Beekeeping Tips

  • When starting a hive use the entrance reducer as this makes it easier for the bees to defend the hive. Start with the smallest entrance first for the first few weeks maybe even up to six weeks and then the second largest entrance and then the entrance reducer can be removed.
  • When the top cover of a beehive is opened it reduces the temperature. Over inspecting a hive can actually weaken the hive because of this. Avoid over inspecting a hive. Bees do not respond well to the disturbance of the hive being opened hence the use of the smoker to calm the bees. Not using a smoker produces a different tasting honey, but most beekeepers use a smoker. A hive smoker also simulates a forest fire and causes bees to leave or stay near the queen in the bottom supers making the hive easier to harvest and inspect.
  • Always place frames in supers or the bees will make their own wild comb and it will fall out when the super is moved.clip art beekeeping
  • Harvest honey as quickly as possible and keep it away from the bees as they will take it all back if able.
  • Harvest only capped honey.
  • Lift top bars very carefully as the comb could fall off.
  • Make sure to leave the bees enough honey in the winter. Consider making them a fondant or bee candy for food if you are unsure they have enough to eat. If the bees have enough food for the winter they may not eat the fondant and it may collect mold. Do not feed the bees too much fondant. Some sites with good fondant recipes are:
  • May opt to post, “Danger Beware of the Bees” signs.
  • A tin can may be turned into a smoker and a lawnmower blade can be used as a hive tool.
  • Use a refractometer to make sure harvesting honey with a water content twenty percent or less. If the water content is too high the honey can ferment.
  • Do not feed the bees honey from another hive or source as it can transfer diseases and possibly destroy the entire hive.
  • It is best to use white sugar for sugar water as brown sugar or raw sugar can contain impurities that can harm the bees.
  • Splitting a hive is one way to prevent swarming and provides an extra colony.
  • No matter how skilled and conscientious a beekeeper you are, you will lose hives. You can lose around a third of the hives often due to factors beyond your control. Take precautions and prepare for and expect this.
  • For hive placement avoid locating beehives in a dip in the land as it carries a flood risk and during winter it may be a colder location that on top of a hill and  freeze over. Avoid placing hives too close to houses and make sure the bees have a clear flight path. Try to shelter the bees from the elements such as strong sunlight and direct harsh wind. Trees in a garden and other forage break the wind. It may be helpful to plant trees or build a barrier around hives to offer protection from the winter winds and dropping winter temperatures. Have the entrance towards the morning sun and facing slightly downward. A quite area with a garden and water access and wind protection and plenty of sun is a great location.
  • Bees benefit from a nearby water source. Consider placing a small bucket of water nearby with a mound of rocks so the bees can perch there and drink.
  • Hives can be weatherproofed with natural oils and wax
  • Beehives can be dangerous. If a horse knocks over a beehive the bees can sting a horse to death. Make sure beehives are located away from playgrounds and kids and high traffic public areas. A rooftop as a great urban beehive location.
  • Limit the use of pesticides and herbicides as they are harmful to bees and can contaminate their water sources.
  • A bee garden should include plants that bloom at different times to supply a steady source food for the bees. Plants to consider include milkweed, blueberries, lavendar, mint, raspberries, hazelnut trees and lemon balm.
  • A well ventilated hive is good as it will prevent mold and mildew and for instance centipedes may live under the screen and when mites fall off the bees and under the screen the centipedes will eat the mites. Ventilation is nearly always promoted among beekeepers.

Did You Know?

  • Before modern bee hives beekeepers would use straw skeps and would have to burn the skeps and kill the bees to obtain the honey. The Langstroth hive, what most modern beekeepers use as of writing this in 2015, has not changed much such its invention in around the year 1853.
  • The Chicago Cultural Center has a downtown apiary. The decorative Asian pear trees produce lots of pollen for the bees. In fact, urban rooftop beekeeping is becoming more and more common.
  • Urban honey offers more unique flavors than countryside honey.
  • Traditional Japanese beehives (upright log hives) are similar to the Warre hives in that the bees build down and the honey is stored at the top and there are no frames. Smokers are not used bee clip artbut a a bamboo pipe which causes the bees to leave when it is blown through and can slice through comb.
  • Raw honey has prebiotic natural enzymes that soothe the stomach.
  • Honey is a pure food and the only food we eat that comes from an insect. It is a source of energy and tastes great.
  • Commercial honey tastes different than homegrown honey as it is cooked and ultra-filtered.
  • Eating local honey can decrease local pollen allergies.
  • Oilseed rape (rapeseed, canola) makes for honey that crystallizes and is nearly impossible to extract. Crystallized honey can be used to make creamed honey.
  • Mead is a wine made from honey and is also called ‘Ambrosia’ and or ‘Nectar of the Gods.’
  • The Vancouver Eco Hotel (as of writing this in 2014) has a 2100 square foot ‘green’ rooftop that consists of several beehives and over sixty varieties of herbs, vegetables, fruits and edible flowers
  • September is national honey month and a great time to harvest and sell pumpkins and honey.
  • Apiphobia is the extreme fear of bees. Apiculture is the management of bees.
  • Etymology is the study of word origins. Entomology is the study of insects.
  • Apis mellifera is the scientific name for the honey bee. Apis means bee in Latin and mellifera “honey-bearing.”
  • The honeybee genome was decoded in 2006. Geneticist Martin Beye at Heinrich Heine Univeristy in Germany worked on the project. Attempts to insert genes into honeybees to this point have failed and Beye has assigned young researcher Christina Vleurinck the task of developing a technique. Her research bees do not fly freely and have stung her so many times she is not allowed inside with them. (National Geographic magazine May 2015  pages 96-97 “Quest for a Superbee”)
  • Farmers rent hives due to the decreased bee population. Acres of single crops cannot provide a steady of supply of food for bees, but only for perhaps the two or four weeks the flowers bloom. Bees gather food in a one mile radius. If needed bees will travel a two mile radius to collect food, but the energy expended to collect the pollen causes the bees to break even in honey supply.
  • California has thousands of acres of almond trees and as of 2015 rents about 1.6 million hives for pollination and supplies approximately 80 percent of the world’s almond supply. (page 97 “Quest for a Superbee” National Geographic May 2015)
  • Harvard University has a RoboBee Project.
  • If bees ceased to exist there would still be food to eat. Potatoes and corn and wheat to do not require bees for pollination. However, there would be no fruits or vegetables eliminating about one third of the foods in the US diet.
  • Bees hunt for nectar in flowers and then regurgitate it in the hive and fan it with their wings to produce honey. In the process they spread pollen to other plants. Wind pollinated plants produce less pollen than insect pollinated plants.
  • A beehive can have up to 80,000 bees.
  • Apis mellifera ligustica the Italian or Yellow or Golden Bee was introduced to the US in 1859. Up until then only Apis mellifera mellifera or dark bees or black bees or German bees from northern Europe were in the US. (Bee Culture Magazine November 2014 pg. 39 “Moses Quinby: America’s Father Of Practical Beekeeping”)
  • The lighter the color of honey the more mild the flavor is. Honey varies in color from dark brown to nearly clear depending on the floral source. The United States has over 300 different types of honey.
  • To be deemed organic, honey has to come from areas where there is no human activity. Large unpopulated areas of land are best for organic beekeeping. The entire foraging area is pesticide free.


  1. Beekeeping For Dummies
  2. GloryBee 2014 Beekeeping catalog (2)
  3. Bee Culture magazine
  4. etc.