8 Beekeeping Mistakes for the Rookie Beekeeper
8. Not Doing Your Research
There is a LOT to beekeeping and jumping into it without proper knowledge can lead to several bad scenarios including injury to yourself and the death of the entire hive. It is important to truly invest your time into studying and understanding beekeeping prior to starting your apiary.
7. Putting the Hive in a Bad Location
The location of the hive is not only important to maintaining it, but it actually determines whether or not the bees will want to remain in your apiary or, instead decide to swarm elsewhere. You want the hive box on level ground and stable, with entrances pointed away from people and structures (as the activity around the entrance can extend out to roughly 10 feet). The hive also needs to be easily accessible to you. Keep it away from thorny bushes or trees with low branches and be sure to maintain the surrounding grass and foliage so that it is not too long.
6. Not Suiting Up
Even the most seasoned beekeepers don’t always make it away from their hives without being stung. If performing hive inspections properly, the bees can seem very docile, but one tiny slip and they may swarm you in an angry attempt to protect their colony. Even if you do not have an allergy to bee stings, the sensation is very painful and enough stings can still require medical attention. Be sure to protect yourself – wear your bee suit and regularly check it for holes or flaws that could leave you vulnerable.
5. Dropping Frames During Inspections
As mentioned in the previous point, only a minor slip can become disastrous. Imagine you are tending to your hive, carefully pulling out each frame, monitoring the bee activity, inspecting the cells, clearing away burr comb (extra honeycomb outside of the frames), when suddenly, the frame slips from your fingers and goes tumbling to the ground. Not only can this accidentally smash some hard-working bees and gasp possibly even the queen, but it will quickly be taken as a sign of aggression from the colony. The bees may immediately begin attacking and it may take a bit of time before they calm down again. …hopefully you were wearing your bee suit!
4. Buying Bees
If you’ve never looked into beekeeping before, this idea may be a tad shocking. Yes, you can purchase bees for beekeeping, but this is rarely, if ever, a good idea if you want lasting colonies. Often times purchased bees are fragile to the environments you introduce them to, which means they can quickly succumb to the environmental hazards or local insect diseases that are common in your geographic location. The best way to begin your hive is to lure in local bees that are looking for a new home. These bees have built up immunities and are familiar with the area and its hazards, making them very resilient and allowing your hive to survive year after year.
3. Not Providing Proper Space for the Hive to Remain Warm in Winter
If you space your frames too far within the hive box or even remove cells altogether, it can be difficult for bees to maintain enough warmth to survive the winters. Unfortunately, some bee boxes that you can purchase have extremely thing walls as well, which is very poor for insulation and can potentially result in the death of an entire colony during the frigid months. Be sure that your box has walls that are sturdy enough to help maintain warmth and that your frames are properly spaced.
2. Taking Too Much Honey
Surprisingly, bees actually do not prefer to eat honey. During the spring and summer, bees gravitate towards the sweet, fresh nectar of flowers and will ignore their honey stores, making it a perfect time for their beekeepers to collect the excess honey. However, while it is not their preferred source of sustenance, it is what maintains the hive and allows it to feed and survive throughout the cold days of autumn and winter. While colonies often produce roughly 3 times more honey than is necessary for survival, which is why we are able to harvest honey for our consumption while maintaining the survival of hives, rookie beekeepers may not be aware of how much honey they should or should not take from the hive. In other words, they take more than the surplus honey, leaving the hive with a noticeable deficit that may make it difficult for them to survive.
1. Accidentally Squashing the Queen
Beehives cannot survive without their queens. She is the crux of their society and without her, your colony will quickly begin to decline, and you will see an increase in honey production, as there is no focus on helping rear young since no new eggs are being laid. If the queen is not replaced quickly enough, the hive may reach a “point of no return” where they cannot recover from the loss of their queen. It is much better for the decline of a queen to be natural and not caused by an accidental squashing from you. As such, make sure you are aware if you are handling the frame that the queen is on or not and be extra careful to protect her from accidental injury.
Beekeeping – 5 Rookie Mistakes in This Video That You Can Learn From (2017) YouTube. 4 D Honeybee. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oMRFL1NGG8 (Accessed: 2020).
Biggest Mistakes American Beekeepers Make! (2019) YouTube. Off Grid. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFP17VekChQ (Accessed: June 2020).
Kearney, H. (2016) The Top 10 Mistakes Most Newbie Beekeepers Make, Modern Farmer. Available at: https://modernfarmer.com/2016/06/top-10-mistakes-mewbie-beekeepers-make/ (Accessed: June 2020).