• David St. Russell

How To: Start Beekeeping

Updated: May 20, 2020

I am constantly being asked: "How do I start Beekeeping?" followed immediately by "Is it a lot of work?!" AND my answer is simple... Just do it, and nope, it takes very little time and work (especially when you love it.)

There are WAY more experienced beekeepers out there than me... this is a list of where to get started.


STEP 1: Read Stuff

I started my beekeeping Journey in the winter of 2017 by buying a bunch of books... and reading them. I was personally interested in keeping a Top Bar Hive (discussed later) so I gravitated towards reading about that type of hive. Start with what you find interesting!

One thing I always remind people: Bees exist in nature just fine without your help. The things you need to learn are how to optimize for their success and keep them healthy in your person-made home (rather than the thick trunk of an old tree).

Here is the list of books I read, found interesting, and helped me understand the world of bees. There are countless other books, blogs, and articles.

1. A Book of Bees by Sue Hubbell

This is a beautiful book and a great place to start. The author is a very experienced beekeeper who switches between story telling and beekeeping manual.

2. Beekeeping for Dummies

Sometimes you just need the facts from start to finish.

3. The Bee Book

This is a coffee table esque book that is light, fun to read, and dishes up some cool facts.

4. Managing the Top Bar Hive

The first book I read on the subject this is for all of my Top Bar people out there. Highly recommended if that is the direction you consider going.


STEP 2: Choose a Hive

By far the most common hive is the Langstroth Hive (left) due to its standardization and interchangeable parts. Second most commonly used hive is the Top Bar Hive (right). For no particular reason I found the Top Bar Hive more exciting and started there. Now that I have both I do find the Langstroth much easier to work with, however the Top Bar holds a place in my heart and I think I will always keep at least one.

Top Bar Hive

I considered building my own Top Bar Hive but was too busy over winter to get it done in time. I ordered mine from a hive maker on Etsy you can find here. I also opted for the Top Bar Feeder here.

Langstroth Hive

I would strongly recommend looking up local Bee Hive makers. I found one in the Boston area pretty easily... he is full of knowledge and makes all of his own hive parts. Having that relationship has proven very helpful when in a pinch.

If I were to buy a Langstroth Hive online I would consider these items:

1. Complete Bee Hive Kit

This includes your bottom board, assembled 10 frame deep hive body, assembled 10 frames with foundation, entrance reducer, inner cover, and outer cover.

2. Two Pack of Medium Supers

This is in ADDITION to the Complete Bee Hive Kit...

also note that I practice single brood chamber management (learn more here and here)

3. Queen Excluder

Another resource for affordable bee supplies is Weller Bee Supply. Here are the Hive Kits you can choose from. I always opt for unassembled because well... I like to assemble it.


STEP 3: Gather Your Supplies

There are so many cool supplies to buy (I find this part very fun) and you will likely gather them from different places. This is a list of items that I use most often and would say are must haves.

1. Bee Suit

This is the Bee Suit that I use and it has not let me down (except for that time I forgot to zip it and a bee took a trip inside. For reference I am 6' tall and purchased a large. You may be able to shop around and find one a bit cheaper but I would strongly recommend the full suit over a half suit.

2. Gloves

I would not skimp on gloves. Your hands spend a lot of time in the hive and you want to be protected. I love these, and after two seasons they are still going strong.

3. Smoker

The smoker will save your life. I have two types and this one I like the best. It has lasted two seasons without issue.

4. Hive Tool

Hive tool just look badass. I ordered a few and ended up using them for all types of things.

5. Brush

I have both a synthetic brush and a natural fiber brush. I use the synthetic brush 100% of the time because I find that fewer bees get stuck in the more rigid bristles.


STEP 4: Get Some Bees

* Orders are typically placed over the winter so do this asap!

Packaged Bees

This is the least intimidating (and easiest) way to get bees. You simply find someone who will ship them to you or someone who gets an annual delivery locally (yes you can mail bees). I get my bees from Best Bees Company in Boston.

Catch Bees / Find Local Bees

I have no idea how to do this but there are plenty of people out there who do.

Please feel free to ask any questions!