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.