Best Tips For Keeping a Honey Bee Hive

Keeping a honey bee hive

I clearly remember our beginning days of keeping a honey bee hive. Gathering tips from other bee keepers was most helpful in getting started. We chose a deep Langstroth hive. Despite some misgivings from family members our hive of honey bees got off to a good start. 

Before we get into the types of hives, and the location lets discuss the bees themselves. For our first hive we chose to purchase a nuc (short for nuclear colony),  from a local apiary.

This is not the only way to get started. You can also purchase a package of bees, and a separate queen, or you can capture a swarm if one happens to take up residence on your property.

Advantage of a Nuc when Keeping a Honey Bee Hive

The advantages of buying a nuc for first time beekeepers is that the bees are already starting to produce comb and honey when you bring them home. You simply put on your bee protective clothing and transfer the ten frames from the cardboard box, into your hive. The colony has already accepted the queen and they have mated with her so you have varying ages of brood ready to mature and take over as older bees die out.

Langstroth honey bee hive

When adding bees, first take the time to learn how to begin keeping a honey bee hive. It deserves some unique considerations. Just as when adding any animal to the farm, being prepared before the bees come home, will help you be successful  

Bees will  require water, shade, a sturdy hive, and during some parts of the year, they may require feeding. Bees will fly a long distance every day to find enough pollen. Grasses, trees, herbs, flowers, and weeds all produce pollen that is used by bees to feed the hive. You don’t need to have a flourishing flower bed in your yard to begin keeping a honey bee hive. Having a varied garden will help the bees get enough food.

location of honey bee hives

Location for the Hive  (Tip #1)

We chose a spot for the bee hive that received sun but was also some shade to protect the colony from overheating. The growth near the hive would provide some nearby pollen, and also provide some protection from the elements. The bees stayed active as long as the sun was shining. Orient the door away from any traffic area near your house or barns. In other words, you don’t want to be walking through the flight path the bees use to get back to the door of the hive. The honey bees are very protective of their home and if they feel a large intruder is attempting to enter the hive they get a little stressed!

Learn the Terms for Keeping a Honey Bee Hive

Apiculture is the practice of keeping and maintaining bees and their hives. The beekeeper is also referred to as the apiarist and the entire colony set up is called the Apiary. Bee keeping has grown in popularity in recent years and the raw honey, beeswax and royal jelly are much sought after products.

Keeping a honey bee hive

Types of  Bee Hives

Skep – Long ago, beekeepers used something called a skep to house bees. This is no longer used because it is hard to remove the honey from the skep and this type of hive is difficult to clean and can become unsanitary. Although they are no longer used, skeps can be a decorative addition to a collection of vintage farming equipment.

Top Bar  –  The Top Bar Hive looks similar to a trough used for animal feeding. The bees make their own comb by drawing it down from the wooden bar inside the top of the hive.

Top bar honey bee hive
photo courtesy of Pasture Deficit Disorder http://www.pasturedeficitdisorder.com

Langstroth – In many parts of the country, the Langstroth hive is what you will commonly see. The Langstroth consists of wooden boxes called supers, stacked on top of each other. They are sitting on a base called the foundation board, and topped with a lid, or cover. Inside, the bees create their comb and fill the cells with honey on waxed  frames that hang vertically inside the super. Langstroth is the type of hive we chose to use. 

Warre Hive –  The Warre has been compared to a cross between a hollowed out tree and a top bar hive. The Warre Hives are smaller than the Top Bar and the Langstroth versions. I actually think I would like to try one of the Warre Hives one day.


What Additional Equipment is Needed When Keeping a Honey Bee Hive?

  • Smoker
  • Hive tool- helps with lifting the frames from the supers
  • Honey extraction equipment  
  • Protective clothing 
  • Entrance feeder for fall and winter
installing nuc into a honey bee hive
the installation from the nuc box to the hive was very easy and simple

The first spring and summer

When our day arrived to pick up the NUC. I was unsure about having the box file box size container of live bees in the car with me! Once I met the apiarist and received the bees, my fears were put to rest. The bees were safely contained in a well sealed file box type container called a NUC. The bees seemed peaceful and fairly quiet. My neighbor and I headed back to her yard to install the bees in their new hive.

