Just beginning your beekeeping adventure?
Here's some info to get you started.
1. Some basic knowledge
Beekeeping requires a fair amount of specific knowledge in order to be successful.
There is so much great information available online and we have gathered a few
links here to help you on your way.
Click here to download this free 44-page guide by beekeeping expert Russell
Goodman in conjunction with the Victorian Government. A very useful starting point for beginners.
Click here for a video on rookie mistakes to avoid
Click here to learn about the equipment needed for your first year of beekeeping
Click here to watch US WVDA State Apiarist Wade Stiltner demonstrates how to handle beehive and what to look for in a healthy colony (not all information is relevant to Australia, but there are loads of useful tips for all beekeepers).
2. Time to dedicate to your bees
A few hours a week after the initial setup is probably the minimum amount of time you need to devote to checking your hive and any maintenance that may be required. You will need to invest a few more hours when it's time to harvest the honey.
3. Space for your bees
While having a large area to keep your hive in is a luxury, it’s not a necessity; many beekeepers successfully keep bees in regularly sized backyards. The main problem with a small space isn’t that it bothers the bees, but it may bother your neighbours. You are required by law to move the hive if it bothers people living near you, so this is a consideration.
If your neighbours are cranky and you have a poor relationship with them, they could make life hard for you. Keeping the hive as high as possible tends to alleviate some of these problems because the higher the bees are the less likely they are to bump into humans. Some neighbours will be far more receptive to the bees if they receive some fresh honey at the end of each season, so consider being generous with your honey once you’ve harvested.
4. You'll need bees
You can collect a swarm yourself or take over a second-hand hive, but if you’re getting started, then buying some bees will be the easier way to go about it. We offer a variety of options to get you started, click here to visit our shop.
5. You'll need a home for your bees
There are several options available when choosing a hive for your bees. Bees will take up residence basically anywhere, but we recommend using a Langstroth style hive if you want to maximise your honey production and keep your bees as healthy as possible.
The Langstroth hive is the most common type of hive and it’s probably what comes to mind when you think of a beehive. Frames slide into the hive and each frame has hexagonal wax moulds that the bees can then use to build their own comb on top of.
The hive has a cover over the top and bees enter from a small gap in the bottom.
Flow hives have become quite popular these days, with many individuals favouring them for the ease of honey extraction. These still require regular inspections and maintenance, as with traditional hives, however the design allows for honey to be removed at the turn of a dial.
We offer a variety of hive options to get you started, click here to visit our shop.
6. Beekeeping equipment
You will need some equipment to keep you safe, and specific tools to perform regular beekeeping tasks such as inspecting your hive. We have various tools & equipment starter kits available, click here to visit our shop.
7. Beekeeper Registration
Bees are constantly under threat from a range of devastating pests and diseases, many that are not present in Australia, as well as the impacts of chemicals and pollution.
If you are a beekeeper, you can play your part in protecting our bee populations and the role they play in pollination by registering your hives. In fact, in NSW, beekeepers must be registered with NSW DPI.
Compulsory registration helps prevent the spread of diseases and unwanted pests including Varroa and tracheal mites.
Click on the links below for more great info:
The Top 10 Mistakes Most Newbie Beekeepers Make
Essential Gear, Tools, and Supplies for the Home-Based Beekeeper
Making a Beehive – Plans and Instructions on How to Build Your Own Beehive
Ongoing Maintenance & Tasks
Once your hive is up and running there are a few tasks you need to perform on a regular basis to ensure that your hive stays healthy. Your job as the beekeeper is to maintain the health of the hive, watch out for disease and prevent swarming.
The end of Winter or beginning of Spring can be a tricky time for the hive. This is when the brood is expanding and the hive requires honey to meet the demands of the new members of the hive. If nectar flow slows down low enough, the colony could starve and die out. To prevent this from happening, some beekeepers feed their hives sugar water. The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has created a free that explains everything you need to know about feeding sugar to honey bees. Click here to download.
Download this free DPI manual on honey bee nutrition for beekeepers: Fat Bees Skinny Bees
As the colony expands, you need to monitor its growth. If you feel that the colony is growing too fast, you may need to add a super to your hive to prevent the bees from swarming. You can learn more about how to do this by clicking here.
