New to Beekeeping?

New to Beekeeping?  These FAQ should give you an idea of what it all involves!

How much does it cost to set up a hive with bees?

To buy a beginners kit and a nucleus of bees will cost from £350.00 to £600.00.

Alternatively, you can start with a budget hive or a second-hand hive with bees from a local auction.  Do ensure the bees have been checked by the local bee inspector and are not diseased.


What type of hive is the best?

The most popular hive in the United Kingdom is the National hive.  This is a square hive, not very pretty but practical.   

The cottage garden traditional hive is the WBC.   If you want a couple of hives in your garden and want them to look good, go for the WBC.  Don’t be put off by some beekeepers who will say they’re impractical.  Yes, they are awkward to move to a field of rape or a heather covered mountain, but if you want to stay with a small-scale hobby, you probably won’t want to move them.

The commercial hive is a little larger, still square but with a bigger brood area.  This means that you can fit a stronger colony of bees into the hive with a smaller risk of swarming.   If you live in Essex or Ireland, this hive is used quite widely.  The reason for this is that one or more local experts have promoted it in the past.

The Langstroth is similar in size to the Commercial.   It is the most popular hive in other countries of the world.

The Dadant hive is the biggest of all – so watch your back!

The smallest hive is the Smith.  Invented and widely used in Scotland.

Just to complicate things even further, the National, WBC, Smith and Langstroth have a jumbo brood body option.    These are useful if you are in a warmer part of the country and you have a strong colony.

Our advice would be to start with a National or WBC.

If you were just interested in keeping bees for pollination purposes and letting them live as naturally as possible you could look at a Warre hive or maybe a Top bar hive.


What are beehives made of?

Thornes hives are all made from red cedar.   Cedar wood contains natural oils, which help preserve the wood and insect attack.    Hives are also made in pine or deal.  Beware of these as they warp, split, warp and are heavy.


Do I need a big garden?

No.  Of course, if you live in the countryside with a large garden, you have an ideal location.  However, beehives can be found on numerous roofs and balconies in big cities.   With the parks and small town gardens packed with plants, there is excellent forage for bees in built up areas.  And if you’re lucky enough to have a large country estate, an apiary is a “must-have”. 


Do the hive entrances have to face one way?

They should be faced either south-east, south or south-west.   On level ground.   Ensure they do not face directly onto a footpath or road – people walking by may get stung.

Will the bees help my plants?

Yes, they will pollinate your fruit trees and soft fruit and the crops will be bigger, better, tastier and more regularly shaped.


Do I need planning permission?



Will bees cause a nuisance to my neighbours?

Possibly.   Make sure you site the hives so that the bees will not fly out of the hive and straight across your neighbour’s garden.   Bees do have cleansing flights and are prone to “doing their business” over the neighbours washing line.   Try to chat to your neighbours about the interesting hobby, encourage them to put on your spare veil and look into your hive and make sure they are well supplied with honey.


Where can I learn the basic of beekeeping?

The best way is to join a beginner’s course.  Most local beekeepers associations run one at least once a year.  Some areas have Adult Education courses.   There are some excellent beginner’s books but they can’t answer your “stupid” questions!


What else do I need to start?

A hive tool, a smoker, a feeder, a veil and a pair of gloves. 


Will I get stung?

You can’t call yourself a beekeeper until you’ve been stung!    Treat the bees gently, don’t flap your arms about or look in the hive if the weather is thundery and you can keep this to a minimum.   There are many claims of cures for lots of ailments by bee stings and, although there is no scientific proof, it is certainly true that bee venom has curative properties.   Some people are allergic to bee stings or can suffer from anaphylactic shock.   If in doubt, get medical help.


Do I need lots of time to look after bees properly?

No.   In the summer months, you need to look into the hive once a week.  In the winter, you just need to check they have food, perhaps once a month.  However, if you’re stressed after a hard day’s work, sit and watch the hive entrance, it’s very therapeutic and relaxing.


How can I find local beekeepers for advice?

Give us a ring and we’ll give you the telephone number of your local association secretary.


How do I get the honey out of the hive and into the jars?

First you need to get the bees out of the super which is full of honey – there are quite a few ways to do this.   The most common is to use two bee escapes (a one-way valve) in a board.   The bees can go down but not come back up into the super.   Remove the super to a bee tight clean room.   Carefully remove the cappings, put the frames into an extractor (you can usually borrow one for the first year) and spin out the honey.   Strain it and leave it to settle.   Then put it into the jars and label it.  


Are there any other useful hive products?

Yes.   Beeswax can be made into candles, polish and cosmetics.  It is also used in a million different ways. eg for mouthpieces on didgerydoos.   There is also propolis and royal jelly, both of which have medicinal qualities.


Can I sell honey?

Yes.   Put up a sign at your front gate or take some jars to work with you.   There is a big demand for local honey.


Do they need feeding in the winter?

Yes.   You should check the hives every two or three weeks.  If they feel light put on some fondant sugar.


Are there many diseases and pests to treat?

Like all pets and domestic animals, there are few problems to watch out for.    You must make sure that the inside of the hive is kept clean and, probably twice a year, you’ll need to treat your bees against the varroa mite.  


What type of bees are the best?

British ones, of course!    Queen bees are imported from New Zealand, Hawaii, the Canary Islands etc.   Some of these may struggle with our inclement weather.