Getting Started – Installation

Now for the first big challenge – how do I put bees into my brand new, shiny hives?

This is your first big challenge. Hopefully, you’ve taken some of our classes, so you have some hands-on experience, but this is scary and intimidating. Let’s walk through the steps of doing a Nuc and a Package install.

The following assumes your hive is in place and level, on a sturdy hive stand.  Moving your hive or rebuilding your hive stand later is a challenge and should be avoided.

Nuc Install

Please see here for a short video demonstrating how to install a nuc. It’s pretty simple:

  • Suit up.
  • Take the lid off your hive and remove 5 frames from the side of the hive that gets morning sun.
  • Take the lid off the nuc.
  • Place the 5 frames from the nuc into the hive, keeping them in the original order, and in the same orientation as in the nuc.

If your hive tends to get morning sun on the RIGHT-hand side as you’re facing it:

  • If you are looking at your nuc and your hive from the front, the rightmost frame in the nuc will be placed against the rightmost wall of your hive.
  • All other frames will be placed into the hive in the same order as in the nuc.

If your hive tends to get morning sun on the LEFT-hand side as you’re facing it:

  • If you are looking at your nuc and your hive from the front, the leftmost frame in the nuc will be placed against the leftmost wall of your hive.
  • All other frames will be placed into the hive in the same order as in the nuc.

The frames are kept in order, and the side of the frame near the nuc entrance is kept near the hive entrance.

Package Install

Please also watch this video. The following is from here.


  • Spray bottle with sugar water (if the temps are below 60F, you want to avoid misting your packages.)
  • Mini marshmallow (one per queen cage) – if your queen cages don’t have a candy cork
  • Small piece of clean cardboard (minimum 6″ x 6″ should be plenty)
  • Pollen patty
  • Hive tool
  • Pocket knife or flat screwdriver
  • Veil
  • Suit
  • Gloves
  • Lit smoker (optional)


  1. Suit up.
  2. Remove cover, and three to four middle frames from your hive and set them aside.
  3. Mist your packages with sugar water. Remember, if it’s below 60F, avoid this step as you don’t want to chill your bees. This gives the bees a little boost after a long journey.
  4. Give the package one forceful shake to knock as many bees as possible to the bottom.
  5. Remove the feeder container from the package. Pry it out with a knife or screwdriver.
  6. Quickly place a piece of clean cardboard or some other “lid” to prevent the bees from flying out at this point.
  7. Grab the tab for the queen cage and shimmy it out. Remove the queen cage and inspect her (without releasing her!). She will have other bees clustering around her. You can brush them off gently with a feather or your hand.
  8. Replace the cork in the queen cage with a mini marshmallow. This gives the colony time to get used to their new queen while they eat through the marshmallow.
  9. Place your queen cage in the hive(see the video). Wrapped the metal tab around a middle frame and positioned her at the top evenly between two frames.
  10. Dump the bees into the hive. You can cut off the screen if that will help.
  11. Place the nearly empty package near the hive entrance and let the bees make their way into the hive throughout the day.
  12. Gently replace the frames until all of your frames are back and evenly spaced.
  13. Place a pollen patty on top of your frames between the inner cover or the top feeder, depending on your setup.
  14. Place your feeder of choice on the hive. Fill your feeder with 1:1 sugar water.
  15. Replace your cover. You’ll want something heavy on top — like a brick — to protect against predators or a windy day.

Getting Started – Resources




Where To Get Advice


  • This document is written for beekeeping in South Santa Clara County, California. There are dates and resources specific to this area.
  • This set of pages references your “hive” (singular), but there are many good reasons to start with two hives.

Getting Started – Things That Can Go Wrong

Things That Can Go Wrong

As with farming or raising livestock, there are pests and diseases that can affect your hive’s health. Researchers are learning more about bee health every day. Please invest some time in studying about bee health and treatment options. Always follow approved treatment techniques for you and your bee’s health and safety. 

See here for more information about Hive Health.


Hives attract ants, particularly if you are feeding your bees syrup.


  • Use hive stands that have physical barriers like grease cups.
  • Terro ant bait – nontoxic to humans and bees can’t get into the bait stations.


You will have varroa mites. A large mite population is very detrimental to bee larvae. There are many different options for controlling mites, with varying levels of effort and toxicity.

Not Treating

Some folks choose not to treat, leaving the bees to manage on their own and develop resistance through natural selection. Perhaps a noble goal in the long run, but odds are your hive will be severely impacted by a growing mite infestation, leading it to develop other diseases, and spreading mites and other pathogens to other bees in the neighborhood. If you choose not to treat, you might want to at least monitor the mite levels using periodic bee washes or sugar shakes, and keep an eye out for signs of other issues (deformed wings, dead gooey, stinky larva, etc).


The following is a list of some of the common treatments. For your health and safety, it is critical that you follow approved application methods and use proper PPE – e.g. for OAV, you will need to wear a chemical vapor respirator, eye, and hand protection, etc.

As with any pest control, it is best to use a minimal amount of multiple control methods to minimize the development of resistance. See Integrated Pest Management for more info.

Getting Started – Schedule


As Soon as Possible

  • Talk to your neighbors!! It’s scary and tough, but it’s important to get your neighbors on board in advance.
  • Read beginner books.
  • Take our classes.
  • Get your hive ready – fully assembled and painted.
  • Locate and set up your hive on the hive stand. Bees need water – think about where they will drink. If you provide a good water source, they won’t be inclined to fly over to your neighbor’s pool or fountains.
  • Study/rehearse the bee installation method (package or nuc).


