Beekeeping (apiculture, from apis, Latin for bee), is maintenance of a colony of bees, usualky in a man-made box that contains a hive. People keep bees for honey production, as well as the production of beeswax and other by-products, such as pollen (which is a remedy for allergies), and royal jelly.
Bees are also integral to agriculture that requires pollination, as bees pollinate plants while collecting nectar (which they use as food). To this end, the relative instability of bee colonies worldwide (generally referred to as “Colony Collapse Disorder”), has been distressing, as global agriculture is very dependent on the health and abilities of bees to pollinate commercial crops.
Beekeeping can be a rewarding and lucrative pursuit for folks who are interested. As mentioned, they produce many all-natural products that are highly valued. And for homesteaders, a ready supply of honey is a great source of sugar (and nutrients that cane sugar doesn’t possess). It can be baked, or put on bread, in tea, or drizzled on cereal. If you have a small orchard or a garden, bees that are on-site will make sure that no available flower goes un-pollinated.
Beekeeping isn’t that hard to get into. Although there are some up-front costs associated with it and you’ll have to get stung sometimes when beginning, it can be a fascinating and rewarding pursuit.
Beginning Beekeeping: Equipment and Your First Bees
You’ll need a nesting box for the bees, either one you buy from a specialty store, or one you build yourself. You’ll also need to buy bees (most likely from local beekeepers (or ones that will be sent through the mail). Some protective equipment like a beekeepers’ suit (or at least a hat and veil to protect your head) and a smoker should be obtained, as well. A hive tool, which looks like a small pry-bar is indispensable as well. It will pry hive bodies apart, as bees use propolis as a glue to seal their nesting boxes. Using a screwdriver or paint chipper can work, but a hive tool is especially meant for hives. You’ll want one. Usually, bees come in three pound packages, with a queen. For a few extra dollars, you can have the queen marked, for easy identification. (Know that, if the queen is replaced, the new one won’t be marked).
When you have your boxes set up, you’ll have to install your bees. Get a new spray bottle and mix up a simple syrup to feed your bees as soon as they arrive. You’ll be able to spray the sugar water to them through the screen in the box they come in. Use the “mist” setting on your bottle. They’ll be hungry and thirsty after traveling. Some dead bees are common, but if many of the bees are dead, call your supplier.
Remove some of the inner frames and spray the interior of your hive with more sugar water. Make sure an entrance feeder is installed (this will keep the bees fed while they establish their hive, before they begin to make honey). Make sure you’re wearing some protective clothing, but, rest assured, if the bees don’t have a hive established, or a queen, they’ll be less aggressive.
You’ll then have to shake the bees out of the packaging they came in and introduce the queen (who’s in a smaller box). Take care introducing the queen, as the swarm doesn’t recognize her yet. The queen will be introduced inside her box. The box with the queen will have a special plug the bees will eat through. Once they have, they will be familiar with the queen.
Replace all the frames you removed and let them build up their combs before adding another hive body.
Online lessons regarding beekeeping can be found at http://basicbeekeeping.blogspot.com/ .