Do you want to be a beekeeper? Fantastic! Many new beekeepers are faced with the question: How should I start beekeeping? What do I deal with first? Should I buy bees? What do I need for beekeeping? Should I take a beekeeping course first? Questions over questions and on the Internet, you will find 1000 opinions. I am writing down here for you what I would personally recommend and give to new beekeepers after 4 years of my own beekeeping. The result is 7 tips that new beekeepers can use to start their first beekeeping safely and in a relaxed manner. Also you can find here 50 beekeeping tips that will make you a successful beekeeper.
Tip #1 – Keep calm and then start beekeeping
Yes seriously! You’ve just made the decision to become a beekeeper. Congratulations! The door to a huge new universe has just opened – the world of beekeepers is fascinating, but also sometimes very confusing 🙂 Questions after questions shoot through your head, you want to start right away. But wait – the first tip is to keep calm. Hectic and quick decisions, especially at the beginning of beekeeping, can spoil your fun, if not right at the beginning then in the near future.
If you start beekeeping in a well-planned and structured manner, you really enjoy it more. An example: Older beekeepers who want to give up their own beekeeping often lead to beekeeping. And they want to do something good for you and inherit their entire equipment – including bees, hives, equipment and 1000 tips. As a young beekeeper, you are of course immediately smitten by the price and would like to take over everything. But be careful, especially as a beginner you never know what you are buying and what you should pay attention to. And the best way to check outdated beekeeping knowledge is with tip #2 😉
Tip #2 – Book a beekeeping course
Beekeeping courses are offered nationwide and are an ideal and indispensable (!) introduction to the world of bees and beekeepers. Here you meet new friends, get up-to-date bee knowledge, you go to the bees for the first time under professional guidance and learn everything you need to know at the beginning. And you can ask questions that will be answered competently.
You can find out where to get your first bees from, which breed of bees is recommended, what hive size is common in your region (so you can bee with the same frame size as your neighbours, which makes things a lot easier), how to keep bees, how to deal with the bees , how to avoid diseases and much more. The beekeeping course is usually “crowned” by a first honey harvest together – an unforgettable event!
And you meet a lot of nice people! (That’s how it was with me, anyway.) Additional tip #2.1: Make sure you exchange phone numbers with people you like! Especially if you live nearby, you can keep bees together and help each other. And you will need help, because your beekeeping mentor or your beekeeping teacher is not always there.
A contact point for finding beekeeping courses is, for example, the German Beekeeping Association, beekeeping magazines and the state associations of beekeepers. You can call them and ask about the dates for the courses. Most courses start in winter/early spring.
Tip #3 – Get bees and hives
Looking at Tip 1: Wait until after the beekeeping course and after Tip #5. I recommend completing the beekeeping course, which usually ends after the summer, before you start buying the hives, the accessories and the first bees. With the necessary bee knowledge from the course, you can really get going in the coming year.
Another advantage if you wait: you can take advantage of a new beekeeper promotion in many federal states, there is money! The prerequisite for this is a completed beekeeping course and you must not have bought anything for the bees or started beekeeping before the funding is approved.
Your colleagues from the beekeeping association will be happy to tell you where you can get your first bees from. Do not buy/get them from ANYONE on the internet, but only with a health certificate, preferably from someone from your club who lives near you. It’s never wrong to have someone with experience helping you move in your first bees – you’ll never forget the moment!
Tip #4 – Join a beekeeping association
The beekeeping association is YOUR contact point for everything to do with bees. The beekeepers’ association registers you with the Animal Disease Fund (or tells you how that works), takes out insurance for you, provides you with medication for Varroa treatment and much more – everything is usually included in the fee. A worthwhile cause!
Joining a beekeeping association is voluntary, but I would strongly recommend it if you are just starting out in beekeeping. An overview of the beekeeping associations in your area is available on the Internet or from the state association. You can already become a member of a beekeeping association during the beekeeping course – new beekeepers are always welcome there. Maybe your beekeeping teacher can even recommend a nice club in your area.
The association work in the beekeeping association is very limited, mostly you only meet twice a year (that’s how it is with us).
Best of all: In the beekeeping club you will meet other beekeeping beginners as well as “old hands” who will certainly be happy to help you in the first few years. That brings us to tip #5!
Tip #5 – Look for beekeeper sponsors
I didn’t have one and that made the first year really difficult for me. Bees were new to me and I kept asking myself: does it have to be like this? Is everything ok? Should I be worried? What should I do, all the bees are outside? 😉 – that really happened! If I had had a beekeeper sponsor, he would have stood by me and was always available for questions.
I therefore recommend that you ask around in the association whether an experienced beekeeper would like to be your beekeeper sponsor. No one will refuse your request, because everyone has started and knows what it’s like. You should only live nearby, that makes things a lot easier. If you have found one, then he is your bee expert from now on!
Tip #6 – Don’t skimp on hives and beekeeping essentials
In the beekeeping course you learn what you need for the basic equipment and which hive size you want to use. Don’t skimp on the initial equipment and bee hives when you start beekeeping. I bought cheap do-it-yourself hives in the beginning. It went very well in the first year, and in the second as well. After that, the thin wood began to warp, cracks formed. The bees could get out through these crevices – and even worse, foreign bees and wasps could get in – and then they wreak real havoc. A nightmare.
I then switched to prefabricated hives made of thick wood with stable floors, well-made roofs, insulating panels, etc. You can find a number of suppliers for this, and after a short search you’ll find them one with the top dogs. There you will not be disappointed in terms of quality, but quality has its price. But you have the new beekeeping promotion, right? 😉
Extra tip for regional shopping
There are also – if sometimes a little hidden – beekeeper shops, probably around the corner from you. There you should inform yourself and also buy there. You should only order online if you don’t have anything nearby. Usually, by buying in a shop, you come into contact with other beekeepers from the region and can thus network locally. In terms of price, it usually doesn’t make a difference.
The right beekeeping bagses
What you can look out for is a beekeeping bag for your accessories. Unfortunately, there’s nothing decent on the market, at least I couldn’t find anything. Finally, I ended up with a square tool bag from the flea market. Everything fits in there and I can stop them in the car to save space, so that nothing flies around and I always have everything to hand. Your accessory pool will gradually increase, so don’t choose a bag that is too small! I always transport the smoker outside of the bag, it doesn’t have to fit in there. (Here is another tip for lighting the smoker)
Tip #7 – Read books, don’t let the internet drive you crazy
There are many beautiful beekeeping books that you can use to find out more about beekeeping. I came to beekeeping through the “Wochenendimker” – a nice, albeit extensive book and nice reference book. In addition, however, there is an almost confusing selection of beekeeping literature. Browse through and get into the new hobby. However, experience has shown that you will learn your beekeeping knowledge in the beekeeping course and you will really understand it when you work with the bees 😉
Beware of the beekeeping forums on the Internet. As useful as they are, they also create a lot of confusion. It is best to ask your beekeeper godfather if you have any questions. The beekeeper forums overwhelm every young beekeeper. As my beekeeping teacher says: Ask 10 beekeepers and you will get 12 opinions 😉
So then, have fun with your new hobby – it is incredibly fun to work with the bees and it is not always relaxing, but it slows you down and is a hobby that you can practice all your life. And there is honey! Do not be discouraged by initial setbacks and stings – soon you will be a beekeeping professional and can be a helpful mentor to new beekeepers. This closes the circle.
A few things went wrong for me at the beginning – I hope that I can save one or the other with these tips.