The hive. A lady needs a place she can kick her male companion out of every year, right? Hive selection essentially comes down to two numbers - 8 or 10. How big is the space you have to keep bees, and what is your main reason for keeping bees? Typically, hives in the United States are of the 10 frame variety. Their big, functional, and weight close to 180 lbs (one brood chamber, two supers) when full. Being that I'm one girl with a small side yard who doesn't plan to produce commercial bee products, I found the 8 frame hive to be better suited for my needs. You can find a really great comparison chart for the two hives here: 8 or 10 frames?
Besides being totally adorable, the English beehive is also extremely practical. Ten minutes and a few coats of water proof paint and it's ready to go (unless you get your hive unassembled, in which case you're looking at a few hours of assembly time). An assembled kit was the best fit for me (since I'm a totally new beekeeper), but all you really need to get started is a hive body, a few supers, frames, smoker, hat, and hive tool. My kit came with the assembled hive and frames, beeswax base for the frames, a hive tool, smoker and fuel, bee brush, gloves, and book/dvd combo. Kits can range from $100.00 - $400.00 depending on the style, size, wood type, and components that come with them. My 8 frame assembled kit was very reasonable, even with shipping.
Placement. Where should you put your hive? All of my reading suggests someplace covered, facing east, and near a water source. I chose a side corner of the yard that is under a maple tree. It is also the awkward spot beside my raised bed garden where only rocks seem to grow. So I considered adding a few cinder blocks and a hive as an improvement (take that stupid rocks). I've got a birdbath and my house is about 300 feet away from the Ohio River, so I figured the water part was covered. Why East? So they can get up and get to work early! Most books stress that hive placement is one of the most important decisions you make as a beekeeper, so select wisely! In my case, I'm also pretty lucky to have a privacy fence that they have to fly over in order to leave the yard. This will no doubt help keep their flight pattern high and curtail directly flying into someone walking down the alley.
The bees. There are many, many, many, many, many, many, many resources about the different types of honeybees available. I chose Russian bees. Why? Because they are hardy and more difficult to kill (both by pests/disease and the keeper). They also over winter well, which is an important consideration here in the ever changing weather of the Cincinnati valley. Although Italians are the most popular honeybee to be kept in the United States, I liked several traits of the Russian bees and thought they'd make a hearty choice for my first colony. Russian vs Italian Honeybees
Easy as 1, 2, 3 right?
Here are some links I found helpful while researching what kind of hive and bees to purchase:
Brushy Mountain Bee Farm
Beekeeping for Dummies
KY Beekeeping Guide for Beginners
Northern Kentucky Beekeepers Association
Kentucky State Apiarist
The Russian Honeybee