From Antivist

Beekeeping is the practice of intentional maintenance of honeybee hives by humans. A beekeeper may keep bees in order to collect honey and beeswax, or for the purpose of pollinating crops, or to produce bees for sale to other beekeepers. A location where bees are kept is called an apiary.

They don't require a lot of attention (and in some ways are really better off if you leave them alone), but there are plenty of aspects that you can busy yourself with if you want to make it a bit project. Your best bet is to find a local person with a hive or two and spend a couple of hours shadowing them when they're in their bee yard. All of the books and websites won't do much to help you figure out how comfortable you really are. They can also tell you how much you need to worry about parasites in your area (because that can vary from town to town, even).

Start with just one hive. Get the veil (at the very least -- two bees got into my veil yesterday and stung me on my head. Don't forget the electric fence around the hive (if there are any sort of predators around, like bears).

Bees can handle the cold, if they had a decent summer and built up their colony enough. They'll find flowers wherever you are -- they can travel about 2 miles each way in their search, and there are far more flowers than you realize. Don't expect to get any honey your first year, though -- whatever they produce will go toward sustaining them for the winter.



Bees can be bought or acquired from a number of sources. The most common is a package, where bee keepers with large hives shake workers from the hive into a funnel, then dump them into a box the size of a shoe box with screen on the side. A new queen is added (safely tucked away in a queen cage), and the package is sold. The package forms an artificial swarm, eventually accepting the new queen as their own. It buzzes when you move the box. It smells like lemon pledge (due to the pheromone used to tell the swarm where to gather).

Beekeepers can also buy established colonies. These come in several hive bodies, and contain five to eight times the number of bees in a package. Established colonies will often produce honey the first year, and by produce, I mean a hundred pounds or more. Packages might produce honey the first year, but the goal of a package is to grow a colony, to get honey the next year. Beekeeping is as much about preparing ahead as anything. Planning doesn't help. You need to prepare, and the first year, you are preparing the colony for the second year.

The other option is to obtain bees by picking up swarms or cutting out colonies that make their homes in walls, chimneys, trees, or other places likely to cause bad bee/human interactions. Some people do this before buying equipment like veils, suits, and smokers, and use the money from removals to purchase their equipment. I don't' recommend that, for the same reasons I don't recommend throwing yourself from an airplane to retrieve money you can then use to buy a parachute.

art of beekeeping

The control of a colony mainly consists of managing a colony's population so that the maximum number of bees is available for a task at a particular time. Most beekeepers are interested in a surplus of honey. Maximal honey production occurs when the most workers bees (both foragers and ripeners) are present at the exact same time that nectar-producing flowers (in both numbers and nectar production) are also at an optimum. For pollination, both the grower and beekeeper are looking for a surplus of foraging honey bees. Package bee and queen producers try to have as many nurse (young worker) bees as possible on hand. Queen breeders also try to manage drone population numbers.

A colony of bees is composed of a single queen, many workers (infertile females), drones (males), and a brood (eggs, larvae, and pupae). A hive is the box used by beekeepers to house a colony.

A colony of bees tries to accumulate a surplus of provisions (nectar and pollen) during the more favorable seasons (when there is a lot of forage, such as flowers available, along with good weather) in order to be able to survive the more unfavourable seasons and reproduce. This period is the winter in the Northern hemisphere; in the Southern Hemisphere and in Africa this period is the dry season, or Summer.

The population of the colony varies according to the seasons. It is important for the colony to have a large population (30,000 to 60,000+ individuals) when there is a lot of forage available, in order to achieve the greatest possible harvest. The population is minimal in the winter (6,000 individuals) in order to reduce the consumption of provisions. The colony should not be too weak, however, because the bees which overwinter have to revive the colony again in the spring. If the population is too small over winter, another problem may be encountered: honey bees need to cluster together in winter in order to maintain the temperature (9 degrees celsius) required for their survival, and with reduced populations this is much more difficult to achieve.

During swarm season (May through July), you inspect every week to see if the colony needs more room to grow into, needs more room for nectar or honey, or needs to be split to prevent a swarm. The rest of the year it's about either preparing for winter (strengthening the colony to survive the winter), or preparing for summer (growing the colony to ensure a strong work force). That involves checking for signs of disease, checking the brood (laying) pattern to make sure the queen is doing well, and gauging the strength of the hive. Of course, if you just like observing the hive, there's plenty of opportunity to do that.


In the Northern Hemisphere, beekeepers usually harvest honey from July until September, though in warmer climates the season can be longer. The rest of the year is spent keeping the hive free of pests and disease, and ensuring that the bee colony has room in the hive to expand. Success for the hobbyist also depends on locating the apiary so bees have a good nectar source and pollen source throughout the year.

In the Southern Hemisphere, beekeeping is an all-the-year-round enterprise, although in cooler areas (to the south of Australia and New Zealand) the activity may be minimal in the winter (May to August). Consequently, the movement of commercial hives is more localised in these areas.


In the USA, the Langstroth hive is commonly used. The Langstroth was the first type of hive with movable frames, and other designs of hive have been based on it. In the UK, the most common type of hive is the National Hive but it is not unusual to see some other sorts of hive (Smith, Commercial and WBC, rarely Langstroth). The more traditional skep is now largely unlawful in the United States, as the comb and brood cannot be inspected for diseases.

