I get many questions about advise for beginners. I'm compiling my answers on to this page:

Looking to get started?

I recommend Langstroth hives for beginners simply because they are most versatile, taught in most beekeeping classes and literature, and have the most options when purchasing bees. They can be cheep or expensive depending on what you have available near you. Not too hard to make yourself if you know woodworking.

My favorite book for beginners is "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Beekeeping." (Not to be confused with the "For Dummies" book.) Then read all of Michael Bush's website. You don't have to buy his book. The whole thing is on his website for free.

If there is a club near you go to as many meetings as you can. Get to know the beekeepers and see if they offer classes.

You'll want to start putting together your equipment during winter so it's ready for your bees in the spring. The books and websites will make equipment recommendations. Bush recommends using all medium boxes and I agree. Your first year you'll need 4 boxes per hive.

You'll also want protective gear, a hive tool, and a smoker. For protective gear my preference is the ventilated jackets. A little more expensive but worth the price. I don't like using the leather gloves. I prefer nitrile gloves.

You'll also need to decide how you want to source you're bees. Nucs (nucleus hives) are the best way to start, but are a little more spendy. Packages are not much cheaper and not my favorite but may be your only choice if you decide to use a different style hive. Swarms are a popular option because they're "free," but there's no guarantee you'll catch one.

If you purchase a hive instead of building one you're looking at spending about $250-350. Tools and other equipment will add about $150. Bees, about $150.

It's my first year and I have my equipment and bees. What do I do?

Enjoy your bees.

I also recommend practicing lighting your smoker and keeping it lit. Do it when you aren't doing an inspection. Get a good fire base going with some kindling and tinder. You want a good base of coals. Then fill the smoker with your fuel of choice. Make sure you're getting cool, puffy white smoke. No embers or ash blowing out. No hot smoke or flames. Let it sit for 5 minutes and see if it goes out. If you can let it sit without constant puffing for 5 minutes and it stays lit, then you've got a well lit smoker. If it's still blowing smoke after 30 minutes then you've figured it out. If you can do this consistently then you've mastered the skill. If you don't have to worry about your smoker then that's one less thing to think about during inspections.

I prefer smoke instead of sugar water during an inspection. Sugar water gets everything sticky, doesn't move the bees out of the way, and can induce robbing. A little bit of smoke can make a huge difference in their behavior. If there's a large pile of bees around the edges of the box and you're trying to close things up, smoke can move them. You don't always have to use it, but it's good to have on hand in case you do. Give a couple puffs into the entrance, then wait a minute to open the hive. After that, just a touch of smoke here and there as needed. Don't overdo it though, as it can act as an irritant.

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