Beekeeping 101

Getting Started

First you will need some equipment. The modern hive known as the ‘Langstroth Hive,’ after its designer, is one of the most effective for harvesting honey. It was developed in the late 1800′s. It is an almost square box (called a hive body) usually with 10 frames inside. These frames serve to hold the combs in a uniform fashion so that the bees are easily managed. The frames are fitted with ‘foundation’ which is beeswax pressed into a thin sheet with a honeycomb pattern. The bees will use this to start building their combs. Bees are capable of making combs from scratch completely on their own, but this also saves them some work.

These boxes come in two sizes. The deep supers (boxes) typically contain combs that store brood (eggs and larvae) and the shallow or medium boxes are used to store combs with honey, called honey supers. A good size hive can have several deep supers on the bottom and several honey supers on top. Honey supers are only added at times of the year when there is a honey flow because surplus nectar is available. To keep the queens from laying eggs in the honey supers a metal grate, called a queen excluder, can be added above the brood chambers. This metal grate allows the workers through to the honey storage, but the queen is too big to fit through the holes. Many beekeepers choose to use different formations. Some use all the same size boxes, some don’t like queen excluders, and even some do foundation-less hives, or ‘top-bar’ hives. Choose the methods that work best for you, but learn your bees and basic setup before you begin altering the design.

Smoke does not harm the bees. It actually calms them so they are easier to work with.


One thing everyone seems to know for sure is that beekeepers smoke bees. This is true; one of the most important tools is the smoker. The reason for smoking is commonly misunderstood. Smoking does not make the bees leave any particular location. Smoke aids a beekeeper for 2 reasons. Bees that feel threatened produce alarm pheromones calling the defense squad to duty. The smoke helps mask this pheromone so fewer bees will be called to defend the hive. Second, the smoke causes the bees to sense that fire is imminent and as such they will gorge themselves on honey. Once full of honey they are unable to maneuver as well. In general smoking the bees reduces the likelihood of stinging and pushes them further into the hive.

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Upcoming  Meetings

Tuesday, April 5th

Package Bee Installation
Amy Cripps & Devin Ferrian

Learn how to install your packages correctly, and care for your new bees properly.

Varroa Mites in the Spring
Rob Stone
We meet the 1st Tuesday of each month, except in August during the OC Fair, unless otherwise notified.
Our meetings are in the Silo Building
at the OC Fairgrounds.
88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa, CA
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About The OC Beekeepers Assn.

The OCBA was formed in the 1970′s. Our membership is currently comprised of mostly small-scale beekeepers who are dedicated to keeping bees in the urban environment. The roots here in OC are agricultural, and we haven’t forgotten that.


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Copyright 2012, Orange County Beekeepers Association, Inc.