5 Beginner beekeeping mistakes to avoid

It’s very easy to make mistakes when you’re learning something for the very first time. So whatever we can do to minimize those mistakes will eventually result in success, sooner rather than later.

But with each mistake there is something we can replace it with and that’s what I’m going to teach you today.

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beekeeper checking brood
Photo by Jonathan Hargus©

5 Beginner Mistakes

Number 1:

Checking the hive too often

Let’s admit it, opening up a hive is why we got bees in the first place right? I’m sure you have other reasons as well but there’s no denying that seeing bees in action in their own home is incredibly fascinating!

However, looking too often can be detrimental to colony efficiency. It’s very important for the colony to maintain a homeostatic environment; that is to say that in-hive tasks and functions need to have the least amount of outside disturbance possible in order to maintain order and thrive.

But how much is too much or too little? Glad you asked because this article here will help you know exactly how often you need to check your hive. There are many factors at work depending on your specific location.

So check it out here: How often should I check my hive?

Number 2:

Buying what you don’t need

There’s a lot of fancy tools, gear and equipment in the world of beekeeping. The cost of this unique hobby can run quite high, which can be a bummer for beginners.

But guess what? You don’t necessarily need all those hru-da-doos and shiny gadgets.

The first thing to do is to find out which style of beehive is right for you. The style you choose will determine the tools and equipment you will need.

In general there are three main styles in North America:

  1. Langstroth; the most popular and most expensive
  2. Warre; the least used and not very well-known, yet entirely overlooked. This is much less expensive than the Langstroth.
  3. Top Bar hive; by far the oldest style of the three and least expensive in my opinion. Also the most straightforward hive there is in beekeeping.
warre beehive
This is my first Warre hive. I discovered I really like providing this type of environment for them but that it isn’t my personal style of preference. Photo by Jonathan Hargus©

Go here to learn more about the pros & cons of each. Learn about Which one fits your needs?

Number 3:

Treating too late

One of the greatest challenges in beekeeping is trying to keep your bees alive long enough to learn about beekeeping.

It’s incredibly frustrating when pests & disease devastate your hive before you even get a chance to you know, keep bees.

Too often beginners wait until they see signs of trouble before they act. But by then it’s usually too late. Prevention is key when it comes to successful beekeeping.

It’s vital to the survival of your bees and your motivation to treat ‘in anticipation.’ In other words, don’t wait until you catch the flu before you begin taking vitamin C.

Learn more about how to prevent pests & disease in your hives. It will give you an edge on beekeeping that most beekeepers don’t have.

Here you can learn more about Preventing Nosema in your hives.

You can also discover the secret to kicking Varroa mite in the butt here.

And don’t forget it’s just as important to help your bees to defend themselves against American Foul Brood.

small hive beetle infestation
This picture shows an infestation of Small Hive Beetle larvae. Once you see them like this picture, it’s pretty much too late. Photo by Jonathan Hargus©

Don’t wait until your hive gets slimed by Small Hive Beetle larvae either. Learn here how to kill SHB when they’re the most vulnerable.

Number 4:

Improper use of the Smoker

The smoker is a beekeeper’s best friend. But too many times, beginners either smoke the bees too much or not enough.

Smoking the hive too much results in an overly disturbed environment and can even injure or kill the bees if the smoke is too hot from constant pumping of the bellows.

On the other hand, smoking the hive too little results in more squished bees as frames and/or boxes are shifted around during hive inspections.

Ideal use of the smoker should be in the following two ways:

  1. Smoke the hive entrance before an inspection. Two to three puffs into the hive entrance is all you need. Then wait a minute before removing the hive cover. This gives the bees time to start gorging on honey, which lowers their defense posture.
  2. During a hive inspection when you have frames removed, and even honey supers pulled off to check the brood area, it’s important to smoke the areas where bees gather so that you don’t squish them with frames or on the box lip when placing boxes back onto one another.
beekeeper's smoker
This was my very first ‘budget’ smoker. I lived to regret it…many times. I don’t use it anymore because it has a poorly designed breather system. Photo by Jonathan Hargus©

If you would like to know how to choose a good smoker then I recommend that you check out the elements of a good smoker. I list several smokers based on your budget.

Here’s my recommendation for a good smoker at a fair price below.

Number 5:

Looking for the queen every time

I’ve saved this one for last because it is probably the biggest mistake that beginner beekeepers can make: trying to find the queen every time you open the hive.

This is a no-no. The longer you spend inspecting a hive, the greater the disturbance and the greater the chances of accidentally squashing the queen between frames.

The best thing you can learn to do during every hive inspection is this:

Learn how to look for SIGNS of a queen.

If you see eggs and they’re laid in a good pattern with one egg per cell, you have a laying queen.

If you see a recently hatched queen cell with the cap flap still attached, you probably have a new virgin queen.

If you see lots of bees, frames of pollen, honey and healthy looking brood, then this type of order is evidence that all is well and that you have a good queen.

queen honey bee
Well there she is! Photo by Jonathan Hargus©

I highly recommend to every beekeeper; beginner and experienced to learn the 7 Methods of Minimal Disturbance.

These methods set your hive up for the greatest success while minimizing risk.

Learn more about The 7 Methods of Minimal Disturbance.

Beekeeping is hard enough with today’s modern challenges. But it doesn’t have to be if you learn from the mistakes of others (mine) which can give you the short-cut to successful beekeeping.

The fact that you’re reading this illustrates that you’re most likely someone who cares deeply about their bees, that you do your homework to get the best results, and that you want to have fun with beekeeping.

Don’t give up and keep going! Any questions? Ask away in the comments below and until next time remember,

~Weeds are Wildflowers, let them Bee!~

Jonathan Hargus/Beekeeper of many mistakes


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