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First Lessons in Beekeeping – What I Learned My First Couple of Years.

Honeybees on a frame.

Beekeeping has become such a rewarding hobby but, just like everything else in life, it has its ups and downs. This hobby started as a subject that perked my interest one day while watching TV. Someone had been a beekeeper for years and shared a small piece of his joy and why he was so addicted.

After attending a local workshop about beekeeping, I soon understood the fascination and pursued it. As I mentioned, it doesn’t always come easy. I decided I should share my first lessons in beekeeping and everything I learned in my first couple of years.

First Year of Beekeeping

In my first year of beekeeping everything was fresh, new and absolutely wonderful! It was a little scary opening up my first A honeybee hivehive and seeing all of these little bugs, most of whom were well equipped with tiny venomous stingers.

Even that moment was such a natural high and I wanted more.

There was a huge learning curve that went with it. I learned a lot about how bees function, who does what, how they survive, what they eat and how they live their daily lives.

I craved more information, attended a local club and found a great bee mentor who also assisted me with all of my questions.

I had also discovered that for your first year, you may not get any honey. This was because the bees were busy building out wax for their new home. This took some time and was a process.

However, I got lucky and extracted 18 pounds of honey that summer! I was so excited and felt so lucky to have managed this successfully and still have enough honey for the bees to survive the winter.

Second Year of Beekeeping

A frame of honeybees

I started with two beehives and by that following winter, heading into my second year of beekeeping, I was left with one. Mites had killed off the entire hive.

I had learned beekeeping, however fun it may be also came with some responsibility. 

I found out about varroa mites and how destructive these tiny bugs were to an entire hive.

Once I had discovered you needed to test for mites by killing about 300 bees, I convinced myself it wasn’t going to happen to my hive. 

My bees were going to be the exception. Such naive thoughts and wishful thinking.

I soon found the error of my ways when I lost an entire hive due to mites. I had made the mistake of not testing for levels of mites and didn’t treat for them as often as I should have for these evil bugs.

Going into my second year with high hopes and a new approach. I was going to be the best beekeeper who ensured that my bees made it through the entire year. I was going to test for mites and treat more.

Nothing was going to stand in my way.

Everything Went Wrong!

Honeybees flying around their hive.

I had heard before that typically your second year of beekeeping stinks. Oh man! They were right! In my second year, everything went wrong.

There’s so much to learn and just when you may think you know what you’re doing, honeybees have a way of proving you wrong.

In early April, I wasn’t able to catch my hive from swarming in time. I saw there were new queen cells which is a good indication they are going to swarm but I just assumed I had time. 

Nope! The queen left and took half of her royal family with her.

I also accidentally killed five or more queen cells just by checking on them when I pulled out a frame.

During the early fall, one hive took off on me. Even though I was on top of managing my hives for mites, it didn’t help when the beekeeper down the road didn’t manage his mites for his hives. It was like an entire mite bomb went off.

So I did what I could to bring the mite population down, but it didn’t work. The hive took off. I even lost two more hives to mites the following winter. It was so disheartening and discouraging. Especially since I tried so hard and failed.

When its Time to Give Up – Don’t!

Here would be the point where some people may have given up. Not only did I use up a lot of time trying to keep my bees healthy and happy but I also spent a lot of money as well.

I thought I had learned my lesson from the first winter when I lost an entire hive. I had figured that was my eye-opener to do even better my second year. But I was wrong again.

This may have been my make it or break it moment. A critical moment where I could take the easy route and walk away. It wasn’t like I didn’t try my best.

To anyone who knows me, beekeeping is all I ever talk about. Everywhere I go, I’ll mention honeybees in one way or another. Conversation is too quiet? Beekeeping. I’m asked what I did this weekend? Great time to talk about bees.

This isn’t the time to give up and just walk away. Beekeeping is harder than it used to be 30 years ago. I see it as more of a challenge to do better and improve with each year. I want to do my part in making sure my bees survive.

Beekeeping Really is Fun!

Honeybees flying.

For all the challenges, trials, tribulations, errors and frustrating moments, beekeeping really is fun and worth it. I found joy in watching them, learning about them and the overall experience.

Being there to witness them in their daily tasks as the worker bees bring back pollen, tasting delicious honey straight from the hive, hearing the buzz of thousands of bees as you open the hive to check on them is all worth it.

I’ve learned things will go wrong but I’ve realized just like any hobby or anything you try to do, you aren’t going to be good at it right off the bat.

I found value in my lessons that I learned with my first couple of years but it won’t stop me from learning and doing better in the future.

Please feel free to share this article and leave a comment on what you thought or future articles you would be interested in seeing!

Have any Question or Comment?

22 comments on “First Lessons in Beekeeping – What I Learned My First Couple of Years.

Hollie Rose

Beekeeping is truly fascinating and I have always wanted to learn more about it. However, from a distance- I am terrified of bees!

Wow, your experience was absolutely fascinating. I had no idea it was so hard to keep a hive. And well done to you for not giving up, its a powerful lesson for life not to give up even when it seems most tempting!

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Randi

Thank you so much! It is tempting but determination will stop me for sure. I appreciate your response! Honeybees aren’t nearly as scary when they are away from their homes. 

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Judy

This is such an inspiring and honest story of your journey through becoming a successful bee keeper.  I had no idea it could be so challenging and so involved so I learned a lot from your story. It must be very frustrating to lose hives so easily, just through a little oversight .

Just the other day I was listening to a young woman on the radio who had become very passionate about bees and she has started teaching others and helping them get started.  I also heard once that when the last bee dies it will only be 7 years before the last human dies because we depend on them so much for our food. With that thought I must congratulate you for your efforts to maintain a bee population.  Great work and thanks for sharing your story.

