"Bee" Prepared for Your Bees

You've ordered bees and equipment. What steps do you need to take to get ready for their arrival?

(Need help for ordering equipment and bees, see Buying Bees.)

Above: vintage photo of Grandpa keeping bees in August 1966.

Prepare your equipment. 
  • Assemble woodenware, if necessary. Avoid splitting the wood and make sure all joints are tight. On boxes, you may want to leave a few box joint fingers free from nails or screws. A few years from now, joints may separate and you will have whole wood to add nails and re-tighten the joints. Related post: Rough Side in Or Out?
  • Install plastic foundation in frames, or other support. We prefer plastic foundation because it makes each frame much sturdier. Otherwise, new comb may fall apart when you inspect it for eggs, and especially when extracting. (Down the line, you may want some wax-only frames in supers so you can cut out honeycomb, but it is good to use foundation in the brood chamber boxes.)
  • Used Equipment: We recommend starting with all new equipment to avoid disease and pesticide residue. However, if you are using used equipment, purchase new foundation and replace it, or at least scrape off the wax with your hive tool and wash old foundation. 

Assembled boxes, lid, bottom board, and frames.

Stack of frames with and without foundation installed.

Paint woodenware.
  • Paint the outside of the boxes, lid, and bottom board. Pay close attention to the joints. Don’t paint the inside of the box or the frames. The bees will “paint” it later with propolis, an antimicrobial tree resin which helps with colony immunity. 
  • Use exterior primer and then 2 coats of exterior paint (or you could also stain boxes, but make sure the stains won’t harm bees).
  • Color doesn’t matter to the bees, but dark colors may get too hot in summer. You can get creative or go with traditional white. 

Establish the hive location. 
  • Remember that you need to be sure about the location. To move bees across the yard, for example, you need to move them 3 miles away for 3 days and then back to their new spot. Or move the hive 6-10 inches per day. Either way, it can get complicated. 
  • Hive Stands keep the bottom board off the ground and will prolong the life of your equipment. We use pallets. Four hives will fit on each pallet. Face the four hives different compass directions to avoid drift. (Drift is when bees drift from one colony to the next, leaving one weaker and one stronger.) 
  • Place hives in full sun, if possible. They will produce more when they are warmer, especially on cool mornings. 
  • Your location needs to be within 2 miles nectar and pollen for the entire season. This year, really focus on the timing of flowers blooming in your area. 
  • Place hives away from high-traffic areas, and meet city codes for property boundaries (10 feet away from property line is required in Orem). 
  • Make sure the location has good air drainage, away from a depression or flood plane.
  • Establish a wind break, if necessary.
  • You will also need 100% accessibility, 24/7, as beekeeping happens at all hours of day and night. You may want to be able to drive up to your hives to avoid excess lifting. 
  • Develop a water source in your yard, such as a bird bath, chicken waterer, baking pan, etc. Place stones or sticks in the water to provide a landing pad for the bees. They cannot swim. 
One of our pretty bee locations

Dandelions: an important nectar and pollen source for bees.

Prepare to Feed Bees.
  • Learn about feeding bees 
  • Obtain about 25 pounds of sugar for each hive (or use honey if you have it).
  • Purchase commercially-made pollen substitute, either pre-made patties or powdered form. Follow directions on the label. 
One-ton tote of sugar

Other items.
  • Obtain beekeeping license (See Utah Department of Agriculture and Food for online form). 
  • Make sure you have a smoker, protective clothing, and a hive tool or two. 

Some bee customers getting ready to install packages

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