How to Keep Bees: Getting Through the First Season

This step-by-step guide to beginning beekeeping will help you set up your beeyard and make it through the first season, battling Varroa mites with natural solutions.

| March 2013

Homegrown Honey Bees (Storey Publishing, 2012) is a beginner's guide that clearly explains everything you need to know on how to keep bees successfully, from getting your first bees to harvesting your first crop of honey. Spectacular macro photography by Mars Vilaubi brings the inner workings of the hive to life, and the playful text by Alethea Morrison gives you the information you need to make it through your first year. Everything is addressed here, from hive structure, colony hierarchy and bee behavior to allergies, permits and restrictions, and how to deal with the neighbors. The following excerpt is a guide to a new beekeeper's very first season. 

You can buy this book in the GRIT store: Homegrown Honey Bees. 

Beginning Beekeeping

I wish I could walk with you through every week that follows and tell you exactly what to expect and do in learning how to keep bees, within a precise calendar. For better or worse beekeeping is not predictable enough to make that possible. Many variables play into the development of a colony, including:

Region: Hive management tasks are tied to the region where you keep your bees. The time of year when flowers are producing nectar, for example, is geographically specific.

Weather: Even within one region, varying weather patterns from year to year have a huge influence on your colonies. A particularly cold, wet spring or hot, dry summer, for example, will impact the growth of plants and affect the foraging success of bees.

Quality of queen: Even colonies with the same external conditions will fare better or worse, depending on how productive the queen is and the quality of the bees she produces. Some bees, for example, might be more hardy and disease resistant.

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