How to prepare for your first beehive

How to prepare for your first beehive

How exciting! You are getting bees! If you’ve never kept bees before then you are probably a little nervous. That is totally understandable. For most of us one bee flying around the house can cause a panic attack, so knowing that you are going to be caring for tens of thousands of them can be daunting.

There is so much information out there on the internet about bees and beekeeping that it’s both helpful and overwhelming. And as we like to say in the beekeeping world, ask two beekeepers a question and you’ll get 5 opinions. Not to mention, that if you live in Arizona the information you glean from beekeeping books and YouTube are not going to give you an accurate picture of what beekeeping will be like for you. Our seasons are different than most of the country. We have Africanized bees to deal with, and most of us are not going to be dealing with overwintering our bees. On a good note, we also don’t deal with problems that wetter areas experience.

What I would like to do to ease your panic-stricken self, is to offer some things that you can do to prepare for your bees’ arrival. Today I’m going to talk about how to prepare yourself, and then next week I’ll talk about how to prepare your apiary (that’s where your little backyard hive is going to live).

stack of beekeeping books

Read Beekeeping Books

You probably are already doing this, or maybe you just bought them and are overwhelmed with all the information and don’t know how to process it all. I do that with so many books. Actually I used to do that, but not anymore. 

A few years ago I started to use my timer on my phone to regulate a lot of the things I needed to do but couldn’t find the time for. It’s amazing how freeing it is to tell yourself that for 5 minutes you are going to do just this one thing, and when the timer goes off you are going to stop. Three things happened: 1. I could read very quickly with no mental distractions, 2. It was just enough information for me to process and remember easily, and 3. I was consistently adding new information daily on a topic that was important to me. I typically read in the morning, but it’s so easy to stop for 5 minutes at almost anytime of the day. 

You can check out this quick video of me reading out loud for 5 minutes from the Beginning Beekeeping book. It’s not to teach you anything other than to drive home my point. Plus I miss reading to my kids, so why not.

Here is a short list of books that I recommend:

Get Your Beekeeping Equipment

The next thing you need to do before getting your bees is to equip yourself to manage them and decide on the type of hive you want.

Equipment I recommend

Hive Options I like

For wooden boxes, I recommend using all medium boxes rather than deeps for ease of lifting. Three medium boxes is equal to 2 deep boxes, but the frames are interchangeable as opposed to using deep and medium configurations. One issue you will have if starting out this way is that nucs almost all come with deep frames, so you’ll likely need to order a package or collect a swarm. I am hoping to create some medium nucs for sale, but I’m not sure when they will be ready.

Hives I don’t recommend for Arizona are Top bar and WarrĂ© hives. These don’t fare well here because they are difficult to manage in our heat as the top bars aren’t as supportive as a full frame, and inspections can be impossible at times.

Get Your Bees

You can get bees 4 ways:

  1. Collect a Swarm (Free)  
  2. Purchase a Package ($125-$200)
  3. Purchase a Nuc ($145-$250) 
  4. Purchase a Full Hive ($300-$500)

Of all these options, I recommend purchasing a Nuc (Nucleus hive) because it will most likely come from a local beekeeper who has split his or her hives. It is a fully functioning hive with brood, food, and a docile (if done properly) queen. It is truly a cost-effective choice.

Join a Beekeeping Club

Finally, if you haven’t already, do join a beekeeping club, whether it is online or in person. Our Arizona Backyard Beekeepers Facebook Group is very active and you will find lots of helpful voices there. It is so important to have local connections with other beekeepers. Whether you are ordering queens as a group, or you need a helping hand with your hive, there is no substitute for someone close by.

Here is a list of beekeeping groups in Arizona

So for now, that is all you need to do to get ready for your bees. Next week We’ll talk about how to get your apiary ready. I’m here if you have any questions. You can find me on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or right here.

Click here for a Free Guide to Keeping Bees in Arizona along with weekly updates and videos to help walk you through your first of beekeeping.