An Education in Beekeeping
by Lillian Quartuccia
Whether the area is rural, suburban or urban, amateur beekeeping is taking flight across America. The hobby of beekeeping attracts gardeners and honey lovers alike. It is estimated that 30% of food crops and 90% of wild vegetation rely on honeybees for pollination. Bees are a vital part of our ecosystem and their health reflects the health of our planet.
Bees are extremely hierarchical and each has its role in their colony. Unfertile females are the workers, they manage the hive, heat and cool it, feed and clean the queen, forage for nectar, pollen and water, feed larvae and make beeswax cells. There can be tens of thousands of workers in a single hive. Male bees or drones only account for a few hundred members in a colony, their sole purpose is to eat honey, fly around and try to mate! The queen bee is a fully developed female and can lay up to 1500 eggs a day.
Hive placement is crucial to for the health the hive and well as for easy maintenance. And ideal spot would be in dappled sunlight, with a water source nearby and wind protection for easy landing. The hive should be placed on a stand over mulch to keep weeds from blocking the entrance and also to deter rodents from invading the hive. If bears live nearby, the hive may need an electric fence to protect it from these honey lovers.
A novice beekeeper first needs a beehive. A beehive is basically a set of stacked boxes and frames that are the framework for the hive’s functions. Starting at the bottom and moving our way upward: there is a stand, an entrance, a hive body/brood chamber, queen excluder, honey super, inner cover and outer cover. The hive body and honey super both have either wax or plastic starter frames for the bees to build cells upon. The hive body houses the queen, her eggs and larvae. The honey super(s) are for honey storage. The queen excluder is a screen keeps the just large queen out of the upper honey chambers. A beekeeper will harvest honey from the honey supers only, leaving the honey in the bottom hive bodies to sustain the colony.
Every beehive needs…bees! A starter pack of bees with a queen can be obtained from local beekeepers or ordered online. Before your hive arrives remember that working with bees requires protection. A one-piece jumper, gloves, hat and veil are standard. Of course, pants must be tucked in because bees will crawl up and into your clothing at every opportunity. Once a new
hive is established and sustainable, the extra honey can be harvested. To harvest honey a smoker is used to scatter the bees, and a hive tool is used to separate and lift the honeycombed frames out of the supers. The frames can be scraped down to release honey or sections of honeycomb can be cut out with a knife.
Beehive kits, smokers, protective gear and books are now available at Mike’s Feed Farm. Mike’s is planning on hosting a beekeeping workshop in the near future.
If you are interested please contact the store.
Mike, pictured here, attended his first bee-keeping workshop and tested out the new products available in the store! Mike’s Feed Farm will be hosting a bee-keeping workshop very soon, please call the store if you would like to attend: 973-839-7747