Hobby beekeeping with special regards to organic beekeeping is both an interesting hobby as well as a profitable business venture. The hives here are made by humans and the bee colonies are created likewise.
The bees that comprise of hobby beekeeping are primarily honey bees. Some do opt for Apis and the safe Melipona varieties as well. The bee yard keeps the colonies and hives in a protected environment. Every hobby beekeeping owner has one.
This nine thousand year old profession of organic beekeeping is now a flourishing global business. The yield from organic beekeeping includes jelly, beeswax, pollen, flower and propolis. All of these can be used at home or sold in the market for cash.
Hobby beekeeping can be termed as an act of keeping bees in lesser numbers. So, if you have 26 hives or less, it is termed as hobby beekeeping.
In this article, I (LeanAndFit review staff) shall be discussing inside facts on the art of beekeeping. So, here goes:
Hobby Beekeeping Article Contents:
1) What is the History behind Beekeeping?
2) What is Traditional Beekeeping?
3) Horizontal Hives Vs Vertical Stackable Hives
4) How to Save Yourself from Bee Stings?
5) Facts on Internal Temperature of Bee Hives?
6) Urban Beekeeping Vs Natural Beekeeping Vs Indoor Beekeeping
7) What are the Different Categories of Bees present in Your Beehives?
8) Worker Bees vs Drones – What is their Role in a Beehive?
9) How to Create New Bee Colonies?
10) Facts on Swarming in Beehives
11) How can a Hobby Beekeeper Capitalize on a Swarm?
12) How to Attract a Swarm into Your Artificially Created Beehive?
13) How do I Create an Artificial Feed for My Beehive?
14) How to Feed the Bees when Honey has been Extracted for Sale?
15) What are the Most Common Diseases, Parasites and Predators that Affect Beekeeping?
16) Hobby Beekeeping – A Practical Option or a Sheer Waste of Time?
What is the History behind Beekeeping?
Beekeeping can be traced back to almost 10000 years. The main reason why men and women started keeping bees was for their honey. Egypt and North African regions were the first ones to encourage beekeeping.
It was during the mid-1800s when people began to extract honey from hives while retaining the bee colony. As time progressed, artificial beekeeping started taking place. It was done via the means of constructing bee hives in logs, hollow vessels, baskets and even boxed made from wood.
Ancient China, Israel and India were prominent countries wherein beekeeping was conducted as a hobby and profession. The practice of professional beekeeping spread to other countries such as America, Australia and even parts of Europe.
What is Traditional Beekeeping?
When we talk of traditional beekeeping then, the hives are fixed in nature. This is with special regards to the combs used within the artificial hives. Here, the hives are made from wooden materials – even a rectangular wooden box shall do the job.
The brood and comb remains fixed here. So, you cannot remove these and inspect them for any internal damage or infection. As fixed hives are made from inexpensive material, they are widely used in developing countries.
The size of the fixed comb hives ranges in between 32 liters to 280 liters. If you are beekeeping for commercial activities then, you are selling honey and beeswax to earn money. Usually, the professional beekeeper shall have more than 290 hives. USA produces almost 50 million tonnes of honey annually.
Horizontal Hives Vs Vertical Stackable Hives
Horizontal: Beehive owners are well aware that of the numerous hive varieties, two stand apart. These are both vertical and horizontal in nature. If you have a horizontal beehive, the combs within the hive shall be placed vertically next to each other.
Vertical: When we talk about vertical beehives then, the combs are placed one above the other in a horizontal fashion. This is helpful when hives grow more than required. The added space between combs helps accommodate the extra growth.
Pros of Having a Horizontal Beehive:
>>> The biggest advantage is the ability to place the hive as per your physical dimensions. If you are short in height or tall, the hive can be positioned as per your physical comfort.
>>> This kind of hive is not at all tough to construct. It is a simple mechanism and can be built with utmost easy. The construction cost of a horizontal beehive is easy on the pocket.
