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Top 10 Tips For Backyard Beekeeping

by May 8, 2023

So, You Want To Be A Beekeeper?

Whether you want to strengthen the pollinator population in your neighborhood, harvest and sell local honey from St. Augustine, or learn more about how important honey bees are to the biodiversity of our ecosystem, beekeeping can be a fun and rewarding experience. In fact, new beekeepers are popping up each and every day. 

Before you light that smoker and start “popping lids” here are a few tips for successfully keeping honey bees in your backyard!

1. Knowledge Is Power

Like most hobbies beekeeping requires a lot of research and homework. There are many decisions to make in and outside of the hive and knowing when and what to do for your colonies is critical. Honey bees don’t come with directions. Think about joining local beekeeping associations and clubs to learn what other beekeepers are doing in your area to manage honey bee colonies. As with most topics, there is no shortage of online information about raising healthy honey bees.

Last Fall, Bee Augustine Honey Co. hosted Backyard Beekeeping Classes With Bo Sterk, Master Craftsman Beekeeper, Past-President of the St. Johns County Beekeepers Association and Founder of Bees Beyond Borders.

2. Picking The Right Spot For Your Honey Bees

Picking the right spot to start your apiary is very important. When placing honey bee hives in St. Augustine, Fl make sure that they are not in total shade and that the early morning sun hits the hive(s). This will get the bees out early to start foraging. In addition to the placement of hives in your apiary, you should check with local authorities to find out what the rules and restrictions are for backyard beekeeping in your area. Proper planning can go a long way in determining how successful you are in this endeavor, so getting help from an existing beekeeper can be beneficial in creating the perfect apiary.

3. Honey Bee Hives, Stands, And Setups

One of the first decisions that you will have to make when deciding to become a beekeeper is what type of hive(s) will you use. There are plenty of choices on styles, but the most popular honey bee hives tend to be Top Bar Hives, Langstroth Hives, and Warre Hives. The video below details an extra layer of defense to pests, specifically ants. These types of decisions are extremely important to the overall success of your honey bee colony.

4. Essential Beekeeping Tools And Gear

Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and hive tools make beekeeping easier and come in a variety of styles, and sizes. Below is basic beekeeping equipment that you may want to get before keeping honey bee colonies. 

chris glochau bee augustine honey co.
Hive Tools
Suits & Jackets

People have been using smoke to manage bees for thousands of years. A bee smoker works by masking alarm pheromones that bees emit when they sense danger. This enables the beekeeper to safely and efficiently inspect the hive and is considered an essential tool in beekeeping. You may not need smoke for every hive inspection but there will be a time when you need the trusty bee smoker. Fuels commonly used in a bee smoker include pine straw (a Bee Augustine Honey Co. favorite), wood pellets and burlap.

Hive Tools

Another essential tool for beekeeping is the Hive Tool. This piece of equipment is instrumental in managing and inspecting bee hives and comes in a variety of styles and colors. Honey Bees use propolis and lots of it! A hive tool can be used for the following;

  • Pry open and separate hive boxes for inspections.
  • Scrape excess propolis away inside the hive.
  • Pulling frames from the hive.

Suits & Jackets

A Beekeeping Suit or Jacket will greatly reduce the threat of bee stings and instills more confidence in the beekeeper.  Although you may get to a point where you are comfortable being in the apiary without any protection, there will be times when you are going to want one and need one.


At the very least, Bee Veils should be worn when working with honey bees to protect your eyes and face. They come in a wide variety of styles, materials and colors.


Beekeeping Gloves are a matter of preference, but add a level of protection between you and the honey bees. While some beekeepers prefer the heavy duty versions of beekeeping gloves, other beekeepers decide to use no gloves at all. As with many things regarding beekeeping this decision is a personal choice and varies from beekeeper to beekeeper.

