To be a good beekeeper requires knowledge of the science behind beekeeping and bees and having a set of beekeeping skills and practices. You need to be prepared to invest time and resources in developing your expertise to become a good and responsible beekeeper.
Beekeeping is not for everyone. I meet many people who begin beekeeping, invest considerable time and dollars only to find that it does not work for them or for their family.
Before making a decision or buying anything:
- Do your homework and read the The Apiary Code of Practice and the Victorian Beekeeping for beginners website
- Visit an apiary and talk to other beekeepers
- Be involved in opening some hives
- Undertake a course in beekeeping
- Find yourself a mentor
- Join a beekeeper club.
A few key pointers:
- Ensure that you have space enough for keeping bees and, at the same time, can meet your family needs.
- Some people react to bee stings and a small proportion are anaphylactic. Anaphylactic reactions can be life threatening. Have appropriate medication for minor reactions and plan of action to respond to any serious events. Consider having EpiPens.
- To keep bees you must register as a beekeeper with the Victorian Department of Agriculture and keeping a record of your biosecurity activities.
- There are limits to the number of hives you can have on a suburban property and restrictions on where you can place your hive:
- Expect to spend over $1,000 on equipment, bees and resources in the first year with ongoing expenses for club fees, training, replacement and new equipment and new queens.
- To be a responsible beekeeper you will need to inspect your hives regularly depending on the season. General guide: During spring and early summer bees tend to swarm and you should inspect your hive at lest every 7 days. During summer inspections can be every 7 to 10 days and during winter, as a minimum lift, the back of the hive to determine the amount of food they have.
- Urban Area Hive Density Limitations
|Tenement size||No. of hives|
|500 m2 or less||1|
|501 m2 to 1000 m2||2|
|1001 m2 to 2000 m2||5|
|2001m2 to less than 4000 m2||10|
|4000 m2 to less than 1ha||60|
|1 ha to 2 ha||100|
|Larger than 2 ha||No limit|
- Hives should not be placed in front yards and, if the hives are to be placed within 3 metres of the boundary, then the boundary fence must be bee proof and at least 2 metres high.
- Consider the options as to the size and type of hive and boxes that best meets your needs. Visit a supplier that has a good range of different hives and boxes and talk to other beekeepers as to benefits and disadvantages of each type.
- Purchase good quality new equipment. If your hives are made of timber then it is a good idea to purchase the base, lid and brood box wax dipped and painted. Wooden boxes that are not wax dipped have a shorter life span.
- Unless you are very certain, avoid second hand hives and boxes as they may have had disease.
- It is advisable to purchase your first bees as a nucleus hive with a new queen from a reputable beekeeper rather than trying to catch a swarm. Swarms are likely have the old queen that will soon be replaced by the hive or, on occasions, a virgin queen that will need to go out and mate. There is a greater chance that a swarm may be diseased or defensive in nature than with a purchased nucleus.
Getting Started Guide: Victorian Agricultural Site
Good Practice Guide: Victorian Agricultural Site
Swarm Control by Wally Shaw
Simple Methods of Making Increase by Wally Shaw
(Based in Maryborough and have an outlet in Port Melbourne)
NB: There are many other beekeeping suppliers. I have no commercial relationship with any.
YouTube Sites (just a few)