Managing your apiary

Lisa at our Swanmore apiary

So you’re thinking about keeping bees? Well, we want to help you understand exactly what you’re getting yourself in to!

We’re also keen to ensure that your beekeeping is sustainable because for us, it’s all about the welfare of the bees! This page is to give you an idea of what time commitment would be required in your first year. It is of course, only an estimate; as the skill of the beekeeper increases, less time is needed to complete the tasks. Please note, the time estimates in 2 to 7 below are for one hive and you can roughly multiply the estimate for each additional hive.

Estimated time commitment per hive annually

  • basic training, 20 hours, usually autumn or winter (a one-off time commitment)
  • setting-up, 1 hour, spring
  • hiving your bees, 1 hour, spring
  • inspecting your bees, each inspection is typically 25 minutes; 8 hours, spring through summer
  • building, maintaining and cleaning equipment, 6 hours, usually winter
  • continuous beekeeping knowledge development, 20 hours, mostly during winter
  • extraordinary activity, 10 hours, any time!
  • total time commitment, per hive, per annum, approximately 66 hours
  1. Basic beekeeping training

It’s highly recommended that you attend a basic beekeeping instruction course run by your local beekeepers’ association Introduction to beekeeping. This one-off time commitment is usually an evening class, typically two hours per week running for 6-8 weeks. There is usually a practical session a few weeks later on, typically a weekend afternoon.

Once a new beekeeper has started, it is good practise to keep up-to-date with what’s going-on in the beekeeping world and to make time to improve your knowledge and learn new techniques. There is also an extensive range of beekeeping qualifications which can be pursued by more experienced beekeepers. Most beekeepers attend winter evening talks organised by their local branch and read the BBKA news. There are plenty of text books, websites and tutorials on Youtube but beware, some are of dubious quality!

There are also conferences and seminars for the more enthusiastic. Generally, those involved in beekeeping find it is such an engrossing topic that learning is not a chore but part of the pleasure! However, for the purposes of this page it is estimated that a new beekeeper will commit 18-20 hours per annum to continuously maintain and improve their knowledge.

  • Getting your equipment ready A pre-assembled hive will take approximately 1 hour to set-up. It is less expensive to purchase a self-assembly hive and for a novice, it will take approximately 4 hours to build it. A person experienced in woodwork will be able to complete the task quicker.    
  • Bees arrive When they are ready, your local beekeepers’ association (or another local supplier) will deliver your bees. Hiving your first bees is an unforgettable milestone and is usually very exciting and enjoyable. It will take less than 1 hour for your bees to be hived.
  • Hive inspections Each hive you have will need inspecting at regular intervals and how often a beekeeper opens a hive varies at different times of the year. Each time a hive is opened, it sets-back the bees by at least 2-3 days and best practice states that beekeepers should complete their inspections within 20-25 minutes per hive. You should always have a good reason for opening your hive and this page is not designed to cover how or why hive inspections are completed but simply to provide a guide on the time needed for beekeeping. In mid-Spring through to the end of the swarm season your hive will need inspecting a maximum of once every week for 25 minutes. Later in the season, this will reduce to one inspection per hive every two weeks until the bees cease flying in the autumn. The average time commitment for hive inspections (per hive) is therefore approximately 1 hour per month.

Building Equipment, hives and frames, maintaining equipment

Equipment will need to be maintained in the winter months. There will also be a need to build new equipment like frames. An experienced beekeeper can make a new frame in about five minutes and to make enough frames for a complete hive and two honey supers will take about 3 hours. It will take approximately 3 hours to remove, strip and clean a hive before returning the equipment to store.

  • Extraordinary activity Beekeeping is full of surprises and that’s what makes it so enjoyable. The novice beekeeper doesn’t have to worry too much about ‘extraordinary activity’ because in the early days there will be plenty of help and assistance available from your local beekeepers’ association. There’s also the BBKA, the National Bee Unit and the Bee Inspector; all there to play their part in supporting your beekeeping venture.  However, here is a non-exhaustive list of possible other events which may affect your beekeeping in your first year; Feeding syrup to your colony (4 hours), Collecting a swarm (3 hours), re-queening your colony (1 hour), supering-up for honey, unlikely in year one (1 hour), preparing for winter (1 hour)
  • The role of your Mentor Meridian will appoint a mentor to guide you through the early stages of your beekeeping. Your mentor(s) will help you hive your first bees when they are ready and guide you through the early days by attending your first inspections and helping you understand what’s going on in your hive. Your mentor (or somebody else from your association or another local beekeeper) will raise your first colony of bees. To find out more about mentors, please click here Mentoring
a little drink of water!

If you’ve decided that beekeeping may be for you and you’d like to enrol on our beginners course, please click her for further information Introduction to beekeeping

If it all sounds a bit daunting now, good; you’ve probably got the right attitude! We know that when you get your bees, you will probably thoroughly enjoy them and the many related activities; uncapping and spinning honey, candle and soap making and of course tasting your very own honey!

Enjoy your bees!

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