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Successful Beekeeping A-B-C’s

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"Successful Beekeeping A-B-C's" by Terry Martyn Jr

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Disclaimer

The advice contained in this material might not be suitable for everyone. The author obtained the information from sources believed to be reliable and from his own personal experience, but he neither implies nor intends any guarantee of accuracy.

The author, publisher and distributors never give legal, accounting, medical or any other type of professional advice. The reader must always seek those services from competent professionals that can review their own particular circumstances.

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"Successful Beekeeping A-B-C's" by Terry Martyn Jr

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Contents

Please Read This First........................................................................................2

Terms of Use ...........................................................................................................................2

Disclaimer................................................................................................................................2

Contents ..............................................................................................................3

About the Author ................................................................................................7

Benefits of Beekeeping ......................................................................................8

Pollination ...............................................................................................................................8

Stress Reliever........................................................................................................................8

Educational .............................................................................................................................8

Gifts..........................................................................................................................................8

Healthy Products ....................................................................................................................8

First Steps .........................................................................................................10

Cost ........................................................................................................................................10

Space .....................................................................................................................................10

Food, Water etc.....................................................................................................................11

Pets and Other Domestic Creatures ...................................................................................11

Wild Animals .........................................................................................................................11

Climate ...................................................................................................................................11

Rules and Regulations .........................................................................................................12

Neighbors ..............................................................................................................................12

Watch and Learn from the Bees ......................................................................14

Join Your Local Beekeeping Group ................................................................15

Support the Group................................................................................................................16

Types of Bees....................................................................................................17

Queens, Workers and Drones. ................................................................................................17

Queen Bee .............................................................................................................................17

Introducing a New Queen Bee.............................................................................................18

Drones ...................................................................................................................................18

Worker Bees..........................................................................................................................19

Producing Queens, Drones and Workers ..............................................................................19

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Producing Queens................................................................................................................19

Producing Worker Bees .......................................................................................................20

Essential Equipment.........................................................................................21

Bee Hives...................................................................................................................................21

Modern Hives ........................................................................................................................21

Managing Hives ........................................................................................................................24

Parts of a Hive ...........................................................................................................................24

Clothing .............................................................................................................27

The Tools ...........................................................................................................28

Hive Tool....................................................................................................................................28

Bee Brush..................................................................................................................................28

The Smoker ...............................................................................................................................28

Getting Your Bees.............................................................................................30

Complete Hive ...........................................................................................................................30

Nucleus Hive .............................................................................................................................31

Setting up a Nucleus ............................................................................................................31

Package Bees............................................................................................................................32

Transferring the Bees to the Hive .......................................................................................32

Hiving a Swarm .........................................................................................................................33

Helpful Tips ...........................................................................................................................35

Prevention of Bee Swarming ...........................................................................36

Combining Weak Hives ....................................................................................37

Feeding Your Bees ...........................................................................................39

Bee Food ...................................................................................................................................39

Honey .....................................................................................................................................39

Table Sugar ...........................................................................................................................40

How to Feed Bees.....................................................................................................................40

Entrance Feeder....................................................................................................................40

Tile division-board feeder ....................................................................................................40

Friction Top Can ...................................................................................................................40

Hive Top Feeder....................................................................................................................40

Pollen or Pollen Substitutes....................................................................................................41

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Disease Management .......................................................................................42

American Foulbrood.............................................................................................................42

European Foulbrood ............................................................................................................42

Sacbrood ...............................................................................................................................42

Parasitic Mite Syndrome (PMS)...........................................................................................43

Chalkbrood............................................................................................................................43

Diseases of Adult Bees ............................................................................................................43

Nosema ..................................................................................................................................43

Mites.......................................................................................................................................44

Pest Management .............................................................................................46

Bears ......................................................................................................................................46

Birds.......................................................................................................................................46

Ants ........................................................................................................................................46

Cattle ......................................................................................................................................46

Small Hive Beetle..................................................................................................................46

Frogs ......................................................................................................................................46

Fire Ants ................................................................................................................................46

Rodents .................................................................................................................................47

Raccoons...............................................................................................................................47

Skunks ...................................................................................................................................47

Moths .....................................................................................................................................47

Beekeeping Management During Summer .....................................................48

Beekeeping Management During Fall .............................................................49

Hive Examination (I) .................................................................................................................49

Hive Management .....................................................................................................................50

Managing Bees within Your Hive ........................................................................................50

Managing Bees During Winter .........................................................................51

Hive Inspection .....................................................................................................................51

Cluster Inspection ................................................................................................................51

Honey Supply........................................................................................................................51

Checking Honey Storage .....................................................................................................52

Beekeeping Management During Spring ........................................................53

