Obviously you have to start with one. You could buy 2 lots of bees or get two nuclei. 

It is important to go steadily – doing too much at the start it is often easy to get carried away at start.

Having started with one colony. First lesson:

  •  Do not be caught with no spare brood box or frames, or short on supers

If your new colony decides to make queen cells in preparation to swarm and you recognise this in a routine inspection (link to routine inspection) you will need to carry out an artificial swarm, and so need floor brood box and frames, queen excluder, crown board and roof.

Thus if you see the article new beekeepers obtaining kit we recommend getting two complete budget kits.

In general in your first season starting from a swarm or nucleus you will be lucky to obtain more than 10-20lbs of honey, but second lesson

  • Do not get caught short of supers – if a hive gets going they can easily fill three supers. If they do not get super space at the right time they will swarm – hence advice buy two budget hives

My personal view is that you should keep two colonies. Reasons:

  1. If you have a disaster with one and loose the queen you can use a frame of eggs from the other to test the colony is queenless and to get them to requeen
  2. If a colony is weak before winter you can combine hives to have a strong colony for the winter
  3. My personal preference is to take reasonably strong colonies into winter and review your numbers in the spring. Some may not survive, the queen may become a drone layer. You can combine in the spring. This year one of my hives on first inspection end of march had 60% drone brood. I killed the queen and combined with neighbouring hive this combined hive has been my most productive so far this season.
  4. If you take one hive into winter and lose it. You have no bees for a while. Are unlikely to get honey that year.

At the end of the day each individual has to settle to something they are content with and which suits their aims and lifestyle. This is my opinion and how I have evolved. The message is:

  • Listen and learn , the old adage ask three beekeepers one question and you will get five answers is absolutely true.
  • However, all five answers could be correct in that each answer could give a perfectly sound and suitable way of dealing with the question raised
  • There is often more than one way to do something
  • Do not be frightened to try things. I have learned from my mistakes.
  • You will get things wrong and have disasters. We all do. However, the bees have a way of getting by despite us. And often there are surprises.
  • Evolve your bee keeping read, go to meetings link to our timetable, there are many training days available and develop your interest to suit you.