Like any new skill or hobby, beekeeping requires a learning curve, and certain aspects can be particularly challenging for beginner beekeepers. To help guide you through your journey, we’ve listed the five biggest challenges for beginner beekeepers and how you can overcome them:
1. Knowing where to get your information from
Living in the digital age is fantastic as you can find any information about any topic at the click of a button. The downside is that it’s tricky to sift through the misinformation, especially when you know little to nothing about a particular topic. While so many valuable articles on beekeeping provide brilliant advice, many are factually incorrect, outdated or don’t provide enough information. Additionally, it can take hours of research to find the answers you need. We recommend enrolling in an online beekeeping course with a reputable company or education provider such as Flow. Flow’s online learning platform allows you to fast-track your learning quickly and enjoyably. You can learn in your own time with high-quality videos explaining what you need to know to feel confident looking after your bees. Expert beekeepers curate this content, so you can feel assured that the information you’re getting is accurate and relevant. We have enrolled in the course and can attest to the quality.
2. Where to place your beehive
Where you place your beehive will determine the outcome of your colony’s success. Many new beekeepers fail to understand the many requirements of beehive placement. Hives are best located in back gardens away from footpaths and other activity areas around the home, such as the garage, outdoor dining areas, swimming pools or even your washing line.
It’s essential to place the hive in a reliably well-drained spot, away from draughts and where the bees can receive sunshine all day. Early morning sunshine is especially important in winter – particularly in cool temperate regions like Melbourne, so they warm up and start working early. You also need to ensure that bees have access to enough water – if there is no water source nearby, they will defect to unwanted areas such as swimming pools.
3. Not knowing what you’re looking for during an inspection
The most important part of the inspection is ensuring that you have a viable queen. Queens like to hide within the hive, so they can be tricky to find. Fortunately, they do leave evidence of their presence in the hive in the form of eggs. The presence of eggs means that the queen is active and was at least present within the last 3 days. Eggs are tiny and almost translucent, so they are hard to spot, but it gets easier with practice. It’s important to have an inspection checklist to guide you. This helps to ensure that your disruption is brief and effective. Going by the presence of brood alone can be deceptive, depending on the stage of development. Capped brood could signal that there was a queen three weeks ago, and a lot can happen in three weeks.
When you’re a new beekeeper, you can be keen to see how well your hive is performing – but even though hive inspections are essential, inspecting too often can be an issue. Opening the hive, however gently, is stressful for your bees; it can take them a couple of days to get back to their routine. It would be best if you kept an eye on your hives, but inspecting once every 2-4 weeks is plenty.
5. Getting the right equipment
Several beehives are available on the market, but as a beginner, it can be confusing to decide which one to purchase. We recommend considering a hive like the Flow Hive. Flow Hives have been designed with backyard beekeeping in mind and simplify the process for beginners (have a look at Flow’s starter bundle).
Once your hive has arrived and is assembled, you will need to buy bees. For beginners, the easiest way is to purchase a small colony known as a ‘nucleus colony’ from a reputable bee supplier. It’s best to do this in September and October. The colony is transferred into your hive and will slowly build up to form a larger, more substantial colony.
You MUST wear protective clothing when beekeeping. It’s best for this clothing to be smooth and light-coloured, as bees don’t like dark or woolly materials. Protective clothing you’ll need includes:
- Beekeeping hat
- Beekeeping veil (you may be able to purchase a hat that comes with a veil)
- Beekeeping suit and gloves
- Boots that cover your ankles
- Hive tool (to help separate your boxes and lift frames)
- A smoker (to subdue bees before opening a hive and while your hive is open)
Check out Flow’s website to see the variety of clothing and tools on offer.
Remember, beekeeping takes a lot of time and patience. It’s essential to familiarise yourself with the practice and equip yourself with the knowledge required to make a hive thrive.