At the time, we only had one bee suit and it was not mine, so I was the designated photographer. It was still early in the morning and the bees were still sleepy so I was able to get fairly close with the zoom lens without upsetting the bees. The frames were transferred from the NUC to the super and the cover  was put on top.

We made sure they had a shallow pan of water nearby, so they wouldn’t tire themselves out getting a drink after all the excitement of moving day. That was about it for the installation. The whole process took less than half an hour and was drama free.

honey bees

Watch for reaction to high heat days. (Tip #2)

Our bees started to collect on the outside of the hive, which is called bearding.

We noticed bearding on the hive during a spell of extremely hot summer weather. This means that the bees were hanging on the side of the hive. Lots of them were hanging in clusters on the outside of the hive.

I spoke with a local apiarist from the beekeepers association and he asked if the hive was ventilated. Since I did not know what he was referring to, it was obvious that we had missed doing this. The fix was simple. Don the suit, find some small twigs and add a small twig between the layers of the hive to allow some air to enter. I guess we missed that tip, when setting up the hive. It’s great to have a mentor when keeping a honey bee hive for the first time.

honey bee hive

Is Ventilation Required All Year?

Ventilation is important even during the winter so, we will be leaving the twigs between the layers. If the weather is extremely cold, we can reduce the size of the door opening to keep the hive warmer. Check with your local beekeepers since your winter weather will vary from ours.

Once the hive was ventilated by inserting small twigs between the layers of the supers, and between the top super and the cover and lid, the bearding stopped. The bees were just too warm inside, and had decided to come out for some fresh air.

Fall and Heading into Winter (Tip #3)

Our hive successfully made it to fall. The bees multiplied and the supers were full of honey. We opted to leave all the honey the first winter. The hive may not be strong enough to withstand extreme cold and we never know what kind of winter we will have. We fed the bees sugar syrup to ensure that they would make plenty of honey to get the entire colony through the winter.

Cautions When Working with Honey Bees  (Tips #4 & 5 & 6)

In late fall a hive check revealed that the bees had eaten a substantial amount of honey due to the fluctuation of warm and cold temperatures we had already experienced. For more on that story please read this post on Fall Checkup on the Hive.

Don’t go into the hive without the protective clothing on. Even if you think you will only  be a short minute.

Stay out of the bee’s flight path and do not block their entrance with your body. The bees get really testy about this issue. When they want to get to the door, please don’t block their way. This is an essential safety tip when keeping a honey bee hive.

The best time of day to do any hive maintenance is mid morning. Most of the worker bees will be out of the hive. The worst time of day to try to work on the hive is late afternoon. The bees are trying to return home!

honey bees

The Best Tip We Learned For Keeping Honey Bees (Tip #7)

My favorite advice that I give to anyone asking me how to start keeping a honey bee hive is to get a mentor. Even if your mentor is only available by phone, skype or other electronic means. A local beekeeper can add much to your experience because they are in the same climate as you and your bees. You will have questions as you go along and having a mentor is invaluable.

Year one was extremely interesting and we learned so much about keeping honey bees. Unfortunately, after a fall and winter that swayed in extremes in the weather, our bees died. They did make it through an early cold snap in the fall, which was followed  by a spell of very warm late fall weather.

According to a few beekeepers I spoke with, this caused the bees to think it was spring and go out foraging. When the honey bees returned to the hive, they were very hungry! The honey bees then ate all of the honey that should have been saved for the rest of the winter. The explanation makes sense in some ways. This year, we  will start feeding later in the Summer and into early Fall.

Let me know what challenges and success stories you have from your first year of keeping honey bees.

Tips for keeping a honey bee hive

You may also be interested in these posts on Bee Keeping

Installing the New Hive – Homestead Honey

How to Capture a Swarm of Bees – Homestead Lady

Honey Bees in Late Spring

honey bees in late spring
Honey bees in late spring need a hive check to ensure that the new hives are thriving. No matter whether you start with a Nuc or a package with a queen, there are hives that do not do well. The queen may have died. The weather could have been all wrong. Often spring weather is unpredictable. If the early sources of pollen fail, the new hive may starve. In short, it is recommended that we take the time to check on a new hive after the first couple of weeks. 

