How can I get started as a Backyard Beekeeper?

byb1Beekeeping can be profitable, educational, motivational, and some find it therapeutic.     Knowledge is very important when getting started on this exciting endeavour. Local beekeeping clubs and workshops are available to further the education of aspiring beekeepers or established beekeepers that want to learn more.  Contact your Provincial Apiculturist for educational resources.
Before starting make sure to check your local bylaws to ensure backyard beekeeping is allowed in your community.  If beekeeping in your own backyard is not feasible, ask a farmer to let you keep hives on his or her property.  Your bees would be benefiting the farm land just be sure to give the farmer some honey for use of the land.  Spend some time with bees to ensure you enjoy working with them.     

It is important to remember that we are not trying to domesticate honey bees. However learning about their natural biology and being aware of the problems they face it is then that we better develop a progressive beekeeping system.  

Wondering what you can do to help honey bees without becoming a beekeeper?  

bonf1Plant a bee friendly garden.  Not only will this be rewarding for honey bees but also many native pollinators. Although bees can travel several miles to collect pollen and nectar, they will visit the closest suitable source available.  That source could often be in your backyard.   Leaving some natural areas in your yard rather than landscaping every part of your yard is very advantageous to pollinators considering some native pollinators dwell in the ground.  Provide a reliable water source for your neighbourhood bees.  Whether it is a decorative fountain or a shallow pond, on a hot summer day they will be happy to have a water source.


The importance of pollination to the agriculture industry is immense.  Honey bees pollinate an estimated 80% of vegetables as well as many other flowering plants and trees.  Every 3rd mouthful of food is produced by bee pollinated crops.  Many flowering plants depend on bees for pollination so that they can produce seeds and fruit.  If there were no bees pollinating these plants there would be less fruits and vegetables to eat.  Bees need pollen and nectar from flowers because it is a food source that they store in their hive.

Products of the Hive

Honey is made when honey bees gather nectar from flowers.  Honey bees have a special honey stomach for their nutrition and another  for carrying nectar back to the hive.  The nectar is processed in their stomachs and when ready is regurgitated into honeycomb cells.  They fan the cells to remove extra moisture.  The end result is delicious honey.

Beeswax is produced from special glands on their abdomen which secrete the wax into pockets.  The bee then chews the wax with their mandibles and forms it into honeycomb.

Royal jelly is a pasty cream like substance which is made from a special gland located in the worker bees head.  The queen and young larvae are fed royal jelly.  Royal jelly is high in vitamins, proteins and certain organic acids.

Propolis is a gum like substance that bees gather from flower buds, trees and other sources.  It is used as a kind of glue that seals cracks and openings of the hive.  Propolis has antibacterial and antifungal properties.

Pollen is collected from a variety of flowering plants. It is collected and carried back to the hive by foraging honey bees.  Pollen is a source of protein for honey bees and is very important in their growth and development.

Tips for the Existing Backyard Beekeeper

  • Join your local bee association to learn more about beekeeping.
  • Always have your neighbour's best interests in mind.
  • Keep gentle bees.  If your bees seem defensive, re-queen them.
  • Prevent swarming.  Make sure you are monitoring bees often not only to prevent swarming but to watch for pests and diseases. Add supers when needed as a swarming preventative measure.
  • Make sure your bees have a good water source.
  • Prevent robbing.  Avoid situations where bees can get into  extracting or storage areas for honey, feed and equipment.
  • Inspect colonies in good weather conditions so the bees are not exposed to the elements for a prolonged period.  This could result in defensive bees.
  • A fence, shrub/hedge/plant barrier to keep the bees flying over head of pedestrians is recommended and can help to conceal your colonies.

Castes of the Honey Bee

There are three different castes within the honey bee colony: Queen, worker and Drone.  The Queen and worker bees are female and the drones are male. Three caste pictures below courtesy of Encyclopedia Britannica.

castes1The Queens job is to lay eggs.  She can lay up to 1500 eggs per day.

Worker bee
s get their name because they do most of the work in the colony.  These jobs include taking care of the queen, feeding the young bees, cleaning, foraging and guarding the colony.

Drone bee
s have only one job within the colony and that is to mate with the queen.  Mating occurs out of the hive in drone congregation areas.  Drone bees do not have stingers.

The Reaction…

beeonhand1There are different types of reactions as a result of bee stings. 

It is important to seek medical help if any of these reactions occur after being stung.

Typical Symptoms
Keep in mind some symptoms occur at sites remote from the sting site; being stung may cause hives, stomach cramps, wheezing or difficulty in breathing.

