What All The Buzz Is About
The Fundamentals Of Beekeeping
August 20th is National Honeybee Day. Though they are no longer considered an endangered species, many still worry about their safety because of the important role they play in agriculture. To better protect them, many have taken up beekeeping as a way of helping the honey bee thrive. Beekeeping is a hobby that dates back to 8,000 BC. Making honey the oldest known food in world history, and beekeeping the second oldest profession. Today, in the US. there are 212,000 beekeepers across the country. Here are some helpful tips you can use if you wish to get started in beekeeping.
How Does A Hive Work?
How a hive operates is very important to successful beekeeping. We divide a bee family into three distinct types, each with its own job. The Queen is the largest bee in the hive. Her only job is to lay eggs to keep the population growing within the hive. This is the most important job, as it is essential to a bee’s survival strategy. Her egg-laying ability determines if a hive is successful or not. A good Queen can lie on average 2,000 eggs a day, or roughly 730,000 eggs a year. The worker bees are the top dogs in a hive, as they control its daily operations. They make all the decisions from what to forage to who gets to mate with the queen next. Drones have the shortest life span among the bees, as they live from 6 weeks to 6 months. Their only job is to mate with the Queens from other hives to spread fresh blood to prevent too much inbreeding. Once they mate, they die shortly after.
Beekeeping is a very inexpensive hobby, with many operating on a shoestring budget. To begin, start with the basic Langstroth design as this is the industry standard hive. This type of design prevents the bees from connecting the combs to the hive walls, preventing the lid from getting stuck. You can purchase them from any farm supply store, or you can build your own from scrap wood. You’ll want to invest in two or three starter hives, so you’ll have interchangeable supplies and more room for the bees to breed and grow their hives. A hive smoker masks your pheromones so you can approach the hives without them noticing your presence. A bee brush is a soft brush used to gently push the bees away from the edges as you put the combs back in the hives, or so you don’t kill them when you close it. As your hives grow, you’ll need a hive tool should they get the combs stuck together somehow. This break the combs that are blocking your access to the inside of the hive, which can happen from time to time. A bee-keeping suit prevents you from getting stung or swarmed while harvesting honey. They come in a one or two-piece suit, so pick the style you are most comfortable with. Get one that is a size bigger than usual to allow for better movement. Contact other hobbyists in your area about where to gain bees from, as many will sell, or donate to, you the extras they may have. In the beginning, don’t buy honey-collecting equipment as it often takes hives one year to produce honey.
Where you place your hives matter a lot to the bees. You want to make sure it is away from the homes of their natural predators, like skunks and hive beetles. They will need safety from severe weather such as high winds and flooding. Food and drinking water should be at most within a 2-mile radius of the hive. They are private creatures that require areas that have little to no foot traffic to bother them. Make sure there are no barriers within their flight paths or hive entrances. Their flight paths are often to leave facing the east and return facing the south. This allows for proper workflow within a hive and prevents the entrances from getting blocked. Place the hives in a position to catch the early morning sunlight, so they know when to get their day started. Paint the hives each a different pastel, or light shade color. This is so the right bees return to the correct hive and those inside don’t die under the sun as these types of colors absorb less heat than others.
There are many ways a hive can fail. The number one cause of death is an unusual phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD for short. This will be a tough situation for a beginner to face, as there is no reason as to why it happens. One day your hive is buzzing with activity, and the next everyone but the Queen has disappeared without a trace. Many scientists are trying to find an answer to this problem and are considering many stressors such as habitat loss, Queen-related issues, pesticides, and diseases among the worker bees. Another problem facing hives is environmental changes caused by the increased use of pesticides or acaricides that get absorbed into the beeswax. Making larvae sick when consumed, often killing them with poison. Birds and other predators love to snack on them and will migrate to where their hives are for easy access to food. Mites are their ultimate enemy to the honeybee. They can take control of a hive in days and debilitate it by spreading diseases and eating food meant for their babies. They can attach themselves to drones and spread from hive to hive, taking out your complete system if not taken care of right away. Wax moths are another parasitic threat to bees. They take over nests in combs laying their own eggs in them so their larvae can eat the wax, their favorite food making no room for the bees to lay their own.
The Hive’s Byproducts
Bees produce more than just honey that you can flip for a profit. Beeswax may come in a variety of colors depending on how old the comb is, but is used to make candles or skin care products. Many repurpose old combs to start a new hive nearby. Pollen is a significant source of protein, which is why bees collect it to feed it to their young. Humans who consumed pollen as part of their diet have seen an increase in both red and white blood cell production, reduced cholesterol levels, and lower triglyceride (fat) levels in the bloodstream. Propolis, or bee glue, is made when a worker bee collects sap or other botanical resin and mixes it with their saliva and a bit of beeswax. It is often used to make repairs around the hive and can be collected to make herbal remedies and toothpaste. Once you get your feet wet in beekeeping, you can look into selling your other bees and Queens to other hobbyists in your area.
About the author
Doom and gloom is all I know. My heart skips a beat at the thought of armageddon. I've been preparing for the apocalypse my whole life. I have been studying it for so long that I am currently working on my Ph. D. on the subject.
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