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How to Begin Beekeeping

Beginner Beekeeping Equipment

Below is a list of the minimum number of items to purchase for your first year. As your hives mature, you will need more boxes to support their growth. This is for one hive.  Prices are approximate as of 2023

One hive setup w/ bees.............$350-$450 (Bees are $125-$200)

Prices vary based on quantity and size of the boxes that house the bees .... some people use deep boxes (9 1/2" tall) some use medium boxes (6 5/8" tall)

What should you order (minimum). More boxes and frames will be needed as the hive expands


Local Bees are preferred - please check with SWOBA for local nucs. 

Dadant Bees



Mann Lake



The Beekeeper's


The Bees: The weather begins to improve, and the early blossoms begin to appear. The bees begin to bring pollen into the hive. The queen is busily laying eggs, and the population is growing fast. The drones will begin to appear.

The Beekeeper: Install new packages. Make splits if you desire. On a warm and still day (55–60° F.) do your first comprehensive inspection. Can you find evidence of the queen? Are there plenty of eggs and brood? If the top box is full and the bottom empty consider reversing the hive bodies; this will allow for a better distribution of brood and stimulate the growth of the colony. Towards the end of the month the honey flow will start. Add a queen excluder (optional) and honey supers when the dandelions bloom.

Time Spent: 3 hours.


The Bees: Now the activity really increases. Nectar and pollen should begin to come into the hive thick and fast. The queen will reach her greatest rate of egg laying.

The Beekeeper: Watch out for swarming—Mother’s Day is the peak of the swarm season. Inspect the hive weekly. Add honey supers as needed.

Time Spent: 4–5 hours this month.


The Bees: Colonies will be boiling with bees. The queen’s rate of egg laying may drop a bit this month.

The Beekeeper: Inspect the hive weekly to make certain the hive is healthy and the queen is present. Add honey supers as needed. Keep up swarm inspections.

Time Spent: 4–5 hours.


The Bees: If the weather is good, the nectar flow may continue this month. On hot and humid nights, you may see a huge curtain of bees cooling themselves on the exterior of the hive. This is called "bearding".

The Beekeeper: Not much chance of swarming by now. Continue inspections to assure the health of your colony. Add more honey supers if needed.

Time Spent: 2–3 hours.


The Bees: The colony’s growth is diminishing. The honey flow is over. Drones are still around, but outside activity begins to slow.

The Beekeeper: Harvest your honey at the beginning of the month and if there is a dearth consider feeding later in the month. Consider treating for Varroa mites.

Time Spent: 6–8 hours.


The Bees: The drones may begin to disappear this month. The hive population is dropping. The queen’s egg-laying is dramatically reduced.

The Beekeeper: Remember to leave the colony with at least 75 pounds of honey for winter. Check for the queen’s presence. Feed until the bees will no longer take syrup.

Time Spent: 2–3 hours.


The Bees: Not much activity from the bees—they’re hunkerin’ down for the winter.

The Beekeeper: Watch out for robbing. Install mouse guard at hive entrance. Insulate hive if you wish to help keep colony warm and dry. Setup a windbreak if necessary. Finish winter feeding.

Time Spent: 2 hours.


The Bees: Even less activity this month. The cold weather will send them into a cluster.

The Beekeeper: Store your equipment away for the winter. Repair equipment as needed.

Time Spent: About an hour this month.


The Bees: The bees are in a tight cluster. No peeking.

The Beekeeper: There’s nothing you can do with the bees. Read a good book on beekeeping, and enjoy the holidays!

Time Spent: None


The Bees: The bees are in their winter cluster. There is little activity except on a warm day (45–50°) when the workers will make cleansing flights. There are no drones in the hive, but some worker brood will begin to appear. The bees will consume about 25 pounds of stored honey this month; feed granulated sugar if necessary.

The Beekeeper: Little work is required from you at the hives. If there is heavy snow, make certain the entrance to the hive is cleared to allow for proper ventilation.

Time Spent: Less than an hour.


The Bees: The queen, still cozy in the cluster, will begin to lay a few more eggs each day. Workers will take cleansing flights on mild days. The bees will consume about 25 pounds of honey this month.

The Beekeeper: On the first warm day (above 50°) start feeding 1:1 sugar syrup and give them a pollen patty to encourage brood rearing.

Time Spent: Less than an hour.


The Bees: This is the month when colonies can die of starvation, so be ready to feed 1:1 sugar syrup. The queen steadily increases her rate of egg laying. The bees will continue to consume honey stores at an ever increasing rate.

The Beekeeper: Early in the month, on a nice mild day (above 45°) when there is no wind and bees are flying, you can have a quick peek inside your hive. It’s best not to remove the frames. If you do not see any sealed honey in the top frames, you may need to begin emergency feeding. Once you start feeding, you should not stop until they are bringing in their own food supplies. On a warm and still day do your first comprehensive inspection and check for evidence of a laying queen.

Time Spent: 2 hours this month.


Beginners equipment order

Equipment Vendors

A Year in the Life of a Beekeeper

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