The logical time to start to become a beekeeper is around New Year’s Day.
That catches a lot of people off guard, but when you learn what it takes to get up and running, to learn the prerequisite things that have to come before ‘putting bees in the box’, then this suggestion makes sense.
When you paint beehives, it is best if they ‘chemically dry’ before you put bees in them. What that means is that the paint has not only dried on the surface, but deep down, all through the substrate you painted on the boxes (primer, and paint) all of the paint has cured and is no longer giving off volatile gasses that the bees will detect. This ‘chemically dry’ process takes a few weeks to finish, and if you work it backward, that means you should probably be painting your equipment in February or March.
Additionally, there is the consideration for planning your apiary design, prepping the area where you are going to put your hives, ordering bees before suppliers run out, and more (all part of the lessons in February and March).
It is past that window – Can I still get started keeping bees?
The answer to many questions is it depends. We will tell you that you can start up after the traditional start window, and up until a point, and then it is probably best for you to wait until next year.
If for example, you have found yourself here in August, then no, it is not a good time to start as a beginner beekeeper. That is not to say you cannot start a beehive in August, but the truth is, as a beginner beekeeper it is not going to work because you will not be able to get the bees to draw out comb at that time of the year; it is a biology thing.
This is really one of the key constraints that drive when you can become a beekeeper. You truly need to start a colony of bees in a period where they have foraging resources. A colony requires a large workforce and abundant forage (spring is perfect for this) to be able to draw wax and build honeycomb.
So the short answer is, you need to start in time for bees to finish two full boxes of honeycomb so they have the right environment to overwinter. In the mid-Atlantic region, this means they have to typically finish by mid-July and you have to start in April or the beginning of May at the latest. If you do not have bees in operation by this time, you should likely wait until next year.
What if I am too Late? Can I participate to Learn, and Get Bees Later?
Be a Passive Participant
Yes, we would be happy to let you tag along. We have some beekeepers who participate in our program without getting bees in the first year. How you engage in our program is your choice.
If you want to join in, you can do it on your own. We record our sessions and would recommend that if you are joining in mid-stream, you go back to the beginning and watch all of the sessions and lessons to catch up.
When you get where we are in the program calendar, and then join us each month as we progress.
Of course, you can always pick and choose things to learn, and come back the following year and start from the beginning with us. That is an option too.
The full program is outlined in the schedule link, under the MM Program menu item at the top of this page.