5. Buying Honey Bees

Proper planning is required to purchase honey bees, as it can tend to be a seasonal thing. Most large-scale honey bee suppliers tend to sell honey bees in the Spring. Whether you buy them locally or have them shipped you will need to determine if you want to purchase a package of honey bees or nucleus colony (Nuc) of honey bees. This will depend on your beekeeping goals and what type of equipment you have decided to utilize. Seek advice from other beekeepers to see what they are doing to make a more informed decision. Local beekeeping associations group together to purchase large quantities, so check with them to see if they have anything scheduled or know of local beekeepers that sell honey bees.

The video above shows the process of moving a Nuc into a 10 Frame Langstroth Hive.

6. Inspecting Honey Bee Hives

Closely monitoring your honey bee colonies is very important for a number of reasons. Conducting inspections on a regular basis can tell you how well your colony is doing; is there a queen present and is she laying eggs? What does your mite count look like and do you need to treat for varroa mites? Is your colony of honey bees growing so much that they need to be split before they swarm? Timing is a critical part of beekeeping and inspecting honey bee colonies on a regular basis is the only way to stay on top of current and future situations that could be detrimental to your colonies and surrounding beekeepers’ colonies.

Do you want to learn more about inspecting hives and managing honey bee colonies? Check out our backyard beekeeping series.


7. Honey Bee Pests And Pathogens

There are numerous problems that beekeepers have to deal with in order to keep a hive healthy. Pests and pathogens are two of the most critical issues for honey bee colonies. In addition to bears, skunks, mice, and ants, honey bees are plagued with small hive beetles, varroa mites, and in some cases pathogens, like American Foul Brood. Regular inspections, proper treatment plans, and preparedness are essential in maintaining healthy honey bee colonies. Some beekeepers choose not to treat their honey bees, which can create an even larger problem when those infected bees come into contact with other honey bees, thus reducing the pollinator population.

Good beekeeping starts with closely monitoring honey bee colonies and treating them when necessary.

8. Supers And Honey Production

Supers are used to collect honey and are placed above the brood chamber. If you have been conducting regular inspections and treating your honey bees when issues present themselves, this is the moment that you have been waiting for. Honey Harvest Time! There are many methods to choose from when it comes to how you will harvest and bottle your honey. Whether you choose a kitchen knife and bucket or a more advanced technique like an extractor, harvesting honey is one of the most rewarding processes in beekeeping.

9. Requeening Honey Bee Colonies

At some point, all beekeepers have to requeen a colony whether they want to or not. Knowing when to requeen a colony is a pretty important part of beekeeping. Some beekeepers requeen their colonies every year to help with production and temperament. Most of the calls that we get from beekeepers looking for mated queens are due to swarming. Requeening a colony also reduces swarm tendencies in a hive because the new, younger queen is working at full capacity.

The video above demonstrates how to introduce a mated queen to a honey bee hive.

10. Maintaining A Healthy Honey Bee Apiary

If you regularly inspect your hives and treat them when problems occur, you will be ahead of the game in maintaining a healthy honey bee apiary. Other things to consider are water and foraging resources, and ventilation. Don’t place your hives in complete shade, if possible make sure that the sun hits the honey bee colonies first thing in the morning.

The image above depicts a heat treatment for varroa mites, which is one of many ways to maintain a healthy honey bee apiary.

Want Some Local Honey?

Bee Augustine Honey Co. is proud to provide our friends, family, local residents and visitors to the Nation’s oldest City with 100% pure local honey from St. Augustine. If you are interested in reserving some of our local honey, please enter your information below and we will let you know when the Spring 2023 Harvest is ready for you.

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Watch How A Honey Bee Queen Lays Her Eggs

by March 9, 2021

Have You Ever Wondered How A Queen Bee Lays Eggs?

Honey Bee Queens have one very important job in the colony – they make honey bees and lots of them! A simple hive inspection can give you a good indication of how well a queen is performing. Capped brood, larvae, and eggs are all good signs that your queen is doing her job and that the colony is thriving. She can lay up to 1,500 eggs per day at times and the way that she does it is truly amazing. The honey bee queen places her head and front legs into the cells to measure the width of the cells, which will eventually determine the sex of the eggs that she lays. The queen lays fertilized (female) eggs in the smaller cells, and unfertilized (male) eggs in the larger cells.

