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When I first decided I wanted to keep bees, I obsessed over online courses, YouTube videos, books, and forums to learn as much as I could while I waited for my first beehive to arrive. I had a lot of beginner beekeeping questions.

But, when you watch one video – you have so many questions about the jargon, and now you have 3 more things to look up! It becomes a rabbit hole. In fact, I started this blog to collect all of the beekeeping information that I found most useful, personally – In hopes that I would help another beginner someday in the future.

I happened across a page in my notebook that had a whole bunch of questions that I wrote down in the middle of research. So, I thought it would be fun to tackle them here!

I have my hive, I have my nuc… Now what?

This is the first thing I searched up. Here are some general tips you will usually see (and the rabbit hole questions I had for each one):

  1. Set up the hive: Place the nuc box in the location where you want to keep your hive. Remove the frames from the nuc box and transfer them into your hive body. Make sure to follow the instructions that came with your hive and nuc box. How do I know where to put my hive?
  2. Feed the bees: Bees need food to survive, especially when they are first getting established in their new home. You can provide them with a sugar syrup solution until they start bringing in their own food. What do I feed my bees?
  3. Monitor the hive: Check on your hive regularly to make sure the bees are healthy and the hive is functioning properly. Look for signs of disease or pests, and make any necessary adjustments to the hive. How often should I monitor my hive? How do I tell if my bees are healthy or unhealthy? What are “signs” of disease or pests other than just seeing the pests?
  4. Add additional boxes: As the colony grows, you may need to add more boxes to provide enough space for the bees to live and store honey. Follow the instructions for your specific hive to know when and how to add more boxes. How do I know when it’s time to split my hive? How many times will I split my hive each year?
  5. Harvest honey: Once your hive is established and producing honey, you can harvest it. Again, follow the instructions for your specific hive to know when and how to do this. How do I know when it’s time to harvest my honey? How exactly do I harvest it?

So.. let’s answer those questions, and then more that came up along the way!

How do I know where to put my hive?

As you’ll notice – the trend for this post became getting carried away with the topic and just turning the question into a whole new post. Otherwise, this page would have been 3 bee yards long.

So, This one became a full post: Where Should I Place My Beehives? Top Tips for Beehive Placement: Aviary Design

Beekeeping requires careful attention to beehive spacing and aviary layout to ensure the health and productivity of the bees. The ideal beehive spacing should consider the type of hives, the size of the colonies, and the surrounding environment, while the aviary layout should provide ample forage opportunities and protection from the elements and potential predators. By paying close attention to these factors, beekeepers can create a safe and productive environment for their bees, ultimately leading to a successful and rewarding beekeeping experience.

What should I feed my bees, and how often? When should I not feed them?

Again, I got carried away with this one and make it another post!

Tips on Feeding Your Bees! What to Feed Your Bees Plus Sugar Syrup Ratios

How often should I monitor my hive?

At the beginning, I was seeing most people say to check your hive every 7-10 days. But the more I researched, the more I kept hearing that the less you mess with your bees the better. So where is that sweet spot? Well, really the frequency of your monitoring depends more on factors such as the time of year, the climate, and the specific needs of your colony. Here are some general guidelines for how often to monitor your hive:

  1. During the active beekeeping season (spring and summer), you should aim to check on your hive at least once a week. This will allow you to monitor the health of your bees, check for signs of pests or diseases, and ensure that the hive has enough space to accommodate the growing colony.
  2. In the fall, you should monitor your hive more frequently as the bees prepare for winter. Check the hive for signs of disease, pests, and food stores. You may also need to take steps to prepare the hive for winter, such as adding insulation or providing additional food.
  3. During the winter months, you should check your hive every 2-3 weeks to ensure that the bees have enough food and that the hive remains dry and free of pests. However, it’s important to minimize disturbances during this time, as the bees are in a state of hibernation and need to conserve energy.

Remember that every hive is unique, and the frequency of your monitoring may need to be adjusted based on the needs of your colony. Regular monitoring and observation of your bees will help you identify any potential issues early on and take steps to address them before they become more serious problems.

