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Swarm of Bees

Thinking of taking up Beekeeping?

This Quick Guide for the New Beekeeper will give you an overview of what it involves.

Our Quick Guide for the New Beekeeper

Honeybees provide us with honey and beeswax and pollinate plants in our gardens. They are fascinating social insects and anyone who’s spent time watching a beehive and observing bee behaviour and industry can’t help but be drawn to beekeeping. If you are one of these people and looking for some advice on how to get started, the Killinchy & District Beekeepers Association (KBKA) has created this Quick Guide for the New Beekeeper. Being social animals ourselves, we welcome new members to join the KBKA and hope to see you at one of our next meetings (held the last Wednesday of the month in Comber) to talk more about beekeeping!

How do I get started?

Keeping bees is a rewarding hobby, but to be successful you need to learn basic information on managing bees and keeping bee colonies healthy and to gain practical experience handling bees.

  1. We strongly recommend new beekeepers join a local beekeepers association. The Ulster Beekeepers’ Association (UBKA) provides links to the 15 affiliated local associations including our association, the KBKA (all web links shown below). Local bee clubs hold informational meetings with outside or member speakers and provide up-to-date news about issues facing Northern Ireland’s bees. Associations can also help you get a mentor to guide you when you begin beekeeping with your own hives. Email us at

  2. We strongly recommend that new beekeepers enrol in the Introduction to Beekeeping Course offered through the various association locations and booked via CAFRE. It runs every year for 12 weeks starting in January. The course will give you an overview of what beekeeping involves, the necessary knowledge and practical skills to look after your bees.

  3. The KBKA runs a club apiary at Finnebrogue where we provide practical hands-on experience to new beekeepers via weekly beehive inspections from spring to autumn. There you can increase your practical knowledge on handling bees with our experienced beekeepers. 

What do I need to get started?

Once you have completed your introductory course, gained hands-on experience working with bees, and made the decision to become a beekeeper, you are ready to get started. There are two things to remember:

  1. THERE ARE EXPENSES:  Beekeeping requires investment in equipment and a starter bee colony.  A wooden hive, stand and frames will cost approximately £200, and personal equipment (bee suit, smoker, hive tool) will cost easily more than £100. A ‘starter colony’ or ‘nuc’ of bees can cost upwards of £150.

  2. IT TAKES TIME:  Beekeeping requires continual investment of time, particularly at critical times of the year. Weekly inspections are needed between April and August, with additional regular checks throughout the year, to ensure the health and wellbeing of your bees in terms of food stores, space, and weather protection, and to prevent swarms and disease.

How can I be a responsible beekeeper?

Ethical beekeepers have responsibilities to their neighbours, to their own colonies, and to the health of honeybee populations in Northern Ireland.


First, honeybees naturally swarm, the phenomenon whereby the colony splits to reproduce. In the Introductory Course, you will learn techniques to limit swarming and to capture swarms, but without close attention, you might find your neighbours aren’t too pleased to find a swarm in their chimney! Siting of the hive is very important both for the use of your garden and for any neighbours as honeybees can be cross and unpredictable. 


Second, new beekeepers need to learn about the many diseases affecting susceptible honeybees. Because bees swarm, forage up to 3 km from the hive, and are known to rob other hives, beekeepers must be vigilant in looking after their bees to prevent disease spread within their own apiary and to neighbouring bee colonies. We caution against the purchase or sharing of equipment unless thoroughly sanitised to prevent the spread of disease.

Third, when virgin honeybee queens go on their mating flight, they mate with multiple drones that congregate from large distances. In Ireland, initiatives are underway to preserve our native Irish black bee, Apis mellifera mellifera. The KBKA, in collaboration with The Native Irish Honeybee Society, has established a conservation area around our association apiary at Finnebrogue. We strongly encourage new beekeepers to buy honeybee queens and nucs from a recommended beekeeper in this country to help strengthen the population of native Irish bees within our district and ensure that no disease is imported into Northern Ireland. These local bees are best adapted to thrive in our damp and cool environment.

Fourth, there are strict rules (see DAERA link below) on the importation of bees from outside Northern Ireland that need to be followed carefully to protect honeybees.

How can I help bees and other pollinators in general?

Northern Ireland has many fascinating native bee species that are important pollinators but whose populations are at risk. Planting pollinator-friendly flowers and shrubs in your garden and providing fresh water during dry times is a great way to help all bees.

Web links for more information:

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