Introduction: Basics for Backyard Beekeeping

There's a lot of interest in flow hives these days and having your own bees.

Personally, I still believe you're better off to have a real hive, you still have to pull your hive apart. It will give you a better understanding of how the bees work. But flow hives are still a good option.

Step 1: Where to Start?

Suburbia if you're thinking about getting a beehive to make sure to check the local laws about how many you are allowed to have.

Here in South Australia, you are allowed four. You need to do is decide where your neighbors so the bees flight path doesn't go straight through their yard because they will fly in the same direction. Pointing the hive towards a fence will help direct them to fly higher.

Step 2: Water Source

The first thing you need to do before you even get a beehive has a water source setup.

Once the girls get orientated they'll keep going back to the same water source, so make sure it's not your neighbor's pool. We've actually got a water fountain they seem to love to go to and that seems to work really fine.

If you haven't got a water fountain or a birdbath, a pot of water with wine corks will work perfectly.

Step 3: Food Source

Being a beekeeper gets you a bit interested in what the bees like to eat.

They really love a bit of lavender or rosemary.

Do some research on what flower grows well in your area and ones that the bees love.

Step 4: Lighting the Smoker

For your first hive inspection, we're going to check out the brood box, the first thing you need to do is light your smoker.

Dry leaves or pine needles work really well in the smoker.

Place a small amount of fuel in the smoker, then light some newspaper.

Push into the smoker and add a small amount of fuel on top.

Slowly pump the smoker, the leaves will light and begin to produce smoke.

As it starts to flame close the lid.

Step 5: Equipment

So if you're thinking to get into beekeeping, make sure before the ladies arrive you have a hive tool, smoker, and a bee suit.

You can get a full suit or a half suit. I like the full suit because it sort of makes you feel like you're all cozy and hopefully because you're new you'll feel a bit more relaxed.

Step 6: Smoking the Hive

We've got to give the little ladies just a little smoke.

Don't get carried away with your smoke you don't need to get too silly, just a little bit just so as they get distracted.

Something else to remember is the warm of the day the fewer bees are going to be in your hive, so do the inspection on a warm day.

To start slowly lift the lid and give them a little bit of smoke, also a little in the front door.

Just wait for a minute wait so the smoke can affect the bees.

Remove the lid and smoke the frames to move the bees to the low levels.

Step 7: Removing the Super

Try not to bang the hive is a bad idea when it comes to bees.

You may find the bees have built a small amount of comb in the roof, we'll you later how to fix it.

Slowly lift off the super and place it on the lid.

If you find the super doesn't want to come off.

Use the edge of your hive tool to lever the boxes apart.

You'll find the queen excluder between the two boxes, gently remove and place on the super box for safe keeping.

Step 8: Inspecting the Frames

Always start with the second frame as the first frame may be stuck to the wall.

To remove a frame you want to get you a little hive tool underneath the edge frame and lever it up.

Get hold of the frame with one hand and then lever up the other end of the frame.

Slowly, just no need to be in a hurry when it comes to beekeeping hopefully it's a quiet afternoon lift the frame straight up out of the brood box.

Once you have checked the frame for the queen, gently place next to the hive.

Step 9: Checking the Brood

Now a frame has been removed it leaves you a nice gap so then you get your tool and you just lever apart the next frame.

I find a pivoting action with the edge of the hive helps to carefully move them apart.

Move the next frame into open space and lift out of the hive.

Next, see what's going on and you just work your way across all the frames.

When inspecting the brood box, you need to check for fresh blood.

You'll be looking for the brood and see if it's got some young eggs going on.

Step 10: Finding the Queen

You'll find the queen on a frame within the brood box.

If you see the Queen on the frame that you've got in your hand do your damnedest, not a crush.

Normally the queen won't be on the outside frame but you can get caught out.

Also, you'll need to check for queen cells as they will give you a good idea if the hive will swarm.

Step 11: Checking for Diseases

When doing your inspection you also need to check for any diseases.

For example:

  • Foulbrood
  • Mites
  • Chalkbrood

Step 12: Finishing Up

Make sure to return the frames in the order they were removed.

I think they're orientated to work certain areas so it's just nice to put them all back where they belong.

Place the queen excluder on top of the brood box.

Gently place the super box back.

To stop the bees from building in the roof space, I like to use some mesh.

This will stop them from making comb in that area but will also allow it to breathe.

Finally, place the lid on top.

Step 13: See How It's Done

If you want to see how it's done and for more information please watch our video.

I hope this has helped with your first beehive inspection and give you a few things to think about from before setting up your first hives.

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