What to Do While Checking the Honey Bees in Late Spring 

When I picked up the new bee colony this spring, the beekeeper recommended feeding. He must have said it three or four times. Our spring was odd as usual. Our springs are always odd, but never the same form of odd! This year, we had an unusually rainy two months. The temperatures were much cooler than normal and everything was slow to grow and bloom. And then it became unseasonably hot! One extreme to another is normal although a bit unsettling when trying to grow bees and gardens.

Normal Hive Activity?

During the rainy days I was getting things ready for being away from the farm for at least a week. I tried to find the time to check on the bees but it didn’t happen. I did not have sugar syrup made to feed the bees either. When I observed the bees from afar, I saw what looked to be normal hive activity.
When I left on the trip, I had not checked the hive or provided any extra food for the bees. Once again I felt that I was failing as a beekeeper. I really needed to check the honey bees in late spring, and it was almost summer.
honey bees in late spring
Returning home two weeks later, the bees were on my mind. Checking the honey bees in late spring was the first thing I did. First, putting on my protective clothing and gathering up the beekeeping supplies. I have my bee keeping tools in a bucket that makes it easy to carry everything to the hive. I like to carry my camera along too, for documenting the hive progress. The camera also goes in the bucket.

Why I use a Smoker

I chose to use a smoker while checking the honey bees in late spring, for a couple of reasons. One, the bees aren’t used to me yet. I don’t know if that even happens, but the only time we have met was day one. I added the Nuc frames to the hive and closed up the hive! Two, it was getting late in the day and the bees would be heading back into the hive. This can be a time of more aggressive behavior. The smoker can help calm or distract the bees.
honey bees in late spring
As I removed the top cover  I immediately noticed that a huge population explosion had occurred since starting the hive. Bees were everywhere, spilling from the top of the hive, and under the inner cover. Not only bees, but comb was being built on top of the frames and on the inner cover. Lots of comb was being built and some comb also had honey in it.

Adding a Second Super While Checking Honey Bees in Late Spring

I was pretty sure that I knew what had to be done, but I checked with my local beekeepers to be certain. This is another good reason for taking a camera into the hive with you. I was able to show what the inside of my hive looked like and get reliable advice. It was time to add the second box, or super and ten more frames, to the hive. The bees had filled out most of the frames with comb. The comb being built on the top of the frames and on the cover would have to be scrapped off using a hive tool.  It can be left nearby for the bees to eat.
honey bees in late spring
The next day I suited up again, (don’t you wonder about the beekeepers who only wear a hood?) and took the super with ten frames ready for the bees to build up the hive. While in the hive, I scraped the extra comb off with the frame tool. The bees seemed pretty upset with me for removing the comb so I worked quickly. I sure don’t want to stress out 40,000 of my honey making friends! I didn’t look for the queen bee this time. It is obvious at this point that she is happily breeding and sitting on her throne. 

 What to Look for with Honey Bees in Late Spring Hive Check

The reason to do an inspection is to verify the health of the bees and the colony. If you see an active beehive full of drones and workers, and notice eggs in the cells of the comb, your hive is doing well. The Queen Bee usually stays in the center of the hive, but not always. Looking for and seeing brood confirms the presence of a healthy queen, even if you don’t see her.
honey bees in late spring
In addition to eggs, look at how the cells are arranged. A healthy hive will have brood cells tightly packed. If you see cells capped but spread out all across the frame your queen bee might be older or not laying eggs,  The queen can get sick or old. You might also notice nectar and pollen stored on the wax frames.
We have all probably heard of the term,  bee swarm. There are actually signs in late spring that tell a beekeeper the hive might be getting ready to swarm. The presence of queen cells or cups is one sign of potential swarming.
 honey bees in late spring

Can the Bees Get too Hot

Yes the bees can get too hot and you will notice what is called bearding on the outside of the hive if that happens. Adding a bit of ventilation space under the lid will increase air flow throughout the hive.
honey bees in late spring

How Much Water Do Bees Need

When it’s hot the bees will gather close to a gallon of water a day. They will fly miles to retrieve water so its a good idea to give them a shallow dish and something to float on while getting a drink. Bees don’t like to get their feet wet!

