Backyard Beekeeping for Beginners

Backyard beekeeping can provide you with fresh honey and pollinated crops, use these tips to start your own hive.

| April 23, 2014

  • Worker Bees in a Beehive
    Deep inside the beehive, worker bees are making comb. This comb will be used for storing brood, honey and pollen. The wax is put into place by mouth.
    Photo by Daniel Johnson
  • Bee Package from a Bee Breeder
    A package of bees typically consists of about three pounds of honey bees, including a queen. The queen is typically separated inside a tiny cage within a larger cage. There’s also a can of syrup to feed the bees but its contents only last a short while.
    Photo by Daniel Johnson
  • Stack of Bee Packages Awaiting Their Future Homes
    Bees in packages are stacked up awaiting pickup by beekeepers. Each package contains about 10,000 worker bees and the queen. The queen will be in a tiny box within the bee package. You’ll want to be very careful with her.
    Photo by Daniel Johnson
  • Black Foundation Frames in a Wooden Beehive
    Some beekeepers recommend that you use black foundation frames in the bottom or brood box and natural-colored frames in the upper or honey supers, but many people use natural-colored frames throughout their hives.
    Photo by Daniel Johnson
  • Beginner's Guide to Beekeeping Book Cover
    “The Beginner’s Guide to Beekeeping” by Samantha Johnson and Daniel Johnson is full of helpful tips, strategies and information on backyard beekeeping.
    Cover courtesy Voyageur Press

  • Worker Bees in a Beehive
  • Bee Package from a Bee Breeder
  • Stack of Bee Packages Awaiting Their Future Homes
  • Black Foundation Frames in a Wooden Beehive
  • Beginner's Guide to Beekeeping Book Cover

The Beginner’s Guide to Beekeeping (Voyageur Press, 2013) can help you start your first beehive the right way. Veteran beekeepers and farming professionals Daniel and Samantha Johnson walk you through their tips on raising honey bees. Use this excerpt from chapter 2, “Starting Out as a Beekeeper,” to help you enter the world of backyard beekeeping.

Buy this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: The Beginner’s Guide to Beekeeping.

Finding Bee Breeders

Here’s a great question that probably has been bouncing around in your mind for a while, and perhaps you’ve even skipped ahead in the text to find the answer: Where exactly are your bees going to come from?

Well, unless you plan on tracking down and capturing a swarm of loose bees (possible, although challenging and beyond the scope of a beginner) or collecting them one by one off of dandelions and daisies (not practical), you will be purchasing your bees from someone else—either a bee breeder (who may live far from you) or a local beekeeper. And that’s a good idea, because this way you will be able to do your research and purchase from an established, reputable source—and besides, that wild bee roundup idea sounds a little too ambitious!



Most bee breeders in the United States are located in the southern portions of the country and California (because of the warm year-round temperatures) but will ship packages of bees and queens all over the country. If you’re not planning on buying locally, then explore bee journals and magazines for bee breeders who will ship to your location. (A breeder that offers a package replacement guarantee is a good thing—just in case your bees perish during shipment.)

Generally speaking, you can purchase your bees in three different ways.





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