A Beginner’s Guide to Successful Beekeeping
Beekeeping is a reliable and dynamic business for most people and a part-time economic activity for others. It is a diverse industry that encourages specialization in different aspects of the enterprise. Beginning beekeeping requires supplies, training, and patience. Here’s what you need to know.
For example, beekeeping has compelled many people to become practitioners who test and diagnose colony maladies; botanist who know the bloom cycle; carpenters for assembly of hive components; farmers for honey production and understanding of crop pollination and entrepreneurs who are versed in labor management and effective marketing strategies.
That said, it is critical to have a clear notion about beekeeping before getting started. This article gives you all the insights you need for a successful startup in beekeeping.
Understanding Honey Bees
To achieve success as a beekeeper, you need to have an in-depth understanding of the types of bees you keep for honey production. A lot of variables may affect the behavioral patterns of the insects, and you may find something peculiar in the hive every time.
Having an understanding of the bees helps you make informed management decisions to note the changes in behavior.
That calls for open-mindedness when determining the cause of such behavior and the impact that certain plans of action may have on the bees and the enterprise as well.
Bees are social animals who live in colonies. They are divided into three social classes, each with a specific job that defines work specialization in the colony. Even so, honeybees live in their thousands and function as a single unit.
She is the only productive member of the colony and ventures out of the hive for two significant reasons:
(1) to mate and
(2) to guide the other drones out of the hive as an experienced individual. When mating, she identifies a swarm of male drones, and after mating, she carries these spams to the colony and stores them for virtually its lifetime (about 5-6 years).
These comprise only sterile females in the colony. They are involved in foraging, taking care of the young, producing and storing of honey, cleaning the hive, wax production, protecting the hive against external intrusions.
Each female will carry a specific job during its lifetime, most so during the bloom season. As they age, their roles become riskier, requiring them to go further away from the hive.
Drones consist only of male bees who have a sole purpose: to spread the colony genes to other hives by mating with virgin queens outside their colony.
If one mates, it dies a successful bee. Failure to do so means returning to the hive for feeding. Eventually, they are cast from the hive as they are a drain of resources.
Being an industrial sector in its own, beekeeping is subject to laws and regulations, which are considered a normal part of life. However, it becomes difficult to detail the specific rules governing every state or county in the US.
Each region has a different approach to regulating the industry. You need to do your homework to know your state’s policies and laws on beekeeping.
The primary reason for the implementation of state laws in beekeeping is to control bee diseases and infections. Thus, they are meant to regulate bee movements in an out of the state, issuance of licenses, certificates and permits, locations of apiaries, inspections and measures of combating the spread of bee diseases.
While these laws may only touch on the disease control part of beekeeping, others regulate the trade aspect of the industry. For those planning to extract, can, and sell honey to consumers, they ought to do this within the confines of the law.
- Do you have a license?
- Is your beekeeping facility inspected annually?
- Is the location within the designated zoning?
- Is your owners’ association aware that you have an apiary within your neighborhood?
- Having the answers to these queries will help you start and manage the business legally.
State apiary laws have existed for decades now and were purposely enacted to deal with the threat caused by the American foulbrood (AFB, a fatal honeybee disease caused by a bacterium called Paenibacillus larvae.
The disease had plagued the beekeeping industry for many years. The state apiary inspection programs have effectively cut down the rate of its spread.
The extent to which these laws are enacted varies from state to state. You can find a state with a limited number of qualified apiary inspectors, while others have a bigger team dedicated to inspect and issue certificates for the management of bee colonies.
Most of the apiary inspectors only perform their duties for a fraction of their time as the number of facilities within the state is low. The only disadvantage of the delivery inspection services is that they may not be offered in specific regions and states.
If that’s the case, the county laws or federal regulation may take precedence.
Although the federal government lacks a legal framework for disease control in honeybees, the Honeybee Act of 1922 governs the importation of live bees into the US.
This law has contributed significantly to the control of bee diseases. According to the law, the federal government prohibits the importation of bees into the country to curb the spread of bee diseases. Importation activities can only be undertaken after:
• Approval by the US Department of Agriculture for research purposes.
• The Secretary of Agriculture approves that the germplasm of the bees is from a country that takes preventive measures in dealing with bee importations from foreign countries. Additionally, the bees must be from a country deemed to be free of bee diseases.
Your success in starting up a beekeeping business is mainly hinged to the location you decide to set up your facility. This also includes the right placement of the hives for effective behavioral control of the colony.
This section details the correct geographical location and the installation of the hive to provide the best thriving conditions for the bees.
The behavioral patterns of bee colonies vary from one region to the other as dictated by the geographical location and climatic conditions within the area.
