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Bees play a vital role in maintaining healthy ecosystems. Not only do they produce delicious honey, which has a number of benefits, but also several other products. Beeswax can be used to make candles, lubricate wood, make crayons, lip balm, body butter – a TON of things can be done with beeswax. More important than the products that bees create is their role in pollination. Bees are covered in hairs, which carry large grains of pollen between plants. We know that around 75% of crops produce better yields when animals help them pollinate. Bees are by far the best at this task and are, as a result, ESSENTIAL for the growth of many plants and crops.

To be clear, in this article we are only looking at honeybees. There are over 4,000 species of bees in the US, but honeybees are the most popular species for backyard beekeepers. There are three castes of honey bees: drones, queens, and workers. Drones are male honey bees. Their sole purpose is to mate with queens and pass their colony’s genetics on to the next generation. Queens are the reproductive females. They have a longer and plumper abdomen than the other bees and they are the only female responsible for producing the offspring within the colony. Worker honey bees are non-reproductive females. They are responsible for brood care, hive maintenance, and hive defense tasks in their colony.


So, you’re ready to get started with beekeeping. The very first step is research. In order to set yourself up for success and ensure that you are prepared, you first need to read up, watch videos – whatever allows you to best learn and understand how bees work before you start this new hobby. It is also highly recommended that you take a class with a local beekeeper before you get started. They will be able to teach you everything you need to know about beekeeping in your environment and best practices therein.

Once you’ve done your research and are ready to make the next move, you’ll need some basic supplies. Obviously you’ll need a hive. The last thing you want to do is purchase a package of bees and have nowhere to put them. With your hive, you’ll want to have a smoker with fuel to calm your bees, gloves to protect your hands and arms, and a veil to protect your head and neck. (If you decide not to purchase a suit, be sure to wear white!) You’ll also want to have a bee brush to remove bees from frames that are ready for extraction and a hive tool for multiple purposes in handling your hive.

Hive Tool

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Bee Hive Smoker

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Beekeeping Hat with Veil

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Once you have your new hive set up, it’s time to install a package of bees! A package of bees typically means a wooden frame with wire screens on the top and bottom. There is usually some type of feeder filled with sugar water for the bees to eat while in transit. There is also a queen cage that holds the queen separate from the other bees that allows the workers to get used to her scent. You’ll want to calm the bees before you get started, so have a spray bottle with sugar water ready to mist your bees before installation.

Place your hive in a location that gets sun and allows for an internal temperature in the 90s (F). If your climate is hot, give them some shade. Also consider their flight path – keep their location out of the main path that people may travel frequently. Once you’ve set up your location, you’ve got all of your equipment, and you’re suited up, you’re ready to install your package. You should ensure that you have a couple of hours free so that you have time to move slowly and carefully.

First, spray your bees with your sugar water mister. This will ensure that they have full bellies. That, coupled with the fact that they have not yet established a hive, honey, or a queen to protect, allows for very calm bees. Next, spray your frame foundation. Pull out all of your frames and spray them down with the sugar water. The reasoning here is pretty clear – you’re putting food right where you want the bees to establish their hive.

The next step is opening your package. Use your hive tool to remove the sugar water container on your package. Be calm and move slowly. You’ve likely heard a million times that bees don’t mess with you until you threaten them. Sudden and scared movements are alarming, so stay calm and understand that the bees aren’t out to get you! Take care not to drop the queen’s cage inside the package as you remove the sugar water canister, and place the can on top of your frames.

Now, remove the queen’s cage from the package. This next step is dependent on how your queen is packaged: some companies have her in a capped tube that contains a sugar paste that the queen has to eat through before she is released into the hive. If your package doesn’t include this paste, have a mini marshmallow ready to plug the hole when you uncap the tube. Hang the queen cage from one of the frames in the hive. It is important for the queen to remain in her cage for a few days so that she can release her pheromones that communicate to the other bees that she is their queen. The queen and the other bees will eat through the paste or the marshmallow to release the queen from her cage over about three days, and then you can remove the cage from the hive.

Once you’ve hooked the queen’s cage to the frame, you can add her bees to your hive. Hold your package upside down over your hive and shake your bees into the hive. If they stick to the sides of the package, you can lightly drop them a couple inches from the ground to gently get them moving. Once a good majority of the bees are out, you can place the package angled toward the hive entrance and allow them to leave on their own accord to tend to their queen. Before you cover your hive, it’s a good idea to add a pollen cake on top and set up a feeder that contains sugar water.

The Backyard Beekeeper

The Backyard Beekeeper by Kim Flottum is the beginner’s guide to starting hives in your backyard or garden. Recently revised and expanded, the book presents you not only with the tips and tools of the hobby, but also the information to best prepare your yard or garden for your newest buzzing bees. From how to harvest honey to recipes to use it in, The Backyard Beekeeper will walk you through from setup to safety to savoring!

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10-Frame Complete Hive

  • 10-frame standard Langstroth Hive, made of unfinished pine
  • Precision-milled interlocking box joints for maximum strength
  • Black foundation installed for easier view of hive activity
  • Telescoping outer cover with weather-resistant aluminum top
  • Vented inner cover to reduce condensation
  • Screened bottom board with grip to measure mite presence

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So, you’ve set up your equipment and installed your bees – now what!? After roughly three days you can go ahead and remove the queen’s cage (assuming she has been freed). Continue to feed your bees through the sugar water feeder. They tend to drink it fairly quickly, so be sure to check the feeder often. After a week to ten days, do a formal hive inspection to verify that your queen is laying and the workers have drawn out their combs. (If you’re unsure on the specifics here, it’s best to do your research on this!)


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