Hive Inspection .....................................................................................................................53

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Hive Strength ........................................................................................................................53

More Supers ..........................................................................................................................53

Capped Honey.......................................................................................................................53

Laying Queen ........................................................................................................................54

Brood .....................................................................................................................................54

Your First Harvest.............................................................................................55

Extracting the Honey Crop ......................................................................................................55

Brushing the Bees ................................................................................................................56

Escape Boards......................................................................................................................56

Bee Blowers ..........................................................................................................................56

Extracting Honey ..............................................................................................58

Equipment .................................................................................................................................58

Comb Honey..............................................................................................................................59

Liquid Honey .............................................................................................................................60

Transporting Hives ...........................................................................................62

Important Terms................................................................................................64

Suppliers ...........................................................................................................66

United Kingdom ........................................................................................................................66

U.S.A. .........................................................................................................................................66

Canada .......................................................................................................................................67

Australia ....................................................................................................................................67

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About the Author

I will always be grateful to my grandfather who let me help him with his bee hives and about the productive and puzzling creatures inside them.

I wrote this book to answer your questions and encourage you, like many other people I’ve talked to, to become new bee keepers.

I’ve tried to cover as many aspects as I could without loading you down too much with theory or opinion.

I also hope that that you will use it as a reference and for motivation from when you first set up a hive to the time, not too far away, when you start sharing your knowledge and enthusiasm with other would-be apiarists.

Then, you might agree with me that the benefits are much more than just honey and money!

Terry Martyn Jr.

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Benefits of Beekeeping

Pollination

Pollination: Bees are active pollinators. Most

plants require effective pollination for their survival.

Bees are the most preferred pollinating insects.

Extensive and proper pollination can bring about

larger harvests of fruits, vegetables, and crops.

Having bees nearby can bring a marked

improvement in the quality and quantity of

vegetables, fruits, or flowers you and your

neighbors grow.

Research shows that the dollar value of pollination by domesticated bees and beekeepers to a range of agricultural crops in the U.S.A. alone is measured in the millions of dollars per year.

Stress Reliever

Although there may not be any specific scientific claims to prove it, yet, beekeepers feel bees help them reduce their personal stress levels. Visitors enjoy just watching the bees coming in and going out of their hives with all their hustle and bustle.

Educational

Beekeeping is very educational for adults and children. You can learn many things from watching bees as they follow specific patterns of work.

Different categories of bees have assigned duties. Keeping a regular watch on beehives, observing bees, drones, and worker bees going about their work can teach us valuable lessons on work and time management.

Gifts

Beekeeping helps you to be able to shower your friends and

relatives with various exclusive gifts at a fairly low cost. Gift items

from your beehives could include bottled honey, beeswax,

cosmetics, homemade candles and even lip balm.

Healthy Products

You can use the bee products available from your bee colonies to

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maintain your health. A regular supply of fresh, pure honey collected from your own beehive is just the start.

Many people believe that propolis (a glue produced and used by bees to maintain their combs) is good for you.

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First Steps

Before you order or build your first hive and invite any bees to move in, check that you have the space, time, money and other resources necessary for your new hobby.

I will share the knowledge I’ve gathered about every aspect of beekeeping but much will depend on your personal circumstances and other commitments, local regulations and your neighbors.

Cost

You need enough money to set up your hives, gather the equipment needed and buy your bees long before you will see any return at all from the first couple of hives.

You can sometimes get used equipment at a lower cost but you must be careful that every precaution has been taken to ensure that it does not carry any defects or residue of any disease which could affect your bees.

The best advice is to buy new equipment and to pay a bit extra for better quality gear that you can be confident will require minimum maintenance and last longer.

You need to work out for yourself what it is worth to you to reduce the time and stress that can result from buying out of the bargain bin, especially when you are still learning your way around.

Space

You need enough space to locate each hive with at least a few feet clear of obstructions.

You should allow at least three feet between hives.

You also need easy access to the area where you put your hives. You will need to remove, repair or replace parts of the hive, bring in your equipment and take out the honey and other produce as well as damaged hive sections.

Keep some distance between the hives and any public paths or roads. This reduces the chance of bees upsetting passers-by or the public interfering with your bees.

Planting a hedge or placing some fencing about 6 feet high between the hives and any public area will reduce the possibility of conflict. It’s no problem for the bees which are naturally inclined to circle upward as they leave the hive so that they can map their surroundings for the return journey when they will, usually, be carrying a valuable load.

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Food, Water etc.

Bees can travel miles to get the food they need but the shorter the distance they need to cover, the less risk that they do not return and the greater chance of a bumper harvest from happier, stronger bees.

A reliable, year-round source of water is also essential. It should not be something like a pool or a bucket under a dribbling tap which the bees would have to share with other creatures, human or animal.

