Beekeeping 101

This page is for those people interested in becoming a beekeeper. Beekeeping can be time consuming, frustrating, and expensive to start, but in the end you're left with a fantastic hobby and skills for life. The trouble is worth it in the long run. Trust me.

1.) If you're interested in becoming a beekeeper, the first thing you should do is... talk to a beekeeper! They'll be happy to answer any questions you may have, and they may even invite you out to meet some bees in person. I'm no exception, so feel free to email me with any concerns or questions.

There are also many local and regional beekeeping organizations. They're always happy to have new members and can be quite a support network for the new beekeeper. In New York City, we have MANY groups to choose from.  My current favourite is the Backwards Beekeepers of NYC (disclosure: I'm a founding member). We focus on treatment free, organic, experimental, and progressive beekeeping methods and our meetings tend to involve drinking afterwards.

I also recommend joining the NYC Beekeeping Association. Their free monthly meetings are very educational and they pull in some big name speakers. Be sure to check my beekeeping calendar for any upcoming local (NYC) events!

I'll be filling this blog with articles on basic beekeeping topics and practices as time goes on, so be sure to check back for new articles tagged 101. Eventually, they will cover all the skills and practices needed by new beekeepers, from hiving a new package to harvesting the honey in the fall.

2.) The second thing you should do is take a class. Introductory beekeeping classes are hosted and taught regularly by many local beekeeping organizations and are usually inexpensive. They're a great way to fill your head with the knowledge you'll need to jump into beekeeping. If you live in New York City, check the beekeeping calendar to see if there are any beekeeping events or classes coming up! I'll also be sure to post about any and every event and class I come across (including my own.)

3.) Once you're comfortable and feel ready, order your equipment and bees, set up your apiary, and get to work. While you're waiting for everything to arrive in the spring, sit down with a beekeeping book and cram!

Every beekeeper has at least one beekeeping book, and most have a few. Knowledge is the most valuable tool a beekeeper possesses, above their veil, above their smoker, above even their holy hive tool. Even experienced beekeepers like to have a few references laying around for when they find something unusual in their hive, want to try a new technique or just want to sit in their apiary and read about bees for a while. Here are a couple of beekeeping books that I've read and can recommend. The links are direct to Amazon, and I'd love it if you used them to purchase any books you may want, as I will get a fraction of a penny for each sale.

I'm such a shill.

The Beekeeper's Handbook, Fourth Edition
This is my personal favorite book for both beginners and experienced beekeepers alike. It is extremely well written and contains a wealth of knowledge that is useful for novice and experienced beekeepers alike. I used this book as a guide in creating my Beekeeping 101 course. It has been recently updated with the latest beekeeping developments and information and continues to be my standard reference for traditional beekeeping techniques and practices.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Beekeeping
The Idiot's Guide to Beekeeping has a terrible name, but is full of useful knowledge, particularly if you are interested in pursuing a 'sustainable' or treatment free apiary. They focus on avoiding hard chemicals, such as pesticides and antibiotics within the hive, favoring 'soft' or natural disease control methods instead. This book is a great choice if you want to maintain an organic hive and harvesting honey is a secondary priority.

Beekeeping For Dummies
One of the ubiquitous 'Dummy' guides, this is the best selling beekeeping book in America. It's a great choice if you're just starting out and are in over your head, but as you start to look towards more advanced techniques and practices, you'll find it a bit lacking. That said, the sections on honeybee diseases and pests is very up to date, which makes this a good book to have handy.

The ABC & XYZ of Bee Culture: An Encyclopedia Pertaining to the Scientific and Practical Culture of Honey Bees
A visual dictionary of beekeeping, this reference is chock full of fancy pictures and short articles about any and everything related to the art and science of honeybees. This book is kind of amazing to have on your shelf and is one of the most valuable references for any beekeeper. If you love me, you will buy me a copy of this book. I covet it.

The Hive and the Honey Bee
The end-all of beekeeping references, the Hive and the Honey Bee is extremely boring. However, there is more information in this book than you could possibly imagine. Any beekeeping question or concern you may have, this book will be able to answer in as dry a fashion as possible. I love it.

There are many companies that manufacture and sell all manners of beekeeping equipment. Here are a few sources that I've ordered from and been happy with.

Brushy Mountain Bee Farm
I like these guys. Their products are top-notch, and so is their customer service. In my experience, they have been extremely generous with their time and their knowledge. My bee suit and many of my hives came from Brushy Mountain, and I couldn't be happier with them. They are based in North Carolina, but have a warehouse in PA, which saves us New Yorkers a bundle on shipping! My #1 choice for bee supplies.

Walter T. Kelley Co.
My personal hives were purchased from Walter T. Kelly, and I love them. I splurged (it was Christmas!) and got myself several of their cypress hives which are beautiful and should last until the end of time (approximately).  Again, the customer service is fantastic; when one piece of a hive body came broken, they sent out a replacement as soon as I told them about it. I got it later the same week, free of charge. Awesome.

I've never been disappointed with BetterBees customer service. They are extremely helpful and happy to help new beekeepers get on their feet. I once asked them to email me some information about one of their bee suits, and they went so far as to take measurements of ALL of their suits for me (I'm unusually tall) and email me the dimensions within a few hours. It was kind of amazing. They are based in upstate New York, which saves me a bundle on shipping costs.

Dadant is one of the oldest beekeeping supply houses in the country. So old, in fact, that the standard Langstroth hive is also known as a Dadant hive. Their customer service is top notch, and like BetterBee, they have an office in upstate New York, although they are based in Illinois. Their catalog is fantastic and is full of beekeeping tips and tricks. It's practically a reference in and of itself.


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