>>> The ability to check combs for infection and other reasons is fairly easy. You can easily remove combs as they are placed vertically.
>>> This is a safer version of hives that are not invaded by bees. So, you can easily remove combs without having to wear overtly protective clothing or using smoke.
Cons of Having a Horizontal Beehive:
>>> When you need to shift the hive from one location to another, the horizontal hive is tough to remove. So, moving it may be a task.
>>> Most modern day beekeepers make use of vertical hives. So, finding a horizontal one along with its spares can be a daunting task.
>>> These hives are completely customized. So, there is no standard size available in the market. If one part goes wrong, replacing it would be a daunting task indeed.
Pros of Having a Vertical Beehive:
>>> This is easily available in the market. In case you need to buy one, you shall get a vertical hive easily.
>>> If you damage a vertical hive then, finding and replacing its parts is easy. You do not have to go hunting in the dark to get one.
>>> Shifting it from one location to another is fairly easy.
>>> If you want to store surplus honey then, a storage box can easily be placed on top of a vertical hive.
Cons of Having a Horizontal Beehive:
>>> A single box loaded with honey can be as heavy as 45 kilograms. So, you need to be super strong to lift these.
>>> While inspecting hives and combs, you may need smoker intervention to avoid getting stung. It is not easy to inspect hives.
Which One Should You Use?
Both vertical as well as horizontal hives are good in their own ways. You need to make your choice as per your personal convenience. Pick the style of hive that is easily available in your area.
How to Save Yourself from Bee Stings?
Getting stung by bees is not a joke. Apart from the pain, the results can be fatal if you are stung by a swarm of honey bees.
>>> To protect yourself from bee stings, wear a suit that covers your body and face. It also has a veil for covering your face with. A pair of gloves is also advised.
>>> Wear a suit with a fragrance that repulses bees. These smells are well known to such protective suit manufacturers. Simply let them know in advance and you shall have one.
>>> Protect your face the most as bees can feel you breath and sting your face. The pain thus derived from a face sting is severe.
>>> If your feet or hand is stung, scrape away the sting using a sharp object. You can mostly dig the sting out from your skin using your own nail.
>>> Wash your protective suit more often to remove the smell that emits from regular stings to the suit. Use vinegar solution for the same.
>>> Use a bee smoker while going through the combs. Smoke calms the bees and stops them from stinging.
>>> You may use pine needles, coconut fibers, burlap and wood to produce smoke.
>>> Rub an iron key on top of the sting. This helps remove the sting and eradicate the poison as well.
>>> As a beekeeper, you shall get stung several times. This helps develop antibodies that counter any ill-effect of future stings.
>>> The red patch or inflammation from a bee sting shall disappear after a few hours.
>>> After removing the sting, simply wash the area with a soapy solution. Thereafter, apply ice pack onto the area.
Facts on Internal Temperature of Bee Hives?
@ It is highly recommended that you maintain the internal temperature of the bee hive. You need to maintain it in between 30 degree Celsius to 35 degree Celsius.
@ In case you cannot achieve this temperature level then, install a thermostat within the beehive.
@ Create an opening by placing a 10mm panel and place it on the bottom of the hive. This helps cool air enter the hive.
@ Alternatively, you may want to have additional spacing in the entrance of the hive. This helps cooler air enter the combs.
@ If it is too cold outside then, place Styrofoam on the outsides of the hive. You may have a special enclosure made out of timber to provide added cover to the hives.
@ In shivering conditions, construct the hive using ceramic material. This shall enable the combs to remain warm despite freezing conditions on the outside.
Urban Beekeeping Vs Natural Beekeeping Vs Indoor Beekeeping
There are several styles of beekeeping nowadays. Even hobby beekeeping and organic beekeeping is diverse. Here are a few styles that bee lovers use to maintain their hives optimally:
When you place a beehive in your backyard, it is termed urban beekeeping. In simpler words, the hives are located in city based area and not rural based.
In order to provide the best possible environment for bees to grow, owners can plant flowers. Even grass should be grown to provide the natural forage that bees require to flourish.
