Keeping Bees

Exposure to the fascinating facts about the life of honey bees might have “whetted the appetite,” so to speak, so that the reader may wish to keep a colony or two. Selected references are appended which will provide useful information in such a venture. (The two National Geographic Magazine articles contain exceptionally fine colored photographs of bees and describe their activities.)

Beekeeping will prove much more intriguing and you will probably be more successful when you become acquainted with other bee enthusiasts in your locality. Your county agent, state agricultural experiment station, and state department of agriculture can help you establish contacts and provide information on local problems. A number of cities have bee associations with memberships up to several hundred. There may  be either a local or a county association in your community; also there will be statewide organizations in practically every state.

Honey bee colonies may be kept anywhere in urban locations or in the country provided they are situated where they do not become a nuisance to one’s neighbors. Because a colony of honey bees may forage over 8,000 to 25,000 acres, there will be adequate pollen and nectar producing plants for your bees, even in heavily populated areas.

Before deciding to keep bees in a populated area make sure you know your neighbors. Stimulate their interest in the bees and plan to share a little honey. Locate the colonies where shrubbery or other objects will direct the flight of the bees above your neighbors property. Consider locating them in the garage using entrance tunnels to the outside. Be certain to work the colonies only when the bees are flying freely. If the bees of a colony prove to be cross, requeen it with more gentle stock without delay.

It’s desirable to begin with two colonies because if you only have one colony and it loses its queen it might mean the end of your beekeeping. Loss of both queens in two colonies is unlikely. A comb of brood can be taken from the queen-right colony to hold the morale of the bees if the queen is lost in the other until a new queen can be acquired and introduced. Investment in bees and equipment for additional than two colonies is seldom justified until you’re certain you enjoy working with bees and until you have gained enough knowledge and experience to manage them successfully.

A lot of disappointments may be prevented if, before making an investment, you peruse and study books or bulletins on honey bee management, in addition to bee journals and trade supply catalogs. Instructions vary widely on the choice of equipment, how much you will need, and how to start the honey bee colony. Factory-milled hive equipment is desirable but, if you have a power saw and prefer to build your own hives, obtain one unit of a factory-cut hive and make your hives with exactly the same dimensions.

The Langstroth or standard 10-frame hive with frames 9 1/8 inches deep has been the most widely used throughout North America since the Rev. L. L. Langstroth designed it in 1852, based upon his discovery of the principle of the bee space. Any size or style of hive equipment may be used when it provides the required space for the honey bee colony to develop and store honey without restriction when the space is kept properly organized in conformance with normal behavior of bees. The hive must, of course, have removable frames and provide the normal bee space between combs and sets of combs. All sections of the hive ought to be the same dimension and interchangeable.

A shallow type of hive taking frames 6 1/4 inches deep is advised in preference to the standard Langstroth hive. Shallow hive bodies permit better colony control with less individual handling of the frames than the standard equipment; they can be used successfully as brood chambers and supers for surplus honey, making these interchangeable; and they are lighter to handle when full of honey. Many commercial beekeepers have adopted the 6 1/4 inch shallow frame hive body for use as supers and, as their standard-depth equipment requires replacement, it’s likely many will adopt the shallow brood chamber to obtain uniformity in their hive equipment. The beginner who is establishing his colonies in new hives will do well to select the shallow equipment.

The beginner is advised to produce his surplus honey in these shallow frames for use as comb honey. Section comb honey production requires specialized skills, and to extract honey from the comb requires a honey extractor and other equipment that the beginner can do without.

Eight 10-frame shallow hive bodies are needed for each colony. The frames for four of these (40) should be assembled with a reinforced foundation. The frames for the other four chambers should be assembled with thin surplus foundation when the honey is to be used as comb honey. When the honey is to be extracted, the same foundation is used in the supers as in the brood chambers. Provision of less equipment than this will make management problems more difficult and quite possibly result in the loss of surplus honey.

Three-pound packages of bees with young queens should be obtained for establishing the colonies in new equipment on foundation. (The 2-pound package is used when the beekeeper has comb of honey and pollen available from other colonies.) The package bees should be introduced into the hive early in the spring when flowers are abundant and weather conditions permit the gathering of pollen that is needed for raising brood. The proper time will be approximately when willows, fruit trees, and dandelions bloom. The new colonies will have to be fed 15 to 45 pounds of sugar (cane or beet ) made into syrup by dissolving two parts of sugar in one part of hot water. This syrup is needed for the bees to secrete wax and draw the foundation into comb and to supply food until plants secrete nectar abundantly from which they can make honey. Feeding should be continued until all the combs are drawn in the brood chambers or until the bees are gathering nectar freely from the field. A colony will not take syrup from the feeder when nectar becomes available.

The establishment and growth of the honey bee colony in the shallow 10-frame equipment is shown pictorially in the accompanying sequence of pictures [NOT AVAILABLE]. A special hive split through the middle, hinged at the back, with one half supported on casters, was prepared for photographing the honey bee colony to better show the growth of the honey bee colony from the time it was established until it is ready to overwinter.

A smoker, bee veil, and hive tool are essential in the handling of bees. The smoker is indispensable and one must rapidly learn to use just the right amount of smoke, neither too much nor too little, so that the bees remain quiet on the comb. A bee veil should always bee worn, and the hive tool is much more satisfactory than a screwdriver for separating the hive chambers or frames.

What you see the bees do will prove interesting; what they produce for your table will prove delicious; and it’s just possible you might have some fruit trees that will be more fruitful because you are keeping bees.

Why Domestic Bees are important.

To understand the threat of African Honey Bees, it’s necessary to know something in general about Domestic Honey Bees and their behavior.

Domestic Honey Bees are important advantageous insects and we would be in large trouble when they were all suddenly destroyed. Unless a Domestic Honey Bee colony is in a location that is close to people , pets or farm animals, it ought to be left alone.

Most people  appreciate the primary product of the hive – honey. Honey production, nevertheless, is not the only use for Domestic Honey Bees. They are also very important to agriculture, a sophisticated business that impacts the state’s economy by about $6.3 billion yearly.

Indeed, one-third of our daily diet comes from crops pollinated by Domestic Honey Bees. Without the pollen that Domestic Honey Bees transport, many plants can’t produce fruits, vegetables and seeds. Imagine walking into your neighborhood supermarket and locating a third of the food currently available not on the shelves!

About John Payton

Bee control expert and founder of a bee control company
This entry was posted in Bee Control, Bee Removal and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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