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Beginner Beekeeping - Getting Started

I'm Andy Sherrod, Orchard Manager at Royalty Pecan Farms.

Honey is back on the shelf, in our store or online while supplies last. A local beekeeper has a few hives on the property, and I keep a few as a hobby. 

Now if you've ever wanted to take up beekeeping, it's easy! But you need to go into it well prepared. First, connect with your local beekeeper association. It's filled with amateurs and professionals and they're there to help answer your questions. Second, find the proper gear. Bees can be docile, but not always. First, you're going to need some protective gear. I've got a jacket and a veil. Some people use an entire bee suit. This is essential to keep you from getting stung. 

Beekeeping Jacket and Veil

The second essential component is a smoker. Now the smoker masks the attack pheromone that's often given off when bee colonies are opened up. A little bit of smoke will confuse the bees. They won't be able to sense that attack pheromone and you'll be able to work the colony without too much problem. 

Beekeeping Smoker

You'll also need gloves to handle the frames and protect your hands from being stung. Then you're going to need a hive tool. This is used to pry the lid off. And it's also used to pry the frames apart so you can lift them out and examine the bees to judge their health and condition. 

Beekeeping Hive Tool

Getting started is easy. The best time to get started is in the spring. You can buy what's called a package from a supplier. A package of bees includes a queen, some nurse bees, and some workers. You introduce this package into your own brood box. 

You can also buy what's called a nucleus - we call them a “nuc”. A nuc is a five-frame box that includes an established queen with the cells filled with brood, honey and nectar and plenty of nurse bees and worker bees to keep the colony strong. It's a working colony, but just a smaller version of the larger ten-frame wooden box. 

You can capture a swarm to expand your bee yard. And that's what I do. I have these swarm traps around the orchard and out in the woods. This size (pictured) is presumably the proper size for swarms that are looking for a new home to fill. 

Beekeeping Swarm Trap

They like this particular size and shape and void that this creates. So I'll hang these on trees out in the woods. I'll put some empty frames inside for them to get started. Once the swarm becomes established, I bring the trap home, put it in a nuc box and we're ready to go. 

You can also do what’s called a split. You open an existing colony, remove five frames of brood, nectar and honey, and bees that are covering the frames, and put them into an empty brood box. The old queen stays with the old colony. Buy a queen and yes you can buy queens from the Queen store and introduce her into the new brood box. Once she's accepted. You've got two functioning colonies ready to grow. 

Beekeeping is a fascinating hobby with sweet rewards.