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Individuals engage in beekeeping as a hobby or as a business venture. The importance of good beehive management practices is seen in both hobbyist and business beekeeping operations. They both require observation, control, and maintenance of the beehives in the best condition for habitation by honeybee colonies. Even conservation beekeepers should practice proper beehive management to achieve the best results in their beekeeping. Beehive management is the set of practices, activities, and routines that you carry out to ensure your beekeeping operation meets its objectives. Poorly managed beehives lead to stressed bees. They also result in low-quality beehive products in amounts that are less than the maximum yield possible.
Benefits of Good Beehive Management Practices
Good beehive management gives you many benefits. It sees your honeybee colony stay in healthy condition and produce a lot of beehive products for you. For conservation beekeepers, they are able to raise large colonies that they can split more frequently, and which naturally swarm many times.
The main benefits of good beehive management practices are:
1. Production of High Yields
Beekeepers that practice good beehive management report high yields every year. Their honeybee colonies give them great value for their beekeeping. These beekeepers gain value by trading and utilizing beehive products such as honey, beeswax, propolis, and royal jelly. Other beekeepers split beehives and sell many package bees to other beekeepers that are starting new honeybee colonies.
Production of high yields of beehive products makes your beekeeping operation profitable and worth continued engagement in. It also enables expansion when you want, and makes easy the purchasing of beekeeping essentials that you need. These may be tools, equipment, or hiring additional labor for the beekeeping operation.
2. Safe Beekeeping
There are many threats and dangers in beekeeping. It is important that you ensure your beekeeping is safe. This includes safety for you, for your honeybee colonies, and for neighbors and animals. Properly managed beehives are safe for honeybees and provide the best conditions for the thriving of the honeybees. They are able to keep the hive’s microclimate at optimum for the best production and continuity of the colony.
Honeybees that are in such a beehive are able to go out and forage without posing a threat to people and animals. You are also comfortable working with the hive in your beekeeping operation because you know you are safe. A poorly maintained beehive will have aggravated bees that may sting people and animals needlessly. You may also get injured by such a beehive during work in your apiaries.
3. Healthy Honeybee Colony
Colonies of bees that you use in beekeeping are of best use when they are healthy. A beehive and the honeybee colony it houses are like one large body. The honeybee colony keeps the beehive in the best condition. It seals up unwanted openings, cleans the beehive, warms or cools the beehive, and controls humidity in the beehive among other activities.
In return, the beehive provides shelter and safety for the bee colony. Any problem occurring in the beehive impacts the honeybee colony. With poor management of the beehive, honeybees become susceptible to disease outbreaks, pest and parasite infestations, and attacks by predators. These negatively affect the health and wellbeing of the honeybee colony.
4. Safe and Healthy Beehive Products
A beehive that is managed well gives you products that you can trust. They are healthy and safe for use in various industries. Beehive products usually end up being used by humans and so need to be free of contaminants. They should not cause bad effects on the health of those who consume the products.
Beehive products are used whole, with processing and refinement, or in a mix with other ingredients to make various secondary products. In whichever way they are used, your beehive products should add value, not lower the quality of end-products or hurt users.
5. Reduced Stress in the Hive
Good beehive management practices reduce stress on the hive. They make bees calm and active in hive maintenance activities as well as in the production of beehive products. Stressed honeybees are aggressive and poor at producing beehive products. They do not maintain or increase the population of honeybees in the colony as is expected. In the worst cases, the stressed bees abscond from that beehive and go to reside in another location.
Managing your beehive well reduces instances where bees become stressed. It gives you calm bees that you are happy to interact with. They do not sting people and animals anyhow. Additionally, the unstressed hive produces the best yields of beehive products.
Depending on what caused aggravation and stress, honeybees calm in about a week or two. The main causes of stress and aggravation in honeybee colonies are human activity, intrusions into the beehive, disease outbreaks in the hive, pest and parasite infestations, sudden shortages of forage and beehive supplies, change in the weather, and being moved from one place to another.
