How to Be a Successful Beekeeper - To Bee or Not to Bee?

Every spring we hold a free Beekeeping Overview Workshop at our store to give folks an idea of what it takes to become a successful beekeeper.

From the basics of care to the expense and time commitment required, we try to cover all the important elements of this great hobby so our customers can make an informed decision to bee or not to bee a beekeeper.

Keeping Honey Bees - A Fun & Delicious Window Into the Natural World

Getting started with honeybees and keeping them is fun and easy as long as you are prepared. Do your homework to avoid misunderstandings and easily made mistakes. Read books, take a class and go to your local Bee Guild meetings. Find a mentor and find out if beekeeping is right for you before you get started. 

Here are a few things I think a person should know before they jump into becoming a beekeeper.

1) Hobby or Vocation? Why Become a Beekeeper?

Now is a great time to become a beekeeper. Honeybees need our help. The honeybee population is being over-taxed by commercial practices, pesticides and climatic changes. If you are going to become a beekeeper, you will have to spend time caring for them with attention, feeding and treatment. 

Beekeeping cannot be taken lightly if you want to be successful. It takes a positive attitude, attention to detail, a cool head, a calm manner and a willingness to learn with patience and follow through. You’ve got all that though right? Of course you do.

2) Basics of Care

Honeybees are not wild animals. They are an untamed domesticated species – think of them as tiny livestock. 

If bees are neglected they will rarely last a year. Bees require shelter, food, water and care. If your bees are hungry you must feed them. If they are thirsty you must provide them water, if they show signs of mites or disease you must treat them just like your family cat or dog. 

You must check on your bees a minimum of every 3 weeks and a glance at your hive a day can prevent BIG problems in the future. Know the time commitment involved before deciding you are ready to be a beekeeper.

3) Equipment

Here is our 1st year beekeeping equipment checklist. Every beekeeper will have their own opinion on what set-up is best for a 1st time beekeeper. This is our list based on our experience. We will be releasing articles and announce our yearly beekeeping events in spring once the beekeeping season fires up. Join our homestead community to stay updated on when that happens.


  • Veil – zip-on, tie down and/or elastic
  • Protective clothing – Base this on your comfort level. Either a Full Suit, Half Suit/Jacket, or your own light colored plain clothes with smooth textures and long sleeves.
  • Gloves – Leather, plastic cloth or latex.


  • Smoker & Fuel
  • Hive Tool
  • Bee Brush
  • Feeder


  • Hive Body – Either 2 Deep 8 or 10 Frame Supers or 3 Medium 8 or 10 Frame Supers
  • Frames – Wood or Plastic
  • Foundations – Solid Beeswax, Duragilt or Plasticell
  • Top – Telescoping or Migratory (10 Frame Only)
  • Inner Cover – Solid or Screened
  • Bottom Board – IPM screened or solid
  • A homemade hive stand as ant proof as possible
  • A Top Bar Hive is also an option and generally comes assembled. The plus of a top-bar hive is the viewing window. The minus is they are not expandable so your colony size is limited by the size of your hive. You will eventually have to split your colony and provide another hive for them.


  • Package, split, swarm or nuc.

At Mountain Feed & Farm Supply we stock a huge variety of beekeeping equipment. As I said above, join our homestead community to get updated when start making beekeeping announcements for the spring. We like to spend time with each individual beekeeper to find out what set-up will be right for you. Visit us in-store anytime to learn more and have a chat.

4) Where and What Type of Bees Should I Get?

You can obtain bees from a number of sources. The easiest way to get bees is to purchase a package from a reputable source and introduce them to your new hive in the spring. If you have friends that are already experienced beekeepers you may be able to get a “split” from one of their existing hives or have them help you capture a swarm from a nearby forest or orchard. 

Nuc’s are also available for purchase either from the same places you can buy a bee package or from a beekeeper selling them locally.

5) Hive Placement and Positioning?

Where you place your hive can play a big role in the success of your colony. 

You can be a successful beekeeper if you live in an apartment or on several acres as long as you have a great spot to put your hive(s). Save time and trouble using common sense...

  • Place your hive in a sunny, dry place free from pests and threats. 
  • Observe your yard and find a place that gets sun during the day in the winter months and not just the summer months. 
  • Facing your hives southeast is best and ensures they will be sheltered from wind.

6) Time Commitment of Raising Bees

Beekeeping is a mostly seasonal hobby. During the spring, expect to spend 1-2 hours a week observing and caring for your bees. During the first spring, you may need to feed your bees every other day until they become established. 

A beekeeper with one or more established hives spends an average of ½ to 1 hour every 3 weeks checking on their bees over the course of the year plus minutes watching them as often as possible.

You Are The Shepherd of Your Tiny Buzzing Livestock

As their keeper, you are responsible for the well being of these tiny livestock. Make it easy on yourself and them by taking their stewardship seriously! Beekeeping is fun and provides hours of entertainment as well as pollination, honey, wax and a window into nature.

We are always happy to take calls or emails with questions on beekeeping so don’t hesitate to ask us. Watch an abbreviated version of our Beekeeping class in the video at the top of this post! The video runs just under 30 minutes.

Join Our Community or Drop By the Store to Learn More!

We offer education, resources and supplies to local beekeepers around California.

As you probably know, our community of homesteaders and backyard beekeepers here at Mountain Feed support each other constantly. Together we push the envelope when it comes to living more sustainably, and helping to re-grow the population of our friendly buzzing allies, the honey bee!

So don’t hesitate to ask questions, offer your expertise, and contribute to the backyard beekeeping revolution. Change happens when we all work together.

Over to You...

It’s part of our mission here at Mountain Feed to help you make delicious, sustainable, homemade food more often. Stop by and say hello on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest. Or, as always, you can do it the old fashioned way and come by the store to speak with one of our in-house experts.

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