The water should be at least a few feet from the hive so that the bees can relieve themselves on the way. Bees do not foul their hives and you don’t want them fouling their water supply.

Make sure that there is something, like twigs or small pieces of plastic foam, floating in the water where they can stand while they drink. Bees don’t swim – they can drown!

Pets and Other Domestic Creatures

My cat has never had a problem with my bees and most cats will probably be too smart to get stung.

Dogs, generally, are more inquisitive, even aggressive and there is probably more risk of a painful confrontation. Keep the dog away from the area where the bees are travelling and drinking or make sure it is closely supervised by an adult or responsible older child.

Larger animals, like cattle and horses, are more likely to harm your bees and the hive than suffer any major damage themselves. Don’t risk it!

Wild Animals

From bugs to mice and on up to bears, they’re all likely to have a negative effect on your bees and your returns. Keep them away by whatever legal means you can.

Avoid poison, if for no other reason than it could hurt you, your honey and your bees as well.

Climate

Bees can live almost anywhere where there is enough vegetation to provide the raw materials for their comb building and honey production.

But, you should avoid intense sunlight or dark areas where they would have to work too hard to moderate the temperature inside the hive.

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Under a shady tree might be a good location but keep a

reasonable distance from the tree trunk and branches.

If your area gets frost or snow, you will need to protect the

hives during the cold months. You might wrap the hives while

leaving the entrance area clear.

You will also have to ensure that there is no snow or

condensation inside the top of the hive. As the frost melts,

the cold water could drop on and kill your bees. That could

have a serious effect on the health and productivity of the hives.

Don’t put the entrance in the path of the prevailing wind.

Hilltops and the bottom of depressions expose your hives to cold weather and the risk of damp seriously affecting the internal parts of the hive and, of course, the health of the whole colony.

If the hive receives sunlight early in the morning, that encourages the bees to start their work sooner.

Rules and Regulations

Before you start beekeeping, you must check all county or district restrictions. Some counties require beekeepers to register apiary locations with the county agricultural commissioner during January or whenever you get new bees.

You need to pay appropriate fees.

Neighbors

You should also consider any possible allergic reactions to your family or neighbors due to beekeeping. Consider possible oppositions before you start beekeeping.

Much of the opposition which I’ve heard about has been fuelled by media reports of

“killer bees” which are mostly hype.

But, there are a small number of people who can have a serious reaction to even one bee sting.

The other downside of bees is their droppings can damage a car’s exterior and, of course, put spots on the vehicle. This is not usually a major factor – birds drop more mess and nobody bans them.

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You can also reduce the possibility by putting fencing or tall plants, about six feet high, a few feet in front of the hive entrance to encourage the foragers to fly higher soon after leaving the hive and to stay high on their return flights.

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Watch and Learn from the Bees

The most important lessons that you will learn will come from your bees. So, be prepared to spend a reasonable amount of time in their company.

An important factor in your eventual success is the

gradual development of your understanding or intuition

about how your particular bees are doing.

We must use all our senses when we are near the

hives. Sometimes, it might just be an out of the ordinary

smell or sound which is the signal that something is

wrong and we need to take some sort of action.

For instance, your bees may be rushing around the hive entrance. This is common when the foragers are starting out in the morning or when a bee has returned to the hive and alerted the other workers of a new, rich source of food for the colony.

But, the current commotion may be the result of an attempted invasion by aggressive bees from another hive!

You can see how important it is that you learn as quickly as possible how to know what event you are watching and what action, if any, you need to take.

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Join Your Local Beekeeping Group

Membership of your local group of beekeepers can also be invaluable.

One of the greatest assets for a new beekeeper is the knowledge and active support of more experienced people in your area.

However, it is a common complaint that, "When you get three beekeepers together, you are sure to hear at least four theories of the best way to keep bees!"

The first lesson is that we should never stop listening and learning.

You will only know how good the advice you are given is when you put some of it into practice. Beekeeping, after all, is a hobby with more than 1000 years of history behind it.

We still have a great deal to learn and it is even possible that we have forgotten some important points about proper hive management.

Some say that our hobby is as much an art as a science.

If we stop listening, learning and evaluating ideas and practices that are new to us, we reduce the potential benefits that we may gain from our beekeeping.

Just because an idea is new or has been successful for another beekeeper, does not mean that you should blindly follow these suggestions and rush to change your current method, especially if it has been successful for you up until now!

Your own ideas will change to some extent as you get more experience around your hives.

The more experienced members can not only provide information which will speed your learning process, some may let you watch them do the various tasks, like inspecting hives and frames, preparing and using a smoker etc.