A few hobby beekeepers are adopting various top-bar hives commonly found in Africa. These have no frames and the honey filled comb is not returned to the hive after extraction, as it is in the Langstroth hive. Because of this the production of honey in a top bar hive is only about 20% that of a Langstroth hive, but the initial costs and equipment requirements are far lower. Top-bar hives also offer some advantages in interacting with the bees and the amount of weight that must be lifted is greatly reduced.
When interacting with the bees, novice beekeepers usually wear protective clothing (including gloves and a hooded suit or hat and veil). Experienced beekeepers rarely use gloves because they make movement clumsy and can transmit disease from one hive to another. The face and neck are the most important areas to protect, so most beekeepers will at least wear a veil.

Defensive bees are attracted to the breath and a sting on the face can lead to much more pain and swelling than a sting elsewhere while a sting on a bare hand can usually be quickly removed by fingernail scrape to reduce the amount of venom injected.

The protective clothing is generally light colored and of a smooth material. This provides the maximum differentiation from the colony's natural predators (bears, skunks, etc.) which tend to be dark-colored and furry.
Smoke is the beekeeper's second line of defense; protective clothing provides remarkably little protection from agitated bees. Most beekeepers use a "smoker"�a device designed to generate smoke from the incomplete combustion of various fuels. Smoke calms bees; it initiates a feeding response in anticipation of possible hive abandonment due to fire. Smoke also masks alarm pheromones released by guard bees or when bees are squashed in an inspection. The ensuing confusion creates an opportunity for the beekeeper to open the hive and work without triggering a defensive reaction. In addition, when a bee consumes honey the bee's abdomen distends, making it difficult to make the necessary flexes to sting.

Smoke is of no use with a swarm, because swarms do not have honey stores to feed on in response. Usually smoke is not needed since swarms tend to be less defensive, as they have no stores to defend, and a fresh swarm will have fed well from the hive.

Many types of fuel can be used in a smoker as long as it is natural and not contaminated with harmful substances. These fuels include hessian, cardboard, and rotten or punky wood. Some beekeeping supply sources also sell commercial fuels like pulped paper and compressed cotton, or even aerosol cans of smoke.


Bees are kept in boxes stacked in piles 25 boxes should be sufficient Inside the boxes are frames on which the bees make their honey. Frames are made with a foundation of wax impressed on both sides with a pattern of honeybee cells. Bees use this pattern to build their cells. The hives are protected with heavy plastic during the winter. Beeing season begins when the trees and flowers start to bloom in spring. The colony of bees, can be up to 60,000 bees, but there is only one queen bed. To take care of the bees, a bee suit is required, a coverall which fastens at the wrists and ankles tightly. A hat is worn over the head with a heavy veil. A zipper on the bottom of the veil connects to a zipper at the top of the coverall suit. Leather gloves are also worn. A bee sting kit should be handy in case of allergy to bee venom. When the hive is opened, it is heavily smoked with burning twine which makes a heavy but cool smoke. This makes the bees load up on honey which makes it harder for them to sting. A hive tool is used to loosen the seal the bees made between the frames and the box. A healthy hive needs to be fed with syrup dripped down into the hive through small holes. If the frames are empty, a new queen is needed immediately or there will be no honey during the summer. Queen bees can be ordered from a supplier of bee equipment. A record must be kept of each box, detailing what is being done and what is needed. New queen bees arrive in a small cage with worker bees. The queen cage is sealed with a piece of candy. It takes about 3 days for the bees to eat the candy and release the new queen. The bees will be used to her by then and take care of her. When hives are being combined, a sheet of newspaper is put between the cages. They will eat through the newspaper and by that time, they will know each other well enough not to kill each other. Bees work only inside the hive during the first 20 days of their life. Then they begin to forage. They produce only 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey during the 6 weeks they live. Many new bees must be produced during this time to take over his place. A bees makes about 10 round trips from the hive in one day. Bees travel no more than about 1/2 mile from the hive. Dandelions are usually the first flower visited by bees in the spring. Sweet white clover and alfalfa make excellent honey. Clover honey and orange blossom honey is light in color and mild flavored. Honey from things such as buckwheat would be dark and strong tasting. When a colony swarms, about half of the hive leaves, taking the old queen with them. The hive will swarm if it is too crowded - in one season with good care - 9 hives can turn into 56 hives. Queen cells will be made at the bottom of the frames. A new hive or swarm needs a new queen bee. Royal jelly produced by the bees are fed to the queen cells which turn a regular bee into a queen. To prevent swarming, remove the cells with the new queen bees developing, or add an empty hive body with a sheet of newspaper between, or divide the hive into two hives. This is not foolproof but worth trying. A swarmed hive makes no money that year. The bees need a place to store their honey, so you put the 'Supers' (Boxes) on top of the original, and keep stacking the Supers on top as long as the bees keep making the honey. A stack may have as many as 5 Supers on top, but nine Supers is not unusual. To prevent the queen from entering the Supers, a queen excluder which is a piece of plastic with small holes that only the worker bees fit through. This is placed on top of the hive separating the queen from the Supers with small holes that she won't fit through.

A BEE FRAME: is removed to begin honey processing when the Super is 3/4 full of capped honey cells. When you remove the frames from a hive, you also remove the bees clinging to them. To remove a whole Super, you must use bee repellent. A bad smelling chemical which repels bees - called 'Bee go'. You place the chemical face down on a fume board over the Super which drives the bees down into the next Super down into the hive. The the Super can be removed, just by brushing away the last few remaining bees. You must cover up the honey filled Supers to keep bees from other hives from coming over and stealing the honey. They are attracted by the sweet smell. Once bees become robbers, they will invade other bee hives to take the honey.

THE HONEY HOUSE: The honey house has large glass windows and a concrete floor. Along the walls the Supers are stacked. In the honey house, honey is taken from the frames and put into glass jars.

