Want to be a Beekeeper? Now is the Time to Start

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Be advised: if you have ever considered becoming a beekeeper, now is the time to start according to Eric Tietze, executive committee member for the Missouri State Beekeepers Association.

“Most experienced beekeepers will tell you the time to start a new hive is late winter to early spring,” said Tietze. “This is the time to begin your hive, but beginning beekeeping actually should start a few months before placing your first hive.”

That means the ideal time to begin beekeeping as a new hobby is in the late fall, according to Tietze. There are several reasons for a fall start.

The first reason is knowledge. Before placing that first hive, a person will want to have a pretty good base of knowledge as to what your bees will be doing inside the hive, what potential problems you need to watch for and how to care for your new colony.

“There’s a lot to learn and believe it or not these simple little insects are very complex creatures,” said Tietze.

Another great reason to start early is to begin making some decisions on the needed gear and equipment.

“While beekeeping is not the most expensive hobby you can engage in, there are some definite costs involved,” said Tietze.

According to Tietze, the basic hive itself will generally cost in the neighborhood of $150 to $200, depending on accessories. Then a beekeeper must have things like a jacket, gloves, hive tool, smoker, and veil.

A beginner will also need to purchase bees to fill a hive unless an experienced beekeeper is kind enough to share.

There are several options when purchasing bees. A beginner can purchase a package of bees (basically a box containing about 2-4 pounds of bees and a queen). It is possible to purchase a nuc, or nucleus, of bees which is a fully functioning small hive of bees.

“You can also sometimes find someone who is selling a complete hive of bees and purchase a full working hive. Each of these has increasing costs and offer different pros and cons,” said Tietze.

A package of bees is the cheapest way to purchase them.

“When purchasing a package of bees, you get just that, bees,” said Tietze. “You do not receive any frames of honey, brood or larva. Your new bees are placed into your new empty hive and have to start completely from scratch putting you further behind than by starting with a nuc and also creating an additional opportunity for failure. It is the most cost-effective way to start, however, other than capturing a wild swarm.”

Purchasing a complete hive from someone who is either getting out of beekeeping or downsizing is an option. Getting an established colony of bees already in a hive is the most expensive way to start, but the biggest downside is that there are some unknowns.

“If the hive has problems you are inheriting those as well,” said Tietze.

Maybe there are pests in the hive, an aged queen or an aggressive hive. There are lots of possible ways to fail but also an opportunity to be way ahead of the game.

“If it is from someone you know and trust it’s a great way to go. If not, then have a knowledgeable beekeeper go with you. They’ll know many of the problem signs and could save you a lot of hassle and wasted money,” said Tietze.

Based on his years of experience, Tietze believes the best way for a new beekeeper to start is going to be with a nuc of bees from an established beekeeper. A nuc, in my experience, is generally going to cost around $170.

The nuc is a fully functioning hive with workers, a laying queen, a couple of frames of honey and a couple of frames of larva and brood (unhatched bees). The nuc is installed by pulling the frames out of the box and placing them into a hive box, and now the working hive of bees is ready.

“Most people who sell nucs of bees will begin taking orders in the next few weeks for Spring delivery. If you are getting started and wait until March or April to try to order your nuc of bees it may be too late to get your name on the list,” said Tietze.

It is also important for beginners to find a local beekeeping club and arrange for a mentor. A good mentor will save a beginner hundreds of dollars, untold hours and lots of frustration.

A list of local beekeeping clubs is available on the Missouri State Beekeepers Association’s (MSBA) website at https://mostatebeekeepers.org/local-clubs/. There is a great list of resources on the website.

“Beekeeping is a great hobby for both adults and children and beneficial for our communities and environment. If you’re considering starting, now’s the time to start talking with people and getting ready. You will thank me when Spring rolls around,” said Tietze.

For more information, contact Tietze by email at [email protected]