Last year I wrote an article on the ten most common mistakes I see new beekeepers make. The continued popularity of this article and the high volume of mistakes I see beekeepers make has prompted me to write a sequel! So, here are five more beekeeping mistakes I hope to help you avoid.
1. Poor Record Keeping
Not taking notes or recording hive inspections is a mistake breeds more mistakes. How can you improve your beekeeping practices if you are not keeping any records of what works and what doesn’t? This is why taking notes is one of the most important habits a new beekeeper can form. Every time you do a hive inspection, you should take notes on what you see. Not only does this practice help reinforce what you already know, but it will help you to learn new things down the road. So, it isn’t just about figuring out when you last saw larvae in your colony. It’s about evaluating the larger patterns. When you take consistent notes, you will have a hive history to reflect on that will allow you to see the long term benefits or consequences of your beekeeping techniques. Are you having more success with one breed of queen over another? Do your bees overwinter better in a certain hive style? These are the kinds of questions thorough note taking can answer. There are many different ways to record the information you see during inspections. Some prefer digital platforms like Hive Tracks, others like to take notes by hand and some use shorthand codes to write on their actual hive boxes. It can be especially helpful for new beekeepers to take notes on a template because the template can act as a guide during a hive inspection when you are not sure what you should be looking for. I created a hive inspection notebook just for this reason, featured below and available in my shop (click here).
2. Inspecting Too Often
Many new beekeepers are nervous and worry over their new bees. They are also excited and eager to visit with their bees and monitor their behavior. While these qualities can evolve into good beekeeping practices, it is important to learn restraint when it comes to disturbing your bees. You should not open your hive more often than once every two weeks. Inspections are stressful for bees and they disturb the carefully controlled atmospheric conditions within the hive. However, you should do regular inspections every 2-4 weeks to monitor your colonies health and progress. Some hives come with windows that allow you to observe your bees without opening the hive. If you are the kind of person who will be tempted to check too often, you might want to see about getting a hive with a window.
Make sure you are thinking ahead and plan out what you need. Don’t get your bees before you get your bee suit, for example. Make sure you have all the tools and equipment needed to care for your bees and remember that their need are ongoing. I often encounter new beekeepers who do the work of preparing one hive body to house their bees, but they don’t think to build and paint their supers. When there is a nectar flow, bees can build comb at a surprising pace. A beekeeper should always have extra supers in their garage ready to go in case their bees need them.
4. Rough Handling
Bees are animals and should be treated with care, but I often see beekeepers mishandle them. A beekeeper should move slowly and calmly when working the bees. There is no reason to bang things around and smash bees with carelessness. Rough handling will upset the bees and cause them to be defensive. Every time a bee is smashed she releases a pheromone that will cause the other bees to become more defensive. Take your time and be gentle with your bees.
5. Spending Too Much Money
Some people get carried away with the excitement of a new hobby and run out to buy all the finest quality items they can find. While it is nice to have beautiful things, it also add an extra pressure that can take away from the enjoyment of beekeeping. Many new beekeepers lose their first hive. It is even more disappointing to fail when you spent a ton of money on your venture. Not many people are able to make money keeping bees. You should not expect to recoup your costs with honey sales. My advice is to start small. You may find that you don’t even like being a beekeeper. It isn’t for everyone. So, buy the bare minimum to start. Once you are having success, you can upgrade your equipment and make some fun purchases.
No matter what mistakes you make, just remember its all part of the learning process. Try not to beat yourself up too much. Learn from your errors and keep going. Honey bees have a way of humbling beekeepers no matter how experienced they are.
I freaking love those descriptions of colony personality: Calm, Pissy, Berserk. Thankfully, I have only ever seen Calm and a little bit of Pissy.
As I read this I thought, this looks like Hillary of Girl Next Door Honey. And it was! Love seeing your lovely photos of bees, Bush Farms, and the beekeeper beat from afar.
Good info. I was very lucky my 1st. Year I had a master beekeeper to help me during the whole year. He would come running every time I thought I had a crisis, most often it was just normal bee behavior. I even had the chance 3 times this spring to re hive my 1st swarms . Was the best summer, I ended up with over 150# of honey from 2 hives.
One item that is not mentioned in this article “was” listed in last years article, “10 Mistakes New Beekeepers Make.” That item was Number 10. “Being satisfied with a limited knowledge of beekeeping.” In my opinion, it should be emphasized more frequently especially now with honey bees being an endangered species for the first time. Scary!
As for myself, I studied about honey bees and beekeeping for 1 1/2 years before actually deciding to get into it and I was still not fully prepared for the things I did not read in all the many books out there.
