Before I started beekeeping, I didn’t realize how much beekeeping is like gardening. There are things that need to be done for the bees in time with the seasons. Bee hives are ever-changing in time based on the weather and conditions. And if you, my up-and-coming beekeeping friend, miss taking action at the right time, you’ll set yourself and your bees up for failure. So, read on for a few handy timing tips if you want to start beekeeping!
If you want to start beekeeping next year, do these three things by December 31st
Maybe you’re not quite sure about getting bees next year. Or maybe you’re committed and nothing’s going to stop you. Either way, it helps to know where to start so you can get in at the right time of the year.
1. Find a local beekeeping club and start attending meetings
You’ll gain great beekeeping information from the speakers. Often they’re invited in from other areas and speak on general topics that help all of us beekeepers. But there is local information available that you can’t get anywhere else. How is this year going for the bees in your area? Is there a flow on? How is the flow compared to previous years? Has there been a case of American Foul Brood (AFB, a highly contagious, devastating bee disease) in your area? What’s the best way to winterize hives in your area? Are small hive beetles an issue in your area? Also, most clubs have libraries you can borrow books from. Many have an extracting kit available to borrow so you may not have to invest in one your first year. You can ask fellow beekeepers for contact info if they’re open to you asking an occasional question as you start beekeeping. And if you’re really lucky, you may find a beekeeping mentor. I find arriving 15-20 minutes before a meeting is scheduled to start is best so I can chat with a few beekeepers and get a few of my questions answered, and now I can even occasionally answer a question for someone, before the speaker starts.
2. Sign up for a beginner beekeeping course & buy the required text(s)
There’s so much to be gained from a thorough course that starts from the very beginning to explain how to keep bees. Meetings are good, but they leave a lot of gaps in our beekeeping knowledge. And there’s nothing like having someone there to answer our noob questions when we don’t understand the jargon or a concept. It also helps to hear what other beginning beekeepers are struggling with. Most clubs run a beginner course. And if they don’t, ask some folks in the club for a recommendation. Many courses have a required reading list which I recommend purchasing to start your library. But if your course doesn’t have a list, a great first inexpensive text is Storey’s Guide to Keeping Honey Bees by Malcolm T. Sanford and Richard E. Bonney.
3. Order 2 packages of bees
And here’s where the tire hits the pavement! Get those bees ordered. Who knew there was a time to order bees? I know I didn’t. But if you want to be assured that you’ll have bees to put in your hive, order them by the end of December. There are many options for buying bees, but I think there’s nothing like starting the first year with 2 packages of local bees that you install, in the spring, in two hives and watch how hives actually begin and build ups. You can ask beekeepers at your meetings where they buy their bees and search online. And, to be clear, you can often find bees for sale into the spring, but many beekeepers are also selling out that time of year. If you’re starting your first year and you don’t want one more uncertainty, order them by December 31st.
So remember to get these three things done by the end of December
- Find that local beekeeping club and start hanging out with other beekeepers
- Get enrolled in a beginning beekeeping course
- Order your bees!!! 😀
And a few bonus beginner timing tips to start beekeeping:
- Get your beekeeping equipment ordered by the end of March – click here to sign up for a free downloadable shopping list
- Assemble & paint the woodenware by the beginning of April
- Prep your hive stands +/- bear fence by the middle of April
- The day before you’re scheduled to pick your bees up (April, May or June depending on where your bees are from), get your hives assembled and secured on their stands – warning: they like to blow apart in the wind without bees in them
I hope you find this helpful. I’m so excited for you if you’re thinking about getting into beekeeping. It’s such a fun hobby working with fascinating little animals, you’ll get outdoors and connected to the seasons, and there’s never and end to learning more. Happy beekeeping!