The advantage here is the lack of pesticides and chemicals in backyard gardens. So, when you opt for urban beekeeping, you are promoting organic yield.
When you decide to use natural methods to rear bees, it is termed natural beekeeping. Also called organic beekeeping, the requirement for artificial insemination of the queen bee is missing. You also do not shift hives or inspect combs often.
Hives with a top bar is mainly used by organic beekeepers. This structure is simple to keep and maintain. It is also very easy to install.
As the name very well suggests, indoor beekeeping is an art of keeping bees as pets inside a premises. The temperature, relative humidity as well as light are maintained via electrical units.
So, the enclosed area wherein bees are kept in hives is completely cut off from the outside world. There is absolutely no intervention from outside weather conditions.
What are the Different Categories of Bees present in Your Beehives?
Like caste system in humans, bees too have different categories of bees within a hive. You should be aware that in the wild there are almost twenty one thousand different kinds of bees. Not all of these can be used for beekeeping.
Here are a few common characteristics of Bees Present within a Hive:
>>> As I have mentioned above, there are over 21000 species of bees worldwide.
>>> Many species such as the Mason, Carpenter, Leafcutter etc. that nest on the ground remain single or in pairs. They do not form swarms.
>>> Bumble bees nest their young ones in shrubs and foliage. These are close to the ground. Their colonies are relatively small in size.
>>> Giant honeybee and little honeybee are found in the wilderness. They do not make colonies near human habitation.
>>> Commercial and hobby beekeepers usually have Western Honeybee, European Dark Bee and Italian Bee in their artificially created hives.
>>> Breeding of bees is done via the Queen Bee. She is the rightful in-charge of a hive.
>>> A large hive contains up to 50,000 worker bees. These are females.
>>> Drones or male bees are also in abundance. Several thousand reside within a hive. Nonetheless during the cold weather season, they are reduced to a handful.
>>> The queen bee is the only bee that can lay eggs. She lays slightly less than a million eggs in her lifetime. The average lifespan of a queen bee is usually 3 to 4 years.
>>> During the egg laying season, the queen bee can lay as many as 3500 eggs. Usually, laying 1500 eggs a day is normal.
>>> Queen bee is given a diet of royal jelly. This helps in its growth.
>>> The queen bee is a natural worker bee that has been evolved to a queen status.
>>> The Pheromones produced by the queen bee is responsible for making other female bees incapable of delivering an egg.
>>> After a fortnight of development, the queen bee emerges from the hive and mates with male drones.
>>> The queen bee mates with several males in order to store semen that is capable of producing more than half a million eggs.
>>> The mating is usually a few hundred feet in the air.
>>> Worker bees live for as long as 4 months. Their lifespan can be as little as 1 month.
Worker Bees vs Drones – What is their Role in a Beehive?
As I have already mentioned above, there are several kinds of bees in a beehive. They have a hierarchy that is comparable to caste system in human beings. Apart from the queen bee, there is a worker class and a drone.
Let me walk you through both of these in brief:
These are female bees that toil day and night to look after the well-being of a beehive. Basically, they work to construct and maintain the hive at its optimal levels.
@ Worker bees are required to make the brood cells spic and span. @ They also clean the cells of dirt.
@ Worker bees repair damaged combs.
@ They also do all the household chores that a maid performs at a human home.
@ Worker bees are also responsible for giving food to the larvae.
@ They maintain the water levels in the hives. Worker bees also gather pollen and nectar to feed the larvae.
@ When free, these bees also take turn guarding the hive against natural enemies (pests, animals etc.).
@ Worker bees can live anywhere from 1 month to 4 months.
@ These are male bees that mate with the queen bee to produce offspring.
@ Drones are large in size. They are almost two and a half times the size of a worker bee.
@ The eyes of drones are large in size. This helps them locate the queen bee easily.
@ Drones do not do any work. Their work is to mate with the queen bee to produce off-springs.