EXTRACTING: First the caps must be cut off the cells using an electrically charged knife. The frame is propped over a decapping tank. (If there is no electricity, you will have to improvise with a regular knife by hand) The wax caps fall down into the tank along with the honey. Not all of the honey falls out however, which must be put into a machine called a honey extractor. The barrel shaped machine has a rack that holds 12 frames. The machine spins like a washing machine tub. The rapid spinning pulls the honey from the cells and throws it against the walls of the extractor. The honey runs down and collects at the bottom where it is withdrawn out through a spigot into buckets. Filters over the buckets catch bits of wax which is not wanted in the honey jars.

NOTE: The scraping from the edges of the honey frame are used medicinally to prevent colds, flu, etc. It is dark and strong flavored, and can be used in tea and is as good or better than penicillin.

AUTUMN CHORES: Check the coverings on the hives to make sure they are secure. Make new frames for the hives for spring use

   Congratulations, Nellie, you are about to join a rapidly growing group. In

fact the bee supply places are having a hard time keeping up with the demand, as gardeners recognize poor pollination and take steps to remedy it.

  In buying old equipment, you don't need to worry about mites. The mites must

have live hosts and when the bees die, they do too.

  Now you will have mites in your beekeeping, if not at first, then soon,

because the infection is everywhere, and drifting drones, which go from hive to hive, will spread them around. So you must count on treating for varroa mites, just as you have to treat your dog for heartworm, fleas and worms.

   Some treat for tracheal mites as well, but I think it is a waste; you just

need to get good stock from a good bee breeder. Then they will be resistant to tracheal mites.

  The concern with old equipment is a disease called American Foulbrood. It is

a bacterial disease that forms spores which can last for decades. If the comb is intact, you can look for scale to identify previous infection. I have pictures on the Pollination Home Page showing scale in old comb, but I just checked and the link is not working. I'll try to get that fixed; it's the one about buying bees, and you can check back in a couple days.

  If there is no comb left, it's pretty hard to tell whether the equipment is

contaminated. If the previous beekeeper was competent, he (or she) shouldn't have had disease, and if he did get a case, he would have burned the equipment.

  If he was just "messing with bees," then he may not have known why the bees

died. You'll have to ask some questions and try to evaluate the risk.

  If you think the guy (or gal) may have had disease, at least burn the frames

and start with fresh ones. The work to cleanse these is just not worth it. Then char the inside of the boxes, covers and bottom boards to kill any spores. You can use a propane torch, well away from any buildings, and keep a hose or a couple buckets of water to keep from overdoing the charring and winding up with just ashes.

  Another note. Sometimes you will find old homemade equipment. See if it

matches up with regular standard equipment. Offsized home-made stuff will make a lot of normal bee management impossible and you will regret the day you started with it.

  The best bet, for beginner beekeepers is to get a competent mentor. These

are best found through local beekeeping associations. You may also have beekeeping classes in the area; check with your county extension agent.

   A good reference for beginner beekeepers can be found online in Dr. Keith

Delaplane's beekeeping course, at:

  Another reference on garden pollination:

 You can check at for "Who's Who in Apiculture" for state bee

inspection officials (usually very helpful), regional beekeeping associations, and bee extension personnel.

  Good luck in your venture, Nellie. Let me know how you do.  You are welcome

to pass along these suggestions to your list.

  And y'all come by the pollination page.

Rearing Queens

Bees will produce queens under the stimuli of: (1) supersedure, (2) swarming, and (3) emergency conditions. Most, if not all, queens produced commercially are produced under the swarming stimulus.

Any beekeeper can produce queen cells by simply removing the queen, creating an emergency status. Within a day or so, around 5-15 emergency cells will have been started. After these cells are capped, they can be cut out and transferred to another colony. After emerging and mating, the colony is thus requeened with a queen of the type chosen by you, the beekeeper.

Most common methods of commercial queen production use variations of the" Doolittle method." The elements of this technique are:

1. Breeder Colony (or colonies): this colony has characteristics that you want to incorporate into all your colonies and, thus, the source of queens of "good stock.". You can select for almost any common characteristic (gentleness, productivity, color, winter-hardiness). Larvae, three days old or younger are selected from this colony for the grafting into beeswax queencups in the Starter Colony.

2. Starter colony (or colonies): A Queenless-colony having a population depending on how many queen cells are to be produced - a small population is required for only a few cells, while 4-5 pounds of bees is needed to produce hundreds of cells. There should be no eggs or young larvae in this colony.

3. Cell Building Colony (also called a cell Finishing Colony). Since the starter colony may require large numbers of bees and extensive manipulation, "started" cells are moved to Cell Building Colonies to be finished after twenty-four hours, while grafted larvae are again placed within the Starting Colony if desired. Started cells are placed near emerging brood above a queen excluder. The Cell building Colony allows the Cell Starting Colony to be used much longer and start many more cells. "Ripe," capped cells must be removed before the 16th day of their development, which means at the latest ten days after they are put in the starter colony.

4. Queen Mating Nuclei. Ripe cells are transferred to queen mating nuclei (Nucs). Thee is no standard size or style nuc. Warmer climates use smaller nucs (baby Nucs), while colder climates must use larger nuclei. Queens emerge from their cells here, take mating flights and begin to lay. Queens are then inspected to see if eggs are present in the nuc and them introduced to their permanent hive.