Management Practices That Reduce Stress on the Hive
Any beekeeper noticing a stressed hive should take steps to reduce the stress. Both beginner and experienced beekeepers can do it successfully. They achieve this using a combination of methods to address the current situation and prevent its recurrence in the future. Beekeepers also employ management practices that reduce stress on the hive.
These practices include:
1. Beehive Inspection and Investigation of the Problem
Where the cause of stress in the hive is not immediately or easily discerned by observation, an inspection of the beehive is in order. It allows you to find out the cause of stress in the beehive so that you properly address it. Your failure in finding out the true cause of stress causes you to address the wrong problem, and insufficiently dealing with the stress. In the beehive inspection that you carry out, be quick so that you reduce the further aggravation of the bees.
2. Disease, Pest and Parasite Control
Take quick action to control diseases, pests, or parasites you might find are in the hive. Different diseases are treated using different methods and compounds. Use the most effective and available method at your disposal. Waiting for some solutions to be available at a later time gives the disease time to further hurt the honeybee colony.
In the same manner, address the pest or parasite problem you find in the beehive. Use the most appropriate, effective, and readily available method.
Common diseases you should be ready to treat in bees are Nosema and the foulbrood diseases. Pests often found in hives stressing bees are small hive beetles and wax moths. Varroa and Thoracic mites are the parasites you are likely to encounter in a hive.
3. Temperature Control
Honeybees are stressed by temperatures outside their normal ranges. They keep the beehive at 350C at all times. In winter, the ambient temperature outside the hive drops and causes bees to cluster together. They cannot go out foraging and expend a lot of energy keeping the hive warm. In summer, they are faced with the problem of the hive becoming too hot. They cool the beehive using water and by pushing air into the beehive.
These situations involving out-of-range temperatures are very stressful for bees. You can help reduce the occurrence, or level to which these problems occur in the hive. In summer, providing shade over the beehive for some part of the day when it is hottest helps reduce the problem of overheated beehives. In winter, wrap the beehive with an insulating material to help conserve the heat inside the beehive.
4. Carefully Select the Location of Hives
Be very careful when deciding on the location of your beehives and apiaries. Consider exposure to the elements, forage and water availability, access by predators and straying people, overall location security, and wind speeds among other factors.
5. Maximum Hive Security
Put in place adequate security measures to ensure that thieves, predators, unauthorized persons, and stray animals cannot reach the beehives. Additionally, install individual hive security measures such as robbing screens and entrance reducers so that robbing will not occur easily.
6. Feeding sugar syrup and pollen patties
Feed your honeybee colony if you feel there is a need to. Do not wait to see that the hive is in need of feeding. Honeybee colonies often need feeding any time from late winter to early spring. Be ready, in case you need to feed some or all your honeybee colonies. Additionally, see to it that honeybee colonies entering winter have enough stocks of honey to last them through winter.
7. Properly timed Beehive Inspections
It is up to you as the beekeeper to time your beehive inspections to a time when you will cause minimal stress to the hive. This includes checking the weather for suitability for an inspection, wearing light-colored clothing and beekeeping suits, taking as little time as possible, and carrying out the inspection when the maximum number of honeybees is out of the hive on various activities, among other factors of a properly timed beehive inspection.
8. Timely Harvesting Beehive Products
The rule of thumb is that comfortable hives will swarm. Accumulation of honey is a major factor contributing to swarming. If you do not want honeybee swarming to occur, harvest both honey and beeswax from your hives. This keeps the hives occupied with drawing comb and producing honey to fill up available space. It prevents swarming and gives you maximum yields from each beehive.
How BeeKeepPal Can Help You to Better Manage Your Beehives
Traditional beekeeping in the past was tedious and sometimes very frustrating. Beekeepers were often at the mercy of many wildly varying factors with no technologies to help them. Today, beekeeping is happy to have technologies assisting beekeepers run their apiaries. One such technology is BeeKeepPal, an apiary management software. BeeKeepPal is available to beekeepers via the internet as a software service. You will also be able to access the software through mobile apps currently in development. The mobile apps will work both online and offline.
Here is how BeeKeepPal can help you to better manage your beehives:
1. Tracking Beehive Inspections
BeeKeepPal has a feature that enables easy scheduling, recording, and referencing of beehive inspections. It allows the recording of your observations in both text and visual forms. You can take pictures that accompany the recorded text for every beehive inspection you carry out.
