Beekeeping Basics for Beginners

Whether you’re a commercial farmer looking to expand into a new market or an individual starting a small business, beekeeping can be a wonderful opportunity for growth. But its unique vocabulary, expectations, and municipal requirements can leave a lot of beginners unsure of where to start.

If you’re considering beekeeping, read our blog to learn what physical, financial, and time investments you’ll make. By the end of our blog, you’ll know if beekeeping is right for you and how to proceed from here.

Physical Considerations

Before you commit to beekeeping, you should weigh these two questions carefully:

  • How well can I handle being stung?
  • How well can I cope with heavy lifting?

Even as a beekeeper, you won’t be stung often. But since you’ll be around bees for extended periods of time, your chances of being stung increase exponentially. For most of the population, bee stings only cause minor irritation and pain. However, a small number of people (.4% of the population) are deathly allergic to bee stings; just one sting can send a person with bee allergies into anaphylactic shock.

Since most people aren’t allergic to bee stings, chances are, neither are you. However, unless you’ve been stung by a bee, you might not know if you’re allergic or not. Speak to a medical professional if you’re not sure about bee allergies, or if you’ve ever experienced these abnormal symptoms after a bee sting:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Hives all over the body (not just swelling at the sting site)
  • Itching on parts of the body far away from the sting site

If you live in a residential area, you should always check with your neighbours before investing in bees. One of your neighbours could have a serious bee allergy that you need to know about before proceeding.

Taking care of bees also requires you to do frequent heavy lifting. If you have back problems or can’t lift hives yourself, you should have someone on hand willing to help you move heavy objects.

If your body can handle a small amount of discomfort from bee stings and frequent heavy lifting, you can proceed with your beekeeping plans.

Financial Considerations

As with any business, beekeeping requires an initial financial investment. Here are some things you’ll need to spend money on before your beekeeping business can take off.

Beekeeping Courses

Beekeeping is complicated. You need a quality class and instructor to teach you the ins and outs of the business. Check local beekeeping associations and clubs for beekeeping courses.

Beekeepers’ Insurance

Whether you’re starting a large commercial operation or a small business, investing in proper insurance is a must. With bee farm claims becoming more prevalent in the last few decades, you’ll want to insure against any large catastrophic loss. Insurance can provide liability coverage for your operation as well as protect your equipment and tools.

Beekeeping Equipment

You’ll need quite a bit of specialized equipment to set up your beekeeping operation, including:

  • Veils, hive tools, and bee smokers to keep you safe
  • Bee suits and gloves
  • Beehives
  • Insulation to protect beehives during the winter
  • Honey extracting equipment

In Alberta, bees and beekeeping equipment are regulated by the Alberta Bee Act. Before you purchase used equipment, make sure the seller has a permit from Alberta Agriculture and Food. You should report the purchase to the Provincial Apiculturist no later than 15 days after your purchase.

Time Considerations


Before you commit to your own beehive, you’ll want to shadow another beekeeper to see how he or she interacts with his or her bees. Get to know local beekeepers through your local club, and find someone you can watch and work for. This will give you hands-on experience with bees and with general activities like removing frames. Plan on committing several days of labour at minimum.

Taking Care of Bees

You already know that beekeeping will take a large time investment, but you might be unsure just how much time it will require. You’ll need to commit to taking care of your bees all year long in the following ways:

  • In the spring, you’ll inspect your colony, medicate bees against disease, and check that your queen lays eggs.
  • In the summer, you’ll add extra room to your beehives and eventually start extracting honey.
  • In the fall, you’ll medicate the colony and ensure they have enough food to last the winter.
  • In the winter, you’ll make sure your bees have proper insulation and ventilation.

Annual Registration

If you own bees or bee equipment, you should register with the Provincial Apiculturist every year. This process isn’t overly time-consuming, but you must follow through with registration every year.

How to Proceed

Now that you’ve read this blog post, you know if you can make the physical, financial, and time commitments that keeping bees requires. If beekeeping sounds like a good fit, contact your local beekeeping association. With a little hard work, you’ll soon start reaping the rewards of a healthy, happy hive.

Comments are closed.