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Selecting Queens

Several races and hybrids of the honey bee, Apis mellifera, are available from queen producers. You can select the race or hybrid that best suits your beekeeping style, location and goals. Most commonly available races are: Italian, Carniolan, Caucasian and German Black. Most common hybrids are Midnight, Starline, Buckfast, and Yugo. There are others that are less common, not as available or little is known of their background or performance. It is good practice to ask the producer for any special information or date about queens produced; often a breeding program takes a back seat to simply producing queens for sale.

ITALIAN. The most commonly available race, Apis mellifera ligustica originated on the Italian peninsula, the only European bee with yellow pigmentation. They are short distance foragers, which means they are prone to robbing. They orient on color, so long rows of white colonies lend to drifting. Moderate spring buildup, peak summer populations and slow to shut down in fall can mean lots of winter bees - with the honey stores necessary for that. Low swarming is good, but can be temperamental.

CAUCASIAN. Apis mellifera caucasica evolved in the Caucas mountains near the Black Sea. Predominately dark, with gray or brown spots. Drones have dark hair, and queens are dark, harder to find. They are gentle, quiet on the combs and slow to build in the spring. Little swarming. Produces lots of propolis, but shut down early in the fall. They winter well.

CARNIOLAN. Apis mellifera carnica evolved in Austria and Yugoslavia, and most of Europe. The Yugo bee is of Caniolan decent. Build rapidly in the spring, they are heavy swarmers. Dark, with dark gray hair with some brown. Dark queens shut down in derths and early in fall. Calm and gentle, they forage in marginal weather. Robbing, drifting minimal.

BUCKFAST. A hybrid of several races, selected for gentleness, wintering, production and tracheal mite resistance. Available from Weaver Apiaries and some other outlets. Variable in appearance, queens tend toward leather. Moderate fast spring buildup, peak in early summer, good producers. Low swarming.

STARLINE. A hybrid of several stocks, all Italian. Fast spring buildup, lots of brood early means terrific honey production. Very uniform in appearance, they are slow to shut down in fall. Good commercial bee.

MIDNIGHT. A Carniolan/Caucasian cross. Moderate spring buildup, dark to dark gray, dark queens. Good in marginal weather and extremely gentle. Shuts down early in fall, winters well.

GERMAN BLACK. Apis mellifera mellifera. First bee in U.S., still very prominent in feral populations. Small, dark and mean. Very susceptible to foulbrood, but a survivor bee in many areas affected by Varroa and invasion of Africanized bees.

Africanized bees (Apis mellifera scutellata) have taken up residence in the southern reaches of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California. These are undesirable bees because of their defensiveness and are not raised for sale.

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Testing For Hygienic Behavior

Hygienic behavior is a genetic trait of some honey bee colonies. Colonies that are hygienic are able to detect diseased larvae and pupae and remove them from the nest before the disease becomes infectious. Hygienic behavior has been found to be a mechanism of resistance to AFB and Chalkbrood. Hygienic behavior may also be a mechanism of defense against Varroa mites.

The following procedure is used to test colonies for hygienic behavior.

1. Find a comb containing sealed brood on both sides of the frame. Cut section of the comb containing 100 cells on each side using a serrated knife. A 2"x2.5" rectangle works. This section of sealed brood will be called an insert.

2. Freeze the insert at -10 degrees F for 24 hours. Alternatively, brood may be frozen in place using a round can filled with liquid nitrogen. This avoids having to remove, freeze and then replace the comb section.

3. Count the number of sealed cells on each side of the insert and record it. Only count whole cells; do not count cells which have been cut or damaged along the edges of the insert.

4. Put the insert back in the comb from where it was cut, and return the frame to the hive putting it in the center of the brood nest. Note the time of day.

5. Forty eight hours after the insert was placed in the colony to be tested, return to the hive and inspect it. Count the number of sealed cells remaining in the insert.

6. If your colony has cleaned over 90% of the cells you can consider it to be hygienic. If your colony appears to be hygienic, it is a wise idea to test it again. There may be some variation in response between tests, particularly if the insert was not fitted back in the comb properly. Also, the lack of a nectar flow may slow the hygienic response to some degree.

There is a correlation between the removal of freeze-killed brood and the removal of diseased and Varroa infested brood.

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Wearing Protective Equipment

The first and most important rule to consider when it comes to wearing protective gear is: "Wear what makes you comfortable working bees."

Most important is a veil, which protects the face, the most sought-after target for guard bees. Veils can be free standing, that is without a helmet, or attached to a pith-type helmet, made of plastic or other material. Almost any hat that keeps the veil material off the face and neck will work. Veils usually have a mesh bottom that is snugged down over the collar onto the shoulders with a variety of ties and strings. This keeps bees out, providing there are no gaps or holes. Veils that attach to the beesuit with a zipper are popular, mostly because they are convenient, easily maintained, and virtually beeproof. They are also more expensive.

Beesuits are light in color, usually, but many wear what�s available - simply to keep their clothes clean. The white coverall suit is most popular, with a variety of pockets, cuffs and attachments. White is also the most difficult to keep clean. They are made from a variety of materials - cotton, cotton blends and synthetics - each with its own peculiar attributes. Suits should be �roomy�, to allow bending and stretching and lifting room, and for other clothes underneath. This also keeps the suit from stretching tautly over the skin underneath, leaving a vulnerable spot for stings.

Seasoned beekeepers seldom wear gloves because they feel they lose that �delicate� touch. However, most beginners start with them. Most gloves have cloth gauntlets of some type to seal the sleeves of the beesuit. Glove materials range from full leather to plastic to split leather to rubber. Some are ventilated, others have no fingers. Gloves can mean the difference between staying with bees or not for a beginner, and wearing them can help build the confidence and experience necessary to continue. As one gains experience, the finger tips can be cut off, which still protects most of the hand, while ensuring a more sensitive manipulation.

