So you want to become a beekeeper?
We will try to give you as much information as we can about the equipment you will need to become a beekeeper. How to get your bees, and how much time is involved in keeping your hives healthy.
One of the mistakes we initially made was only getting one hive start. Having two hives makes it far easier to notice if something is going wrong with one of the hives. Further, if one hive is weak and the other is strong you can take brood, honey, and other resources from the the strong hive to supplement the weak hive.
You will need following things at bare minimum.
Beekeeper starter kit with vail, hive tool, gloves, smoker, and a hive box with frames. you can get a full kit for cheap on amazon. Or at Virginia beekeeping supply.
I would also suggest buying the backyard beekeeper book, it’s a great resource to learn the basics.
Where to get bees
Getting bees is probably the most complicated part of the equation. Below are various places where you can get your bees, listed in order of the likelihood of having a successful hive. This coincidentally is directly correlated to how hard it is to get each resource.
Catch a feral swarm.
Our number one option! Feral swarms always come from very strong hives who have survived the winter on their own. This means that they are likely to have very good genetics, and will likely do very well as a managed hive. That said they might be a little more aggressive than a NUC split from a managed hive.
You can procure a swarm in one of two ways.
- Set up a trap: a few good examples of how to set up a trap can be found on youtube.
- Get on a swarm removal email list, and be ready to hustle to get your swarm.
Buy A NUC colony from a local beekeeper.
Getting a NUC (nucleus colony) from a local beekeeper is the second best option. Usually these are bees that have successfully made it through the winter, and are well adapted to the local environment.
You can find local NUC from your local beekeeping association, in Northern Virginia there is a forum where local beekeepers sell NUCS.
Buy a NUC from a commercial operation.
While most NUCs from commercial operations are local, or semi local, I would make sure to ask where the bees are coming from. This will ensure that you get local bees with a higher likelihood of having a successful hive.
Buy a package of bees.
This is probably the worst way of getting bees. Mostly because you will be getting a package of bees shipped through the mail. Obviously, this is very stressful for them, and you will likely get a box with a ton of dead bees.
If you do decide to go this route, or if this is the only route for you, make sure you do research on where the bees are coming from. Try to get them from from someone semi-local.
You will need around 30 minutes every two weeks for each hive. Aside from weekly maintenance, harvesting your honey will take around 4-6 hours. You will only do this once or twice a year.
Overall it’s not very time intensive, but you do need to make time for it.