The basics of beekeeping – the path from interested parties to self-sufficiency

he beekeeping has been practiced for thousands of years and is still considered a mystery to many people to this day. Getting started with beekeeping is comparatively easy with the right tips and assistance. Anyone who wants to keep bee colonies for their own needs is ready to start practical work with just a few groundbreaking basics.

The reasons why people choose to keep bees may vary. One person enjoys watching the beehive grow and prosper, another person seeks harmony with nature and a third person simply wants to receive honey with the certainty of origin and production. Most of the time it will be a mixture of several of these reasons. Regardless of the motivation, it is important not only to establish one or more bee colonies, but also to accompany and guide them in their long-term development. In order for this to be successful, both material and professional requirements are almost indispensable.

The prerequisites for a successful start

In order for the entry into beekeeping to be as successful as possible, the right framework conditions are essential. First and foremost, before the first real bee can be found, certain equipment is required to accommodate and care for the bee colony. Much more important for beekeeping, however, is the necessary knowledge of how to handle the equipment and the bees themselves. A large number of specialist literature provides a high level of knowledge. To get started, however, it is advisable to be guided through the first practical steps. Because the step from theoretical knowledge to practical skills is sometimes not to be neglected. Courses for those interested in beekeeping, in which the basic skills are taught in a targeted manner, offer a good opportunity. But also the contact with a beekeeper,

The hardware

– essential to comfortable –

As with any craft, beekeeping also requires a certain repertoire of equipment. To get started, the following things are essential, or at least very helpful:


The beekeeper describes the hives as hives in which the bee colonies are housed. So-called magazine hives are well established today, in which wooden frames with honeycombs are inserted densely in a magazine-like manner. Simply put on top of one another, full-fledged housing for the bee colonies can be created like a modular system. Finally, it is important to have an entry and exit opening with a suitable starting board as a departure point for the worker bees. A lid serves as the top closure, which can be easily removed for inspection and work on the bee colony.

Frames and dividers

Wooden frames are inserted into the hives, through which the honey stored in the honeycomb can later be easily removed. These frames are usually equipped with prefabricated and commercially available wax dividers. As the basis of the later honeycombs, these middle walls form a level on which the bees can begin their work of honeycomb formation.

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  • Stick chisel, versatile tool for working with the frames
  • Honeycomb lifter, helpful when removing the honeycombs
  • Brush to remove the animals from the honeycomb.
  • Hive scales to determine changes in the bee colony through weight control
  • Decapping knife, for removing the honeycomb lids.

other aids for beekeeping

  • Barrier to keep the queen out of the honey chamber
  • Smoker, to calm the bees through smoke
  • Refractometer, for determining the water content in honey.
  • Honey extractor: to separate the honey from the honeycombs
  • Feed bucket, for targeted refilling after honey removal
  • Storage vessels for storing the honey obtained


As always when dealing with living beings and food, the subject of hygiene is very important when dealing with bees. Because poor hygiene can lead to infections of the bees and to the spoilage of the honey. A widely used means of cleaning loot, frames, and tools is soda.

Tip: In the first phase of trying out and touching things up, the entire equipment does not necessarily have to be purchased. Here it is worth making contact with an established beekeeper, who may be able to help out with one or the other utensil until the final decision about beekeeping has been made. In addition, he can use his experience to advise and support you in choosing the right item.

The residents

– no success without a bee –

Beekeeping does not start with a single bee. Instead, it is relatively easy to get started by acquiring a colony of bees, which is then looked after and looked after. A colony of bees can now be obtained quite easily from online shops. Going to the beekeeper, on the other hand, is safer. There the quality of the bees and colonies can be fathomed with one’s own eyes. Even if the layman or novice can hardly judge these things at first, the general condition of the entire beekeeping gives a good overview of the demands and the care of the breeder.

