How to Set Up a Beehive At Home
An apiarist is somebody who maintains beehives for their honey and other products like beeswax, pollen, and more. Beekeeping has been around for centuries. In fact, according to Wikipedia, the first depictions of humans collecting honey from wild bees dates back 15,000 years! Interestingly, the technology used today isn’t all that different from what our ancestors used. Most beehives still rely on simply, tried and true techniques to maintain a happy and productive colony of bees.
As noted by the Washington Post, beekeeping has seen a bit of a resurgence in recent years with many homeowners opting to make their own honey, whether that be for personal consumption or to sell. As a bonus, the process of keeping bees is flat-out fascinating. It’s truly one of nature’s miracles to watch the colonies grow and produce.
There are a few different ways to get your actual bees. Depending on where you’re located, you may be able to find local vendors. You can even buy bees online! Before you go and get your bees, however, you need to make sure that you’re prepared to house them. Here are a few steps I recommend:
While bees are hardworking and relatively harmless, they have very strong biological defense mechanisms that they may deploy if they feel threatened. This can make beekeeping potentially dangerous, especially if you’re working with a hive populated by hundreds or thousands of bees. Before you get started, invest in sturdy bee protection gear. Consider a fully-protective suit, along with a hood or a veil. Protecting your face is crucial since bees can detect carbon dioxide emissions using their antennae, and any heavy breathing may trigger them to swarm. While many advanced beekeepers will develop calm, non-invasive ways to interact with their bees without protective gear, it’s recommended that all beginners wear a jacket, suit, veil, and gloves.
Location, Location, Location
Where you place your hive is a very important decision to make. For your sake, you should ensure that the hive is easily accessible so that you can tend to it without any hassles. The hive should be near a water source so that the bees can drink water and produce honey, but it also needs to be in an area with proper drainage that is protected from heavy rainfall.
Additionally, you should avoid placing hives in windy areas. Your beehive should be covered by some kind of windbreak on its rear side to prevent against the hive being knocked over or otherwise damaged. In terms of location, here are some more important notes:
- The hive should be on flat, dry land
- It should be exposed to some sunlight, but avoid direct exposure due to damage during hot months
- A hive that faces the southeast encourages the bees to rise with the sun and get to work early
Try to fulfill as many of these requirements as possible to get the best results for your beehive.
Building the Hive(s)
When it comes to the actual hives, you can either buy one that’s already made or build it yourself. Thanks to the increasing popularity of beekeeping, there is a wealth of information online about the specifics of building one yourself. Essentially, the hive is comprised of different levels of boxes stacked on top of one another with small holes to allow bees to go in and out but preventing other creatures from getting in.
Just like an actual hive, these boxes are designed to be separated areas, known as “supers,” for different aspects of work. The bottom supers are used for the main broods where the bees live and reproduce. A slate separates the bottom supers from the top supers, where the honey is produced. This prevents the queen from rising up and laying eggs within the honey.
Getting Your Bees
There are two popular ways for procuring your bees: either in packages or in nucleus colonies, otherwise known as “nucs.” A package of bees is exactly what it sounds like: just a wood box wrapped in wires that contains hundreds of bees and a queen, with nothing else included. A nuc, on the other hand, is basically a frame of bees that have already been begun developing a hive. When you buy a nuc, you can take the frames out, and place them into the hive that you’ve built.
As mentioned earlier, you can either find local sources of bees (depending on where you are) or you can find them online from major retailers. You’d be surprised how often bees are shipped in the mail! Depending on what kind of hive you have and what your options are, there are pros and cons to both. Take some time to research what is best for your particular hive and soon you’ll be able to produce honey and encourage the proliferation of this essential species in seasonal pollination!
Scott Walston is an advocate for DIY farming techniques. He actively promotes locally grown produce and loves getting dirt beneath his fingernails after a long day working outside.