@ The drones are raised (within the hive) before the queen appears from its hibernation to mate.
@ When the mating is over, the drones are driven out by worker bees. In the ensuing act, their wings are torn apart. This forces the crippled drones to die.
How to Create New Bee Colonies?
Bee colonies are unique in structure and tough to replicate. They have an intricate system that houses the queen bee, the worker bees and the hornets under one roof.
Well, here are a few headers on this topic:
>>> The base of the beehive is usually rectangular. On this are placed several panels that are parallel to each other. There are usually 9 to 12 such frames.
>>> These planes hold combs, which is the home to the larvae and eggs. Even the food, nectar and water for the honey bee are placed here.
>>> Honey can be stored in these combs. Even pollen is stored here.
>>> The pollen is used to feed the larvae. Combination of honey and pollen is used for feeding the queen bee. This is also termed as royal jelly. The upkeep of this is maintained by the worker bees.
>>> The combs of the beehive are where extra honey is stored. The frame is where honey is stored for the queen bee’s consumption.
>>> You as a hobby beekeeper can extract the extra honey during summers (from the combs).
>>> If you extract all the honey available in the brood frames and combs then, you need to replace the empty combs with sugar syrup. This shall help feed the bees during winters. Use corn for the same.
>>> In May, the breeding is at its peak. Harvest bees are most active collecting pollen and nectar during this month.
Facts on Swarming in Beehives
>>> When the queen bee accompanied by several younger worker bees flees its original beehive, it is termed as swarming.
>>> The queen bee and the worker bees are in search of new hives. Basically, they wish to expand their colonies.
>>> Scout bees are dispatched from the original hive in search of a new location. Till then, the old queen bee and her loyal worker bees relocate a few meters away from the original hive.
>>> Once a suitable location is reported by the scout bees, the queen bee along with the worker bees leaves for the new location.
>>> These bees start building a new colony the moment they land on the new cavity. They shall start making combs almost immediately.
How can a Hobby Beekeeper Capitalize on a Swarm?
@ In order to catch a swarm and enjoy all the honey they produce, you need to be patient in your approach.
@ Allow the bees to calm down and be within your reach.
@ Purchase a good quality swarm bag. Once you are sure that the bees have settled in their new location, cover them with the swarm bag.
@ Zip the swarm bag shut after confirming that the bees are within its confines.
@ Transfer the swarm bag into the hive thereby placing all the bees within it.
@ The hive should be shut down for about a fortnight. Allow the bees to settle in their new home before opening the artificially created hive.
@ Always ensure that the queen bee is with the swarm else your efforts shall go in vain.
How to Attract a Swarm into Your Artificially Created Beehive?
>>> The months of October, November and December are ideal for capturing a swarm.
>>> You need to ensure that you look out for scout bees. Recognizing these may take some practice but after a while, you shall become perfect in the act.
>>> Place an empty hive and soak it in corn syrup. Well, not literally soak it but do sprinkle this sugar mixture liberally.
>>> Make sure that you remove any insects that may be attracted to your sugar syrup laden hive. A classic example is red ants.
>>> Allow the hive to remain as it is for a couple of days. Do not shift the hive or make dramatic changes to it. Doing so shall encourage scout bees to choose your artificial beehive as an ideal nesting location.
>>> You might want to put a comb within the artificial hive that has been frequented by bees before. This helps instil confidence in the scout bee. They like residing in areas that have been previously habituated by bees.
>>> If the scout bees start inhabiting your artificial hive, it is a good sign. In the coming days, they shall clean up the moss and debris present within the hive. This is to clear the hive for the new arrivals – the swarm.
>>> Make sure your hive has a small entrance and hives with small holes. These are ideal for bees to inhabit.
>>> To save the hive from insects, place it a few feet in the air. Rest it on a wooden platform (if required).
>>> When the swarm enters the area, ensure that you allow it to be comfortable. So, do not touch it for a fortnight. Inspect for eggs after 20 days.
How do I Create an Artificial Feed for My Beehive?
