Introduction: Start a Back Yard Honey Bee Hive

Picture of Start a Back Yard Honey Bee Hive

This Spring I knocked off one of my long standing to do's - free range bees! Just kidding well - sort of. We started two hives of honey bees.

My dad has kept bees for the majority of my adult life - sadly a turn in his health has left about 20 empty hives. He was kind enough to let me have two hives, some gear and a good amount of knowledge. I've spent the past year reading and talking to bee keepers.

Bees are amazing little critters. They are smart, organized and most importantly directly involved with pollination for food production. I like to eat and the bees are dying off. So my wife and I decided it was time we did our part to help them out. Even if we never harvest a drop of honey it is worth our time and effort to save the bees.....but don't get me wrong we have full intention to harvest the honey too!

I'm writing this as an encouragement to any who might be considering doing this. I'm by no means an expert and I have many hard lessons to learn but I'd like to share the process of getting a purchased box bees into a new hive. It was very straight forward. Everyone has an opinion on how to do it right. I've found Mr. Bush of Bush Bees Natural Beekeeping site to be extremely helpful resource.

Step 1: Set Up the Frames

Picture of Set Up the Frames

Frames are the inserts we put in hive boxes to give the bees a road map of where to put the honey and brood will go. 10 frames will go in the brood boxes - or the bottom two sections of the hive.

We decided to use a wax foundation in our frames. This is a thin small honey comb on a wire frame that is nailed into the frame.

A utility knife is used to remove a pre cut piece of wood that holds the foundation to the frame.

I used small 5/8 inch brad nails with 30# of pressure to knock out the frames.

Step 2: Set Up the Hive

Picture of Set Up the Hive

Pre assemble your hive in anticipation of the bees arrival.

Base with landing board goes on the bottom. Notice the wire mesh that helps keep the larger critters out.

Brood boxes are stacked on top of the base with 10 frames each.

The excluder is placed after the top brood box and before additional boxes. This is used to keep the queen from laying eggs in the honey frames that will be harvested. There is much debate on using these. Right now the jury is out for me for long term use. If the queen runs out of room in the bottom brood boxes your bees will "swarm" and find a bigger house.

The inner cover helps in several ways - especially helping your bees manage the internal hive environment.

Additional hive boxes go on top and then we put the metal covered top on.

Step 3: Order Bees

Picture of Order Bees

We bough two 3# boxes of bees from Busy Bee Apiaries. They operate over 600 hives and move them across the south east with crop pollination schedule.

My dad picked them up and to my mother's angst drove them the two hours up to our house.

They come in a small wood framed mesh covered box with a single piece of wood nailed to the top. Inside is the queen (in her own box), a feeder can of sugar and water syrup and about 11,000 bees.

It is quite common to see bees being sent by US Mail.

Step 4: Prep Hive for New Bees

Picture of Prep Hive for New Bees

Remove the top and the inner cover from your new hive.

Remove 5 frames from one side of the hive. This is where the bee box will go. Be careful of the wax foundation and it will bend and tear easily. Ideally these should be stored upright like they were hanging in the hive.

With the remaining 5 frames make a small opening about the width of two fingers between frame number 2 and 3. This is where the queen will go.

Step 5: New Home for the Bees

Picture of New Home for the Bees

Handle the bee box with gloves. Give the bees a gentle puff or two of smoke. Too much will make them confused and attack.

Remove the staples from the top cover on the bee box. It is a good idea to put a clamp or vice grips on the queen box tab. If it falls you will have to retrieve it from the bottom of the bee box....and it will be covered in bees.

Slide the cover of to reveal the feeder can. Remove the can and gently brush off any bees that might come with it. Quickly replace the cover - all while not letting the queen box drop to the bottom.

Some beekeepers like to drizzle the sugar water out of the can over the hive frames to give the bees something to eat inside the hive.

Step 6: Long Live the Queen

Picture of Long Live the Queen

Now it is time to set the queen.

Slide back that access wood on the bee box again and quickly remove the queen box by pulling on the tab. Gently shake off any hitchhikers. Put the cover back on the box.

Look in the queen box - she will be longer than the other bees in the box. You will notice that on each end of the box there is a cork. On one side you will see a white sugar based paste. You will want to remove the cork on the sugar side of the queen. This will make the bees have to eat the sugar and work to get to her.

Gently pinch the queen bee box between frames 2 and 3 while holding the tab not letting her fall.

Remove the top to the bee box so the bees can find the queen.

Still holding the tab set the excluder and top cover on the brood box. Ensure the queen won't fall when you let go and then place the top on the hive.

Step 7: Remove Bee Box

Picture of Remove Bee Box

48-72 hours after placing the bees in their new home it is time to check to see if they set the queen free.

Time for another gentle puff of smoke.

Hold the tab on the queen bee box and lift the top. Again it might be useful to attach a clamp or pliers here. With the top of the box off see if the queen is still in her cage. She will be longer than the rest. Plus you should be able to see a big hole where they ate the sugar to get to her.

If she is out set it to the side.

