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Beekeeping for Beginners

Puja Lalwani
Pursue the interesting hobby of beekeeping with this guide on beekeeping for beginners.
The 'Bee Movie' may have shown you the other side of the coin, with the lives of honey bees and how we humans have taken advantage of them. However, you may have also seen, that the functions bees perform are innate to their species, and important to continue the natural cycle prevalent in nature.
One way to regulate this cycle is the process of beekeeping to extract honey. You may do this as your bit for nature, or a hobby, or even pursue it as a full-fledged business option. These tips will give you an insight into this interesting process called apiculture, which you can pursue in your own backyard.

Before You Begin Beekeeping

Before you think you are ready for beekeeping, keep these facts in mind that you are going to confront while carrying out your new hobby.
  • Keeping bees means you have to be prepared to be stung by them. No matter how much of the protective gear you wear, you may have to face a sting. They may even find their way into your house and sting other family members.
While a bee sting is characterized by discomfort for a short period, in some rare cases it may be fatal. Swelling may be normal but other symptoms such as shortness of breath and itching on body parts other than the area of the sting bite may be a sign of danger.
  • To undertake beekeeping, you should have the necessary strength to lift the apiary. It is advisable to have help at hand rather than undertaking this task on your own. Ensure that your back is able to endure heavy lifting.

All About Bees

We all know that bees live in a hive, but this is also known as a colony, in which there may be almost 50,000 honeybees.
  • A colony consists of a queen, who may lay over 2,000 eggs in a day. A queen bee is identified by a mark on her thorax.
  • Drones, or male bees mate with young queens. They are large bees in comparison to the female bees.
  • The remaining bees are the female worker bees. Their duties begin with feeding larvae, constructing and cleaning wax comb cells, guarding the hive, and searching for nectar, pollen, and water. They are the smallest bees in the colony.
  • Honeybees work to convert collected nectar into honey, while the pollen is stored and fed to the larvae.
  • The entire hive functions as one strong and single unit, and therefore, the beekeeper has to learn to deal with them and gain confidence, to be able to handle them without fear.

How and When to Begin

A good number to begin with is 2 colonies, that will produce about 50-100 pounds honey each, in a year. You may expand later as you learn to work with the bees and gain some confidence.
  • You should build at least one hive, to understand what are the important sections required for beekeeping. For this you will require the help of someone who is experienced in this field.
  • Order the bees, hives, and other necessary equipment in the fall. The bees will arrive in spring, but all the equipment and hives are to be set up before their arrival.
  • Thus, beekeeping begins in the spring. You have to check the colony and ensure that the queen is laying eggs, the presence of any disease, and ensure that there is enough to last the colony until nectar becomes available from natural sources.
  • The colony should be given preventive medication every two weeks, which should be stopped in the beginning of June, so that it doesn't get mixed with the honey produce.
  • A new super will have to be added in the hive after seven of the top supers have been covered by them.
  • In summer, more supers are required to store the honey. This is essential else the bees will begin to swarm.
  • Once all the supers are filled with honey, they may be extracted after removing them from the hive.
  • You may now either kill the bees, or maintain them for the next spring season. To do so you will have to ensure that all the bees are healthy, and that no disease has developed in the hive. You may begin medicating the colony again.
  • Feed the bees sugar and water before the month of September, so they can survive through winter.
  • In November, you may move the colony indoors for winter, maintaining a low and constant temperature of about 5º C.
  • It is normal for bees to leave the colony and die over winter.

The Location of the Apiary

A good location for the apiary is one close to a rich source of pollen and nectar, which is found in legumes, corn, and other ornamental plants, particularly in cities.
Provide a water source in your backyard, by filling a shallow pan with water, and surrounding it with some rocks for the bees to perch themselves on. Keep the apiary facing south, preferable with a windbreak behind. To keep the hives, arrange for a platform on the roof.

Important Equipment

Purchase only new equipment of standard size, which you will assemble on your own. A brood chamber will comprise:
  • Hive Bodies (Deep Super)―2
  • Shallow Supers and Hive Body―2
  • Shallow Supers―4
  • Medium Supers―3
Apart from these you will require the necessary protective gear that includes a veil to prevent bee stings while working with the colonies, and the disease prevention medication.
It is also important to protect the bees from mites and wax moths, that may further spread disease in the colony and then the apiary. If you keep plants from which the bees will collect nectar and pollen, ensure you do not spray an excess amount of insecticide as this will harm the bees. With this guide, you are now ready to pursue your hobby, or create a successful beekeeping business.