The ability to attract a swarm of bees is vital if you would like to enjoy all the honey you want. Nonetheless, to attract a swarm, you need to create a special feed for them.
Well, here is how you do so:
The Seasonal Mixture:
In case you wish to feed a swarm of bees during the summer months then, opt for a less sugary dose. In 10 cups of water mix 5 cups of sugar. Feed this syrup to the swarm.
If your swarm is located in a cold area wherein snow is common then, mix 10 cups of water with 10 cups of sugar. Feed this to the swarm.
You need to get hold of a large saucepan. Place it on the gas stove. Allow the water to come to a boil. Then, pour the sugar into the water. Place the burner on sim for 30 seconds. Switch off the gas stove.
Mix this solution with the aid of a large spoon. Thereafter, allow this mixture to cool down. Never boil the sugar in water as that shall become toxic for the bees.
The Feeding Mechanism:
Once the sugar and water solution has cooled down, it is time to place it in a container. You do not need to use a special container. A simple earthen mug would do.
This is natural (made from clay) and has an opening that allows the bees to feed the sugar syrup with utmost ease. So, you simply place the syrup within the cup.
Then, slip a straw or small wooden stick inside the cup. This shall enable the bees to slip into the cup without drowning in the syrup. Moreover, doing so shall instill confidence in the bees (with regards to the availability of delicious food).
How to Feed the Bees when Honey has been Extracted for Sale?
>>> You should avoid dropping the sugar syrup all across the hive.
>>> Make sure that you place the feeder cups in all parts of the hive. This helps keep the bees calm as food is available everywhere.
>>> You should place the sugar based feed after the sun has set. This helps keeps the bees calm and composed.
>>> In case other bees from neighboring hives are attacking yours then, you need to protect your hive. The reason could be your feed. Fortify the hive by narrowing its door width and height.
What are the Most Common Diseases, Parasites and Predators that Adversely Affect Beekeeping?
Bee colonies are often hit by predators, insects and parasites. With almost 100 million tonnes of honey production (global) annually, the need to protect man made hives is vital.
Infections Affecting Honey Production:
>>> Bees get infected by bacteria as well as fungi.
>>> They also get tormented by protozoa, viral attacks and parasites.
>>> Honey bees within man made hives are also susceptible to poisoning – food or areal poisons.
>>> As a hobby beekeeper, you need to include more hives within your area of coverage to obtain maximum yield (honey).
>>> Try and not feed sugar syrup that has been boiled in water for long. This can cause digestive issues with bees.
Predators Affecting Honey Production:
>>> Bears have a liking for honey. In the process of stealing honey, bears tend to eat large honey bees as well.
>>> Skunks also have a fond liking for bees and honey.
>>> Usually insects and other animals tend to avoid bees as they deliver a painful and poisonous sting.
>>> Bee eating birds are plenty in nature. They tend to target both worker as well as male bees.
>>> Robber flies have also been known to attack and eat bees.
Parasites Affecting Honey Production:
>>> Galleria Mellonenella is a parasite that tends to destroy the honey combs.
>>> Wax moth tends to clog the honey combs with their web. This in turn suffocates new and emerging bees.
>>> Hive beetles also have the tendency to destroy hives.
>>> Varroa Mite too is known to infect bees and make them sick.
>>> Tracheal Mites too tend to infect the oxygen supply of bees thereby killing them.
Hobby Beekeeping – A Practical Option or a Waste of Time?
The art of creating and then maintaining colonies of bees is termed as hobby beekeeping. Organic beekeeping is also quite similar to this approach. While being a hobbyist, you can also diversify and sell the extra honey for profit.
There is absolutely no harm in rearing bees for honey. It is a practical approach that is also lucrative. You not only manage to satisfy your taste buds but you also live your dream (of rearing bees).
You do not require having a lot of land or ground to rear bees – this can be done indoors if you have a large house. The backyard is an ideal way to create and keep hives.
In my opinion, hobby beekeeping is a wise option indeed!