 How Often Should You Check The Hive?

If you see normal activity around the hive once or twice a month may be enough checking. If activity seems to be less than normal for your hive, it would be important to get in there and take a look. The sooner you find a problem the higher chance you have of correcting the issue. 
honey bees in late spring
Bees are hardworking members of our sustainable farm. We are looking forward to that first spoonful of honey from a healthy bee colony right here at home.
 For more on the subject of pollinators and the plants that attract and feed them take a look at these blog posts
How to Plant a Butterfly Garden
Meet the Pollinators
 If you enjoyed this post please consider saving it to your pinterest boards! Thanks so much!
 honey bees in late spring

Top Three Animals Homesteaders Raise

Increase Self Reliance with These Top Three Animals Homesteaders Raise

animals homesteaders raiseWhen you decide to take self reliance seriously and provide more food for your family, which of the animals homesteader raise is right for you? Making the choice can be difficult if you don’t know what each animal requires. Many species can provide you with protein and nutrition. These three are my top three animals homesteaders raise. Let me tell you why these three are my top suggestions for animals homesteaders raise.

Rabbits, chickens and honeybees are my top three animals homesteaders raise. Honey bees do not provide protein, but they provide us with raw honey. Raw honey is healing and never goes bad. Rabbits and chickens grow quickly, Both rabbits and meat breeds of chicken provide your family with meat in only a few weeks or months. Other animals that could be a choice for larger self reliant homesteaders include pigs and goats. These often require more space and a larger building. Chickens, honey bees and rabbits can be kept in smaller yards successfully, as long as they are not crowded.


animals homesteaders raise


Probably the most common animals homesteaders raise are chickens. Even a small backyard can accommodate a small batch of meat chickens. Meat breeds of chicken include Freedom Rangers, Red Rangers, Cornish Cross, among other breeds. These broiler breeds grow very quickly and put on weight fast. While they still require the same care as egg laying breeds, they normally reach market weight around 8 to 10 weeks of age. Small batches of meat chickens are often raised in a tractor style coop. The chicken tractor can be easily moved around the yard. This allows the chickens to eat grass and bugs, and keeps your yard  safe from over grazing.

My personal way of being self reliant is raising dual purpose heritage breed chickens. Our chickens are  kept for egg production but in the event of food shortage, could be used for meat. Some of these dual purpose breeds are Brahmas, Cochins, White Rock, Wyandottes, Australorps, and Orpingtons. Many people raise the dual purpose breeds, use them for egg production for a year or two, and then butcher for the family dinner. Some may wonder how this could be done, but the reality is, this is how our recent ancestors lived for a long time. Many people are going back to this self reliant way of life. Large, fully stocked grocery stores are a modern convenience. Only a couple of generations ago, families raised their own chickens for eggs and meat.

In addition to being fun to raise, the chickens will provide eggs. If you choose to raise them for meat, too, that increases your progress in becoming more self reliant. Don’t overlook the garden benefits from raising chickens. The manure and shavings from the coop can be saved on the compost heap and used in the future as a powerful fertilizer for the gardens. Using the proper ratios for composting and letting the chicken manure rest for about a year will give you a dark rich compost for the gardens.



animals homesteaders raise

Many homesteaders can’t think about including rabbits in animals homesteaders raise for meat. Rabbits are an excellent source of protein and should be considered as animals homesteaders raise. Meat rabbits can also become a source of income for the small landowner. Young rabbits are mature enough for butchering in only a few months. Like the meat breed chickens in many ways, rabbits are an efficient animal to raise. They literally turn grass into meat! Rabbits can also be raised in tractors similar to those used for chickens, as long as measures are taken to keep both rabbits and chickens safe from predators. Some people choose to use metal cages or pens for their rabbits. When using a wire floor, be sure to give the rabbits some flat surface to rest on. Rabbits kept on wire flooring with no where to rest often develop foot injuries. We chose to keep our animals in a habitat set up that closely resembles how they would live in the wild. Allowing some space to dig and burrow, shade, soft bedding and plenty of fresh green grass and hay, pellet ration and clean water will allow your rabbits to thrive. Give the rabbits a secure shelter to stay in over night will keep them safe from predators.