Remove the bee box from the hive. This will probably have several dead bees and a few stragglers in it. Set it to the side and the living bees will find their way home.

Replace the 5 frames you removed and close up the hive.

There is much debate on feeding your bees. I chose to do a 1:1 organic cane sugar and water mixture to get them started.

Step 8: Legal Stuff

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I live in the city limits. My city does not have an ordinance against keeping bees. You should check with yours as well.

I also decided to buy this very cool sign. I did not actually have a no trespassing sign and now I have a much less threatening one. Plus as an added bonus I'm telling people to please stay away from my hives.

Step 9: Enjoy

Picture of Enjoy

Some of my neighbors were really freaked out initially. But to be very honest these guys are docile. I only wore gloves as protective gear. I might need a hat or suit at harvest time but that is too be decided.

I can sit on my bee hive platform and watch them fly in and out carrying in pollen stuffed in their back legs with no issues. Nobody has been stung yet.

Our family is excited. Our flowers are happy. And grandpa is ecstatic to tell his grandson all about the wonderful world of bees.

Step 10: Video Update!

Here is a quick video of the bees on a warm sunny day. The jars in the front are the organic cane sugar solution.

The bees love their new home - and you can see even standing this close they don't bother me.


Karaliynn (author)2015-05-15

Just started to look up everything for beekeeping, and I am very glad to have found these instructions! Thanks from AZ

More Cowbell (author)Karaliynn2015-05-18

Wonderful - I would love to see photos of your setup after you get it going!

techniciantanned (author)2015-04-21

Really good

seamster (author)2015-04-21

Excellent info, and beautiful photos to boot. What a great instructable, as always!

I knew nothing about beekeeping prior to reading this, and found this very interesting. Thank you!

More Cowbell (author)seamster2015-04-21

Thank you for the kind words and all the hard work you put in for this site!

GWorks (author)2015-04-21

Very nice instructable!
I hope this will inspire others to keep bees themselves, also for the sake of our crops.

juntjoo (author)2017-07-24

"Frames are the inserts we put in hive boxes to give the bees a road map of where to put the honey and brood will go. 10 frames will go in the brood boxes - or the bottom two sections of the hive."

How did we get here? Can you just buy something to get started?

GoWolves11 (author)2017-06-17

I am an insect lover myself, and because of this, I will talk my parents into beekeeping.

shortw (author)2016-05-26

If some would have to start from scratch, how much would it cost to set something like this up and how much would it cost for things needed to harvest the honey.

And how much would it cost to continue this.

It sounds like it is very easy to keep bees and thank you for showing this to us.

Thank you.

TomC57 (author)2016-05-23

I want a hive when I get beck to the US. I've been helping a friend with his hive.

daxxvondrachen (author)2015-04-23

Im near a lot of pine trees that are loaded with pollen with this give a bad taste to the honey?

Katie5757 (author)daxxvondrachen2015-04-25

Pine trees are wind pollinated, so therefore bees are not interested. However, they may be affected by normal dust in the windy air. Can you locate the hives well away from these trees?

Honeybees will indeed collect Pine pollen.

When I was a college student I worked for a couple years at a USDA Bee research facility in Arizona, our particular project was identifying chemical cues in pollen that bees liked, to let us make more palatable artificial bee diet.

We had hives scattered all around the city and nearby wildlands that we collected pollen from. When pines were in bloom we collected a ton of it.

One of my jobs was sorting the pollen loads from the collectors. Since a single bee will only collect pollen from a single species on any given trip, each little blob is a single species, and can be separated based on color (I became VERY good at differentiating subtly different shades of yellow!) which we then identified microscopically.

Bees will collect a wide range of wind-pollinated species, especially when there's a lot of it.

Very interesting, Not something that I've come across before, As mentioned, pollen is accurately identified microscopically, although colour can be used as a general guide. Bees will certainly visit pines for resin. Bees also 'inadvertently' collect pollen electrostatically. I wonder if the pollen was the primary goal? I suppose is must have been since I have seen that bees carry resin in their pollen baskets. We never cease to learn about bees!

Beekeeper (author)daxxvondrachen2016-05-22

Very often pine trees get covered in aphids or other sap sucking insects that secrete a sugary substance that we call 'honeydew'. In some countries honeydew honey is premium and is priced much higher than flower honey, though I personally don't like the taste. Also, in some countries beekeepers even intentionally spread the sap sucking insects to pine forests and then move their beehives there to get the honeydew honey.

tenlee (author)2016-05-22

Bush doesn't recommend smoking or spraying a package of bees when installing in a hive. The bees are surrounding the queen in her cage and if everything is right with them, they should be fairly docile when doing an installation.