In my (now) 7 years of beekeeping I have encountered just about every scenario except bears and other 4-legged predators destroying my hives—only because I have barbed wire and electric wire around my bee yard. I was, however, not prepared for human molestation of my hives. I have an out apiary which is 75 miles from my home; another item to consider. At present, my bees are residing in my backyard while I relocate my out apiary to a, hopefully, safer locale.
Regarding disturbing bees too often: How, then, do we keep up with them (via feeding) during a dearth, if we let them go 2 weeks between feedings?
Hi Susan, a good method is to place the feeder above an inner cover and inside an empty super (no frames). That way you can lift the lid and refill the feeder, but you aren’t actually going into the hive cavity because the inner cover is there.
Thanks for this article, it was affirming for me as I am new to beekeeping this year. Looking forward to learning all I can in the future.
[…] 5 Common Beekeeping Mistakes Keeping Backyard Bees […]
I have been a bee keeper now for 20+ years and I still can’t believe how a large hive can up and leave in the dead of winter, the hive is full of stored honey in every box plus bee candy in the top box above the frames, I put in a honey feeder on the very top inside of the hive filled with wood shavings to collect moisture, it’s in all my bee hives. One warm day I noticed that the other hives had bee activity but this hive something was amiss I started to open it and I couldn’t find a single bee?
First year beekeeper and all of my bees left around October and I have no answers. It makes me feel better (sorry) that it happened to someone with 20 years experience. Did you every figure out why? I believe there was not enough food in my area,
Do u have a safe way to get rid of beetles. Thanks a beginner or sort. We have bought bees new for six years and late fall we lose them. Tennessee bee person
What am I to do now that my bees are building their home. Is there anything I should be looking for. I opened the top to take out the sugar can and queens little house couldn’t get out the queen s little house already covered with a comb where I took the two middle frames out
I am a second year bee keeper and have ants getting into the front jar feeder and under the top cover. Is there a bee healthy way to deter the small ants? Thanks!
Dear Back yard
Thank you for your helpful, professional info it’s such a help to me.
I am a bee bee keeper, 3 months! in Victoria Australia,
I am totally hooked and read and study the bees and greatly enjoy bee keeping.
We are just coming into summer, I have one strong colony of bees in a longstroth 2 x 8 frame hive.
This colony swarmed from a nearby possum box, that colony has occupied the possum box for the last 18 months. After reading your interesting article on owl boxes, I’d like to ask your advice on how to transfer the colony from the possum box into a new hive set-up.
I am a roofer by trade so no problem getting the box down its only 3mts up a tree. It has one easy to block entrance hole and a removable lid on a hinge.
I’m registered as a bee keeper with Vic agriculture as we all have to be in Australia and have a problem with small hive beetle. I have installed a beetle and Seperate larvae trap to the hive and it’s been very affective. But of course unable to inspect the possum box hive.
What do you think is the best way to go about things, any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you in advance.
First thing you need to know is that the foragers are trained to come to the original location of the hive. You can’t move them too far from that location all at one time. Best to bring them down to the ground, leave them a week and then transfer them. For the transfer part, it is best if you can have someone experienced help you. This is what we call a “cut-out” if you watch some YouTube videos you may be able to get some idea of how this works. I never use a vacuum, I am just careful with the bees and try not to crush them. I use rubber bands to hold the combs in the frames. If you can unscrew the hinge lid of the box and pull the thing straight up, that is best. Good luck!
Hello Nancy Miller, Try greenbeehives.com. They have Ipk bottom board. It has #8 hardware cloth on top and a metal slide out tray on bottom you fill with mineral oil. As the hive beetles and Varro mites fall in they are coated with the oil and suffocate. Once a week I put a fogger with a mixture of mineral oil and essential oil wintergreen. 1 pint mineral oil ti 15 to 30 drops of wintergreen oil. Stand back about 12 inches pull tray out about 3inches in the back. Fog nonstop. For 12 to 15 seconds. I do this weekly as maintenance. When my apairy inspectors saw this she as amazed. Her response was there has to be over 3000 Varro mites and 200 shb. I told her this is about 3 weeks worth. I saved this to show you. She said I’ve never seen anything like this before. And the inside of this hive has no signs of stress. It’s a 3deep. I told her that’s why there all dead in the bottom of tray. I’ve used these for 3 years, you won’t find a better shb or Varro trap anywhere. Hopes this helps. Tim Schell
Great all your thoughts and life experiences . It is my second season in bee keeping and many more years to learn. To date is has been awesome.
Thanks to all for sharing your experiences.