You could also help the other members by volunteering

to help them with some of the physical work and gain

some valuable experience for yourself.

Many clubs offer classes where you can learn some of

the practical aspects of your new hobby. Don't be afraid

to ask questions about any part which is not clear to you.

From my own experience, I know that many people hold

back because they don't want to exhibit their lack of knowledge in front of the other people. But, this can seriously delay your development as a successful beekeeper.

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You may also be helping other inexperienced people who are also having trouble with that particular aspect but hesitate about asking questions.

In fact, it's a good idea to seek out other beginners in the group and have your own discussions and provide support to each other when needed.

Don't worry if some of the group seem to progress much faster than you feel you are doing. The important thing is to learn the basics thoroughly, but do it at a pace which you personally are comfortable with.

Support the Group

Try to give back something for the value you get, not just by paying your annual subscription and turning up for meetings. Every club of whatever kind needs more members who will invest some of their time and energy to help the club with the smooth running of projects and the regular meetings.

Almost every club, not just beekeepers, usually has too many drones.

Many members will notice your willingness to give back. Some may try to take advantage but it will also encourage more members to share their experience with you.

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Types of Bees

There are many varieties of bees.

The most common domesticated bee is the Apis

mellifera.

I suggest you start with the “Italian” species which has

earned a reputation for their usually peaceful attitude,

production and general good health.

Discuss this with other keepers in your local area before making a decision. There may be reasons based on local conditions which have the majority selecting another species.

But, make sure this is not something which only one particular beekeeper is fixed upon.

Queens, Workers and Drones.

All bee colonies have three categories of bees; the queen bee, female worker bees and male drones.

Queen Bee

A single egg is laid in a single cell of a wax honeycomb. Worker bees produce royal jelly to feed larvae. All larvae are fed royal jelly initially. Later, a single larva is fed only royal jelly while others are fed pollen and honey. This single larva undergoes several moltings and then spins a cocoon within the cell before pupating.

This larva grows into the queen bee.

The Queen bee is the largest bee and the only breeding female in the colony.

The Queen bee is raised from a normal egg but, after selection to be the new queen, the workers continue to feed her Royal Jelly instead of the pollen the other immature bees get.

She has a longer body than the others but has short wings. She may be lighter or darker than other bees in the colony. Since she cannot take care of herself, she has many attendant bees to feed her, follow her, groom her, and carry away her waste. The queen bee has an unbarbed stinger. She rarely stings beekeepers. Her sting is used for stinging other queens. She can sting any number of times.

Normally, there is only a single mated adult queen within a hive. Sometimes, there could be a mother and daughter queen within a single hive.

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The success of your bee colony depends on the quality of the queen bee. You can purchase queen bees from commercial beekeepers or raise a queen to continue with the same strain and maintain a successful bee colony.

The Queen bee’s job is to lay eggs. She usually lays more than 1,000 eggs each day.

Her life span may extend from two to eight years.

Virgin queens go on mating flights away from their home. The queen mates with multiple drones. The mated queen will establish a new colony with a large contingent of worker bees. The nest or hive is scouted and prepared beforehand by worker bees. Then, the queen starts to lay eggs to produce her new brood.

A queen which mated in flight with many bees may bring back less desirable characteristics which will start to show in the new brood.

So, you may sometimes decide to introduce a new queen from your supplier who provides quality stock.

Introducing a New Queen Bee

Queen bee introduction is important as it can change the quality of the bee colony. Most colonies should be re-queened every two years, more often if the current queen is not producing well.

Get a young mated queen from a bee breeder with six to twelve attendant bees and supply of queen-cage candy for food.

This queen will be marked so that you can easily identify it.

Before re-queening, kill the old queen and crush any queen cells with a hive tool. Place the new caged queen within two hours. Remove the cover from the hole in the queen cage to expose the candy plug.

Shake bees off the comb of the emerging brood ready for a new queen. Place the queen beneath the cage and press the cage at least 1/8 inch into the comb. Replace the comb in to the brood nest and leave the hive alone for a week. The queen will be released when the bees eat the queen cage candy.

Drones

Drones are male bees. These hatch from unfertilized eggs. There are around a few hundred of drones in a hive and they live for about six to eight weeks. They do not have a stinger. They have bigger eyes than the queen or worker bees. The only function of the Copyright © 2009 All Rights Reserved.

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drones is to mate with a queen. Drones can detect virgin queens on their nuptial flight and go to mate.

Drones left at the end of the season are considered useless and are driven out of the hive before the onset of winter to die. The main reason for this is to conserve the limited food stores for the more productive members of the colony.

Worker Bees

Worker bees are sterile females. There could be around 30 to 50 thousand female worker bees in a colony. Worker bees born in spring usually live for six weeks while those born later will live until the next spring.

