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Interesting in Keeping Honey Bees? It can be a very enjoyable and rewarding hobby. Beekeeping can even produce an income for you, and maybe even become a full time business. Keeping Honeybees covers everything you need to know to get starting in keeping a backyard beehive and more.
This guide is intended to give you basic information on the incredible honeybee and on the art of raising bees and producing honey, which is referred to as beekeeping.
This page will go over all the basics of starting a backyard beehive for the purpose of producing your very own honey, from getting your honeybees to extracting the honey. This is your complete resource for getting started with the hobby of beekeeping.
The Amazing Honeybee
The Honeybee is an amazing creature and is vital to our existence as human beings. Honeybees are responsible for pollinating 80% of all insect pollination which includes one third of the food we eat.
Without the honeybee we would have very poor or no production of our fruits, vegetables and nuts.
Honey is a natural product that the Honeybees produce to live off of when pollen is low or during the cold winter months. The goal of a beekeeper is not only to maintain the colony of bees and keep them happy, but to “rob” their honey for our enjoyment also.
Pollination is the act of fertilization for plants. This is achieved when the honeybee visits a flower of a plant and pollen is collected by the tiny hairs of the Honeybee and delivers the male sperm of a plant to the female gamete of another plant.
Without this interaction, fertilization would not take place and the plant would not be able to produce the fruit, vegetable or nut. This is why orchards and farms usually have beehives on or near their property.
There are three types of honeybees. The queen bee, the worker bee and the drone bee.
We will look at these different castes of Honeybees individually and what role they play in the hive.
All queen and worker bees are females, where the drones are males.
All newly laid eggs in the hive are fed Royal Jelly for the first few days.
The Queen Bee
Eggs that are chosen to be Queens, will be constantly fed Royal Jelly until they emerge 16 days later. This Royal Jelly is a milky substance that is produced by the nursing worker bees and is high in nutrients which helps to complete the reproductive organs of the queen. There is only one queen bee in a colony. She has a stinger, but it is used to fend off new queens and not to defend the colony itself.
After a queen emerges from her cell, she will leave the hive to mate. She will mate only once in her life with many drone bees. Once she is fertilized, she stays fertilized for life. The queen will live from 2 – 5 years and can lay as many as 2000 eggs a day in their effort to maintain the colony. The queen will be superseded or removed if she is not being productive or dies.
The Worker Bee
Unlike the queen, worker bees have multiple jobs after they emerge from their cell after 21 days. They are housekeepers, nursemaids, construction workers, grocers, undertakers, guards and after twenty one days old they become foragers, bringing back pollen, nectar and water to the hive. Worker bees can live up to 4 – 9 months during the winter, but only 6 weeks during the busy summer months, where they literally work themselves to death!
A hive will consist of 60,000 to 80,000 bees, which nearly all are worker bees. The worker bee has a barbed stinger for defense of the hive and using it will result in her death following a stinging.
The drone bee is a male honeybee and its only purpose is to mate with a virgin queen bee. They do this by going to a selected spot where only other drones are at and wait for a virgin queen to come to them.
The fastest drones will mate with a queen bee and once they have mated, they die. There are only a few hundred to a few thousand drones in a colony and are booted out come autumn.
Learn More On Keeping Honey Bees
Here are some great bee-keeping books to help get you started. It is always a great idea to have books handy so you can look things up when you run into a roadblock. Here are some of the best books on keeping honey bees – and at the very best possible price, too!
The Bee Hive – Beekeeping Guide To The Hive
The bee hive is where the bees do most of there business. Most of them hatch, live and die there with only leaving the hive to go foraging. The hive gives the bees shelter and room to make their comb.
There are many different designs of hives depending on the use, the country and the individual beekeeper. Beehives, historically, are constructed from natural wood, but there are now plastic bee hives available, too.
Below are three examples of the most used hives that are used in the USA. They are The Langstroth Hive, The Top Bar Hive and The Warre Hive. Enjoy the videos!
Common Types of Beehives Equipment
Most apiarists use and recommend wooden beehives, however there is a modern alternative of plastic bee hives. This video goes over the most common beehives used and recommended.
