You might hear the term being thrown around all the time, but just what is beekeeping, and what does it entail? Let’s start from the bottom.
Bees are insects that live in colonies that are led by the queen bee. The insects can sometime be very dangerous especially when they are provoked as they can inflict harsh stings. That’s why it’s very important to take proper precautions when dealing with them. Bees produce their own food called honey that they usually feed on in times of inclement weather conditions not favorable for them to go out of the hive. Honey is a very precious commodity loved by many people around the world due to its great taste and also due to its medicinal properties.
Now beekeeping, or apiculture as it is also known, is the human activity of maintaining honey bees. A beekeeper, or apiarist (that will soon be you), is someone who keeps bees for the purpose of collecting their honey and other products that are produced by the hive such as propolis, beeswax and royal jelly, or to pollinate crops, or to produce bees for sale to other beekeepers.
It must be mentioned that the population of bees have plummeted in recent years worldwide, and due to the role they play in pollination, and the subsequent role that plants play in producing oxygen, (which, last we checked, is vital to human survival), now is the perfect time to become a beekeeper, even if it is just as a hobby.
Below you will find the major factors that you will have to consider when venturing into beekeeping.
1. The surroundings of the bee hive
When you have decided to keep bees you will have to think about where you will keep them. The location where bees are kept is called an apiary or bee yard. You will have to check with your local authority and find out about their regulations regarding beekeeping, which varies from state to state and country to country.
If you are planning to keep the bees in your backyard it will be better for you to do consultations with your family members and your neighbors and make agreements with them, so as to avoid any possible quarrels.
The next thing you’ll have to do is to choose the right type of hive in which to keep your bees.
2. Types of bee hives
The Langstroth bee hive
Named after its earlier designer Rev L.L. Langstroth, it has a history that spans over a century and a half. This type of bee hive is usually preferred by hobbyists and commercial beekeepers and very common in North America and New Zealand. Its advantages includes easy maintenance, a simplified design with enough space available between brood chambers and supers, frames that are easily removable allowing for easy bee inspection and division of bees; the bee hives can also be re-used. The main disadvantage of this bee hive is that during inspection bees get disturbed a lot more than the other types of bee hives.
The Top-bar bee hive
The top-bar beehive is usually widely used because of its ease of construction and affordability. With a top-bar bee hive, bees do not get easily disturbed during inspection, and it ensures high quality honey production by the bees. However, when compared to the two other types of bee hives mentioned above, the top-bar beehive allows bees to make more wax and less honey. Bees usually need to build new combs after every inspection, and its open design exposes the combs to all weather conditions which may sometimes be too harsh to the bees.
The Warre bee hive
The Warre hive is very easy to manage compared to the other hives, and is ideal for people who are busy and don’t have enough time to regularly interact with the bees.
The British Standard National bee hive
The national bee hive is usually very commonly found in the United Kingdom. Its advantages include its affordability and its ease of assembly; it is also very efficient. However, most beekeepers who have used it have complained that its brood box is a little smaller than average. To address the problem a different brood box can be used to operate it.
3. The site where you will place your bee hive
Usually the best location to place your beehive is a sunny place with a bit of shade, with a nearby water source like a pond. The hive should be placed in such a way that it faces the south and should also have a fence in the north acting as a windbreak. A site near a field of flowers is even more ideal as the bees will find it easy to collect nectar and easily get back to their hives.
It would also be wise to find out about any possible bee predators and determine if the bee hive can easily be accessed by such predators. You wouldn’t want to invest your precious time and finances doing all the hard work then eventually lose your bee colony to predators.
4. Other important things that you will need
As mentioned earlier, people decide to venture into the business of beekeeping for various purposes but honey is usually the major basis for beekeeping. As you know, bees get wild at the slightest provocation and can unleash harmful stings on humans, so they must be handled with great care and caution. A beekeeper will therefore need some protection when going out to handle bees during routine inspection of the hive or during harvesting. As a beekeeper you need to have purchase the beekeeper suit, the beekeeper gloves, the beekeeper hat and veil, the beekeeper jacket and the beekeeper boots. These are the protective pieces of clothing that will help you avoid getting stung by the bees as you interact with them.
For harvesting of honey, you will need to get the bee smoker and the honey extractor. The bee smoker helps to calm bees making them less aggressive as you handle each of the frames on the hive. Once you have collected the combs rich in honey the next thing you will do is to get the honey and wax from the combs without damaging them. This is where the honey extractor comes in handy. The honey extractor helps in the extraction of honey from bee combs without damaging the combs or the wax. Honey extractors come in two major variants – the manual extractor and the electrical extractor. If you are a beginner beekeeper you may start off with just a simple manual honey extractor as it is more affordable.
People usually get into the business of beekeeping (apiculture) for various reasons such as to help with cross pollination of crops, breeding and sale, or to get honey and other bee products, i.e. wax or propolis. Those who wish to get into beekeeping should always first deal with legal issues governing beekeeping in their localities before starting. Bee hives also have to be placed in a place that gets enough sunshine and near flowers and a water source. A location that is not easily accessed by bee predators will be most ideal.