They are about 12 mm long and do all the work. They have a pollen basket on each hind leg where they put the food they bring back to the hive, four pairs of special glands to secrete beeswax underneath their abdomen, an extra stomach for storing and transporting nectar or honey, and a straight barbed stinger for single use only. Because of the barb, the stinger rips open their abdomen when they sting someone and the bee dies.

Worker bees do all tasks essential to maintain a hive.

When young, these bees are called house bees. They attend to all work in their hive:

• building honeycombs

• rearing the brood

• protecting the hive

• maintaining optimum temperature within the hive by rapidly beating their wings

• keeping the hive clean, and

• tending to the queen bee.

The older worker bees are called field bees. They search and collect the nectar, sticky plant resins (which they make into propolis – bee glue) and pollen.

Producing Queens, Drones and Workers

Producing Queens

Drones mate with virgin queen bees in flight. If the mating drones are of poor quality, bees produced will also be of poor quality. Some beehives produce drones only.

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A queen bee can produce fertilized and unfertilized eggs. The unfertilized egg is haploid and produces a drone male bee which carries a similar genetic set-up to its mother, the queen bee. It also carries a few strains of the genetic build-up of the queen bee's father.

A drone bee does not have any father of its own as it comes from an unfertilized egg.

If the queen bee is not well mated, the drones it produces could be of different strains because the queen bee will pass on genes from her mother and father into the drones she lays.

Producing Worker Bees

If a hive for any reason is queen-less for more than twenty-four hours, workers bees would try to raise a queen from the queen cells. If there are no queen cells, these worker bees will start laying eggs. These will take around four to six weeks to mature.

Workers are female bees, but they produce unfertilized eggs as they have undeveloped ovaries. Normally, pheromones from the queen and brood inhibit the development of the workers' ovaries.

By the time the worker bees start laying eggs, the colony population could have reduced drastically as there is no queen to lay eggs and increase the brood.

It is almost impossible to replace a laying worker with a newly introduced queen.

You can try to rescue the colony by replacing the hive body, bottom board and four frames of bees and brood. Also include some frames with honey.

Then, introduce a new queen.

Check the hive after several days to see if the queen has been released and accepted.

If all is well, the new queen will raise a substantial brood and you will have a brimming and growing beehive with lots of activity going on.

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Essential Equipment

Bee Hives

Early beekeepers harvested honey from wherever bees set up their colonies.

Some other early, man-made hives looked like inverted

baskets and did not have any way for the keeper to

examine the interior or remove the honey unless he

destroyed the hive and killed or removed the bees.

These beehives provided only an outer enclosure

without any formal structure within. Bees filled the insides with honeycombs. Honey extraction in traditional beehives required crushing of the wax honeycomb to squeeze out the honey. These hives thereby produced more beeswax than honey. It was not possible to remove honeycombs without destroying hives. Later adaptations of traditional beehives housed removable extra top baskets. These could be removed once bees filled them with honey.

Other traditional types of beehives included:

Tile hives: Clay tubes were used to form beehives in the Middle East, ancient Egypt, Italy and Greece. Long cylinders of baked clay were used singly or stacked in rows.

Keepers smoked at one end to drive out bees during honey harvesting.

Skeps: These baskets were made of coils of grass or straw with a single entrance. The bees built the inside themselves. Honey extraction required killing of bees and squeezing of Skeps. These are no longer in use.

Bee gums: Sections of hollow trees like red gum were used to house bees. These were set upright in apiaries and sometimes had crossed sticks to provide cover or attachment for honeycomb. Honey harvesting destroyed bee colonies.

Petro Prokopovych invented the first artificial beehive in 1814 in the Ukraine.

Modern Hives

Most wooden beehives are made of pine or cedar wood. Cedar is preferred. The natural oils in cedar may improve the life of the beehive

When deciding whether to buy a readymade beehive or build one from a kit, consider the weight and the freight. Most kits come with adequate instructions and you may be able to draw on the experience, good and bad, of other club members.

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An empty box might weigh around four to five pounds. It will weigh close to a hundred pounds when the frames are full of honey.

Enthusiastic beekeepers have developed many designs and variations which they believe better suit their own requirements and local conditions. They include WBC: Designed by William Carr, an amateur beekeeper early in the 20th Century, this traditional design is very pleasing to the eye with a peaked roof and sloping boards on the sides. It was designed to better protect the hive and its contents from wet and cold weather. The working hive is housed in a set of thinner walls inside the outer sloping panels.

It is not as easy to manage as designs like the Langstroth because the outer walls have to be removed so that you can work on the productive sections. This double-wall construction adds to the size and weight while providing a smaller area for production of honey than other designs.