The litter and manure from rabbit hutches does not need to cool down before being used on the garden. It is considered a cool manure. I keep the rabbit manure separate from the chicken manure pile so I can add it to the garden sooner.

Cooking rabbit meat is much like cooking chicken. It can be roasted, fried or boiled. Many people cook it with vegetables and herbs. Even if you don’t want to raise meat rabbits all the time, keeping a breeding pair, separated when you don’t want kits, means you are only a few months away from raising your own source of protein. And rabbits eat a lot less than a cow! Raising a beef cow takes at least a year and a half and lots of grass or hay. Rabbits might be the better choice for a self reliant homestead.

Honey bees

animals homesteaders raise

We have seen a surge of interest in honey bees. While the end result is different, because we don’t end up eating the bees themselves, honey bees do provide an excellent source of nutrition. Honey never goes bad either. Sweetening your food with honey is a healthier alternative than refined sugar and many people who cannot eat sugar can tolerate honey. In an emergency situation where you may need to be self reliant for much of your dietary needs, having your own source of honey in the backyard, will keep your food tasty and add valuable nutrition too.

Honey also contains vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. And, honey contains some amino acids which are the building blocks of proteins. Honey is a natural antiseptic and can be used for wound care.

 The two main types of hives are Top Bar and Langstroth. The Langstroth hives are boxes called supers, and can be stacked a few high, with the appropriate spacers between the supers. The Top Bar hive looks more like a long basin on legs. Considering bees as animals homesteaders raise, should be a careful decision. There is a rather significant cost to start a hive in your yard. The supplies and equipment can be purchased ahead of time and kept until all is ready to bring the bees home. Since there is an investment involved, it is even more important to research beforehand. In many parts of the country there are optimal times for starting a hive. I recommend contacting the local beekeeping organization. Having a mentor when starting to raise bees can be very valuable. Out of the three suggestions listed here, honey bees take the least amount of day to day work or upkeep. We check our hive every day, looking for potential problems but this is done from afar. Feeding sugar water, at the end of the growing season, ensures that the bees will make plenty of honey for the colony to survive the winter. The time to harvest honey is more lengthy than when raising meat animals. It is often recommended that you leave the honey in the hive the first year. This gives the new hive colony plenty of food to make it through the first winter.

Adding these animals homesteaders raise to your  your home will greatly improve your self reliant status. There is so much information available to help you get a good start. When ever possible take a class and find  a mentor. Being prepared beforehand makes the additions easier. Homesteading and building a self reliant home lifestyle takes time. Beginning now will help you have the skills you need in the event of a disaster or crises. Everyday will be rewarding when you learn to keep animals that help feed your family.

Animals homesteaders raise2




Honeybees Late Fall Check

Honeybees and Fall Care

honeybeesCaring for honeybees is a learning journey. We have been beekeepers for only eight months. My neighbor and I started a hive together this past spring. We have learned a lot along the way and still feel like we still know very little about the care of honeybees. But, the hive is still alive, hopefully thriving, and so it was time to carry out the honeybees late fall check. First, let me share a bit of our first year in honeybee keeping.

In April we picked up a nuc to fill our hive. The new colony did very well this summer. At one point  we added a second super and ten more frames. The honeybees looked great each time we visited the inside of the hive. Comb was being formed and lots of cells were already capped by early August. Everything seemed to be going according to plan.

Bearding – Honeybee behavior in the heat.

Honeybees with no honey left for winter

At one particularly hot spell this summer, the honeybees were seen hanging in large clusters on the outside of the hive. After checking with the local beekeepers, we learned that the bees were most likely overheating and trying to cool off. A long time beekeeper asked how much ventilation we had for the hive. What? They needed ventilation? I guess we missed that chapter. He patiently explained to me how he added small twigs or sticks between the layers of the super boxes to allow more air flow. Also,he explained how our weatherproof cover was not positioned correctly. It needed to have some ventilation also, and should have a slight tilt to it. After making the adjustments we had no further bearding of honeybees on the hive.

honeybee fall care

Summer into Fall with our Honeybees

Our fall weather can be very warm and then suddenly plunge into the 40’s overnight. This fall has been no different. We had fall, then a touch of cold, then a very long stretch in November of unseasonably warm days with most high’s in the sixty degree range. The honeybees continued their normal activity. We hesitated taking out the extra ventilation because of the warm days.

