The top 5 tips for getting started with beekeeping.
Before starting Pure n Natural Honey, I had only been semi-commercial beekeeping experience with interest in supplying myself, family and friends with raw honey. As I started out with the business, I quickly learnt people were very interested in keeping bees and wanted to know some of the basics, so I have compiled a list of the top 5 Frequently asked questions I get asked to help you get started.
Is my area suitable for a backyard honey bee hive?
Keeping bee hives in your backyard is a great way to pollinate surrounding trees, flowers, fruit and vegetable crops. Before you start, it is important to investigate not only your surrounds but local council regulations regarding beehives in your area.
Different councils and states of Australia have varying regulations on backyard beekeeping in rural areas. It is important that you talk to your local council regarding their rules and regulations in your area. Be sure to register your hives with Bio Security for residents in Australia.
It is also very important to speak to your neighbours and let them know about your intentions to keep beehives in your backyard. Some people suffer serious health side effects from bee stings which in some circumstances can result in death. When positioning a hive in your backyard face it away from your boundary fence, so the flight path for the bees is not directly into your neighbour's yard reducing the risk of bee stings.
Bees fly an impressive distance for their size with the ability to fly up to a 5 km radius from the bee hive. Flowers and flowering trees are the primary food source for bees, so it is recommended to check out the surrounding areas to ensure there are adequate food sources for the hive to survive.
Honey Bees also need a water source, so nearby rivers, dams and waterways are ideal. If you are not located near any natural sources that's OK, you can leave small dishes of water out for them ensuring they can escape if they fall in, e.g., small rocks or marbles to climb onto. Be cautious with chemicals being used in and around your yard. Some gardening chemicals have the potential to wipe out a complete hive on windy days when the sprays can be carried over a longer distance. Again speak to your neighbours about the use of chemicals remembering that a small bottle of honey goes a long way to sweeten the deal!
What are the best ways to learn about beekeeping for a beginner?
There is certainly a lot to learn to master the art of keeping bees, and these are my top tips for increasing your knowledge.
‘The Bee Book’ Beekeeping in Australia THIRD EDITION by Perter Warhurst and Roger Goebel. is the most informative and the most relevant to Australian beekeeping book I have found on the market. It is a Beekeeping bible covering nearly everything you will need to get you started. I am a stockist of Bee book Beekeeping by Peter Warhurst and Roger Goebel.
Another great tip is to join your local Beekeeping club if there is one in your area. Monthly meetings are often organised and advertised through Facebook. Attending these meetings is a great way to gather industry knowledge and seek advice and guidance for your hive, as well as meeting like-minded Bee Enthusiasts from hobbyists to Professionals.
The local clubs are also a great way to find a mentor to help train you. Some beekeepers like us here at Pure n Natural Honey offer one on one beekeeping lessons performed with your own hive. These lessons are an educational, hands-on training method which in turn is a great way to ask questions as you learn.
How do I maintain a Healthy Beehive?
When starting out with Beekeeping, it may seem overwhelming as you find it may not be as simple as placing a hive and waiting for honey. However, I assure you the delicious honey you end up with is well worth the hard work!
There is a lot of more technical information, but for today we will start with the basics you will need when maintaining your new hive.
Your hive will need to be inspected on average once a month. During these beehive inspections, these are the key things you will be looking for.
-Ensuring the hive is Queen right. This is ensuring the hive still has a queen and at that a healthy one with strong brood.
-Looking for signs of disease. Most common signs of disease to look for are discoloured, irregular and patchy brood. This, as well as a foul smell, can often mean disease in the hive.
-Looking for Hive Beetles. Hive beetles thrive in the high humidity areas such as Tropical North Queensland and can destroy a healthy colony. The larvae of these beetles live and thrive off the hives brood, honey and pollen stores. An infested hive can turn to slime as a result.
What basic Beekeeping supplies do I need to get started?
When starting out with your bee hive, you will not need too much equipment. The most essential piece of equipment is protective clothing., including a beekeeping suit, gloves and closed in shoes. It is important to remember to never approach a beehive without being suitably dressed and protected.
You will also need a Smoker. The smoker works to calm the bees in the hive allowing you to easily work on your hive, reducing the risk of being stung.
Often honey extractors can be hired, so this is not an essential purchase straight away.