  • Get ready.
  • Get all your stuff, and place the hive on your sturdy hive stand.
  • Test drive your gear and the smoker.
  • Arrange for a mentor if you want help with installing your bees.
  • Order your package / nuc(s).


  • Get a package or nuc and install into the hive.
  • Start feeding.


  • Hive inspections


  • Adding more room using “supers”.
  • Harvesting honey.

Getting Started – Working With Your Bees

Working With Your Bees

Bees are hardwired to dislike and attack bears and other furry creatures that tend to raid their hives for honey. So, don’t dress like a bear:

  • Wear light or white-colored clothing. Do not wear dark clothing, including sunglasses, around your bees.
  • Furry or fuzzy dark clothing is even worse.

When you open your hive, you are upsetting and stressing your bees. Before opening the hive, pause for a moment and rehearse what you’re about to do:

  • Have all the necessary tools and gear organized nearby.
  • Try to minimize the time you have the hive open.
  • If you are taking things apart (frames and/or hive bodies), where are you going to put them.
  • Go slow, and try not to bang or knock things about.

When Stung

You will get stung.

If you start feeling physically ill or unsteady, get help! Get away from the hives and find someone to sit with you for a bit. If you start having any severe reactions, call 911!

Honey bees communicate with each other through smells (pheromones). When a bee stings, it release a pheromone that messages its hive-mates: “there is a problem, and you should rally and defend the hive”. So, to not get stung repeatedly, you should:

  • Mask or eliminate the alarm pheromone smell ASAP – step back from the hive and smoke the area around the sting with your smoker, or rub some dirt on the area – anything to eliminate that odor (smells like bananas).
  • Remove the stinger ASAP. Do not pinch it and pull it out – doing so tends to push all the venom into your body. It is much better to scrape it out with a credit card or something similar (hive tool might work, but be careful of its sharp edge).

If you are careful, and wear the proper PPE around your hives, you shouldn’t get stung often, but don’t assume you will avoid it completely. If your hive is in your garden, wear light colored clothing and a veil when gardening.

Getting Started – Equipment


BEFORE you get your bees, you’re going to need some gear, and do some setup. The following is a list of MUST-HAVES and a few optional items. BEFORE you get your bees, you need to have all this stuff, be familiar with its operation and setup, and set up the hive.


Always wear a bee suit!!

  • Bee suit (integrated jacket & veil, or integrated veil and overalls).
  • Gloves. Disposable nitrile or dishwashing gloves work well.
  • Pant leg belt (or duct tape).


  • Hive tool – they’re inexpensive, so you might get a spare too.
  • Smoker.
  • Smoker fuel – you can use dried leaves, or you can buy burlap or other smoker fuels.

Be very careful starting and using your smoker. Do not start a wildfire! If it’s a windy day, best not to work on your bees.


Please see here for an overview of a typical beehive.

We recommend starting with a Langstroth hive – by far the most common type of hive.

The minimum to get started:

  • Hive stand – highly recommended – it is best to get the hive up off the ground.
  • Bottom board – either a solid or “screened” bottom board. You can always change it later.
  • Deep hive body (see below about 8 vs 10 frame bodies).
  • Frames for the deep body – 9 1/8″ black waxed.
  • Cover – telescoping cover w/ inner cover recommended, but “migratory cover” ok too. Make sure it matches your body (number of frames)!


  • Water source. Your bees need water. Don’t make them go to your neighbor’s swimming pool for water.

Nice to Haves

  • Propane torch to start the smoker. Much quicker and easier than a match or lighter.
  • Feeder, syrup and pollen patties.
  • Notebook and pen.
  • Camera / phone.
  • Mint candy or gum – your breath (CO2) can agitate the bees. DO NOT eat bananas around your bees, or have any banana smell or material on your person when near your bees. It has a chemical compound similar to bee alarm pheromone and will agitate your bees to sting you.

Getting Started – Budget

Approximate budget (2022):

Suit and gloves $100-250
Smoker & fuel $40-65
Hive stand $0-100 
10 frame beginner kits $200-250
Misc $100
Bees $200-300
Total $700-1100

Getting Started

Reasons to NOT get bees

  • You will get stung
  • Expense (see below for an example budget)
  • Requires a time commitment, especially when the weather is good
  • Physical
  • Messy
  • Migratory hives
  • Disappointment - despite best, most knowledgeable efforts, hive sometimes perish

Reasons to get bees

There are many great reasons to consider becoming a beekeeper, including:

  • Pollination
  • Help honeybees
  • Honey
  • Sustainability
  • Interesting hobby
  • Connect with the environment
  • Challenging
  • Bragging rights - it’s a pretty cool hobby

Becoming a Beekeeper

If you wish to have bees on your property, but are not sure you want to tend them yourself, please reach out to GBA and see if anyone in the club would like to manage a hive for you. 

If you'd like to work with bees, but cannot or do not wish to have hives in your yard, the Adopt A Hive program might be the ticket. Please contact Steve Mink at for more information.

So, you want to become a beekeeper:

  • Bees are typically delivered in the spring, usually in March or April. If you are getting a “package”, you must install it as soon as you get it, so your hive needs to be ready, you have the required equipment (particularly a suit!), and your brain has some basic information.
  • If you’re getting a “nuc”, you have a little more wiggle room on the hive, but you will still need a suit and tools. Best to install the nuc ASAP.

Next Steps


  • Start with 2 hives.
  • Be prepared. Have your hives and gear ready for receiving your first bees.
  • Join GBA.
  • GBA wants to support you. Reach out to the club and to members for help and advice. Members will be willing to come to check out your hives with you.

Click here to view or download a PDF of "Getting Started".