Beekeeping has always been a very important thing for people to do. It’s been going on for centuries because even early man understand the importance of bees when it came to the benefits of honey and the impact the bees have on the environment around them. I hope that my guide to beekeeping 101 will help people better understand bees and their importance.
Beekeeping is Seeing Renewed Interest
There was a decline in beekeeping after WWII, but there has been a fresh renewed interest in it beginning around 2009. There is a growing amount of people in the US who have started their own beekeeping in their backyards and as a bigger business. Many people like preppers, backyard farmers, and organic farmers are learning more and more about beekeeping, building hives, and maintaining them. Even those called “urban farmers” are starting to take advantage of small spaces such as rooftops to make their own honey. My guide to beekeeping 101 is something that can help you see whether or not you may want to get in on this renewed love for bees and their honey.
Some Reasons for Population Decline
Well, according to reports published by the USDA, there were two major studies that has helped us to determine some of the causes of “Colony Collapse Disorder”. One of the causes is said to be varroa mites. These mites are not just a problem in the US, but, tend to be a problem worldwide. Ways to combat this plight of the honeybee and the decline in their population is something that is ongoing.
Rick Austin a best-selling author and a top notch survivalist gardener belongs to a huge group of beekeepers and growers that believe it could be GMO crops and other agricultural chemicals that are also playing a huge part in the big decline in honeybee populations. There is a continued battle going on with beekeepers and growers to try and pressure companies to stop producing these products that could be killing off the honeybees.
Know Your Bees Before Purchasing
My guide to beekeeping 101 likes to stress how important it is to know your bees before you buy them if you are planning to start your own hives. This is even true if you are just doing it for a hobby to make your own personal supply of honey.
When buying bees which includes queen bees, it’s important to know that it’s easy to buy them because you can even buy them online from commercial sellers or from garden stores and farms. You just need to make sure these sellers are reputable, so my guide to beekeeping 101 encourages anyone interested in beekeeping to do their homework first, before buying bees.
Bees are most generally sold in three-pound packages including the queen. If you want to pay a few extra dollars you can have the queen bee marked. My guide to beekeeping 101 advice is to pay those few extra dollars because this can definitely be helpful.
The bees that you order are almost always going to be shipped via the mail if you buy them from a commercial supplier. Advice from my guide to beekeepng 101 would be to be very diligent about monitoring the tracking information on your shipment making sure that they’re not left out in the old too long or they’re being left in some warehouse or the post office too long and end up dying.
My Guide to Beekeeping 101 – Know the Types of Bees
Before you order your bees and set up your hives it’s important that you are familiar with the different bees and what their functions are within the colony.
Queen Bees – The sole purpose or function of the queen bees are to lay eggs. They are treated just like royalty inside the hive and they don’t even have to feed themselves. The worker bees of the hive will do this chore for the queens. These dutiful workers even go as far as to remove the queen bees waste. During the peak season for laying eggs, healthy queen bees can be seen laying around 1,000 eggs each day.
Worker Bees – Worker bees are female bees that are sterile. They don’t lay any eggs but they do spend each waking moment of their lives working to help preserve their hives and to serve the queen in every way possible.
Drone Bees – These are the males of the hive. All they need to do is simply eat and well, have sex. Their total work day is made up of trying to mate with their queen. This is not as easy of a job as one might think. In fact it’s a deadly job because those who are chosen for this job dies a very painful death after they have mated with the queen because right after mating their sexual organs are ripped out and then the queen bee can save and store a drone’s sperm for using in the future. If a drone bee doesn’t mate with the queen by winter time the worker bees will force them to leave and is no longer thought of as a viable member of the colony.
In order to have a successful hive, your hive must consist of all three of these bees.
Placement of Hive or Hives is Important
My guide to beekeeping 101 can’t express just how important the placement of the bee hives can be on the survival of your bee colony, no matter what the size is and what the reason is that you are wanting to have bees in your backyard. Here are some important pointers you should consider when it comes to the placement of a hive.