43 seconds into the video, you can see the queen honey bee place her head and front legs into the cell to measure and determine which type of egg she will lay. She does it again at 1:04 into the video in case you missed it the first time 🙂

We have been keeping honey bee colonies for about three years, and although we have trained our eyes to find the Queen during hive inspections it is a rare treat to actually witness her laying eggs. There is a lot of activity on a frame of honey bees and the attendant bees are constantly surrounding her catering to her every need; mostly feeding her and cleaning up her waste and this can make it difficult to see what we captured on the video above.

Click on the image above for a closer look at what the eggs look like once the queen bee has laid them. Move your mouse to virtually hold the frame of bees.


Want Some Local Honey?

Bee Augustine Honey Co. is proud to provide our friends, family, local residents, and visitors to the Nation’s Oldest City with 100% pure local honey from St. Augustine. If you are interested in reserving some of our local honey, please enter your information below and we will let you know when the Summer 2021 Harvest is ready for you.

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Introducing A Mated Queen To A Nuc Of Honey Bees In St. Augustine

by April 7, 2020

Long Live The Queens!

We introduced a mated queen to a nuc at our Nursery apiary. This nuc was a mix of a weak split from our St. Augustine South apiary and a weak swarm that we caught at our St. Augustine Shores apiary. We added a frame of capped brood along with the caged queen and the new honey bee queen should start laying eggs in the next 10-15 days after she is released from her cage. The new Bee Augustine Honey Co. colony should be on its way to producing local honey from St. Augustine in no time.

Want Some Local Honey?

Bee Augustine Honey Co. is proud to provide our friends, family, local residents and visitors to the Nation’s oldest City with 100% pure local honey from St. Augustine. If you are interested in reserving some of our local honey, please enter your information below and we will let you know when the Summer 2020 Harvest is ready for you.

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Preparing Honey Bee Hives For Winter

by March 26, 2020

5 Easy Steps To Break Down An Apiary

We decided to break down our Nursery apiary and take the seven honey bee colonies to our St. Augustine Shores apiary, where we could better care for them over the winter. We showed up early in the morning in an attempt to close the honey bee hives before many forager bees left for their daily chores. Here are 5 Easy Steps To Break Down An Apiary;

  1. Tape up the entrances to prevent bees from getting out during transportation.
  2. Secure the honey bee hives with straps to keep them closed during transportation.
  3. Remove feeder jars and prepare them for transport.
  4. Load honey bee hives and secure in trucks for transport.
  5. Load hive stands and anchor rods for transport.

Everything went smooth and the entire procedure took less than four hours. Having these seven honey bee hives back at the St. Augustine Shores location allowed us to apply heat treatments for varroa, which really benefitted the colonies. They were overcrowded at the end of February and we split several of them and created four more honey bee colonies. The eleven hives are back at the Nursery apiary now and by the looks of things; they will be joined by more honey bee colonies soon.

Want Some Local Honey?

Bee Augustine Honey Co. is proud to provide our friends, family, local residents and visitors to the Nation’s oldest City with 100% pure local honey from St. Augustine. If you are interested in reserving some of our local honey, please enter your information below and we will let you know when the Summer 2020 Harvest is ready for you.

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Chemical Free Treatments For Honey Bees

by September 15, 2019

Heat Treating For Varroa Mites And Small Hive Beetles

Producing local honey from St. Augustine starts with protecting honey bee hives. Honey bees have many pests, but Varroa Mites and Small Hive Beetles are two of the biggest threats to our honey bees. There are plenty of products and theories on how to treat for these pests, but treat you must. Varroa and small hive beetles are decimating honey bee colonies annually. Most beekeepers in St. Johns County treat their honey bee colonies for varroa and small hive beetles with formic and oxalic acids. Bee Augustine Honey Co. is constantly researching treatments for these pests and one of the solutions that we found is organic and eliminates the need for pesticides; Bee Hive Thermal Industries Mighty Mite Killer. 