If you fail to add a super in time, the colony could swarm; leaving you with only half a colony left.
To perform these tasks, you will need some special equipment called a hive tool. This allows you to more easily
manipulate parts of the hive and do the tasks you need to do.
Honey bees may be affected by a range of pests and diseases. The list below contains information about specific pests and diseases from a collection of sources, as well as regulatory information and forms.
Reporting a biosecurity risk
If you suspect or believe a biosecurity emergency is occurring or likely to occur, you must report it immediately by:
Submitting an online form , or
Contacting a vet, or
Calling the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.
American foulbrood (AFB) is a fatal and incurable brood disease of European honey bees (Apis mellifera). AFB is present in Australia. Any hive can contract AFB and the disease can decimate an apiary. AFB spores are spread in contaminated honey and apiary products, hive parts and equipment. Robbing out of weak hives is a key means of spread. A single infected hive can quickly infect nearby hives as healthy bees rob out the contaminated honey. As more and more hives contract the disease, the cycle perpetuates leading to serious outbreaks that can impact the entire region.
American Foulbrood and Small Hive Beetle in bees - video series
These videos have been developed to advise on techniques that will assist in the identification and management of these two serious diseases and pest threats. Click here to watch.
Small Hive Beetle
Small hive beetle love warm, moist conditions and urgent action is required if discovered, with preventative measures a must.
There's many different options for combating these nasties and we wanted to share a few with you.
Using blue (& only blue) Chux dishwashing cloths within the hive is an excellent place to start. Gently pull the fibres apart slightly to "fluff-up" the chux and place a strip on the base of the hive and also across the tops of the frames. The beetles get stuck in the chux, but the bees don't. This is also a great visual guide as to the current population of beetles.
We also use traps that we make ourselves. Using 50/50 cockroach powder (only available at selected rural supply stores unfortunately, photo of product below for reference) & Vegemite and a splash of water to create a thick sauce consistency. This is squeezed into a groove in a preprepared corflute trap and sealed with packing tape. The design of the corflute allows the beetles to access the poison through the horizontal rows, but not the bees.
Click here to watch a 'how-to" video. We place one trap in the base of each hive and replace monthly or as needed (you may find the trap has been evicted by the bees before this time).
If you have a flowhive or hive on legs, another option which is great for ants too, is to place the legs of the hive into cups of oil, creating a liquid barrier between the ground and the legs. Click here for fact sheet
Other Pests & Diseases
Department of Primary Industries Policy & Compliance
Honey harvesting requires a fair bit of instruction, so here are a few video
links to get you started:
Unfortunately, bee stings are a fact of life as a beekeeper, but there are simple steps you can take to keep the stings to a minimum. Most people react with a small amount of pain which subsides quickly, yet there is a small percentage of the population who will have an allergic reaction to bee stings that can result in anaphylactic shock. Anaphylaxis can be life-threatening, so if you've not experienced a bee sting before, it's a good idea to not be alone when handling bees.
Keeping the bees' stress levels down will help minimise stings as bees are not generally aggressive when they're calm.
Using protective clothing is essential in preventing stings and it is advisable to be protected at all times when near the bees.
A good quality veil smock or full suit and long gloves will protect you if used worn correctly and consistently. White is the
best choice as it does not disturb the bees.
Bees are more likely to feel under threat & attack in response to:
A smoker is a great tool to reduce the likelihood of stings when you need to get
up close and personal with the bees. Smoke causes an instinctual reaction where
the bees ingest as much honey as possible in preparation for needing to find a
new home due to the threat of fire to their existing home. The bees are much
more docile when their bellies are full & are less likely to attack.
Click here to watch a great video on using a smoker.
Beekeeping Codes of Practice by State
Before getting started with beekeeping, it's important that you understand all the rules and regulations of your state.
Use these state-by-state links to find out everything you need to know.
Australian Beekeeping Associations
Joining a local association is also a great way to meet fellow beekeepers and learn more about the hobby.
Use these links to contact your relevant association.