The top beekeeping tips remain the same whether you are new to the hobby, just exploring inviting bees into your garden, or you are a well-established beekeeper. All beekeepers want their bees to be healthy and happy, and there are several tips that can help every beekeeper ensure their bees thrive this year.
Cleanliness is Important
When adding a new hive, it is important that it is clean, and that the equipment being used has also been cleaned. Cleaning equipment and getting rid of residual wax and honey before starting a new hive ensure no diseases carry over from a previously used hive. Disease is a real threat to beehives, and using dirty equipment may expose bees to something that can be harmful. Brand-new hobbyists can purchase complete starter kits, where more experienced beekeepers may build their own or have a favorite way to add to their existing colony using materials they already have on hand.
An apiary, also referred to as a bee yard, is where hives are kept. Apiaries come in all shapes and sizes and look different throughout the beekeeping community. Beekeepers will build fences or have openings in closed structures to encourage bees to fly upwards upon exiting to expand their food search area.
Providing Hydration Sources is Critical
Bees, like all living things, require water for survival. Although you may find bees in your pool occasionally, they are not going for a dip and can’t swim. Bees need plentiful and easy access to water sources throughout the year. Having clean water available offers bees a safe space to get a drink. It is also good to remember that "clean" water does not mean new water every day. Bees can get nutrients from standing water in a shallow dish (like a pan or bird bath). Offer your bees a bottle cork or a sponge to perch upon as they lap up the water for hydration. Every little effort to keep water accessible is a significant help to the bees.
Bee Friendly Planting
Bees can gather food from many sources. Flowers, plants, and trees are all excellent sources for bees. Bee friendly plants, flowers, and trees can be planted and maintained to help bees use the pollen and nectar as protein and sugar. A plentiful and healthy diet of a variety of food sources allows bees to keep their hives healthy, allowing regular reproduction. You can’t plant too many flowers, plants, or trees! If you are able to plant a variety of plants, flowers, and trees, you will likely provide an extended period that bees can use your garden as a source of food. A wider variety means different bloom times, heights, and choices!
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Ensure Air Flow to All Beehives
It is a mistake to think that keeping your hives outside means they have sufficient air flow. It is even more critical with hot temperatures to maximize efforts to create regular air flow to your hives. If a hive overheats, the honey will melt, potentially damaging the bee’s stored food supply for the upcoming cooler months. Screened bottoms to your hives can increase air flow and allow ventilation, but they should be equipped with mite grids to protect the hive.
Expand When Necessary
Busy, healthy, and happy bees will outgrow their space, and this is a good thing! When your existing hive is full, and bees need more space, you can add a brood box to your hive and give your queen space to continue laying eggs separate from the worker bees.
Expansion will also include swarming as the old queen runs out of eggs, and her pheromone excretion lets the bees know it is time to find an heir to her throne. Swarming is completely normal and should be treated as such. Swarms will only stay temporarily in a location for a short time – a few hours to a day or so, so swarms should be left alone whenever possible. If you are ever in need of immediate swarm removal, do not attempt this task without experience. There are professional beekeepers who do humane live bee removal, and this is the only way to ensure the safe removal of bees during a swarm. Do not use a general pest control company when faced with a hive or swarm that needs removal.
Regularly Inspect Your Hives
The most significant task for beekeepers is to keep a pulse on what is going on in their hives. Staying alert and aware of changes can only be done through hive inspections done on a regular basis. Catching a problem or seeing the need to expand can be handled sooner rather than later, which is best for your bees. Pests and diseases can be spotted more easily when you are familiar with what is “normal” for your hive. If you notice something suspicious or have a question about something happening with your hives, reach out to another beekeeper. The beekeeping community is close-knit, and everyone's focused on doing what's best for the bees!