If you’re interested, I made a beekeeping journal to make inspections easier!

How do I tell if my bees are healthy or not?

Okay, I think the real question is how to read a frame during inspection. This was one of the tasks I was most nervous about. How do I read a frame at a glance and know how to interpret what I am seeing?

This is something you get better at over time, but I learned by having millions of questions that all formed one giant picture. So, I’d like to try my best to put as much frame reading information into a post for reference.

Reading a frame will go over a bunch of the other questions in this post as well, so it’ll be it’s own post:

Beekeeping for Beginners: How to Read a Frame

How to know when it’s time to split a beehive, and how often will I be splitting hives?

Beehive splitting is a technique used by beekeepers to prevent swarming and increase hive numbers. One should look for signs of swarming such as limited frame space, queen cells, and clustering, to know when it’s time to split the hive.

Spring is the ideal time to split a hive as it is a time of rapid growth for the honey bee colony. Depending on the goals of the beekeeper, hive strength, and resources, splitting can be done as often as needed.

In general, splitting a hive once a year is common practice for many beekeepers. Spring is the ideal time to split a hive as it allows the bees enough time to build up their strength for winter. However, experienced beekeepers may split a hive more than once a year if they have a strong hive and want to increase their colony numbers.

However, it is important to note that hive splitting involves dividing a bee colony’s resources, including the queen bee, honey, pollen, and brood.

How do I know when it’s time to harvest my honey, and how do I harvest my honey?

How to insulate your beehive and prepare for winter?

I ended up writing a post about what to do for a full calendar year:

also related:

And for the insulation, there are a few products that you can find including:

  • Insulated Beehive Covers
  • Insulated Inner Cover
  • Insulated Top Cover
  • Quilt Boxes
  • Hive wraps
  • Wool insulated quilts

As a frugal crafty person, I would like to try to make these options as much as I can before resorting to buying them. I did find a bunch of “DIY” tutorials for all the above. I’ll try to post my own DIYs for any of these that I make myself that ended up working well. If I don’t remember to update this post with links, I’ll have put them in the “DIY & Recipes” category.

I live in the pacific northwest, where I want as much insulation as possible, preferably naturally. Same goes with my greenhouse – I like the thermal mass methods and compost inside the greenhouse, etc. So I also tried to look up natural ways to insulate your hive.

First thing to help is place your hives in a place where it gets the most sun, and protection from the wind. You can build a shelter for the wind, or make sure there is a good line of trees blocking. Next, as far as a form of thermal mass, and I suppose compost as well (which slowly releases heat), is to use felled leaves. Leaves have a high heat capacity or thermal mass (similar to that of water), according to this study from the Journal of Biotechnology.

The only other “natural” method I found was possibly using straw bales, but that is advised against since in the winter it will get wet and cause mold and destroy your hives and your bee colony.

Insulating your hive can help keep your bees warm in the winter and cool in the summer. However, it’s important to remember that too much insulation can also be harmful to the bees. Make sure to monitor the temperature and humidity levels in the hive regularly and adjust the insulation as needed.

What are all the statuses of a cell? Capped brood, capped honey, etc…

This is covered in the post I wrote about reading a frame, that goes over a bunch of the other questions in this post as well:

Beekeeping for Beginners: How to Read a Frame

Capped brood types, how to tell the difference between which bees are on your frames

For the different brood types, that’s covered in the post: Beekeeping for Beginners: How to Read a Frame

How to tell the difference between your bees and their jobs?

So, you know how to tell a worker cell from a drone cell, but what about the adult bees themselves? The real question here is how to tell a worker bee from a drone bee?

how to tell a worker bee from a drone bee
Drone bee, Queen bee, Worker bee

I’ve gathered a bunch of facts to put in a pretty comparison table for you!

WorkerDrone
FemaleMale
Have stingersNo Stingers
11-15 mm22.7 mm
Does all the work from making honey and gathering food to taking care of broodOnly job is to mate with the queen.
Much smaller eyes that are well separated on the sides of their headsEyes are so much larger because they need to find a potential queen in flight

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