Normal Reaction
The normal sting reaction will usually develop into a sore, red welt (bump) and will often be painful.  Itching is a common symptom that occurs after a sting but symptoms should subside after a few days.

Allergic Reaction
The allergic reaction to a sting is typically a widespread reaction.  These types of reactions usually involve itching and hives throughout the body.  Difficulty with breathing can also be a symptom of an allergic reaction.   Allergic reactions can be grouped into two types: systemic reaction which typically occurs immediately after the sting and could possibly be fatal.
Large Local Reactions
Large local reactions   are less life threatening but could still be fatal due the swelling in the throat, which can stop air flow.   

Toxic Reaction
In the event of a toxic reaction, a beekeeper  receives too many stings, for the body to handle,  in a short period of time.  Bee venom introduced in a short period of time in immense amounts can be fatal. Most individuals can tolerate multiple stings depending on health, age and body weight.

What do I do if I'm stung?

If you are stung by a bee make sure you  remove the stinger as soon as possible.  You can use your finger nail to scrape or pull the stinger out. Only honey bees leave their stingers behind because the stinger  is barbed, other insects have smooth stingers.  

Bees release an alarm pheromone when they sting so it is important to be aware of other bees around that could be attracted to this pheromone.  If other bees are attracted, puff smoke on the affected area remove yourself from the vicinity and wash to remove the pheromones.  If you are stung multiple times remain calm this could be a sign of defensive bees. In this situation close the colony and give the bees time to calm down. Seek medical attention if any symptoms worsen.  


As a beekeeper it is important to carry an EpiPen (Epinephrine Auto-Injectors) in the event of an allergic or toxic reaction.  In most cases apply ice to stings as soon as possible.  Ice restricts blood flow so the venom should not spread as far.  Ice also numbs the area, decreasing the sensation of pain.  To further reduce swelling and pain try an antihistamine.  Sting-sensitive persons should also consider wearing a Medic-Alert identification bracelet and have an EpiPen (Epinephrine Auto-Injectors) readily available.

Removing A Stinger


Because honey bees have barbed stingers the stinger becomes lodged in the skin.

To remove the stinger scrape out with a finger nail.

This is an example of a normal sting reaction.

Note the welt, redness and swelling are common with a normal sting reaction.

What is Apitherapy?

beeondandelion2Apitherapy is the systematic technique of using honey bee products such as honey, propolis, royal jelly, pollen and bee venom medicinally.

Bee venom is the more customary method of Apitherapy due to its success in helping relieve symptoms of autoimmune diseases and multiple sclerosis.  

This practise of therapeutic healing dates back centuries.  Today that ancient knowledge united with modern science is known as Apitherapy.  However, it is important to remember bee products may cause an allergic reaction in some individuals.

HealthLine (SK) 1-877-800-0002

HealthLine is a free, confidential 24-hour health advice telephone line, staffed by registered nurses. When you call you have the option to speak with a Registered Nurse. They can provide you with immediate, professional health advice or information, and direct you to the most appropriate source of care.

If you have a medical emergency, CALL 9-1-1. HealthLine is NOT for emergency situations.

Please submit project proposals to the SBDC. Allow sufficient time for SBDC Board, and a possible second party, review (at least several months prior to application deadline is best). Projects are to be completed within one year although multiple year applications will be considered.
Please submit an electronic version and one hard copy to the SBDC Office.

1. Principal investigator

Email address
Collaborating individuals/institutions

2. Project Description
Total proposed budget
Objectives of the project
Location of project
Anticipated economic or other benefits

3. Budget
(Note: overhead, institutional or administrative costs and the purchase of capital assets are not acceptable)
Salaries and benefits
Equipment (non-expendables)
Supplies (expendables)
Travel and other expenses

4. Timetable
Provide an estimate of the work schedule

5. Matching Funding
Indicate funding available from other sources, if any, to accomplish the work described.

check offs due

  Download the 2019 Check-Off Collection Form and Regulations

PLEASE MAKE CHEQUE PAYABLE TO: Saskatchewan Beekeepers Development Commission. Check-Off's are due May 31 annually.

International Code for Marking Queens

White  Yellow  Red  Green  Blue
2016 / 2021 2017 / 2022 2013 / 2018 2014 / 2019 2015 / 2020
 1/6  2/7  3/8  4/9  5/0
 When  You  Re-Queen  Get the  Best
 Warned  You  Require  Gloves  Be