Feeding the Honeybees

As the summer growth begins to get ready for fall, the honeybees might be looking for new sources of food. It would be good to begin offering them sugar water. This is actually a very thick syrup! I was surprised at how much sugar it took to make the syrup. The syrup was given to the bees despite the fact that the temperature continued to be warm. Nothing much was flowering at this time of year, although a few plants here and there tried to make a comeback. So the honeybees enjoyed room service in a feeder contraption. 

The late fall check

Finally, the weather report was again calling for cold temperatures and seasonal weather. So we decided we better do one last check on the bees and take out the ventilation, make sure everyone looked healthy, etc. On went the bee suits. The smudge pot was lit and we headed over to the hive.


honeybees and fall care

The welcoming committee

The honeybees seemed to be acting normally. A few came out to see what we wanted., granted access and flew away. More bees exited as they smelled the smoke. Carefully, I removed the cover and the inner cover. And then we noticed that something was wrong. The top super with then frames was now empty of honey. Earlier in the summer, after the original super was filled with honey, we added the second super. The full frames were put into that super and the lower super received new frames. The honeybees continued to work and build comb and honey and the next time we checked, both supers had a good bit of honey. At that point, we made a decision to wait to take any honey, until spring. With it being a new hive, we didn’t really know how much they would need to sustain the colony over the winter. Better safe than sorry was our reasoning. 

honeybees and fall care

Where did the Honey go?

Now there was no honey and much of the comb was dry and brittle. The bees seemed very healthy though. None of this was making sense and being new to the beekeeping, we had no idea what to think. But, winter days were fast approaching and the bees would be hungry!


Phone a friend

Again, we consulted friends in the community who have much more experience than we do in beekeeping. They kindly came to take a look, and also they had a hive do the same thing recently. One thing we needed to look for was the presence of a Queen Bee. We needed to look for evidence of disease, and damage from other insects.

Luckily, the queen was found. What I learned is that without a queen, the workers don’t work very hard. They won’t be as protective of the hive and could let robber bees enter without a fight. Also without a queen, the colony will quickly go to ruin, since the workers have nothing to work for. Apparently this queen bee is a big deal! 


do you see the Queen? She looks different than the other honeybees.

So since we do have a queen, feeding the bees is a viable option. We are going to put fondant in the hive under the weatherproof cover, which should give the inhabitants plenty of energy to survive the winter.

Here is one recipe for bee fondant. 

This one, that a friend described to me, seems a lot simpler to me. Melt one bag of marshmallows in the microwave. Add in 1/2 cup of a liquid sweetener (a 2:1 sugar syrup will work), or water. Do not use honey as the liquid as it could contain spores of toxins from a sick hive. Add a few cups of powdered sugar and mix until a soft dough forms. Continue adding powdered sugar, possibly even up to two pounds of the sugar, mix by hand when necessary until a stiff pie crust consistency forms. When the dough is stiff and formed, roll it out with a rolling pin and cut into strips or one large square that will fit under the weather proof cover. A feeder cover is recommended, as in this article on feeding fondant to bees.

If you are concerned about using marshmallows made with GMO corn syrup, here is a recipe for homemade marshmallows, and this one for corn syrup free marshmallow fluff.

I have talked to a few people about how they feed the fondant. Some use a screened inner cover to hold the fondant but allow the bees to feed through the wire. Some people have told me they just lay the fondant on top of the inner cover, or even cut the fondant into one inch strips and lay it on top of each frame inside the hive.

I think I will try the marshmallow fondant first and see how it works. It seems to use less sugar than the first recipe I posted above.

What could have happened to our Honeybee Hive?

honeybees fall care

Two theories have emerged as likely possibilities. One theory is that there are robber bees attacking the hive. Hopefully cold weather will control and correct this situation.