It is still widely used. Some people like the appearance despite its lower productivity and the outer walls allow the inner sections to be lighter and easier to handle.

Top bar hives are found in Africa and Asia and used for programs like 'Bees for Development' because they are relatively simple to produce and can often be made from local materials. These hives do not have frames.

These have movable frames with only a top bar. Bees build comb so that it hangs down from top bar. This top-bar design is a single and longer box with all frames hanging in parallel. Bees have to rebuild the comb after each harvest.

It is easy to interact with hives and lifting honeycombs is simpler and much lighter. You do not replace the honeycomb of top bar hives back into the hive after extraction. Honey production in such hives is just 20% of that of a Langstroth hive.

Langstroth: In the mid 1800’s, a Rev. Langstroth designed the

hive which bears his name and is still among the most widely

used hives today. It’s the type which I’ll focus on in this book.

The hive parts are of standardized sizes and removable frames

allow for easy removal and replacement without harming the

bees. The Langstroth design has a number of wooden sections

that hold the removable frames on which bees construct the

combs where they place their eggs and honey.

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The removable top gives easy access for the keeper to inspect and maintain the interior sections as well as fix any problems and remove the vertical frames when it is time to harvest.

Rev. Langstroth also set the standard gap between the vertical frames (3/8”) which allows the bees to move about but is not so wide that they clutter it with bee glue (propolis) or burr comb (extra pieces of wax comb which bees build between the wax in two separate frames).

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Managing Hives

Proper bee management ensures healthy beekeeping. You should inspect your beehives every fortnight to make sure the queen is laying eggs, there is sufficient room, the bees are disease-free, and honey storage is going smooth. Record all your observations in a diary for later reference.

It’s nice to see that you are getting better results but it can also help alert you to any potential problems.

Parts of a Hive

Most modern bee hives have parts which have the

same names and function of other designs. This

section is an overview which focuses on the

functional pieces common to most hives. The names

given to the various pieces may vary with different

designs and in different locations. There are many

hybrid designs which individual beekeepers of groups

have developed to better suit their particular needs.

Stand: Most beehives have a stand or are placed on a bench or table which serves the same function; keeping them off the ground, clear of vegetation and at a height which is more comfortable for the beekeeper to work on the hive.

The bottom of the hive should not be too far off the ground because you will find it more difficult to work on the upper sections after you have added one more supers to a productive hive. About 30 inches is probably a good height.

The stand or bench will need to support the weight of the honey-laden hive which could be as much as 150 pounds.

Floor: This is a sheet of wood which protects the hive from predators and reduces the effects of the weather.

Entrance adjuster: With some designs, a slide is incorporated which can be adjusted to allow several bees or just one to enter or exit the hive at the time. Other designs have a separate wooden bar with small and large slots in two adjacent surfaces which performs the same function.

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Mouse excluder: A further step to protecting your hives where there is a risk that mice might try to enter them, is to add a metal strip which has a number of holes in it that permit bees to enter but will block rodents.

Varroa screen: This is a metal screen in a wooden frame which is set below the brood and honey frames. It is a safe and surprisingly effective way of reducing the effects of the Varroa mite which is becoming one of the most prevalent threats in beekeeping.

It was discovered that many of the mites fall off their bee hosts and onto the hive floor, but are able to crawl back up to where they can get on to the bees again. The Varroa screen stops them from climbing up and re-infesting the bees because they fall through the screen and die through lack of food.

Some keepers use a sticky board between the screen and the hive bottom board so that they can check how many mites drop through. This gives them a better idea about the level of infestation.

Frame boxes: These are the four sided, bottomless and topless boxes which protect and support the frames on which the bees build the comb in which they put their eggs or honey.

The lowest frame box is called the brood box. This is where the colony conducts their lives; the brood is raised, the queen lays her eggs, the honey needed by the bees for their own use is stored and bees regulate the temperature within the hive by beating their wings.

The other frame boxes are sometimes called “supers” because they are used for the thinner “super” frames where the bees put the honey which you can harvest at the appropriate time.

Frames: These four sided inserts are usually made of

wood though some keepers use ones made of plastic.

Plastic frames do not suffer damage by wax moths as

much, and don’t need assembly or painting. But direct

sunlight may warp them and they aren’t as easy to

sterilize before re-use.

The frames contain a sheet of foundation (usually

made of wax) with a grooved pattern of hexagons impressed on it. This pattern guides the bees which build the walls of their wax cells outward from the grooves.

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Plastic foundation sheets are becoming available but some keepers report they are less attractive to their bees. Maybe the producers will impregnate them with the smell of natural wax or find some other way to overcome this.

