ADVICE – THE BASICS OF BEEKEEPING FOR BEGINNERS
In recent years, beekeeping has made a major buzz around the world. From the backyard beekeeper to the beekeeping hobbyists, and even small farmers, there are many benefits of beekeeping. The best part is that it does not take a lot of money, time, or space to get started.
So, what does it take to create your colony of bees?
Before you have those honey-making insects buzzing around your home, you will want to know as much as you can about them. Honeybees are one of the hardest working, and most complex, creatures on Earth.
Within a bee colony, there are three roles: the queen, the workers, and the drones.
Each individual bee knows its role in keeping the colony strong.
- The Queen Bee â€“ The queen bee is the foundation of the colony. Not only does she lay eggs, but the queen also produces chemical scents that keep the colony unified.
- Drone Bees – The drones of the hive are male bees, whose primary job is to mate with the queen.
- Worker Bees â€“ The workers’ focus is on taking care of the queen, keeping the hive clean and protected from potential enemies, and gathering food.
Worker bees are also responsible for the honey that beekeepers gather from a hive. In nature, bees fly to flowers to extract nectar. Once they are back to the hive with the nectar, they hand it off to other worker bees to deposit into the hive cells. There, the bees add enzymes to the nectar and use their wings to evaporate any water. Eventually, the nectar turns into honey.
While there are many online resources, and books, to help you learn about bees. Connecting with local beekeeping organizations can help you find detailed information specific to your area.
Newcomers to the beekeeping community may be hesitant due to the investment needed in equipment and supplies. But, starting a colony can be affordable if you start small and stick to the basics.
WHAT YOU NEED
- BEEHIVE â€“ In the wild, bees build their hives. Your hive will need to be easily accessible for helping to maintain the colony and to easily harvest the honey. While there are many types of hives on the market, the Langstroth is the most p
- TOP FEEDER – Once your bees have shelter to build their colony, you will need to provide food to keep them in place. A top feeder will hold a large amount of nectar to give your bees the nutrients they need to build the hive and produce honey.
- TOOLS â€“ Maintaining the hive can be much simpler with the right tools. While many tools make beekeeping efficient, there are two that are must-haves: a bee brush, and a hive tool. Hive tools are metal, j-shaped tools with many purposes including separating sections of the hive for harvesting. The bee brush will be used to gently remove bees from surfaces inside the hive to better access honey.
- PROTECTIVE GEAR â€“ Another major concern for beginning beekeepers is being stung by the bees. Protective clothing can help keep you safe. Experienced beekeepers recommend a hat with a veil and gloves to cover any exposed skin. You can also purchase a bee suit, but a thick jacket and pants will also help keep you protected.
- BEE SMOKER – A smoker can also be a line of defense in protecting yourself from bee stings while tending to the hive. The smoker emits smoke from smoldering fuel, which masks smell from bees and keeps them calm. It also distracts the bees, so that the keeper is less likely to be attacked while working on the hive.
Once you have all the essentials to start your colony, it is time to fill it with buzzing bees. For beginners, the easiest ways to obtain bees are either through local, established beekeepers or to order bees online. Typically, you can purchase “package bees” and a queen, or a “nuc colony.” When ordering, keep in mind a nuc colony includes a queen that is already starting to lay brood.
“BEE” READY TO WORK
While bees do a good job of maintaining their colonies, there will be some work on your part to keep the hive healthy. Tasks can vary depending on the season.
Spring is a busy time of year for bees, and the best time to start a hive as flowers will soon be blooming to provide plenty of nectar to the colony.
- Feeding the bees if honey stores are running low from the winter
- Harvest honey from established hives, and any honeycomb not used during the winter
- Inspect your hive to ensure your queen is still alive and producing brood
During the summer, the bees will mostly be self-sufficient. There are plenty of flowers around to keep them fed. You will just need to check on them periodically.
- Ensure there are nearby water sources
- Watch the hive for invaders, including other bees and any other wildlife
- Harvest honey
Get ready to harvest! Fall is the peak time for harvesting honey from your hives, and prepare your bees for the winter ahead.
- Harvest honey, but leave enough for the bees to feed off of during the winter
- Check the hive for diseases, and treat
- Once flowering plants and nectar are no longer available, begin feeding bees
Keeping your bees safe during the winter is a top priority so that they will be ready to begin producing honey in the spring.
- Completing all disease checks and treatments
- Keeping a close eye on the hive for any damage caused by winter winds, and the elements
- Ensure bees have enough food
“BEE”-LIEVE IN YOURSELF
The world of beekeeping can be a fun, rewarding experience, but it will require a commitment from you. Being knowledgeable, prepared, and ready to work will ensure that you are successful in your venture.