With this software, you do not only record beehive inspections. You get a complete suite of features that include a tool to check the weather for suitability to carry out a beehive inspection. When a scheduled inspection is due, you receive an email reminder and other reminders in your mobile app depending on your preferences.
2. Checking Weather Suitability for Beehive Inspections
Poor weather conditions hamper beehive inspections and cause losses in the beehive if you decide to proceed with the inspection anyway. BeeKeepPal gives you CheckInspect; a tool to check the suitability of weather conditions to a beehive inspection.
CheckInspect requires an input of your beehives’ location only and fetches weather forecasts for that area. It then compares the forecasts against default baseline parameters and levels for safe beehive inspections. It then gives you results about the safety of carrying out a beehive inspection.
Results from CheckInspect searches tell you if the weather conditions are optimum, viable, or inadvisable for a beehive inspection. These results cover 7 days, and each day is further divided into three-hour sections.
3. Data-Driven Recommendations to split hives
Hives that have too many honeybees have high foraging power among other benefits. At the same time, it is disadvantageous in that the hive can consume large amounts of honey at a time, especially if it decides to form a splinter swarm. BeeKeepPal analyzes data input from your inspections and gives you early advice to split beehives. This helps keep the honeybee colonies in our hives at the optimum size for the production of beehive products.
4. Pre-Emptive Advice for Pest Control
Get reminders and recommendations to pre-emptively deal with pests of honeybees in your hives from BeeKeepPal software. Staying ahead of pests and parasites in beekeeping is important so that there are no drops in production within the productive seasons of the year. It saves you from having to deal with problems in a hurry.
5. Beehive Production and Financial Records
Records in beekeeping are a very important tool for the determination of profitability. They are also useful for analysis of whether your honeybee colonies are performing as they should. The importance of good beehive management practices is so that they help you know what to continue doing, and what to change in your beekeeping operation.
Providing you with accurate and detailed production and financial records is another way how BeeKeepPal can help you to better manage your beehives.
The software takes data input and then gives you reports and summaries that are easy to understand. They are instrumental in the proper running of your beekeeping operation at all levels; beehive level, apiary level, and company level for those with more than one apiary.
6. Tracking Equipment
Another way in which BeeKeepPal helps with the management of your beehives is by improving your tracking of equipment and tools, team members, and laborers you have. The software application has a feature that takes input for equipment purchases you make for respective beehives.
If the equipment is for use in more than one beehive, you are able to input it into the software at the apiary level. You can therefore easily tell how much each beehive has used up in terms of equipment. Beekeepers can chalk up the expense to individual beehives or apply it to an apiary in their company. You can also quickly and easily input sales of equipment for accurate records.
At any time, you are able to call up the list of all equipment you have. You can also have the list of equipment associate with any beehive displayed to you.
7. Managing Employee and Labor
This software also allows input of labor costs you incur at the beehive level and also at apiary levels. It keeps these costs and applies them in analyzing financials for your beehives, respective apiaries, and your beekeeping operation as a whole.
BeeKeepPal requires registration by the owner of the beekeeping operation, and they can then add team members to their beekeeping operation on the software. These team members are often your employees. They are able to input data into the software when they carry out any activities in your beekeeping operation. You can then see what they have been up to from the data they input.
Input data by team members is recorded in the BeeKeepPal software and used in coming up with reports as you need them, coming up with recommendations, and in analyzing the need for various activities such as treatments for diseases, pests, parasites, and improvements for better security from predators.
Beehive management is part of your apiary management system. It involves many activities, observations, and even equipment. Best practices for beehive management are easy to develop and learn from fellow beekeepers, beekeeping associations, and agricultural authorities. Practicing good beehive management keeps you in synchrony with other beekeepers in your area and your beehives in the best condition for habitation by honeybees. Hives that are not well managed have stressed bees that do not produce to their best levels. They give you low yields of beehive products that are also of low quality. Both beginner and experienced beekeepers should not ignore the importance of good beehive management practices.
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