Choosing a location for your beehive

  • Choose a site that is away from high traffic areas, work or play areas.
  • Face the entrance of the hive away from winds that commonly blow; facing southeast if possible for maximum sun.
  • Provide an additional water source (bucket, fountain, bird bath, etc).
  • Make sure the hive is at least 12-14” off of the ground to help with any rain water, snowfall or predators. A Hive Stand is ideal for this.
  • Place your Bottom Board on top of the Stand.
  • Set one Hive Body Box with 9 Frames & Foundations using the In-Hive Feeder for the 10th frame, set squarely on top of the Bottom Board.
  • Place Inner Cover squarely on top of the Hive Body Box.
  • Place Flat Top squarely on top of the Inner Cover.
  • Place the Entrance Reducer at the front with the smallest opening being used.

Things to note:

  • The entrance is like the runway at an airport - it is very active.
  • Bees will always fly in and out the same direction.

Location is very important for beekeeping. So, choosing an area that is sheltered, tucked away, near a water source, away from work or play is the best place. 

Being sheltered is a great idea because it helps protect the hive during hot summers, high winds, freezing temperatures, or predators that may cause harm to the hive.

Having your hive hidden away in a quiet place will also help from the hive being tampered with by kids or even curious adults.

If possible, set up the hive near a water source is a great idea. Bees need water, and they will go to any water source that is close. Putting a bucket of water near the hive will help keep your bees near their hive.

Finally, you should also consider having the hive placement away from active work (BBQ, garden, play structures, etc) areas. Bees are not typically aggressive, unless they get scared or feel threatened. Therefore, if you or your children hang out a lot in your yard, you should probably find somewhere else to put the hive.

Once your hive is set up, you can add bees!

Selecting bees for your beehive

a common honeybee on a yellow flower

There are two common types of bees that are available in North America; Italians and Carniolans. These are also the best for beginners since they are relatively calm, yet hard workers.

Each of these bees are great honey producing bees, and will work well in your hive. Our goal is to help you understand their traits and characteristics, thus enabling you to make a decision on which of the two types most suit your needs.

Side by side comparison of Italian Honey Bees vs Carniolan Honey Bees 
A side by side comparison of Italian vs Carniolan honey bees 

Italian Honey Bees vs Carniolan Honey Bees 

a honeybee on a daisy

Italian Honey Bees

Italians are preferred over all other types of bees. They are easy to work with, pretty calm, and are hard workers. They can be the most aggressive in the spring since they’ve been confined all winter, for which we recommend wearing protective clothing.

Overall their temperament is pretty relaxed. This can present a problem when it comes to hive beetles, or other insects trying to invade the hive, because Italians won’t fight back.

Italian queens start their brood production off early in the year. She begins increasing the brood production once the pollen begins coming into the hive. Italian queens will reduce their brood production, when the nectar sources end. This usually happens in late summer or early fall, which means you will have an average hive population going into winter.

Italian bees will try to swarm during their second year. This will typically happen during the spring or summer months. Italians have an average tendency to swarm, which is good.

Italian bees are average when it comes to honey production.

Italians will not gather during cooler and overcast days. So if you live in an area where springtime is cool, and always overcast, you will likely experience low honey production from the hive.

Carniolan Honey Bees

Carniolan bees are less common in the USA. Here at Harvest Lane, we prefer them over the others. They tend to have a consistent temperament throughout the year. You will need a little smoke to make them calm, but that’s typical with all bees.

The Carniolan queens are slower to start-up with brood production and require more pollen and nectar coming into the hive to be able to start laying. Therefore, they can have a 45 day delay with brood production. They usually have strong brood production into September which results in a strong colony throughout the winter.

The Carniolan bee has a higher tendency to swarm especially in the first year. These are only a few reason of why Carnionlans might swarm:

  1. The queen is laying too much brood, and not enough space to keep laying.
  2. There’s not enough space for the bees.
  3. It’s genetically engraved, which can happen with Carniolan bees.

Carniolans can gather 15% more honey than Italian bees. This is because they can still fly in cooler temperatures, as well when it’s cloudy unlike Italians.

Carniolans have larger colonies of bees in the winter months, which is beneficial since a large hive equals a warm hive. However, more mouths to feed means the hive will run out of their honey storage mid-February so you will need to supplement and provide Liquid Bee Feed from February till spring.

Note: Russian bees are not recommended for beginner beekeepers. They are more challenging to take care of and more aggressive than Italian or Carniolan bees.

Adding bees to your beehive

a beekeeper managing their backyard beehive

If you have ordered packaged bees from your local farm supply company, you’ll want to make sure your hive is set up and ready to accept your bees before picking up.

Beekeeping gear you’ll need for adding your bees:

  1. Complete hive setup with in-hive feeder
  2. Smoker (fuel, lighter, etc)
  3. Beekeeping clothing (jacket or suit, gloves, veil)
  4. Hive tool
  5. Small marshmallow or some other soft candy
  6. Mister if transporting bees on hot day

Steps to adding bees from the 3 lb box into your hive:

  1. Smoke 3 lb bee box.
  2. In your deep combo box, fill up your in-hive feeder with a gallon of liquid bee feed.
  3. Remove nearly all frames and set aside. Keep in hive feeder in place.
  4. You’ll want to remove the queen cage from the box and prepare it before adding all the bees. To do this, use the hive tool to loosen the feeding can on the box of bees.
  5. Lift and loosen tab containing queen cage
  6. Tap 3 lb bee box on hard surface to shift bees to bottom of box.
  7. Quickly remove feeding can from box in order to remove queen cage tab
  8. Replace feeding can
  9. With marshmallow in hand, locate cork on queen cage. Make sure queen is at the opposite end and use hive tool to remove cork. Replace cork with marshmallow.
  10. Insert queen cage tab into top side of frame. Twist cage so that screened (open) side is facing along honeycomb.
  11. Place frame with queen on it back into hive.
  12. Again, tap 3 lb bee box on hard surface to shift bees to bottom of box.
  13. Remove feeding can from box, tip upside down and shake gently over hive to add bees into hive. If there are still a lot of bees left in the box, place it on top of the frames and allow bees to exit box and enter hive.
  14. Once all bees are out of the box, place frames back into hive, add inner cover and top.

