Apicultura 101: A How to Guide for Backyard Beekeeping


First of all, put away the misguided notion that bees are aggressive creatures, with the sole intent of stinging anything and anyone in their path. 

The first thing we did on our new homestead was put in bees. Well, after the chickens and garden, of course.

They are social creatures, and will sting only if they perceive a threat. But, if cared for responsibly, they can be a wonderful addition to an urban backyard garden. Knowing how bees behave and how to keep them happy is at the core of apicultura, or in English, beekeeping. With knowledge and attention, a fledgling beekeeper can expect to produce 50-200 pounds of fresh honey by the end of the first season. 


how to keep bees In a nutshell, a beekeeper is someone who keeps bees, whether for honey production, garden health, or as pets. A healthy colony will nourish a garden by pollinating flowers while collecting nectar to bring back to the hive. 

There, the nectar is converted to honey as a food source. Beekeepers can then extract a sustainable amount of honey for their own use. If maintaining an urban hive, this often means sharing with the neighbors to keep them happy as well.

What To Know Before Starting Beekeeping

how to keep beesUrban Farm Magazine recommends starting by researching the local ordinances concerning the hobby. 

Many towns and cities don't regulate beekeeping, but a call down to the county extension office will settle that matter fairly quickly. 

The next step is to seek out a local beekeeping club to join. The resources available there will be the deciding factor in having a robust colony of honey-making machines or 20,000 little black and yellow corpses scattered about the garden. 

Apiculture, like bee behavior, is a social environment, and finding a mentor through the club will be relatively simple. A mentor can offer advice on buying a queen and colony, give instructions on the proper use of equipment, and show how to responsibility collect honey from the hive.

Beekeeping Equipment

The initial investment varies, but can fall between $200 and $500 depending on the equipment selected to begin. Often times, a search of Craig's List will unearth new and used equipment, but be very wary of buying used beehives.

If you are local, we sell beehives and assorted items as well in New Hampshire.

With the spread of Colony Collapse Disorder, a new beekeeper doesn't want to infect a new colony with a failed beekeeper's problem. Start with new hives, or use verified-clean ones gained through your trustworthy contacts at the beekeeping club. 

Protective gear is another acquisition to make before setting up the hives. At the minimum, a mesh faced veil and a sturdy pair of gloves will suffice, but to ensure full protection, a full-body, English-style bee suit is recommended. One of the top-tier supply companies is Brushy Mountain in North Carolina, and their mail order service is exceptional.

Keeping Bees in the Backyard

The key to keeping bees in the backyard is communication with neighbors. Most won't care, but any random protests can be assuaged by educating them in bee behavior. 

It also doesn't hurt to give neighbors free honey every once in a while. For an urban backyard garden where bees are kept, it is important to have a tall fence surrounding the property at a recommended height of around 8 feet. 

Bees fly at a level height while cruising between forage spots, and having them start well above average head height when leaving the garden ensures they won't bump into anyone. As for the bees themselves, choose a gentle species with established honey productivity. For homesteading, however, this isn't as important as when keeping bees in an urban setting.

Many first time hobbyists begin with Buckfast bees, as recommended by seasoned beekeepers. We started with Italians and Carniolans with mixed results. The hives should be placed out of the way of traffic patterns to leave the hives as undisturbed as possible.

A great place is in the corner against the fence, where the bees have direct access to the garden and don't have to cross the BBQ patio to gather nectar.

Knowing The Beehive

These colony structures come in many styles and designs, but as with mousetraps, the simplest forms are the ones that work best. A beehive is made up of stacked boxes called supers with controlled access within the interior, where cells are framed in for bees to build honey combs. 

The boxes offer the right amount of ventilation for cooling in the Summer, and for regulating heat in the Winter. There are many plans for DIY hives, but for the first timer, it's suggested to purchase on the advice of a mentor. Once in place, add the new colony and begin to enjoy the benefits.

We love sharing our off grid homesteading life with you all, and love it when you join the conversation below. What are you experiences with keeping bees? Have you wanted to but just haven't yet? Let us know. Cheers!


Laurie Cover said…
Thank you for sharing this post.

We have tried bees several times. We haven’t had very good experiences, as they often don’t survive the winter. But we will try again once better established on our property.

Thanks for coming by the Homestead Blog Hop!

Ridge Haven Homeatead.
lisa lombardo said…
Congrats on your feature on the Simple Homestead Hop!
Kris Mazy said…
I have always wanted to add bees to our homestead. I am going to forward your post to my son to read up some more. THANK YOU!!
WT Abernathy said…
Hi Kris! Thanks for stopping in- if you have any questions, or if your son does, drop us a line:)