Lashway (author)2016-05-22

If you are going to do this, you need to be prepared for the costs and time commitment that go along with keeping the bees healthy. You need to spray medicate against mites and fungus on a regular schedule. A recent review of the massive loss in bees over the last year actually found that beekeeping hobbyists neglecting these duties was a major culprit. Mites and fungus spreading from improperly maintained hives to wild ones result in the death of the wild hive.

billbillt (author)2016-05-22


JoanM43 (author)2016-05-22

thanks for sharing your new hobby! When I was younger, I wanted to try my hand at it. It wasn't possible for me, but I love hearing about people who get to do it. Very good luck!

vcseh (author)2016-05-22

That was just wonderful, I might have even cried a bit on the end. :)

LDW01 (author)2016-05-22

Re:'If the queen runs out of room in the bottom brood boxes your bees will "swarm" and find a bigger house.'

Swarm occurs if new Queen emergies in the hive, to prevent take sealed Queen cell out with a few workers and place in a nursery hive. You can also add a brood box if all frames are carrying sealed lava. Then when 2nd brood box populated, develop new queeen and split hive = extra hive

gdsmit1 (author)2016-02-23

Nice job. I shake the majority of the bees out of the package when I hive a package. I then set the mostly empty package in front of the hive so the bees left inside can easily find their way out.

I'm not a glove wearer. I find that it is too easy to smash a bee if I have gloves on. I also think that it makes me much more deliberate in my movements and keeps me aware of where my hands are amongst all those little stinging insects.

janetandrade81 (author)2015-06-08

Great Instructable!

elifalek (author)2015-05-28

Great guide. thanks a lots!

molarplanet4710 (author)2015-05-17

do you stack 2of the boxes on top of each other and is the bottom open

The supers are stacked on top of the other two boxes. And yes the bottom is open.

nuelma (author)2015-05-18

how much they cost

More Cowbell (author)nuelma2015-05-18

Typically a box of bees runs about $100-$125.

nuelma (author)2015-05-18

the bees

hegure_ryu (author)2015-05-05

This is a great instructable. My wife is interested in getting bees and collecting the honey and wax for home use. Thanks.

ruth.mcclure.716 (author)2015-05-05

where did you get your neat sign "No Trespassing Bees"?

chrissv (author)2015-04-23

Great instructable! But don't forget the most important step: join a local bee club! The resources and information available are amazing!

More Cowbell (author)chrissv2015-05-02

I agree!

jjoiner31 (author)2015-04-23

Great information.

Thank You for Sharing !

More Cowbell (author)jjoiner312015-05-02

Thanks for the kind words!

DeeRilee (author)2015-04-23

I've been interested in beekeeping for a while now. Great Instructable!

More Cowbell (author)DeeRilee2015-05-02


Microbe (author)2015-04-23

Funny thing with kids. You can yell at them all day to stay off the roof, don't put a fork in the power outlet, look both ways before crossing the street. They jist don't listen.

But only have to say to keep away from the bee hive once.

More Cowbell (author)Microbe2015-05-02

We have a saying from one of his books....."Don't pet the bees"

Kuffar (author)2015-04-23

Thanks for the instructable. We need more people to get involved, with saving the bees. I started beekeeping, last year. I went a slightly different route.

I started February, of last year, reading and reading and reading. Then I started, building. I built some deep hive bodies, and a swarm trap (yes, there is a book for that). I was too late, to order bees, so I went with free bees, and caught my own (see swarm trap). I didn't want to wait, until this year.

Last summer, was a learning experience. I caught a nice colony. They were very forgiving. I didn't force the honey thing, and left my girls with plenty of stores, for the winter. I'm dealing with the aftermath, of a mouse invasion, but I'm hoping for a full recovery. And, hoping for another swarm or two.

More Cowbell (author)Kuffar2015-05-02

I should build one of those traps.

omikeo (author)2015-04-23

did you mention anything about cost ? nice job, thanks, mike

More Cowbell (author)omikeo2015-05-02

Good call - sine my dad hooked me up with his old equipment my cost was less than others.

The bees cost me $100 per box.

Dadant has beginner bee hive kits that are around $300 including a veil and gloves.

That last link was ugly - this one should be clickable:

nathanaloysiusbash (author)2015-04-23

Where did you buy the bees, from which site?

Ours came from a friend of my dad at Busy Bee Apiaries. He is local to their house and about 2 hrs from me. A real mom and pop operation (literally).

They can be found at:

gumbytig (author)2015-04-24

Well written instructable with great clear pictures and well thought out steps. Couple things I might throw in there though. The screen bottom board is for ventilation, one of the biggest problems with hives in the winter is too much moisture. Definitely a problem in a humid summer. You might want to set the hives up on something that allows airflow through that bottom board. Keeps the hive cooler in the summer too if they can create more airflow, less bearding. Second is that I would recommend anyone starting bee keeping to join a local club. That way when the bees behave oddly, swarm or you suspect a disease or pest issue, you'd have someone to call and ask questions to. Great instructable though.

More Cowbell (author)gumbytig2015-05-02

Local bee keeping groups are great. I really should have mentioned it.

As far as the bas I was thinking about getting some wireless network attached sensors to put in there. More for my education but I'd love to know the internal conditions of the hive.

captaincombat1 (author)2015-04-24

EXCELLENT ! keep up the great work!

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm a computer engineer - but please don't judge me by that. I heat with wood, fix broken things and love camping with my ... More »
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