We hung out with a beekeeper to find out what it really means to keep bees—and we discovered much more than amazing local honey.

By Rebecca Longshore
Updated May 29, 2018

So you've always wanted to be a beekeeper—what next? For advice, we traveled to Birmingham, Alabama, to hang out with Adam Hickman, a local beekeeper and owner of Foxhound Bee Company. While most people don’t give their local honey much thought, we saw firsthand what goes into the sweet treat. Check out our lesson on the art and science of beekeeping, where local honey comes from, and how queens are born.

Want to start beekeeping? According to Hickman, follow these steps to get started.

Make sure your city allows it: Each city has different rules for beekeeping says Hickman, so make sure your city allows it before you purchase anything.

Do your research: Beekeeping is more popular than ever, so there are plenty of great resources to pull from when starting your initial beekeeping research. We’ve turned to Foxhound Bee Company and Hickman for our tutorials, but he suggests picking up one of these books: The Beekeeper's Bible: Bees, Honey, Recipes & Other Home Uses, The Practical Beekeeper: Beekeeping Naturally, and Beekeeping For Dummies. Looking to do more research online? Check out these blogs: Beekeeping Like a Girl blog, Foxhound Bee Company blog, and Linda's Bees blog.

Find a course locally: Hickman says you can't beat actually meeting beekeepers in your area. It’s a huge resource to have because all beekeepers and locations are different. Can't find one locally? Check out some online courses like The PerfectBee Beekeeping Course.

Visit another beekeeper's hives: We had the opportunity to learn firsthand from an expert, and it gave us a much better understanding of how each step works. According to Hickman, you can read as much as you want about beekeeping, but you won’t learn nearly as much as you would from a personal tutorial.

Check with your neighbors: Even if your city allows for beekeeping, Hickman says it’s always a good idea to make sure your neighbors are comfortable with you hosting bee hives on your property. Give them a tutorial and educate them on beekeeping—who knows, they might even start beekeeping, too.

Find a good location for your bees: Location is everything, according to Hickman. Make sure the hives are easy to get to and in a pleasant area on your property. Because bees tend to struggle more in shaded areas, it’s important to place the hives in a sunny location.

Set beekeeping goals: What are your reasons for getting bees: pollination or honey? Make sure to decide first because it will determine which equipment you'll purchase. Hickman suggests top bar hives if you are aiming for pollination, and langstroth hives if your goal is a lot of honey.

Make sure you have someone to help you: Just like doing your research, it’s important to make sure you’re connected with a local beekeeper, club, or community. It’s essential to have someone to turn to when you’re in a bind, Hickman says.

Order your bees: Bees are best bought from a beekeeper in your local area. While there are many ways to order bees, beginners should order Nucleus hives to start with because they are less expensive and user-friendly. Bees sell out quickly, so Hickman suggests purchasing before January to be safe.

Order your equipment: As soon as you know that you’re able to order your beehives, place your equipment order immediately. Hickman stresses ordering your equipment with enough time to assemble before your beehives come so you’ll be ready to get started as soon as they arrive.

Now you’re ready to start beekeeping!