- Make sure to position your hive in a spot that is dry and sunny. If you keep bees in shady spots they will tend to get too cold and then will tend to often get a tad fussy about the temperature. Having angry bees really aren’t too much fun to work with.
- The entrance of your hives need to face trees, tall plants or a wall/fence. The reason why my guide to beekeeping 101 suggests this is because most bees tend to like flying up and over things and it encourages healthy flight patterns for your bees.
- Beehives need to be placed by some sort of crops, shrubs, or flowering plants that need to be pollinated. For some reason, bees tend to be really attracted to purple so lavender is always a nice flowering shrub to have nearby. They also really seem to love buckwheat as one of their menu items too.
- The hive or hives also need to have a nearby water source. This is almost a no-brainer when it comes to raising bees. They most generally prefer standing water as opposed to running or flowing water. It’s important to note that bees can’t swim, not even a tiny bit and they can very easily drown especially if they are forced to strain in any way to reach their water for drinking. One of the best items to use for their water source is a shallow bird bath that has rocks in it. The rocks are a source for them to land on for safety.
My Guide to Beekeeping 101 – Key Beekeeping Tools
Not only do you need to place their hives in a good position, you are also going to need the proper tools in order to be a successful beekeeper. Here is a list of my guide to beekeeping 101 tools that you need to make sure that you have before you purchase your bees.
- Bee Hive/Hives – It is essential that you have the right kind of hive boxes to be successful at beekeping. It’s also advisable to have an extra one on hand just in case you need it for new living quarters. If you are new at this, it’s best to get the advice from an experienced beekeeper when it comes to the proper kind of hive.
- Hive Tool – This is a flat bar that you will need to open the top of the hive up with. It’s also used for a variety of other tasks. Actually almost any kind of flat bar will work but if you want to go the cheapest route then just use a flat head screwdriver, this works just fine.
- Bottom Board – This is a wooden stand/board and it should be put on a base that is made of either bricks or concrete in order to keep the board from rotting on the ground. You don’t want moisture to destroy this board.
- Smoker – You will find smokers in different sizes and you just find the size that best suits the hive you’ve built. If you are a novice at beekeeping then my guide to beekeeping 101 highly suggest that you use a large smoker because they are a lot easier to keep lit than smaller ones.
- Queen Catcher – You don’t want to get the queen angry because it won’t be a pleasant experience. This is why you need a queen catcher. It makes it faster to get her and the experience will be less dramatic for all involved.
- Queen Muff – Once the queen is captured, she’ll need to be carefully put inside this muff to keep her safe and also to keep her from flying away.
- Top Feeder – You can just use a regular gallon jar, jug, or can and drill holes into the cap. Then you drill a whole into the cover of the hive where you fit this container over this hole. Inside of this container you will need to mix two parts water and one part sugar. This is what the bees will eat for extra energy and they need this to help them build their wax honeycomb you find in the beehive box.
- Bee Brush – This is a brush needed for scrubbing off the trays from the hive when they need to be cleaned.
- Extractor – This is a tool that will help you safely and quickly get the honey you want out of the hive. This is probably the most expensive of all the tools, but is mandatory and well worth the money.
- Protective Gear – To protect yourself you should buy a suit, gloves, and a veil. These are needed to protect yourself from stings. This gear comes in very handy if your colony decides to swarm. Swarms don’t happen often but it can be deadly for some to be attacked by a large number of bees.
My guide to beekeeping 101 can’t express how important it is that your hive is well maintained. You will need to do periodic inspections in the late spring and summer months to make sure eggs are being laid by the queen. You will also want to make sure there is plenty of room for the colony to expand and that the workers are building up stores of their honey.
During early spring, fall, and winter you will need to make sure that the clusters inside the colony are eating their stored honey and only leave the hive when the temperature is above 32° F to get rid of their waste. You should only open your hive during colder month only when it is deemed necessary. You want avoid letting needed heat escape from the hive.
Before buying bees and the equipment you need, always make sure that you check with your local authorities to see if beekeeping is allowed and if there are any permits needed. You also might want to check with your closest neighbors if they oppose having a beehive nearby.