Introduction to Beekeeping
Article by Samantha James
Beekeeping is a truly fascinating hobby as there is so much you can learn from bees and about beekeeping as well as you can enjoy great tasting honey.
Some people also commence beekeeping as a business. Apart from producing and selling honey, bees also produce other by-products which are able to be harvested and sold.
These products include beeswax, royal jelly and propolis.
Beeswax is produced as the bees turn the nectar they collect from flowers into both honey and beeswax. Within the hive the beeswax is used to make the honeycomb which is where the young bees are raised as well as where the additional honey is stored.
Worker bees produce Royal Jelly, a secretion substance which they use to feed larvae and the queen bee in the hive. As this substance is an extremely powerful, rich and nutritious food for bees some believe that it will have the same benefits to humans.
Propolis is a resinous substance which the worker bees collect from the sap of some plants and trees, which they use as a sealant in the hive. The worker bees take this ‘bee glue’ and adds salivary secretions and wax flakes to it and use the bee propolis to reinforce the hive itself. Propolis also protects the hive from bacterial and viral infection. Propolis is sold by health food stores as a traditional medicine as a natural way to assist in the improvement and maintenance of general well-being.
Now that you have made the decision to invest in bees, whether as a hobby or as a business, it is important that you have all of the required equipment. This equipment includes a bee hive, bee colony, protective equipment including clothing, and a smoker.
There are several types of beehives available although the most commonly used is the Langstroth hive. It is what is called a movable frame beehive. The support structure of the Langstroth hive is a rectangular wooden frame which holds the combs within it. There are typically nine or ten of these combs inside the frame.
There are two types of bees when it comes to their behavior. There are social bees, which are the honey bees you will be purchasing and include the workers, drone and the queen bee. They are classed as social bees as they live together in a colony. The second type of bees are non-social or solitary bees as they do not like living in a colony.
Having the correct equipment is essential when beekeeping. A beekeeper suit will reduce the likelihood of being stung. It is important to purchase a good quality suit. A veil and hat will protect your face and neck and gloves will protect your hands, although more experienced beekeepers usually do not use gloves as they believe they are able to handle bees better without them. Also ensure that boots are worn.
A smoker is used to calm the bees to enable the beekeeper to work with them. A smoker is a device that emits smoke by using fuels such as hessian, twine, cardboard or rotten wood. The smoke initiates a feeding response within the bees in preparation to possibly having to leave the hive due to a fire. The smoke also masks the alarm pheromones that are released by the colony’s guard bees when they sense an intruder. As the colony is confused, the beekeeper has an opportunity to open the hive and work without triggering a defensive reaction.
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