How to Start Beekeeping: Advice for Beginners

March 3, 2023

In the last few years, many have taken up hobbies like gardening, homesteading, or small-scale farming. Some folks quickly realized that pollinators are vital to their success, and after hearing from beekeeping friends, they want to get started with their very own hive. 

Like any new endeavor, learning how to keep bees will take a good deal of time, effort, and learning for you to be successful. That’s especially true because you’re actually involved in one of the more common forms of animal husbandry. As a caretaker for potentially tens to hundreds of thousands of bees, education is the most important part of planning to become a beekeeper. And right now, while you’re waiting for spring to show up, is the ideal time to start the process.

As with any new hobby or endeavor, there is a lot to know. And there will always be a rabbit hole to fall into along the way. So here are some things to work on before you bring bees into your space.

Learn About Bees and Beekeeping

There are countless books on beekeeping available from in-person and online retailers, libraries, and as digital downloads. Podcasts from experts are other key sources of practical information, and hands-on videos can help those who are more visual learners. 

Here are a few key things to know:

  • Understand a bee’s life cycle
  • Know how a hive works
  • Learn about the different roles that each bee fills
  • Get a handle on how honey is made
  • Understand how seasons affect bees

Learning how to establish beehives is best done by understanding what bees look for in the wild. While they can build anywhere, they typically want a sheltered, protected spot to raise their brood and store resources. The man-made hive you provide should make life comfortable for the bees while keeping access, maintenance, and honey harvesting easy for you. And if you don’t already know, make sure that you aren’t allergic to bees before investing in equipment.

Once you’ve got some bee knowledge under your belt, it’s time to build on what you know. Reaching out to your local beekeeping organizations is the absolute best way to take abstract and accumulated data and learn how it will come into play on the ground, in real life. If meetings are being held, it’s a good idea to attend and get involved. All this reserved information will come in handy once it is time to establish your own community.

Bees are social creatures and beekeepers benefit from a strong network too. Local apiarists could become mentors or friends who can help you establish your hives and get through your first season successfully. 

Get the Right Beekeeping Equipment

So you’ve read all you can and made beekeeping friends, now what? Once you’ve gathered some real-world experience and know-how, it’s time to build your own collection of hives and other equipment

What kind of equipment do you need to get started beekeeping? Here’s a basic list.

Two Hives

Whether you buy or build your hives, it’s recommended that a beginner have two boxes available. Langstroth and top-bar hives are the most commonly available types. Locate the hives in a quiet place on your property, away from property lines, and sheltered from extreme weather. A south- or east-facing position is ideal. Be sure to look into local ordinances that touch on beekeeping. 


Yes, you will need to actually order bees for your hives. If you happen to have a swarm on your property, you could work with a local apiarist to coax them into your boxes. Otherwise, you’ll need to find a reputable supplier you can trust and get your order in during their available months. 

Protective Clothing

While bees aren’t too worried about defending themselves as they establish their new home, you will definitely need protective gear down the road. It’s best to get used to working in it from the beginning. A veil or screened hat, long-sleeved beekeeping jacket, or even a full protective suit are good options.

A Smoker and Fuel

The smoker will calm your bees and mask your scent when you need to work inside the hive or collect honey. Get enough fuel so you can practice using it. Then you’ll be prepared for the time when using a smoker is critical.

Hive Tools

These specific beekeeping tools make it easier to pry open hive parts. They are readily available and affordable, so we suggest having multiple sets. 

Top Feeder

During months without flowering plants and available nectar, a top feeder will allow you to supplement the bees’ food source. If you’re handy, there are DIY options out there too.

Queen Catcher

The queen is the heart of the hive. It’s less stressful on both her and you when you can be precise in catching or relocating her.

Spare Boxes and Parts

You won’t know you need these until you suddenly do. If your hive outgrows its current boxes and you need to quickly expand, having parts and boxes on hand will save the day. 

Once your hives are set up, you might be pretty excited about this new endeavor and ready to install a few more. We’d recommend starting small and getting to understand the process and responsibilities involved with beekeeping. Once you’re more experienced, you can install more hives–just be sure they are at least 30 feet away from existing hives.

Start a Beehive in Spring

Experts agree that spring is the ideal time of year to set up a new hive and introduce bees to their home. You want to take into account temperatures and available food sources in your area. April is often a time when it’s warmer outside and early bloomers and trees are providing reliable nectar sources for hungry bees.

Spring is also ideal because your colony will have plenty of time to establish themselves before the stressors of late summer, fall, or winter arrive. They need to build up food stores and care for the next brood, and that takes a lot of work, from building to foraging and beyond. 

There is naturally a strong nectar flow in summer, but at times spring and fall might offer less foraging opportunities. Encouraging or planting wild, native flowering plants that bloom at these times is a great help for your colony.

When NOT to Start a Beehive

However, even if you do have ample flowering plants nearby, attempting to establish a new hive in fall or winter is never a good idea. Lower temperatures mean that the queen stops laying eggs and your bees’ prime concern is to keep her safe. They aren’t active outside the hive and so depend on having food stored within (up to 50 lbs of honey!) But if you get started too late, they won’t have that much food available. You can see how this could end up being a recipe for disaster. 

Even if you give your bees supplemental food as they build out the hive and during the winter, it’s likely that you’ll lose quite a few. Summer can be tricky as well, since the bees won’t have time on their side. Stick with spring for the best success.

Wait a Year to Harvest Honey

Your goal for your first year of beekeeping is to make sure the colony is established, healthy, and happy. The honey they create that first year will be vital to keeping them alive and well during the cold winter months. So it’s common to go that first year without harvesting any honey for yourself.

Once the hive is built out and well established, you can expect that much-anticipated honey harvest. The trick is keying in to your hive and your bees to learn their cycles and whether there is enough honey to share. The industrious insects make more than enough for themselves, since winter can be unpredictable–we want to take just enough to make our efforts worthwhile.

Rely on Cleveland Bee Removal, Your Local Beekeeping Experts

If you are eager to get into beekeeping but still aren’t sure where to start, check out Cleveland Bee Removal’s online resources for some pointers and product recommendations. Join local apiary groups like the Greater Cleveland Beekeepers Association and the Ohio State Beekeepers Association to build your knowledge base.

If you’re finding that other insect or rodent pests are stealing your attention, we can help there, too. Contact Cleveland Bee Removal for safe, effective, and reliable pest control solutions.