Boots and pants-cuff clasps range from hightop rubber boots to baling twine. The goal is to keep bees on the ground from crawling up pants legs - an unnerving experience. Comfort and durability and safety and cost are all important. All equipment should fit the job. A hobbyist with a few colonies will use, and need, different equipment than a commercial pollinator.

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Working a Swarm

Swarms are, without a doubt, both a blessing and a curse. The blessing part is that when one can be harvested and put to work in an apiary. A secondary blessing, obviously, is that a swarm issues (isn�t that a quaint word?) at all. That means a colony is healthy enough to swarm, something all too rare in these days of increasing stressors on honey bees..

The first thing to do with a swarm is collect it. At times easy, sometimes impossible. Swarms high in the air can be collected with vacuum devices, long ladders, or heroic gymnastics. Most can be collected into bags, boxes, supers or whatever and transported to permanent housing; ensure that there is enough ventilation, however, putting a strong swarm into an air-tight container is a recipe for disaster! Swarms are generally the gentilest of bees, but if left exposed for several days, they can become hungry and much more defensive. Always have a lighted smoker at the ready when working swarms.

The public relations aspect of swarm gathering shouldn�t be overlooked. But the macho image many beekeepers display while on the job probably does less than intended.

Once collected and transported, a beekeeper can do many things with this bunch of bees. The deciding factor is often the size of a swarm. Large swarms, 4 or 5 lbs. Can easily run themselves. Smaller swarms, 1-3 lbs. Can be combined with other swarms for a large colony; or added to a large colony to boost its nectar and pollen gathering capability during a major flow.

To be safe, all swarms should be considered infested with both tracheal and Varroa mites and treated accordingly. And, the queen heading that swarm is from essentially unknown heritage. To be certain of the future of that new colony, requeening as soon as possible should be considered.

Gathering a swarm can be the most exciting activity a beginner or seasoned veteran can experience. No two calls are even alike, and no two swarms are the same.

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Smoking Bees

Within and outside the dark hive, bees communicate extensively by smell. Nectar, pollen, diseases, other insects, brood, the queen, drones - everything in the hive has an odor que. As complicated as the bees� odor communication system appears to be, the manner that beekeepers have developed to overcome the bees� ability to perceive odors - both inside and outside the hive - is to puff cool, white smoke in and around the hive. For reasons not clearly understood, smoke stimulates bees to move to honey stores and engorge on honey. This can clearly be seen after applying smoke to a colony.

Early smokers were little more than a smoldering fire beneath or near a hive. Later, tobacco pipes were modified to direct smoke into hives as were other early devices. After evolving through many different designs and styles, beekeepers in North America have a small, but adequate range of smoker designs from which to choose. The years of numerous smoker designs being commercially manufactured seems to have passed.

Smoker fuels are as numerous as are the beekeepers who use them. However, common fuels are: grass clippings, pine straw, sumac pods, cloth rags, rotted wood, wood shavings, and burlap. Essentially, anything can be used that produces cool, white billowing smoke and has not been treated with pesticides or with fire retardants.

Under normal conditions, smoke is effective for about 2-4 minutes before needing to be reapplied. Only use enough to turn the bees back into the colony and direct smoke into the hive. Attempting to smoke bees outside the colony is generally an ineffective way to get them to move where you want them.

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Installing Packages

Certainly the commonest way to start a colony, or start beekeeping is to install a package of bees into an empty home-to-be.And there are nearly as many ways to get bees from shipping cage to functioning unit as there are people installing them. But basic biology dictates certain principles be obeyed, no matter what.

A box with some or all drawn comb is better than all foundation - it gives the bees some place to be, and store food immediately, and reduces the amount of gathered food required for wax production, freeing it for brood food. Bees can be �moved in� by dumping them inside the box (with 3 frames removed, then replaced, to accommodate the mass); they can be dumped directly in front, to march right in; or a combination of the two, where some are placed inside, the remainder outside.

Some remove several frames, open the top of the package and lay it on its side, inside. The package is removed in a day or so. Once installed several precautions are recommended. The first rule is -feed, feed, feed. Then feed more, until they don�t take any more. Feeding well into the summer may be required if adequate forage isn�t available.

Treating for nosema should be considered since a new package is under stress, and the presence of tracheal and Varroa mites is a possibility that must be reckoned with, too. Checking for queen acceptance, and then queen production is a must, but there is a fine line between too-often, and too-seldom observations. Edge toward the too-often, but just barely. Once established, remove feeders, add supers and prepare for the honey flow - and harvest.

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Making Splits

Generally, when the phrase �making splits� comes up, the image of increasing one�s beekeeping holdings is featured. That is, making two or more colonies from a single parent. That is because splitting a colony is the easiest and least expensive way to increase the number of colonies owned. But there are other reasons to split a colony, and, there are nearly as many ways to split one as there are colonies to split.

The overall principle in making a split is to start with a large, healthy, populous colony (or colonies). The goal is to remove �some� uncapped brood, �some� honey and pollen resources to a new box, or two, to start a new colony. A new queen may, or may not be added. The question most often asked is �How much is �some�?� Usually, you do not want to reduce the parent colony to less than half its resources so it can continue to keep pace with the season. You may need to take bees, brood or food from more than one parent to successfully build a new split. Splits, then, should have enough nurse bees to care for the brood, some foragers to gather resources, sealed brood for immediate colony expansion, younger brood for continued expansion and some resources for immediate consumption.