Shallow frames are used in the upper boxes where the bees put their honey. Deeper frames are used in the lowest box which is where the queen lays the eggs and the brood is raised.

The frames often have a wire support woven through them.

Super frames with no wire support are usually used when the honey is being produced and supplied in its natural comb.

Queen excluder: A perforated plastic or metal screen which is placed between the brood box and the upper boxes where the bees will store the honey. This prevents the queen, which is larger than the worker bees, from travelling into the upper boxes and laying eggs there.

If the queen is able to lay eggs in these frames, the workers will bring pollen there to feed the brood and the honey from that area will be cloudy and of lower value.

Crown Board: This is the cover over the top super which helps to protect the hive from the weather. The board has a hole in the center through which you can feed the bees without removing the board.

It’s usually made of wood but clear plastic Crown boards are used when the keeper wants to be able to watch the activity below with minimum disturbance of the bees.

The plastic type should be replaced by a wooden Crown board for better weather resistance during the winter.

Roof: This is usually wood with a sheet of thin metal over it for strength. Ventilation holes are provided. The Langstroth and most other hives, except the WBC, have flat roofs but some keepers use sloping roofs to add more eye-appeal to their hives.

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Clothing

From the start, you need to accept that you will get some bee stings.

Stings on the face and neck are very painful and may cause more swelling than on other parts of your body.

Protective clothing is essential for the beekeeper and also for family members or other people who visit your hives, to reduce the number and severity of those stings and the number of bees that die stinging you.

A full protective suit is the ideal and there is some price competition between suppliers.

If you don’t want to invest in a full outfit when you start, you can get separate items which will keep your initial costs down.

The minimum I can recommend is a combined hat and veil and gloves. A veil will protect your face.

Gloves will help to protect you from bee stings and prevent bees from crawling inside your sleeves. But, many experienced beekeepers prefer not to use gloves as these restrict the delicate handling required.

Jackets and other items are available.

All your clothing should be light-colored and comfortable. Dark clothing is said to encourage more attacks from bees,

You must ensure that you fully seal all gaps between the protective gear and your other clothing or bees will make you very uncomfortable. Don’t forget to completely cover the area around your ankles so that bees cannot climb up your legs or sting your ankles –

stings in those areas are very painful.

You can buy special straps or just tuck everything in securely.

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The Tools

Every hobby or business has its own specialized equipment. I will just describe the most common tools here. As your experience grows, you will be better able to decide if you need some new “improved” implement or you can save your money and stick with these proven devices.

Keep all your tools together in a suitable, portable container.

When you get to the hive try to make as little noise as possible when putting down the container and the separate tools. Bees are sensitive to vibration and you want to keep them as calm as possible.

Hive Tool

This is an essential tool with a variety of uses. Some keepers even use the edge to lift out bee stings if their fingernails are too short!

Many beekeepers have developed their own variations and several have been popular enough to be manufactured commercially.

This is the best tool to lever apart the sections of the hive. There is more chance of damage if you use a large screwdriver or other tool which is not designed for the task.

Bee Brush

This is used to brush bees from your clothing or from yourself.

The Smoker

When you open a hive, the guard bees go into defensive mode and release a special pheromone to warn other bees of the intrusion.

Beekeepers use a smoker which creates smoke from incomplete combustion of various fuels. The smoke is believed to mask the alarm pheromones released by guard bees and also makes the bees think fire is approaching. The bees start gorging themselves, getting ready to abandon the hive.

This makes it easy for you to open the hive and work without any defensive reactions by bees.

When you finish your inspection, provided you do it in a calm manner and don’t take too long, they will settle back into their routine. But, each inspection will have some effect on production.

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Your smoker will not be useful for a swarm, because swarms do not have honey stores to feed on. Also, swarms are less defensive so your smoker is not usually needed when gathering a swarm.

This device has a bellows, metal combustion chamber

where you burn the material which produces the

smoke, and a spout which you use to direct the smoke

to the area where you want it.

It needs some practice to ensure that you use it

appropriately – too much smoke or heat can upset the

bees instead of just encouraging them to move away

from the frame which you want to handle. Upset bees

sting!

Grass cuttings, wood shavings, rolled cardboard and hessian can be used to smoulder rather than burn and just produce smoke rather than flame.

Ensure that none of the materials have any substances in them which may harm the bees. Some cardboard materials may have poisonous paint or fire-retardant chemicals on it. The grass and wood shavings may have been treated or sprayed with poisons of some kind.

Apply a puff to the area which you want to clear and the bees will usually retreat in a few minutes to other supers to start collecting their honey before fleeing from the fire they think is approaching. They will not actually leave if you minimize the time your need to do your work and then let them settle back into their routine.

