Getting Started in Beekeeping
Are you interested in beekeeping but don't know how to get started? First, Go to your local library or bookstore and check out a few beekeeping books, even if they are old. You will get a good overview of what will be expected of you during the beekeeping season. Visit our Resources page to find beginner courses and great websites. Join a local beekeepers association - Make a friend, ask questions, find a mentor. Learn as you go. As with any new endeavor, you don't really learn how until you are actually trying it first-hand.
Bee Hives come in different types and configurations. Beekeepers choose hives based on climate, individual style, the size & weight of full boxes, and convenience. Some beekeepers like to experiment with one of each.
You may not completely understand all of the nuances between hives without experience, but we all have to start somewhere. Therefore, our best advice for a beginner is to choose one style and go through one or two full beekeeping seasons. You will know by then if you need to change your setup.
In Indiana you will primarily see two types of bee hives: the Langstroth hive and the Top Bar hive.
The Langstroth Hive
The Langstroth hive is oriented vertically, with boxes placed on top of one another. This is the ideal arrangement for Indiana. During the winter months the honeybee cluster moves upward into their food stores. They are so reluctant to move to the side that they can starve, even with food on the next frame beside the cluster.
You will find Langstroth hives in two widths: 10-frame, 8-frame. Tradition has dictated the 10-frame size for decades. However, many beekeepers have been gradually switching to the 8-frame hive. They are lighter when full of bees and comb.
Langstroth hive boxes are available in three heights: deep, medium, or shallow. The traditional configuration has been either two deep boxes or one deep (bottom) and a medium (top). The bottom box is for the bees; the top box is for winter honey stores. Shallows are reserved for honey collection since they are carried to and from the hive so often.
The latest trend in Indiana is to move to medium boxes, with two or three boxes for bees and their stores. Some beekeepers still use the lighter shallow boxes for honey. Others use medium boxes exclusively so that all equipment will be the same size. However, this makes the honey boxes much heavier.
Nuc boxes (see right) are still mostly found in the deep size. For the beekeeper with all mediums, transferring a nuc to medium boxes is a bit tricky.
The Top Bar Hive
Although designed for warmer climates, the Top Bar hive has gained popularity in Indiana. This hive is used by hobbyists who prefer natural comb without wires or plastic starter foundation.
The top bar hive must be completely level. The comb drawn within cannot undergo honey extraction in a centrifuge. Honey must either cut out with the entire comb or be pressed manually out of the comb. In addition, the frame of comb cannot be placed back into the hive to be refilled with honey. The bees must draw new wax again for the next season.
Because of the honeybee's tendency to move vertically, not horizontally, during the winter, giving bees emergency food during the winter is more complicated. Many resourceful beekeepers are developing innovative ways of feeding their bees.
Top Bar hive enthusiasts enjoy the ease in which their hives are inspected. No heavy boxes need to be lifted in order to remove and inspect each frame.
Beginner Equipment List
Along with the hive (and of course bees), you will also want to consider purchasing the following items to start:
Click to print this diagram and a list of Hive Components.
Mann Lake Downloads
Installing Packaged Bees
The Nucleus Hive
The 5-frame hive is called a nucleus hive (nuc). This size is used for breeding and for catching swarms. DO NOT plan on keeping bees in a nuc unless you have had your bees for several winters. Managing nucs requires a bit more experience and finesse.
The Skep Hive
The Skep Hive is outlawed in the United States because it is impossible to inspect honeycomb for disease without destroying nest.
All of the other hives shown on this page have removable frames of honeycomb for easy inspection.