Another theory and the one I feel is more likely is our original queen bee died or left the hive. It is a lot of worker bees  to contend with and maybe she just had enough and flew off with a flashy yellow jacket. More likely, she died and while a new  queen was developing, the workers became a little lazy. “Hey, there’s plenty of honey right here”, I bet they said. “Why are we making more?? Lets  just chow down now.”

Another part of this same theory has to do with our crazy warm fall weather. The warmth could fool the bees into thinking it was spring. They went out to forage for the new baby queen, found nothing much, came back famished! Then feeling quite hungry from the foraging, they ate the honey stored for winter. Since the comb was not destroyed or torn up and we had no dead bees, it makes the weather theory even more probably. According to a beekeeping friend, the robber bees will make quite a destructive mess of the comb. We did not see evidence of that.

What ever the real reason, the bees have no honey and we will have to feed them through the winter. The fondant should last a good long time between feedings but since we are new to this, it will be important to keep a close eye on the hive and keep food available at all times until spring arrives.


Psalm 119:103  “How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” NASV


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Queen Bee and Our New Hive

The Queen Bee and

Beginning Our Bee Keeping Adventure

Yesterday we picked up our very first bees for the hive. This is a joint venture between my friend, Hannah and I and the hive is actually sitting on her property. The spot is just beautiful, in a clearing, and settled under some sort of flowering tree. There is nearby water and grass, and other blooming plants. I am positive that the Queen bee and bees will be very happy and healthy here.

Queen Bee

This is very exciting times because I had to wait an extra year due to the high demand for bees after a couple brutal winters. We chose a local apiary and started with a Nuc instead of a package, so the bees came in a cardboard hive sort of box. The nuc means that the bees have already been established as a family and have been working together. It takes a little bit of the risk of losing the hive away, but Nucs do cost a bit more than a package.

Queen Bee

I thought I should be nervous driving the car with that many bees in it, since I get such a huge reaction to any stings, but strangely, I was calm and Hannah and I chatted the whole way home, and didn’t hear the bees at all. I am sure they were sleepy since the day had just begun. Yes, all my sleep loving friends, you have to pick them up at the crack of dawn so they can start the day in their new hive. Coffee was definitely needed!

The Bees New Home (Hive)

We were back home before 7:30 am and ready to release the bees. I was the designated photographer, due to lack of an epi pen or any benydryl, and the fact that Hannah has the only bee suit. I need to remedy this right away so I can check on the hive too.

Queen Bee

Placing the frames into the hive looked like an easy task. And Hannah easily picked out the queen due to her white crown (actually a paint marking) The queen bee is the most important member of the hive. Without her, the hive would have no purpose and slowly die off. The worker bees and the drones work and live to please the queen bee. She alone lays all of the eggs to continue growing the hive and producing honey, although she herself produces none of the honey. The queen bee is fed the best nectar and the royal jelly. This is nothing at all like most of the human moms I know. They are selfless, and giving, taking their share last. But just on Mother’s Day, wouldn’t it be sweet as honey to be treated like the Queen Bee?

 queen bee


queen bee

 queen bee

Soon all the frames were safely in the hive and any stragglers were moving in that direction. The flower pots were moved into position next to the hive. Just to make the bees feel welcome.

Queen Bee

Making the Hive a Home

Water was set out nearby the hive. Although there is water not too far from the hive, giving the bees water right there allows them to spend more time establishing the hive and making honey. Bees will actually forage for food and water up to two miles from  the hive but it seems like a good idea to give them what they need close to home, at least until they get oriented. Even though we did a lot of reading and research before heading into bee keeping, there is still much to learn. 


And that was it! Day one of beekeeping concluded successfully.

We are looking forward to the fresh raw honey later this year. The bees had already produced some in the travel Nuc and there was a lot of comb being built on the frames.

We would love to  hear your best bee keeping tips in the comments. Thanks for being part of our journey on Timber Creek Farm.


Looking for more resources on Bee Keeping? Earth and Honey  recently published a wonderful collection of informative articles.

50 Backyard Beekeeping Resources for Beginners

And also visit Lil’ Suburban Homestead to listen to an informative podcast on beekeeping.

Pasture Deficit Disorder talks about harvesting honey from a top bar hive in this post.