Splits can be made to �make increase�, or for other reasons. Popular swarm control/prevention measures include splitting a large colony to allow room for expansion, and to relieve brood nest congestion. Often the �new� colony is rejoined to the parent when the swarming urge is over so the actual number of colonies does not increase. One technique used to reduce tracheal mite infestation is to divide a colony later in the season, dispatching the older, infested bees, and overwintering the younger, less infested bees. There are few things that are as fulfilling as creating a new colony, especially if it is �free�, and you are the one who made it happen. Splits enable both to occur.

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Types of Beehives

The history of bee hive and hive equipment development is colorful and detailed. There was a beekeeping time when the beekeeper had to choose what type (or types) of hive was to be used. The equipment would tot interchange with other styles of the day. Men the early Langstroth-styled hives, were not completely interchangeable. Langstroth, himself, made alterations as did later designs that copied the Langstroth hive. Bee hives that are manufactured in the US are interchangeable (for the most part). Wood joint types used to assemble the hive components are a major difference among manufacturers. Anothervariation is the quality of the wood used as hive components. Naturally, cost is a factor here. AM things considered, however; US beekeeping equipment is standardized and is interchangeable.

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Plastic Hive Equipment

Plastic equipment is in use in some aspects of the US industry. The Walter T. Kelley Company manufacturers a line of plastic hive components. Plastic is also widely used as a wax foundation base, frame pans, and single component plastic frames. Plastic frames resists wax moth damage, do not require painting, and do not require assembly. Some disadvantages are a tendency to warp when exposed to sunlight and difficulty in sterilizing with heat. Various companies use plastic to form containers for bees to store honey in. Such containers e1iminate the extracting phase of beekeeping and provides honey in its natural comb.

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Moving Bees

You can move a bee hive, with bees, almost anyway imaginable. Some ways, of course, are easier and safer than others.Commercial operations need the economy of size and efficiency. A large, flat bed truck serves that purpose. Some come with a flatbed trailer that attaches to the truck to increase efficiency. These trucks usually have customized tie-downs,tool boxes and equipment storage areas. Getting the bees on and off the truck can be done by hand (muscle) or machine. Regular two wheel carts, sized to hold hives are often used. Motorized carts are common, as are booms and tommy-lifts. Fastest are fork-lifts. There are several models available, from the standard, such as this one here, to large, specially designed models especially for standard bee pallets. Some have cabs, most have protective cages and large tires to move easily in muddy conditions. Some can swivel or pivot in the center. Once loaded on the truck bed (many are built to hold exactly the pallets used) tie downs range from regular rope, self-tightening straps, wide canvas belts to wooden frames for extra security. Nets are always in order. Some beekeepers close colonies when moving, while others leave them open under the nets. A secure net is required a all times to avoid leaks. Anytime bees are moved the boxes should be fastened, entrances closed(except as above), the load netted and the entire load fastened to prevent shifting.

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The Model Bee Yard

Somewhere the perfect bee yard exists, probably. It has all of the attributes below. Most are the result of a beekeeper's style that fits both locatiopand management. Bee yards should be easy to get to, right-up-next-to-the-hives easy, all year long. Or, at least whenever you need to get there. Newly plowed Relds, sudden fences, rising creeks, too muddy roads, locked gates and the like should be anticipated, and avoided.

The most accessible location is worthless without something for the bees to forage on - and there should be enough of it to produce surplus honey for every colony in the apiary. Field crops, hay crops, tree bloom, weed species, horticultural or oil crops all can work. But there needs to be large areas of them, blooming all season to fill the bin. Water is required all season long, too. A lake, stream or pond is best. Swimming pools, cattle troughs or leaky faucets are not good.

A wind break, especially during the colder months is recommended. A tree line, fience or hill works best. These can serve as shade producers during the warmer months, and non-observation screens from the public all year long. Air drainage is important. Cold air'drains'downhill, so colonies at the bottom of a hill get 'dumped'on in cold weather. Hill tops, too, suffer winds and wind chill problems. Avoid both. Exposure seems important to some. Colonies receiving early day sun start earlier than those in the shade (at least with some races of bees). Southwest is the most common, and probably works best.

Protection from all manner of beasts sould be provided. Bear (electric fencing), skunks and 'possorn (fencing, barriersy cattle and horses (regular fences, though stout), and prying eyes (screening, hedges) all work. For large outyards, an out-building works as a storage shed, work area, extracting room (well, sometimes) and lunch room when needed.

Most of all, a beeyard should be a pleasant place to visit. Senic, quiet, distant (no matter how close to whatever) and, most importantly - NOT a challenge to use.

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Comb Honey

Before the extractor came into common use, comb honey was the norm rather than the exception as the commercial form of honey. Over the years, many types of equipment designs have been used to facilitate the production, harvesting and sale of comb honey. An efficient means was eventually discovered using'squares' made of thin sheets of basswood. Because of the long grain in this wood, it could be scored and'folded'to form the square. These squares were called 'sections' and came, for awhile, is several sizes, but today are available in the standard size, 12 ounces. Manufactured in the U.S. by the Walter T. Kelley company, on a machine developed by the A.I. Root Company.

The round section in use today had its first trial as a ring cut from a glass jar. The plastic Cobana section was invented by a Dr. in Michigan but languished for several years with only aa few, but staunch supporters. The advantage of the rounds is their case and reusable parts. The addition of covers is all that is required for packaging, as well as a label. They are produced exclusively by Ross Rounds, of Massilon, Ohio.

The newest piece of comb honey equipment is the Hogg Half Comb Cassette, invented by John Hogg. This self-contained unit has a wax-coated, hexagonal imprinted base that comb is built on. When completed by the bees, a cover is added and it is market ready. Comb honey continues to have a small, but lucrative market. It has a rich history and promising, and choice-filled future.