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Randi

You are correct, it is frustrating sometimes. Especially when you try so hard to make it work. 

With how important bees are in our world, it is a disturbing thought to imagine our lives without them. One in every 3 bites of food we eat are pollinated by bees one way or another. It just encourages me more to get the word out on how precious they are. Thank you for replying! 

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JJ

With all those challenges (sounds like you need a lot of patience) you probably are an expert on bees. From your expressions I can see you really love this hobby. I still feel I would be a bit scared to get into beekeeping but I would keep encouraging you and others because I love honey. I always have a bottle in my home. Thank you and best wishes.

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Randi

You are right, it does take quite a bit of patience to learn how to master beekeeping. With some time and determination it makes it easier. Honey is quite tasty coming out of a hive versus a store. Thank you so much for your encouragement! 

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Wow! what a cool story. I could just imagine the excitement in starting your first colony, I was getting excited just reading about it. I have always found bees to be such amazing creatures with awesome abilities. The anatomy of the hive is so interesting and underestimated into how it relates to the ecosystem of our planet.
I loved reading about your ups and downs and everything involved with starting a thriving royal family of bees. Good luck to you and the bees in the future.
David

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Thank you! My entire goal is to let everyone know how wonderful these little creatures are. I appreciate your response and I hope I can inspire others as well!

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Mark Johnston

You are AWESOME! You were even before you became a beekeeper. Your dedication and hard work has paid off! This was a terrific article. I’d give it a BEE +.

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Thank you so much, Mark! I’m very thrilled that you liked my article. I especially liked your rating you gave me! It made me smile! Thank you!

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Charles Holmes

This is fascinating. I never realized there was so much to beekeeping. I think you can relate the experience to any new business. You have to get started, make mistakes and learn from them. The goal the first year in a new business is simply to survive. Normally, by your second or third year you become pretty good at what you do.

I’ve always admire beekeepers. We have some in our local community. One person has approximately 100 beehives. It’s amazing. 

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Randi

Hello Charles! You’re right, it is like any new business or anything new you try to do. Everyone has to start at the bottom and work their way up! 

That’s awesome to hear about the beekeeper with 100 hives! I hope to expand and have more hives myself! 

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M. Tidbury

This story about beekeeping is an inspiring story as I keep hearing stories about the honey bee becoming endangered.  They are so important in the growing of flowers and vegetable gardens as they pollinate them.  It is awful that they can be so fragile, such as being victims of mites.  More beekeepers are needed to take care of these insects and to protect them.

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Randi

I couldn’t agree more with everything you said! Honeybees are very important. I hope more people are inspired to realize this an/or inspired to become beekeepers themselves! Thank you for your response!

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Chas

Hi Randi,

I enjoyed your article very much. I don’t raise bees, but I do love honey. The honey I like the best is the wildflower honey.Do they place the hives on the edge of a wildflower field to get that taste? I like it more than the other honeys, it has like a licorice flavor to it.

Another thing I have always wondered, do you notice more bees around the house when you have a hive? I never really liked bees.  I grew vegetables for years and often wondered if I would get better yields from the vegetables with a hive around somewhere, but never did. I had no idea they were so hard to raise!

Thank you for the enlightening education on bees!. 

Chas

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Randi

Hello Chas! Those are excellent questions! My bees are placed in a small town with a lot of options as far as flowers they gather pollen from. However, a good bee mentor of mine keeps his bees along the hillside next to the sage brush. Both his honey and mine have different tastes. Typically, in order to have a distinct flavor, beekeepers will keep there bees in that particular field. 

To answer your second question, if you keep the hive next to the house there will be a lot of bees flying by. The farther away they are the less likely you’ll have them fly by. But also keep in mind that honeybees are pretty docile creatures.

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Gwendolyn J

Randi,

I have been wanting to get into beekeeping for years. I have not had the funds or the opportunity and I am just as determined to do this as you are. I love honey and I know that without bees, a vast majority of our essential plant life would not be here.

I will be bookmarking your site for future reference, because I know I will need your experience and insight when I finally get my first hive.

How does one go about acquiring domestic honey bees and all the equipment needed to take care of them? Do you know where I can find a beekeeping mentor?

Gwendolyn J

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Randi

Hello Gwendolyn! I’m thrilled to hear that you are interested in beekeeping! I am more than happy to provide you with any information as well as resources about honeybees and beekeeping itself! I know once you get started that you’ll be just as hooked as I am. Thank you for your response!

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Nate MC

I have thought about beekeeping in the past, but never got around to pursuing it. I always thought it was way to difficult to learn; Judging by this, it is hard but it sounds rewarding. I just think it’d be cool to see bees in action, working and making honey. Plus, it’d be nice to get pure honey right from your backyard! 

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Randi

Hello Nate! Thank you for your reply! You are correct, beekeeping can be pretty hard but also very rewarding. With me, it also became an obsession! They are so fascinating and the details that goes into everything they do, it blows my mind away with how they know to do some of the things they do! If you ever get a chance to check one out, I think you should go for it! 

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RoDarrick

Very engaging experience of yours you have shared here. Seriously, I love bees a lot but at a distance. They look fabulous and fascinating nevertheless, they are hazardous too and owing to a bad experience a friend of mine had with them. Your experience is really worth emulating and your relentlessness to strive for success. Its a great thing and I wish you more success.

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Randi

Thank you! I’m thrilled to read that you found the information engaging. Honeybees are very interesting but I do understand that people can love them from a distance. I hope to reach out to more people with the same feeling and information! I appreciate your response! 

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