Beginner beekeeping

Asked December 4, 2019, 2:27 PM EST

Hello, I live in rural Oregon City on four plus acres of land with plenty of native conifers, shrubs, wildflowers, and ever shrinking lawn as I’m adding new beds with native wildflowers and shrubs. I have no experience in beekiing yet, but I want to add beehives to the land this coming spring. After online research of Langstroth vs Warre beehive, I’m still not sure what one to choose. Could I use one of each? How many hive boxes to begin with? Is cedar hive good choice for PNW? What literature or resources are recommended for beginners? Thank you, Martin Prochazka

Clackamas County Oregon beekeeping honeybees beginning beekeeping

1 Response

Hi Martin, a new adventure is exciting. Yes, honey bee colonies will fit in well on your 4 acres. It sounds like a bee paradise, but there is a steep learning curve to keeping bees successfully. I have several suggestions to get you started. Start attending bee club meetings. I think most bee clubs actually have a “bee school” each winter/spring to help new folks get started and to answer their many questions. Clubs often have group buys of equipment and/or bees which is extremely helpful. I think the closest bee club to you is the Portland Metro Beekeepers which meets in the Gladstone Community Center on the second Thursday of each month.

Also check out the Oregon Master Beekeeper Program. They provide research based information regarding beekeeping. The program has three levels; apprentice, journey, and master. It is well worth the time and effort. One aspect that is very appealing for new beekeepers is the fact that apprentice level students are matched with a mentor.

The Honey Bee Health Coalition has an excellent management guide, Best Management Practices for Bee Health which would be good for you to download and read. It is thorough, concise, and up-to-date.

Visit your local public library or perhaps the bee club’s library to see if you can find the following books: “First Lessons in Beekeeping” by Keith S. Delaplane; “The Beekeeper’s Handbook” by Diana Sammataro and Alphonse Avitabile; “Beekeeping for Dummies” by Howland Blackiston; “Honey Bee Biology & Beekeeping” by Dewey Caron; “The Backyard Beekeeper” by Kim Flottum; “Bee-sentials: A Field Guide” by Lawrence John Connor, and “Simple Smart Beekeeping” by Kristin S. Traynor, PhD and Michael J. Traynor.

Subscribe to a magazine or two. In the U.S. we have the American Bee Journal, Bee Culture, and/or Beekeeping: Your First Three Years. All this reading will help you acquire the new vocabulary of beekeeping and help you understand more of what all is involved in keeping bees rather than just having bees and watching them die annually because they weren’t cared for in a timely fashion.

Yes, cedar is a perfectly fine wood for beehives in the PNW.

Yes, you can have a Langstroth hive and a Warre hive. However, the frames and boxes are not interchangeable which could cause you a lot of grief and annoyance in the long run. You can manage a Langstroth in a similar fashion to a Warre and have all compatible equipment. The vast majority of beekeeping literature and bee schools are geared towards Langstroth hives. It is also much easier to find Langstroth equipment in either the 10-frame or 8-frame size. Many hobby beekeepers use 8-frame equipment because it isn’t as heavy. There is so much to learn in the first few years of beekeeping that using the easiest system is beneficial.

In spring it is easy to purchase a nucleus colony which is 4-5 frames of bees with an established laying queen. This colony will require 2 deep boxes and perhaps 1 honey super or medium box the first year. The second year they colony would need 2 or 3 honey supers. You can get a better sense of this as you do more research.

Good luck and have fun with your beekeeping adventures.