The bee species

There is also a multitude of species of bees, some of which differ significantly in appearance, behavior and honey yield. A type of bee popular with many breeders is the so-called Buckfast bee. It was created by crossing different breeding bees and is characterized by high swarm sluggishness and an above-average yield. All breeding bees can be traced back to nine original types of bees, which in the actual biological sense can be described as real “species”:

  • Kliffhonigbiene
  • Giant honey bee
  • Western honey bee
  • Asian red honeybee or red honeybee
  • Apis nigrocincta
  • Asiatic mountain bee
  • Eastern honeybee / Asian honeybee
  • Zwerghonigbiene
  • Dwarf bush bee or bush honey bee
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The feeding

In principle, bee colonies are self-sufficient and capable of all activities that are important for the continued existence of the colony without human intervention. This behavior is disturbed by human intervention in the form of honey extraction. If the beekeeper removes the feed that is actually stored for the winter from his bees by removing honey, the colony is ultimately dependent on external feeding by the beekeeper. This is usually done via the feed bucket through an offer of sugar solution. The sugar replaces the extracted honey and forms the basis for the survival of the people in winter.

The success

– Honey extraction for beginners –

Anyone who owns one or more bee colonies would like to obtain honey. The honey is harvested at the end of the season, when the food base has disappeared. Depending on whether the food is based on flowers, pollen or honeydew, the bees produce a different honey from it, which has to be harvested at a different time. The best-known examples are blossom honey and the different types of forest honey, such as fir honey.

The basic requirement for the honey harvest is a sufficiently low water content in the honey. This is influenced by various environmental factors, such as the weather, and can be determined with the refractometer before the harvest. The honeycombs are removed from the beehive, uncapped and thrown in the honey extractor. The wax from the now empty honeycomb can be melted down and used for new dividing walls.

Tip: Incidentally, the wax on the honeycomb can be exchanged for new dividers at numerous retailers. This eliminates the effort for their production and the wax of the empty honeycombs is not wasted.

Interesting facts about dealing with bees

Even if the newcomer to beekeeping can only learn most things in the course of his beekeeping life, he should have at least heard the basics of some important aspects so that they are not completely inexperienced when they become important.

Common diseases

Like all other living things, bees are also attacked by diseases. Since they live together in large numbers in a very small space in the colony, the transmission takes place as soon as the first bee is infected, usually at breakneck speed. Therefore the early detection and the prevention of the most common diseases are of great importance.

The American foulbrood

The American foulbrood is the more aggressive of two forms of this bacterial disease. It attacks the brood in already closed combs in the so-called stretch maggot stage. Their tissue degenerates into a slimy, watery substance and the maggots die off. The disease is notifiable in Germany. The foulbrood is combated by removing and destroying affected brood combs and disinfecting the hive. In the past even all peoples of a class were completely destroyed.

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The Varroose

The infestation of the bee brood with the varroa mite is called varroosis. The mite damages the infested bee in various ways. On the one hand by weakening the animal and on the other hand by an inhibition of development. An infected bee is usually up to 10% smaller than healthy conspecifics. In addition, the parasite also transmits numerous pathogens. The varroa mite is considered to be the main cause of bee deaths and the most important “disease” in the world. However, it is not subject to notification in Germany. It is fought primarily through the use of oxalic acid.

Positioning the beehives

The placement of a beehive is crucial for the food supply and thus the honey yield. Positioning in areas of high costume is ideal. For example, wildflower meadows or fields with blooming plants, but also forests with a corresponding offer, are ideal. If these basics are correct, the main requirements for a rich harvest are in place. However, you should also consider other factors. Even if several colonies of a beekeeper are usually placed in close spatial proximity, the spatial proximity increases the likelihood of predation and the transmission of diseases from colony to colony.

The raving

Beginners in particular have a lot of respect for enthusiasm. As a natural component of reproduction, it is an important part of the bee’s survival. Usually every one to two years a colony swarms out. That means, the old queen leaves the swarm and takes part of the “population” with her. In the beehive, however, new queens are created to ensure the survival of the remaining flock. Especially when, as a new beekeeper, you notice the announcement of the first swarming, it is worth contacting experienced colleagues in order to take the right steps in a well-considered and targeted manner. If you succeed in catching the swarm, you are immediately richer by a colony of bees.


– Step by step to self-sufficiency –

Whether commercial honey production or harvesting for your own needs, beekeeping involves a lot of effort, but in the end it is worthwhile. Especially when you pursue this demanding and fulfilling self-sufficiency activity, it is worth staying calm and accepting minor setbacks as a learning effect. Because at the beginning the multitude of activities and backgrounds to be learned are so demanding anyway that additional measures for even more yield and even more lush growth usually only mean additional effort, which in the end quickly distracts from the core of beekeeping itself.

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