5 Things I Learned My First Month as a Beekeeper

beekeepingAfter attending beekeeping classes at Lehman’s, a beekeeping convention in Wooster, and watching countless YouTube videos, I knew about as many beekeeping basics as I thought was possible without actually getting my hands on my bees. Finally, they came! It was an exciting and a bit of a nerve-racking experience to pick them up and get them home, but watching the beekeepers where we got them handle them with ease, I tried to just stay calm and do in real life what I had been envisioning for the last several months. Installation was so fun and interesting. Though not without some trouble, the bees got in and got fed, and I’ve loved watching them work.

It’s now been a month since the installation of our bees! Here are 5 things that I’ve learned in my first month as a beekeeper.

Here are 5 things that I’ve learned in my first month as a beekeeper.

1. Turn to fellow beekeepers for advice.

Ask anyone you can find who’s ever had bees, or known someone who’s had bees, what they know. People are typically willing to share what they know…even the man at the paint counter at Lowe’s. He helped me pick out the right paint and colors to paint my hives. I always ask other beekeepers about beetle prevention and when they add a super box and whether they use a queen excluder. Those things get people talking and give me more to think about. One question leads to the next and I learn something every time.

2. Get two bee hives to start with.

log cabin style beehive kit

Yes, it’s more to manage and a greater investment, but if something goes wrong with one, you still have the other hive and might be able to use that second one to save the first. I have heard both sides. I’ve heard that when you try something new, start small. If it all goes sideways, then you’ve only lost one hive of investment. There’s less to focus on and keep track of. That said, one of our installations didn’t go well and I have been able to see what a healthy hive looks like because I have a second hive. I can also share resources between the two, do some combining, and use the healthy hive to bolster the weak one. It’s a risk to take on two right from the get-go, but so far I’m glad I did.

3. Bees are not as aggressive as people might think.

As long as I was calm and slow with my movements, the bees really didn’t bother with me at all. I did my installation without my veil on and I’ve not needed much smoke upon inspections. I chuckled because they went after the end of the hive tool as I was prying frames apart. They really didn’t care about me otherwise. Honey bees don’t seem to like being shaken, but other than that, they are so busy with their own business that they didn’t mind me at all.

beekeeping smoker set
This handy smoker keep bees calm as you work on your hive. Available at Lehmans.com

4. Working bees are one of the neatest things I’ve ever seen.  

While I’ve only been in my hives a few times since the bees came, seeing them fly in with legs full of pollen, finding them on the porch drinking water from newly watered plants, and finding spots of newly made comb is something I could watch for hours. We’ve seen bee dances, brand new comb, and bees cleaning out cells. We’ve also found drones and learned the difference between honey bees, mason bees, and yellow jackets.

5. There’s always more than one way to do things.

Keeping honey bees was stressful for me at first, but then I realized there’s more than one way to do things. I have options and a decent margin for error. I also realized that differing circumstances make a difference. It’s like a giant “choose your own adventure” book. I might make a different decision than you, but that just means next time I have two different options. It appears that hive beetles and varroa mites are the only universal topics among beekeepers. And even those have a variety of solutions.

If you’re thinking about raising bees, hopefully these tips give you a good place to start. The best advice I can give you is to never stop learning. Whether that be through the advice of others, or a beekeeping class like the ones offered at Lehman’s, beekeeping is the kind of hobby where the learning never ends! Stay tuned to Lehman’s upcoming workshops and store events for more opportunities to expand your knowledge.

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