Basic Beekeeping Equipment
This is what you need to get started!
We have covered the basics about honeybees and their homes, the hive, and you are still here! So what is the next step? Get some bees!
But before you do learn everything you can about the honeybee and their culture. Read, read, read…anything and everything about honeybees. Then try and find a beekeeper in your area and see if you can tag along with them the next time they inspect their colonies. This is alone is invaluable experience, especially for the beginner.
So you have done all that and you STILL want to be a beekeeper? Great!!! Beekeeping is not only rewarding, but many beekeepers say it is incredibly therapeutic, too. So what is the next step for keeping honey bees? The following is a list of basic equipment and honey bees supplies that you will need to get started in your new “sweet as honey” adventure.
What beehives equipment will you need?
- Hive (with feeder)
- Hive tool (a must)
- Beekeepers helmet w/veil
- Beekeeping suit
- Beekeeping gloves
- and then of course, you need some honeybees!
Standard Bee Hive Starter Kit Un-assembled – Wood
This Bee Hive Starter Kit is a kick start for anyone wanting to keep a backyard beehive. It has everything you need to get started in the way of beehives equipment;
… including hive essentials such as a super, a bottom board, frames, foundation and covers.
It also includes beekeepers gloves, a bee veil for sting protection, a bee smoker and other accessories, along with a beginners book on beekeeping.
Note: Honeybees are not included!
To the right is a picture of the kit with a link to where you can purchase it on Amazon … for the best price!
Learn More About Bee Hives
A bee hive is a fascinating thing to learn about. The thriving community all works together for the good of all. Here are some great books that go into the details of how a beehive functions. Learn how the honey is made and the process in getting it to our table.
Installing A Package of Bees
How to install a new package of bees into your hive: Found some package honey bees for sale? This video shows how to correctly install them into your backyard beehive.
So Now What?
Well, you have found live honeybees for sale, you have bought your beehive and all the necessary beehives equipment. Your new bees are now all tucked neatly in the hive. Now what?
Now you just sit back and wait! Give the bees a week or so to get acquainted with the hive and their new queen. Then go back and take the top and inner covers off of the hive. The honeybees should be working feverishly building honeycomb and nesting spots for their new additions. The queen will be laying eggs, up to 2000 a day, to increase the population and to replace the workers that will be soon dying off.
If it is early in the season you may have to help them out by placing some sugar water near the entrance of the hive, so they can start getting busy!
The honeybees will start in the middle of the frames and work their way to the outside. When the bottom brood box is close to getting filled you will want to add another brood box to help them expand the colony.
Once the second brood box starts to get filled up you need to put a queen excluder on top of it, followed by a super, then the inner and outer covers. The queen excluder will prevent the larger queen from traveling up to the super, but will allow the workers to go into it to store honey. The queen excluder also prevents any eggs and other honeybee messes getting into the honey.
Later in the season when the supers get full of honey, you can harvest the honey and and enjoy the fruit of the honeybees labor!
In late fall you will need to supply the honey bees again with some nourishment so they survive during the cold winter months. The bees will form a cluster in the middle of the brood boxes and maintain a temperature around 94 degrees by moving their wings. Minimal disturbance is required during the winter months so the honeybees can stay warm.
Come spring, you just lather, rinse and repeat….almost!
Products Made By Honeybees
Honey, Beeswax, Bee Pollen, Royal Jelly & Comb Honey
Honeybees produce five products that are all invaluable for humans. The edible ones are honey, bee pollen, royal jelly and comb honey. They also make beeswax, which humans have used for aeons – for all manner of purposes, from candles to sealing things with. Below is a range of these tasty, useful and health-promoting products.
The Ultimate Bee Product
Therapeutic Manuka Honey From New Zealand
The manuka plant is a wild bush commonly considered to be a weed by the locals.
However, the honey produced from manuka has amazing chemical properties that are found nowhere else in the world.
Well, I hope you enjoyed my article and found it somewhat interesting … and that you are now totally enthused about the idea of keeping your own bees and producing your own organic, healthy honey! Please let me know how it goes 🙂