10 Mistakes New Beekeepers Make


The art of beekeeping can be very exciting, but if you are a beginning beekeeper, you are most likely going to make some mistakes. Of course, no beekeeper will intentionally want anything to go wrong, but it happens. This article to contains ten major mistakes a new beekeeper makes.

1. Lacking Adequate Knowledge Of Beekeeping

Going into beekeeping without the basic knowledge of how it works can be devastating. Many beginning beekeepers are neither members of any beekeeping association nor involved in any beekeeping discussion group. It is wise to learn from any of the numerous beekeeping discussion groups on social media platforms, clubs and associations, books, documentaries, forums and YouTube videos.

2. Improper Feeding Of Starters

Feeding bees sugar water is a popular practice. It is a good source of energy for package bees since they can be very weak on arrival owing to the challenges of transportation. Unfortunately, not all beginners are aware of this fact, so the majority usually end up losing a good portion of their hive on arrival.

3. Unhealthy Inspection Of Hive

New beekeepers are prone to frequent observation of their beehive. It is good to inspect the hive but not to the detriment of the individual residents. Bees are generally very active. Frequent interruption and opening of their hives will disrupt their activity and make them feel unsafe.

4. Inadequate Number Of Bee Frames

Opps – Not enough frames Margaret
The frame is a significant and an indispensable component of the bee hive. It serves as the foundation on which the bee activities take place. Some new beekeepers go foundation less while others may not have enough frames to cater to the growing number of their inhabitants. Bee frames are the platforms that hold wax as it is produced. When it is not enough to cover all open spaces, the bees are most likely going to start developing their honeycomb in the free space available. Always make sure that you never have a lower number of frames in the box than is required.

5. Harvesting Honey At Inappropriate Times

This is one beekeeping mistake you will most likely make as a new beekeeper. It can be challenging to know when the time is ripe to make a harvest. It is not a healthy idea to harvest honey in the very first year from your hive. The big question here is whether the bees are mature enough to have produced enough honey for harvesting within one year. And the answer to that question is simply no. Kindly wait until after the first year before you begin harvesting.

6. Harvesting The Wrong Volume

For a new beekeeper, it can be difficult to know the right volume of honey to harvest. There is need to be both careful and conservative when harvesting. Be mindful of the fact that the bees, too,need a reserved portion of their honey and so harvesting too much will lead to starvation and eventual desolation of the hives.

7. Splitting The Frames After Removal

Splitting the frames in the wrong order after removal can be disturbing to the bees. Bees are sensitive and orderly in their working pattern. Splitting the frames may lead to temperature, moisture and ventilation challenges for weak members. This is mostly true for the brood nest.

8. Not Making Good Use Of The Bee Smoker

Smoke is an old time strategy used in calming bee security readiness. Today’s beekeepers make use of a hand held smoker for the same purpose. One who is new to beekeeping may feel that it is enough to rely on the bee suite since it can offer adequate protection against any possible attack. While this is basically true, the smoker is used to block the alarm mechanism and communication channels of the bees. It calms the bees, distracts them from your presence and protects your close neighbors from facing the dangers of bee stings. Always make use of the smoker if you want to avoid causing harm.

9. Lack Of Readiness Against Mites

Mites are a disease causing parasite that weakens bees by attacking and sucking off their fatty deposits. The good thing is that hybrid species can effectively resist the attacks of mites. This knowledge may not have been available to the new beekeeper when he ordered for his package.

10. Not Checking The State Of The Queen Bee

It is the queen that lays the eggs which lead to bee population growth. Without the Queen, the hive’s population will certainly start to decline. So in a nutshell, a beehive cannot really survive if there is no queen bee. To monitor how active the queen is, always check for the presence of eggs in the beehive. With it, the future of your beehive is protected.

Did I miss Anything

Did I miss any other common mistakes you see new beekeepers making? Please comment below and so we both can help the community.

7 thoughts on “10 Mistakes New Beekeepers Make

  1. Ian Story says:

    Perhaps point 11:
    At this time of year, after checking that queen is in residence, make sure all queen cells, capped & uncapped are removed, as the next time you check hive you could have a new queen if you miss 1 or 2 queen cells. That will put you back at least 4 weeks, before you have new bees appearing.

  2. Geof Hughes says:

    Further to Ian’s comment: Not only will you have a new queen in residence, you could have lost half of your bees, as they will have gone (swarmed) with the old queen! That will set you back a few weeks.

    Also, with reference to the article, does anyone know why you use smoke to calm your bees? (homework) Never seems to be explained, but the answer is interesting. Hi from UK. Geof.

  3. DingDongBees says:

    Big one I’ve seen a few times is tending to bees without proper protection.
    For some reason, new beekeepers are told that some bees are so placid they can be looked after without wearing a bee suit. No one should do this ever as even the nicest bees can suddenly turn on you. I’ve seen several well behaved colonies become aggressive for no apparent reason.