Beekeeping FAQs

a honey bee checking out a prple flower

Thinking about beekeeping? Here's some FAQs from other beginner beekeepers:

You’ve thought about it and you’ve contemplated it, but still you’re not sure if you want to raise bees.

There are two types of beekeepers: those who jump right into beekeeping and figure a way to make it work and the 2nd type; those who are more cautious about the hobby, and want to learn everything they can before taking the leap.

Regardless of which category you fall in, at Harvest Lane Honey we are committed to bringing you the most information possible so you can make an educated decision that is right for you.

Following are some of the most commonly asked questions for those wanting to start beekeeping.

Are bees easy to keep?

Anyone can keep bees. The best trait to have in keeping bees is not to micro-manage them. Let them do their thing.

How much time do bees take?

Bees are less time consuming than domesticated pets or livestock. Bees should be checked no more than one time per week. After they are established, they can go two weeks between checks. If you live in a winter climate you want to not do any heavy inspections after mid to late October.

Where do I put a beehive?

We recommend placing hives opposite of the wind direction. Keep them away from horses or cows. If they are in the same field, put fencing around the hives. If in a residential area or placing a hive close to your home face the entrance away from any play, work or lounge area. If your yard is fenced put your hive in a corner, forcing the right pattern to go up and out. Always have a water source for your hive to help keep them from becoming a nuisance.

How small of an area can I keep bees?

Bees can be kept on very small lots: there are many beekeepers in Urban cities that keep bees on roofs or porches. Think Music City Center in Nashville or The McCormick Center in downtown Chicago. There are ways to keep bees in major cities and for beehives and urban areas to co-exist. Of course, if you are fortunate to have more land, that is great and will allow you to expand your hobby. Check your local, county and state codes for any laws regarding space.

How much honey will a new beehive produce?

Honey production can range from 0-50 lbs, even in the first year. If you are worried about too much honey, let your friends and family know you have honey and you will be their new best friend.

I have kids, are bees safe?

Bees are safe around children when they are tended and cared for properly. Placing a fence or barrier around the bees will give children and the bees their needed space. When placing your hive, put the entrance facing away from play areas and provide an ample water supply for the bees.

I have other animals, will they bother the bees?

Other animals are fine. Cows and horses are curious and can knock the hive over. Other large pets may do the same. Fence the area around the bees to limit any problems.

Will bees bother my neighbors?

Properly cared for bees will not be a nuisance. Check your beehives in the middle of the day when the majority of the hive is out working, to avoid masses of bees flying around. Use your smoker to calm them when you do check. The biggest culprit of nuisance bees is inadequate water. We suggest that you have a five gallon bucket of water, pond, bird bath or other water source nearby to keep your bees from gathering around your neighbors pools, water hoses, or open water areas.

I like to garden, will the bees bother me?

Bees like to garden as much as you like to be in your garden. We suggest that if you find the bees bothersome, then garden in the morning or evening hours when most of the bees have returned to the hive.

What do I need to start?

Our Backyard Beekeeping Kits have everything you need to start your hive. You will only need to purchase bees and protective clothing. As your hive grows you can add additional small, medium or large kits.

I have heard two hives are better than one to start. Why?

We recommend two hives if you can. If one hive fails or does exceptionally well you can compare differences in them. It is also good to be able to pull frames of honey or brood from a stronger hive to help a struggling one.

How late can I order bees?

Bee orders will need to be placed before March 1. Sooner is better to ensure you will get bees. Bees will arrive in either April or May depending upon your area.

What about CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder)? Will I be affected?

CCD is something that is a risk for all beekeepers. There is no proven cause, which means there is no proven prevention or treatment. As with all livestock there is a risk of loss.

What about mites?

Mites do occur. All bees from HLH are treated for mites before you receive them. There are many options and methods for treatment. We treat it after we spot mites in the hive.

I have some old equipment. Is it okay to use?

We strongly recommend not using old hive equipment if the old hive died out the original

cause could kill a new hive. New equipment also encourages production and is not at risk for potential contaminated with chemicals or pesticides. Used beekeeping suits, gloves, smokers, and tools can be used. However, we recommend thoroughly cleaning these to avoid any possible hive contamination.

More bee information

Queen bee facts

  • Queen bees live for 2-3 years.
  • The queen is busiest in the summer months laying up to 2,500 eggs per day.
  • Queen bee can lay 600-2,500 eggs daily during her lifetime. Her daily egg production may equal her weight.
  • The queen is constantly fed and groomed by attending worker bees.

Honey facts

  • Honey is 80% sugars and 20% water. 
  • Early summer honey harvests tend to be mild tasting and lighter in color, while later summer and early fall are generally stronger tasting and a dark amber color.