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What to Know Before You Become a Beekeeper

March 7, 2018

There is a lot of buzz about beekeeping nowadays. Take a short drive anywhere and you’ll find manmade beehives lining orchards, fields, and pastures. You’ll even find them in suburban neighborhoods. While beekeeping is popular, there are a few things you need to know before you add bees to your list of chores and honey to your harvest.

Bees are Easy

Matthew Teichman, Coastal’s bee expert and floor manager of the Woodburn, Oregon store has plenty of advice for potential newcomers. The first lesson is to leave the bees alone as much as possible.

Bees clean themselves, get their own food and water, store the honey for later, and fix leaks in the hive. Sure, you’ll need to supplement their food in the winter, ensure pests stay out of the hive, and keep them warm if you live in a really cold part of the Pacific Northwest, but other than that, Matthew says it’s a waiting game.

Start with the Gear

The list of gear you’ll need to start beekeeping is pretty simple. Matthew keeps a veil and gloves in his truck at all times, but for a beginner, you’ll need the following:

Hive tool. This essential beekeeper tool helps you open hives, pull out frames, scrape off honey, and a lot more.

Boxes, frames, lids, perch, and screen bottoms. More about these items in the section Understanding the Beehive below.

Gloves, veil and hat, and beekeeper clothing. You want to cover yourself up as much as possible. It’s normal to get spooked a bit when you’re outnumbered 60,000 to 1, but your fear will give off a pheromone that can cause the bees to attack. As you get more experience, you’ll learn to control the fear.

Smoker. This is a great tool that drives the bees deeper into the hive, making it easier for you to get in, check things out, and leave.

Understanding the Beehive

Today’s beehive was invented in 1851. It hasn’t changed much since then. The house (where the bees live and work) is the bottom board with a perch out front. On top of the hive is an inner and outer cover. Then, inside the hive are open wood boxes called supers. The large ones (deep supers) are stacked on the bottom and used for raising eggs and larvae. The smaller supers are used for storing honey. Inside each super are 10 frames that are pre-printed with a honeycomb pattern. These frames are removable.

Find the Right Location

When a box is filled with bees and honey, it can weight just over 6o pounds. That’s a lot of weight to move. Finding the right location is essential. Matthew suggests putting it somewhere with easy access and some protection from the elements (wind, etc.).

Watch for Swarms

Besides harvesting honey, one of the primary jobs of a beekeeper is to watch for signs of swarming, which include a waning queen or signs that worker bees are feeding royal jelly to a new, future queen. By splitting up hives and giving them room to work, you can prevent swarming, which means you will not only save your hive, you’ll turn that one hive into two hives.

Getting Your Bees

There are several ways to start your beehives. First, you can catch a swarm on your own, get a hive from another beekeeper, or buy a queen and an established set of workers. Coastal can help you order your first set. Once you get your bees, simply place the queen in the hive then pour the rest of the bees onto the queen.

Start Your Beehive at Coastal

Beekeeping can be a rewarding and enjoyable pastime or profession. Be sure to stop by your Northwest owned and operated Coastal for a look at all the gear you’ll need to get started. Have questions about beekeeping? The folks at coastal are always eager to offer some advice and country-minded insights. Plus, you can view our Beekeeping Workshop with Master Beekeeper George Hansen right now. In it, you’ll learn everything from the basics to more advanced tactics to care for and maintain healthy hives.