Preparing The HiveA sensor is inserted into the center of the hive body that helps in keeping the temperature at the desired setting. Sealing the hive involves taping off the seams between boxes and placing insulation on top covering the hive body.Treating The HiveThe heater belt includes a thermal sensor and it is inserted from the front of the hive. The controller analyzes the comparative temperature values of both sensors and keeps the hive at 106°F for 160 minutes – “the mite killing cycle”.The Clean UpThe honey bees do a majority of the work cleaning up any honey and this makes cleaning the unit fairly easy. Soap and water remove anything left on the surface and a wipe with alcohol completes the process. The unit is ready to go for the next application.

This method is more time consuming than most other treatments for varroa and small hive beetles. However, the ability to protect our St. Augustine honey bees from these pests without using chemicals captured our attention and we made the decision to include it in our scheduled maintenance. The manufacturer has been extremely helpful and cooperative in helping us to understand and implement the new technology. In addition to killing varroa mites and small hive beetles, they boast that using Bee Hive Thermal Industries Mighty Mite Killer increases a production in brood and honey by improving the overall health of honey bee colonies. 

Chris Glochau and Honey Bees

Martha Yamnitz and Honey Bees

Dave Hall and Honey Bees

We have applied the heat treatment several times and two things are for certain; the honey bees don’t seem to be bothered by the process and the mite count has been reduced with each application. The images above show our beekeepers during the actual heat treatments. As you can see the honey bees don’t seem to mind. The amount of honey bee colonies that we have allows us the opportunity to try different products and techniques in regards to best beekeeping practices. This helps ensure that our local honey from St. Augustine is both safe and delicious.

Want Some Local Honey?

Bee Augustine Honey Co. is proud to provide our friends, family, local residents and visitors to the Nation’s oldest City with 100% pure local honey from St. Augustine. If you are interested in reserving some of our local honey, please enter your information below and we will let you know when the Fall 2019 Harvest is ready for you.

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Hurricanes And Honey Bees

by September 5, 2019

Preparing Apiaries For Hurricanes

If you are a beekeeper on Florida’s coastline, it is just a matter of time until you have to deal with the inevitable; HURRICANES! This was our first hurricane since having our honey bees and it certainly added some extra preparation for us. We just pulled all of the supers (where the honey is stored) off of our hives which made it easier for us to secure the honey bee hives for the approaching hurricane. Fortunately, we had plenty of time preparing apiaries for Hurricane Dorian due to the storm moving up the coast at such a slow rate. The images below show us strapping down the bee hives at our Nursery apiary to protect against the winds.

Honey Bee Hive Hurricane Preparation

The video below is a time lapse video of us placing an inner cover lid on our Alpha honey bee hive. We took the opportunity to treat the hives at our Shores apiary for varroa while waiting for the slow approaching hurricane. The heat treatment allows us to protect honey bees from varroa mites without using chemicals and the weather conditions were perfect. The super (top blue box) has been modified with screened holes for ventilation. The inner cover lid protects the colony from weather conditions like rain and wind while allowing them access to the sugar water on top of the hive. Honey bees can eat up to six pounds of honey on a rainy day, so it is very important to ensure that they have plenty of food. It is equally important to remove the sugar water jars during the hurricane, so they do not become projectiles in the intense winds.

We are a few weeks away from placing the supers back on the hives to allow the honey bees plenty of time to build up for the Fall harvest. The image shown here is our Charlie hive at our South apiary before the hurricane, which has two deep boxes (the two boxes at the bottom) and two super boxes (the two top boxes at the top). Preparing for the hurricane would have been more difficult with the additional boxes on the hives, as the profiles are bigger targets for the wind during this time period.

Fortunately, we didn’t get the brunt of the storm as predicted. However, the Bahamas did. If you would like to help those affected by Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas click on the link below for a list of organizations.

Help Hurricane Dorian Survivors in the Bahamas

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