For additional information see

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Removing Bees From Supers in Order to Extract Honey

Probably the oldest and most direct technique to remove honey from bees was to bundle up as much as possible - probably at night - and just tear into the colony, in the process taking numerous stings. The development of smokers to subdue bees was a major advancement in honey removal. Using a lot of smoke, however, is not recommended as it can easily permeate the wax combs and contaminate the honey.

Aside from taking excessive numbers of stings, removing honey during cold weather periods is a simple way to take honey from bees. Practically all the bees will be in the cluster and not in the supers. Though bees don't care for the procedure, they can be brushed from combs with a soft bristle brush. This procedure is simple and cheap, but can result is a substantial number of bee stings. The old standard still applys. Take the honey when the fewest bees are at home.

Bee Traffic-Flow Control Devices to Remove Honey

Various types of bee valves (eg. the Porter Bee Escape) and escape boards are available that will allow bees to move from: supers but not return to them. The Porter bee escape fits in the inner cover (Bee Escape + Inner Cover = Escape Board). This model of escape board and others that work on the same principle, is put beneath honey supers. Cool nights are a great help in the successful use of escape boards because bees move back to the brood nest arealeaving the supers. Advantages are: (1) bee escapes and escape boards are inexpensive, and (2) they are simple. Disadvantages are: (1) without cool nights, bees may be slow to move down, (2) robber bees may enter cracks and take honey, (3) supers are handled twice (once to put on the escape devices and a second time to remove them), and (4) a second trip to the yard may be required.

Blowing and Chemicals to Remove Honey

High volume-low pressure air devices can be used (eg a shop vacuum, leaf blower) or can be purchased commercially to remove bees from supers. They are fast but often expensive. However, easily obtained leaf blowers are changing that. The downside of these devices is that they do put a lot of bees in the air, and cause considerable confusion in the beeyard during harvest. Beeyards located near high human populations can get out of control. Chemicals can also purchased and used by soaking false covers that have a cloth interior. These so-called "fume pads" remove bees quickly, but the downside is the strong odor that permeates everywhere when they are in use.

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Pollination is the transfer of pollen from the anther to the stigma of a flower. This seems like a simple mechanical act, but the interactions that take place between pollinating bee and the plant flower are often more complex than one thinks. To better understand this, it is often helpful to 'think' like a bee or 'think' like a plant. As a plant you produce a flower as an attraction to stimulate a bee to visit. This visit will hopefully pollinate and start the process of fertilization that will allow a fruit or seed to be produced. This fruit or seed ensures your reproduction.

How do you attract the bee? Your flower should have visual cues that can be perceived by the bee such as a color of white, blue, or yellow and possibly a contrasting nectar guide (visible or in LJV) on the petal to direct the probing mouthparts. Positioning flowers in clusters on the inflorescence or into a head like a sunflower may also be advantageous. A reward of nectar or pollen must be provided to the bee to stimulate return, and continued visits. Without a reward bees stop visiting.It is better to spread the reward to induce many visits rather than providing a single banquet.

As a bee you need to find pollen to feed your brood and nectar to fuel your flights, and sustain you over the long winter months. Your body parts and behavioral flexibility adapt you easily to obtain food from floral sources. You use all your senses - visual, olfactory and touch - to respond to the cues presented by flowers. Your use wings to transport you and legs to land with. You locate and probe for nectar and easily suck it from the flowers with specialized mouth parts. You groom your hairy body withcombs and brushes and some fancy legwork to pack the pollen in your corbiculae, and carry it back to the hive. You then use your communication system of dances and odors to let your hivemates know where the food is located.

For more information on this topic see

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Attracting Honey Bees With Scents

The battle of trying to make honey bees go where people want them to, rather than where the bees want to go, is several decades old. Early attempts used sugar water, protein supplements and other food-oriented substances sprayed on crops to be pollinated. These were only moderately successful, and then only to the point of having the bees collect the material from leaf surfaces. Visiting the flowers wasn't usually a result - nor was success.

Several years ago a worker honey bee pheromone was used to entice bees into an area, and, finally, onto a crop. This was more successful In that once there, the bees did manage to visit the flowers, reporting back to the hive and recruiting more foragers. There had to be some reward to make this occur. The reasoning was that in marginal years - when the weather was less than favorable, the flower crop less than abundant or other limiting factors occurred - applying an attractant was good insurance. Using it during optimal years, moreover, would, it seemed, increase visitation and thus yields. The cost per acre was the key factor - was yield in creased enough to more than pay for the spray? In marginal years the answer was often yes, in good years it was questionable. However, the most recent research indicates that it is generally more profitable to apply the substance than not, especially with high value crops like apples.

The newest product is this line uses the queen's pheromone to attract bees to an area (queen mandibular pheromone). Even more specific than earlier products, it claims to be more successful in attracting bees to at least certain crops. Still, there must be a reward, at the end of the pheromonal rainbow. Again, when conditions are optimal this additive's advantages are marginal when considering cost. However, when crop or flying conditions axe less than ideal it may make the difference between success and failure for a grower.

Another potential use for this newest product is in manipulating other honey bee behavior. This would certainly be a boon if it retards swarming, increases foraging or other positive activities. This product may soon be available to the general beekeeping public.