If you want a bountiful honey harvest, you need to find a geographic location with climatic conditions that influence longer blooms. Warmer climates are the best, as they present a busy foraging season which makes the south a better option than the north.
Further, your local climate and geographical location will have a significant influence on the right time to start an apiary.
For instance, in the Pacific Northwest, the ideal time to set up a hive is during the early spring season (April – May) when the temperatures begin to rise, and the frost has melted.
Plants bloom and flowers blossom during this season, giving bees and chance to collect nectar and pollinate.
An upside with beekeeping is that hives occupy a small space. Therefore, you can choose to keep bees virtually anywhere: In the rural or urban center, in your backyard or the furthest corner of your garden.
Bees travel for miles to forage and return to their specific colonies after venturing outside the hive. The way you place the hive may mean all the difference between success and failure.
• Ensure you place the beehive facing the southeast direction. That way, the wind will sweep the early morning warmth from the south, giving the bees a cue to begin foraging.
• Place the beehive in an easily accessible area. You don’t have to carry a heavy load of honey during harvest time across a mountainous landscape. At this time, temperatures are at their peak. Keep it in a place you can access conveniently.
• Have a windbreak behind the hive to obstruct cold winds. You can take several measures to break cold winter winds. They include stacking blocks f hay behind it, building a fence or planting a hedge around the colony set-up.
A windbreak is highly reliable for those residing in the northern regions where icy-cold winters are a norm.
• Avoid keeping the hive in direct sunlight, as this leads to high temperatures in the colony that eventually affect the behavior of the bees. Worker bees spend a lot of time regulating the thermal conditions within the hive than honey production.
Therefore, position the hive where there is dappled sunlight. You also need to avoid dark, moist areas because such conditions make the hive damp.
• Ensure that the hive has excellent ventilation for free airflow. Additionally, if the facility is located in an area that experiences cold winters, avoid putting the colony at a hill’s top. Such attitudes subject the bees to severe adverse conditions.
• The hive should be level from side to side. However, the front should be a bit slanted upwards to ensure water drains out when it rains.
Beginning Beekeeping Supplies
Bee honey and its by-products have been on the rise in the recent past. Having understood the best time to start an apiary, it is critical to secure your source of bees by the end of February.
By the dawn of spring, you want to have the right equipment and have already purchased. That makes you develop confidence in your enterprise. Below are some of the necessary tools and equipment.
This is one of the essential beekeeping tools. Bees tend to keep everything ion the hive glued using their resin propolis.
Beekeepers use a hive tool to pry the seal of the hive and gather combs from the sides of the hive, and to scrapple or pry the propolis from the meshed frames. The hive tools resemble a club used for golfing with a squared end.
Jacket and Head Veil.
Bees protect the hive aggressively. They have CO2 receptors in their antennae, which allows them to pick up the slightest air we breathe out. That’s why they target the face of hive intruders.
Because of this, you must be equipped with a jacket and face veil. There are several sorts of jackets and masks in the market ranging from non-ventilated jackets to full body suits.
A smoker is an invaluable tool among many colony managers. The fumes suppress the aggression of the bees, making the docile. Fascinatingly, the smoke makes the bees think there’s a wildfire.
They then retreat to the hive to feed as much as they can in preparation for a move. With full stomachs, they can barely lift the tips of their abdomens to sting.
Also, a smoker inhibits the production of alarm pheromone by the bees which signals guard bees to sting. The alarm pheromone released by the swarm smells like banana. Hence, if you smell such a scent, use a smoker to puff out smoke.
A bee brush is a simple tool but has an essential purpose in beekeeping, especially during harvest times.
Beekeepers use the brush to remove the bees from a meshed frame or in areas where you don’t require them. Bees don’t like the brush, and they tend to sting it regularly. Only use it when the need arises.
While experienced beekeepers may not require gloves to enhance maneuverability, these tools are highly necessary if you’re starting on beekeeping. Gloves protect your hands and fingers from stings without compromising comfort.
Most manufacturers use leather or other flexible materials for the production of gloves. The best kind of gloves features a ventilated upper part, which is a lifesaver if you live in hot climatic regions.
Beekeeping is a lucrative industrial sector that offers consumers a variety of products. However, starting an apiary business presents a challenge, especially if you are new in the sector.
You need to ensure that you run the bee farm according to the set regulations. You should consult your state’s or county’s agricultural department to gain further insights on the legal documents you need to have.
Also, there is the issue of location, tools, and knowing the best timing for the beekeeping season. By adhering to the guidelines detailed in this article, you’ll gain the best knowledge to start your beekeeping enterprise successfully.