    • Margaret Groot says:

      Hiya, yes I personally always wear ptrotective gear as I don’t want to lose my eyesight due to a bee sting – this is very probable due to the fact that bees do recognise eyes on a human face. Bees can get grumpy if they are thirsty so I have a fine-mist-water-sprayer a gently spray above the beehive and the water distracts and cools as well. Cheers. All the best from Gary and I …it’s the kiwimana buzz…

  4. Michael Bird says:

    My beehive looks healthy but I’m worried that the hive 1 may not have enough honey for winter & 2 I’m scared my hive might swarm as what happened last winter as you can tell I’m a 9 months old bee minder. Any help would be appreciated

    • Margaret Groot says:

      Okay first understanding that if the hive is healthy, capped brood is free of varroa and there are no issues with the health of walking Bees – thats a great first step : )
      When we come to Autumn it can be a time when hives become ‘honey bound’ – this means that there is nectar in amongst the cells in the brood frames, this means that the queen cannot lay and no more honey can be produced as everything is full.
      When this happens the colony will make the decision to “abscond” which means they leave everything behind but do not leave eggs or brood…once every brood-cell has hatched, everyone leaves…this can be a fatal decision as its difficult for colonies to completely rebuild as the hive is leaving as Winter is coming. Absconding is also caused when a colony is feeling threatened, perhaps robbing, wasp attacks or varroa mite load. When a hive feels threatened and cannot deal with the ‘threat’ this also causes absconding.
      So when a question from a New Bee comes to me I generally like to ask them to go back in time and take stock of what they saw and what went on before the colony left. I like to analyse what I did and didn’t do…perhaps it was timing – maybe I was too late – maybe because I didn’t know what I was looking at? Analysis of records I wrote and then dissecting the whole hive, frame by frame. If the bees left because of a threat, then that may simply be down to the hive suffering from heavy varroa load and they may have left before it overwhelmed the hive – in this instance you will see some dead brood left in cells, cappings showing some holes bees in the cells forming but dead. Possibly there may be PMS = Parasitic Mite Syndrome – dark dead bees in cells or Sac-Brood, where you find the developing bee in a watery sack.
      I know the question is about ‘having enough honey’ but I think its important to acknowledge what may have happened when the first hive left last winter as this will help to give you confidence in your decisions. It sounds like you may be concerned this will happen again but understanding the previous situation is a great learning tool and helpful to create ideas for your next moves.
      From my thoughts… I am thinking the problem may be about understanding how to ‘manage space’ and identifying what you see so you can understand if more space is needed, some seasons have been arriving late and others slow to start and good Autumnal temperatures (warm) and second flowerings could mean your bees are still actively collecting nectar. Once you know what is in each frame, whether there is nectar in brood these are key-indicators for knowing when to add/remove space. If the Bees have enough space, there is enough space for eggs and brood then they won’t abscond, if the frames are all capped and full of honey then they may benefit from an extra box.
      Swarming is a Spring activity for healthy hives and a natural occurence in the Honey Bee colonies desire to breed and spread their genetics. In a ‘true’ swarming, the bees will leave behind Queen Cells and generally the Queen of the colony leaves with the swarm – this is called the “principle” first swarm. “Secondary” swarming is considered mostly due to multiple queen cells hatching at the same time, and those virgin queens leaving with some bees from the colony.
      So back to having enough honey – there are varying factors which need to be considered when looking at what your specific hive will need. What do we tell our students ? I advise that initially when starting out with new colonies we advise beginners to leave all honey the colony has collected their first Summer, which means the beginner can then see what their bees consume over a Winter in their location. The check for how much was used is by noting what you gave them before Winter and what is the balance left as they hit Spring. Warning: If extractions are removing too much honey, bees can react by becoming robbers and possibly causing risks in the hive such as AFB from their bees robbing other colonies which may be infected. Our view is that leaving enough honey may be enough to stop this panicked robbing behaviour. The beauty of beginners using this method means they can assess what their hive uses as some advice given for quantities of honey stores may not work for your specific area.
      General advice can range from 18kgs to 44kgs of honey in frames. Our view is that our colonies benefit from 28kgs to 30kgs which we work out to be 14 full-depth “Hoffman” style frames. Long periods of confinement such as regular rainfall and low temperatures can cause the colony to use lots of energy = eating honey stores, energy burned up to keep the hive warm and fed well.
      If you want to manage the risk of the bees possibly starving – perhaps make up some sugar syrups to have on hand but add some crushed thyme leaves to help stop it from going-off. Handy Hint: Filter out the leaves once the sugar-syrup cools. If you decide to use the sugar-syrup best practice is to use a “top-feeder” which is placed at the top of the hive and has a hive mat with a small access hole – this is called “closed-feeding” which helps to prevent your beehive from becoming a robbers target.
      I hope that these thoughts and ideas help to make your plan for wintering-down. BTW we leave all our girls honey on over winter by using a hive-mat (inner-cover) with a small slot cut into it to the rear of the cluster, placed above the brood box, the small slot enables the bees to access their food when they want… but meanwhile the hive-mat with slot keeps the cluster safe to keep heat consistent. I have used the hive-mat with slot over the last 4 winters and is proving a real benefit to our colonies. When do I winter down ? Start before Winter !? Start at the end of Summer, it is handy to note temperatures, then carry on and note temperatures through Autumn – this benefits the beekeeper because as temperatures start to decline = single digits indicate winter is around the corner ….this can be used to determine when wintering-down needs to be done and taking notes gives you time to plan rather than panic and leaving it too late. Usually start to add when wintering-down when temperatures start to drop in Autumn. Usually start to add when wintering-down when temperatures start to drop in Autumn. Thanks for sharing a great question, all the very best. Regards Margaret…its the kiwimana buzz…

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