they remain tender and swollen for over a week, so I think I will always stay with a full suit on.
One last piece of wisdom, if your bees seem extra cranky, make sure that they have easy access to water. If they have water, then maybe treat them to a sweet snack like sugar water and they should calm down A LOT! I would relate it to a lady at her time of the month when there are no sweets in the house, lol.