There is a water-based product called Liquid Smoke which is sprayed on bees from a plastic spray bottle. It is claimed to be a cheaper, safer and more convenient alternative but I have not used it. Once you learn to use a smoker, you can decide for yourself.

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Getting Your Bees

You can get bees for your beehive from different sources like a package, swarm, a small nuclease hive, or a complete hive. It is best to obtain bees only after acquiring all essential hive equipment and setup. Beginners should acquire bees from nuclease hive or package bees.

Getting your bee stock from your club or a local breeder is the best option because it is likely to be cheaper, but the main reason is that this means less stress on the bees.

If you are getting your stock from a club, they will not wait long for you to collect them because that could cause trauma to the bees and there are always more wanting bees than they can supply.

Another advantage is that you will be able to get advice from the local supplier more quickly and it will take into account the local conditions you will raise your bees in.

Avoid suppliers, however low-cost or well-intentioned, that do not have a history of providing good stock.

Many amateur beekeepers start to offer nucs and packages after just a couple of seasons experience and they don’t always deliver the quality product or support that you need.

You will need to order your bees months before the delivery date. Orders are sent by the order date received method.

Nuc's are likely to be limited in number, especially from suppliers in your area.

Complete Hive

The complete hive comes with the queen and her entire brood.

Use appropriate transport to move the hive to your property without disturbing the bees.

Before finalizing your purchase of a complete hive, get it inspected by a county or state bee inspector for any diseases or pests. If you cannot locate a bee inspector in your area, get help from an experienced beekeeper. There is a significant risk with any second hand equipment.

You should also examine the brood to find if it has a good number of worker bees, sufficient honey stores, and that the queen has a good brood laying pattern.

This is not the choice I recommend for a beginner as you have to maintain a full working colony from day one.

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Leave this option until you have started with either a nucleus or a package and have a full year’s experience and more discussions and advice of experienced beekeepers behind you.

Nucleus Hive

A Nuclease (or nuc) is a part of the whole hive housed in cardboard boxes serving as a temporary shelter. The nuc consists of a young queen, a drawn comb where the queen is laying eggs, several pounds of bees, and small honey and pollen stores. Development of bees within a nuc could be four weeks ahead of a package of bees. So, a beehive started with a nuc develops faster than that with a package.

Setting up a Nucleus

Your Nuc may be delivered by the postal service (courier) or you may be required to collect it from the Post Office or from your association. If you have to collect it, they will want you to do that very soon after they notify you of its arrival.

You must protect the package from sunlight and high temperatures which could seriously harm your new stock.

Although the nuc probably has sufficient stores and space for at least a couple of days, get them moved to your hive as soon as possible to minimize any trauma.

They are best transferred when it is cool.

Gently place your tools and the nuc near the hive.

You should wear your protective clothing.

Open the top of the hive and transfer the three or five frames from the nuc to the hive, one at a time. Keep them in the same sequence as they were in the nuc.

Do not squeeze the frames or handle them roughly.

While you are doing this, watch for the queen but do not take extra time to search for her.

You want to complete the transfer as speedily as possible so that there is very little disruption for the bees.

The advantage of the Nuc method over a package of bees is that the bees continue with frames that they are familiar with. This can give them a head-start equivalent to three weeks production in that season.

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Package Bees

Bees ready to start colonies are packed in screen wire cages. The package of bees are available in different sizes in some areas.

Package bees are inspected before being sold and should arrive disease–free and in good general condition.

Some dead bees will be found, as with a nuc, but you should contact your supplier if there are a large number of dead or injured bees for no obvious reason.

Transferring the Bees to the Hive

Assemble your new beehive and fit it with frames containing a foundation before the packaged bees arrive.

The best time to install bees into a hive is late afternoon. This prevents any drifting of bees.

If weather turns windy, damp, and cold when it is time to open and put the package into the hive, delay installation temporarily. Keep spraying sugar syrup regularly on the package to keep the bees alive.

Put on your protective gear and set out your package on something which keeps it off the ground near the hive.

Give them a spray of sugar syrup.

Tap the bottom of the package in a flat surface to send the bees to the bottom of the box. It is unlikely to hurt any healthy bees.

Open the cover of the package with your hive tool.

Remove the small square lid on top of the package. You will see the top of the syrup can used for feeding your bees in transit and a wire piece or metal strip dangling between the can and the top of the cage which secures the queen cage.

The queen cage will have a cork or plastic cap over the candy plug in the hole in the top of the queen cage.

Remove this cap. Put the queen cage and feeder can to one side.

Take four frames out of one side of the hive and one from the center.

Hang the queen cage (with the plugged opening at the top) between the two center frames.

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Give the other bees another gentle spray of sugar syrup.

Tap the bottom of the package again.