What should I focus on as a beginning beekeeper?

Honeybee on parsnip flowers
With an overwhelming amount of beekeeping information out there, what should I focus on during my first year of beekeeping?
The first year of beekeeping needs to be spent on the “basics” of bee management. After you have a bit of experience, you can start experimenting with different management practices, queen breeds, etc. For now, here are a couple things to focus on.
  • Learn the life cycle of your colony. This will be different for each beekeeper and location. Get to know your hive. Learn about bee biology and notice eggs, larvae, and pupae in your hive. Notice amounts of propolis and where they put it. Determine when the queen lays peak numbers of drones and workers. Notice how attendant bees act around the queen to help you spot her. Learn the time of day to bees start working at various times of year. Note about how long it takes before you add another box. Note how long it takes bees to draw out comb. Etc.
  • Learn the timing of nectar flow in your area. What are the first flowers to come out in the spring? What are the last things in bloom during dry August? When do the fruit trees in your area bloom? How long does the bloom last? Which other flowers attract bees? Do you see bees on roadside flowers? Are there bees in your vegetable garden? Does honey taste different at different times of year? Etc.
Here is a partial list of important blossoms to honeybees in Utah, in semi-order of appearance.
Willow, Oak, Dandelion (one of the most important spring flowers to bees), fruit trees, birdsfoot trefoil, clovers, vetch, sumac, alfalfa, linden trees (basswood), sunflower and other asters, goldenrod, rabbitbrush. The main flow of nectar will be from late June to early August.
Honeybee on aster. Photo from Grandpa Arthur Andersen’s collection around 1966.
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