Apiary a Honey of a Hobby
I’ve always had a curious fascination with bees. That’s why it was a perfect fit when I decided to learn how to start beekeeping. I was relieved to find out that in order to be a successful beekeeper, or apiculturalist, all you really need is some basic equipment, a little time, and an interest in bees. It’s a hobby that is not only inexpensive, but it’s one that produces sweet rewards, literally!
An apiary is a collection of beehives. If you’re thinking of starting bee keeping, your first step is to construct or buy a beehive and when you are comfortable with a single beehive you can expand your apiary to two or more beehives. A beehive is where bees live and can be a very simple box-shaped structure made up of stacking boxes called “supers.” Inside the boxes are wooden frames. The frames hold foundation. Foundation is a sheet of machine-made pressed beeswax or plastic sheets with a hexagonal cell shaped pattern. Your bees will build honeycombs on these foundations.
The bottom two supers are where your bees will keep their brood nest, which contains honey, pollen, and larval bees. The queen will be kept in the lower two supers by a wire or plastic grid that is too small for the queen to fit through, so since she is bigger than the other bees in the hive, she cannot enter the other supers but the workers can. This grid is called a “queen excluder”. Since the bees cannot lay eggs above this point, only honey is stored in the upper supers. Of course, a necessary part of starting bee keeping is to acquire a colony of bees. You can buy bees and queens by ordering them from any bee suppliers. They’ll come packaged in a box fitted with a small frame and a supply of sugar syrup to sustain them until they reach their new home. The size of the average bee shipment is about 10,000 to 20,000 bees.
When your bees arrive, the queen will be separated from the rest of the colony in her own suspended cage, which has holes at each end plugged with a sugary substance called “queen candy.” Once you suspend the queen between the bottom two frames in your apiary, the workers will set to work eating through the candy to set the queen free.
Once your hive is populated with bees, it’s basically maintenance-free. You’ll need to check your bees about once a week and that’s it. The bees will do all their own work. At the end of the season, you’ll extract the honey, which can take about two hours per hive. You will need to check for infections like varroa mites and small beetles and a variety of other pests and infections that may plague your bees.
At harvest time, you simply lift off the supers that contain the honey comb. You’ll need a small spinner machine that uses centrifugal force to “spin” the honey off the comb. A spinner looks like a spin dryer and can be purchased from any bee equipment supplier. A healthy, strong colony usually produces about three times more honey than the colony actually needs and it is this surplus honey that is extracted.
After your first harvest, you may find you enjoy beekeeping so much that you expand to several hives. If you’d like to learn more about how to start beekeeping, there is a wealth of information in books, through the Internet and through beekeepers’ associations throughout the country.
Article by Jared D. Ingram. Learn How To Start Beekeeping the Easy and Simple Way!