Beekeeping - Frequently Asked Questions

What do I need to start beekeeping?

Where do I get my beekeeping equipment from?


Which type of bee hive shall I get?

If you live in the UK we would recommend getting a national bee hive as it's most common here. Hive parts, frames, foundation, excluders, everything you need is easy to source. Which ever hive you decide to use make sure to stick to that type as other hives cannot be combined or used together.

In the UK most people use national bee hives which is the 'British Standard' or 'B.S national bee hive' but depending where you are in the world you may find other hives more common. We use national bee hives in our apiaries but check with a local beekeeper/beekeeping association or search online groups and forums to help you decide.

How much spare equipment should I have?

We would recommend keeping a bee hive consisting of;

  • Roof
  • Crown board
  • 2 Supers with 10 slot castellated spacers (10 frames per box)
  • Queen excluder
  • Dummy board
  • Brood box with frame runners (11 frames and 1 dummy board per box)
  • Varroa mesh floor
  • Filled with frames, foundation and bees

We suggest having these parts spare for each of your occupied bee hives in case they swarm;

  • Roof
  • Crown board
  • Dummy board
  • Brood box with frame runners (11 frames and 1 dummy board per box)
  • Varroa mesh floor
  • Filled with frames and foundation (only make the frames up with foundation when it is required)

Where can I get bees from?

There are many suppliers of bees all over the UK, it just depends what kind of bee's you'd like, we would recommend sourcing bees locally from a reputable seller where possible.

What type of bees shall I get?

There are a few types of honey bees to choose from but we would recommend sourcing bees locally where possible but do your own research, speak to other beekeepers on social media/forums and make your own decision.

Can I keep bees in my garden?

Yes but check that your neighbours don't mind and give them a jar of honey every now and then to keep them sweet.

Can I keep my bees on my allotment?

There are different rules for every site, make sure it's okay with the owners before you rent a plot.

How do I light my smoker?

Use a lighter and some paper/cardboard to get your choice of fuel going. At BBwear we use our smoker cartridges and a blow torch to get it going quickly with minimum effort.

How and when do I feed my bees?

Fondant is for winter, fondant with pollen is for spring and syrup is for summer.

If colony in winter feels underweight after hefting then give them some fondant.

If you want to give your bees aboost at the start of the season then feed them fondant with pollen and this should motivate the queen to start laying more as the pollen starts comming in.

A new colony just starting up in summer might like inverted syrup which they can use to make wax and get the frames drawn out quicker which saves them making honey and then turning the honey into wax. Inverted syrup is like honey so the bees can eat it and turn it straight into wax. Home made sugar syrup is not the same as inverted syrup and the bees have to invert it before they can use it. It takes 6 cells of honey to make 1 cell of wax, .

There is usually a forrage gap/dirth every year where the bees have little to forrage due to a lack or rain or perhaps a heatwave which dries up all the nectar. If you notice the bees are low on food in the summer give them some syrup but not too much, you don't want them to store the syrup in your supers!

Can I feed honey back to my bees?

You should only feed honey back to the bees if you're giving it back to the hive where you took it from.
Honey from other hives may transfer disease and cause dysentery.

What do I do if my bees are swarming?

It depends on the scenario, there are too many to go into detail and a wealth of information written by experts is available on internet forums and videos. Essentially you have either swarm prevention - dealing with the swarming colony before they leave the hive or swarm control - by catching and re-hiving the swarm after they have left. Ideally you want to keep all your bees from swarming so you don't lose honey and bees.

There are many ways of dealing with swarming colonies, the fundamental advice is always the same;

  • Pick one suitable scenario
  • Follow and stick to one solution to the scenario
  • Do not mix solutions!
  • Hope the bees follow the solution too
  • Learn from the process

Follow the K.I.S.S. principle (keep it simple stupid!) a lighthearted reminder to try not to worry or over-complicate things.

How can I increase the amount of hives I have?

See - How do I perform an artificial swarm?'

How do I perform an artificial swarm?

Artificial Swarm

If you discover a developing queen cell or cells in your hive and the queen is still there you can perform an artificial swarm.

You can also use this technique when they're not swarming if you want to increase the amount of hives you have. (Only do so if the colony is healthy and strong on 8-10 frames and be prepared to feed if there is no nectar flow)

  • Catch the queen and remove her from the hive (keep her safe in a queen catcher)
  • Move the old (swarming) hive more than 3 feet away, to be safe further is better and you can put the old/swarming hive anywhere you want
  • Place a new hive with new frames and foundation in the old hives original position
  • Put the old/swarming queen in the new hive with new frames and foundation
  • The flying/swarming bees will return to the original position with the old queen, new hive and frames, this usually will satisfy their swarming impulse
  • Have a cup of tea and wait for some of the older flying bees to return to the new hive with the old queen (this will make it easier and calmer for you to check for any remaining queen cells)
  • Go through all frames carefully and thoroughly destroying all but 1 queen cell in the old (swarming) hive (Check back in a 3 days just in case they've decided to make any more emergency queen cells, destroy all but 1 queen cell again and they shouldn't make any more after that). The idea is to leave only 1 queen cell and little capacity for them to produce any more viable queen cells. This is to help ensure they won't swarm with 1 of more emerging queens and so that the single new emerging queen takes over the old (swarming) colony in it's new position
  • Feed the old queen in the new hive with syrup until frames are drawn out or take a frame of stores from the old hive to get them going but make sure there is NO brood on the donor frame. This will also allow the old queen to start laying again quicker
  • Don't worry about the old hive, it will take time for nurse bees to start flying. The newly emerging nurse bees will all stay with the brood so they will have plenty of bees, stores and brood to keep them going until the new queen gets mated
  • If the new queen fails you can re-merge the hives by eliminating the failing queen and putting the brood boxes one on top of the other with a sheet of newspaper between them. By the time the bees have chewed through the newspaper they will all bee friends and working together again
  • Or you can donate a frame with newly laid eggs and they may produce a new queen

Should I treat my bees?

If your bee's are suffering from disease you should treat your bees. Generally people do this 3 to 4 times a year, winter spring and autumn to keep Varroa mites at bay.


What do I do and who do I call if there's a swarm?

  • If you discover a swarm of honey bees you should first confirm that they are honey bees before calling a swarm collector.
  • Wasps, hornets and other pests should be dealt with by a pest controller. Beekeepers and swarm collectors do not usually charge a fee but they can sell the collected bees or add them to their stock to produce more honey.
  • Follow the steps that the BBKA desribe here regarding swarm removal.
  • More information and ID cards can be found here on the BeeBase

Is there anything you would like us to add?

If there's anything you would like us to include then please let us know via our contact page.