For more information on this topic, see

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Extracting The Crop - Nature's Sweet Mess

A large honey crop is clearly a mixed blessing. The more supers that go on, the more honey to be processed. More honey means more work - but it also means more money. For years, clever people have tried to develop equipment to make the uncapping, extracting, pumping, filtering, and bottling procedure more convenient - even easy. Though 'easy' extracting has not yet been achieved, the process is much more convenient. Old processing equipment was made from galvanized tin withlead solderjoints. It was solid equipment that was built to stand years of heavy use. The clutch-drive mechanism was simple, heavy-duty, and a bit dangerous. Belts, drives, shafts, and pulleys were all exposed. In fact, a few early extractors were powered by low compression gasoline engines. Extracting was done In the yard - an idea that should probably be revisited.

We now use stainless steel with welded joints on big extractors. Smaller hobby-type extractors may use plastic barrels. In many in stances, direct-current drive motors (DC) that are variable-speed are used that allow for gently extracting full combs of honey. The equipment is mechanically simpler, but technologically more complicated. It's lighter and almost maintenance-free.

       Most commercial processing lines would be ordered as follows:
       1 - uncapper
       2 - extractor (s)
       3 - heated sump
       4 - honey pump
       5 - filter
       6 - settling tank
       7 - bottler

Other equipment might include a barrel melter, a flash heater, wax spinner and other equipment-moving devices. A second line would drain honey from wax cappings to the sump. Dried cappings would be melted into beeswax.

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Seldom Used Equipment

There are all manner of things used in the art and business of keeping bees that do not generally get mentioned in the journals, the books, or at the meetings you regularly attend. That doesn't mean they aren't good, just that they are used so seldom that they command only a foot note in the references your use.

The following are some of these rare gems. There are more, certainly. Don't assume something doesn't work just because you haven't used it.

The slatted (or slotted) rack was used initially to take up the space of a deep bottom board. It assists ventilation and reduces brace and ladder comb. Some swear by them, some at them.

A division board is used to take the place of a frame in a super when a population is small. Easily homemade from a board and nails, they enclose a small cluster.

A robber screen can be used to protect small colonies, especially during dearths.

Top feeders work well because you don't have to open the colony to fill a frame-style feeder, they hold more, and are more durable than jars onthe inner cover, and are as accessible.

A ventilated bottorn board adds in ventilation, both during summer and winter. Used in England successfully, they are unique, and probably should be tried more often.

Drifting can be a problem, especially when colonies are sitting in long rows. Painting various patterns on the front of colonies can help bees identify their own, thus reducing the drifting problem.

Drip boards serve several purposes. They collect errant honey leaks from supers stored on them, provide air space between the floor and the honey, and a space for two-wheelers to grip the stack. Placing a screened division board between two alien colonies enables them to gain each other's odors, while keeping them separate to do their own thing. Eventually they can be joined after this close but separate association.

Always consider new equipment. It just may be what you've been looking for.

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Building Your Own Beekeeping Woodenware

In addition to the botany, insect behavior, meteorology, and marketing that beekeepers must understand, they must also be be woodworkers. Competitively priced beekeeping equipment is readily available everywhere within the United States and, for the most part, is interchangeable.

However, before the days of the big manufacturers, beekeepers built their equipment or they had someone build it for them. Though it can rarely be built more cheaply than it can be purchased, never-the-less, it can be a very pleasant part of beekeeping if one has basic woodworking skills and basic tools. For some time, special bee lave table saws were sold. Now they are more difficult to find, but used ones can still be purchased occasionally.

Fingerjoints are currently the most common, and according to some, the strongestjoint available. They will require ajig, usually home made, to neatly and precisely cut the slots to line up with the "fingers". Avoiding all this would be simply to use butt joints - two boards are butted together and simply nailed. TIM joint is fast but weak. If a colony is not going to be moved, it will probably work okay. The dado joint, used by some manufacturers is becoming more popular, and is strong enough to withstand the rigors of beekeeping.

Two things to keep in mind if you decide to build your own equipment: (1) In all instances, respect "Bee Space" requirements and (2)strongly consider building your equipment to fit standard equipment. The good thing is that the bees are not terribly demanding about how the hive should look or be painted. Keeping bees in hives that you build can give agreat sense of satisfaction.

Several states have extension publications that give dimensions for constructing hives. Contact your state specialist for more information. These are also available on several Internet beekeeping sites.

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Protective Coatings For The Hive

Some wood may last longer while some may last much less, depending on the climate, but hives are definitely helped by sometype of protective coating. The average life of a bee box is about seven years. Scraped and routinely painted, equipment can go much longer. The problem is with film coatings. Since the inside surfaces of bee hives should not be painted, the paint film on the outer surface is stressed by water migrating to the film from the "inside" of the hive rather than the outside of the hive. Oil-based paints are the worst and will readily peel withinjust a couple of years. Due to ease of application and lower cost, latex paints are common choices. The rubber-based latex paints will flex and resist chalking and peeling much more than oil paints, but they, too, will finally succumb to mildew and peeling.

Some commercial beekeepers and beekeepers in other countries routinely dip equipment in paraffin or beeswax. This is a good finish that protects the wood from all sides and ends, but requires working around hot, flammable paraffin. Once the paraffin has begun to show signs of wear, simply dip it again in hot paraffin to recoat the finish and to remove wax and propolis residue. In recent years, polyurethane exterior stains have become popular and have been consistently improved. As with paraffin-im pregnation, many of these stains are water repellant, resist mildew and fading, and clean up with water and soap.

A final warning has to do with pressure treated wood that is now in universal use. The materials used to preserve the wood are usually toxic to honey bees. Thus, this wood is not recommended for bee colonies. Even the sawdust from this wood is considered a health hazard and dust masks are recommended when working so-called "Wolmanized" treated wood.

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