More and more people are beginning to tap into the lucrative beekeeping industry. Honey has come to be a much healthier alternative to sugar, and bee farmers are cashing in on this. Besides honey, there are many by-products of beekeeping that the beekeeper can use to get more money.
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Anybody can keep bees, so long as they have the dedication to do it, and can provide the right environment with sufficient nectar and water to keep the hive going. However, getting the bees is not an arbitrary task.
There are special considerations that have to be made if you are hoping for a healthy colony of bees that produces enough honey.
The Honeybee Colony
The honeybee colony is made up of three types of bees: the queen, the worker bees, and the drones. The queen is the primary reproductive agent in the hive.
She lays eggs and gives rise to new offspring. She usually is the biggest bee in the colony and all the activities of the hive revolve around her.
There can never be a fully functioning hive without a queen; thus, the death of a queen is the disintegration of the hive. The drones are the male bees. Their primary duty is to mate the queen so that she may lay eggs.
it’s worth noting that the drones are smaller than the queen but more prominent than the worker bees. The worker bees run some of the most essential activities in the hive. They go out to hunt for nectar and food for the hive. They also keep guard of the hive. Also, the worker bees do all the cleaning and feeding of the young ones.
They are also the ones that hunt for new residences in case the swarm has to move. The running of the hive takes the corporation of all three classes of bees.
How to Obtain Honeybees
There are three ways of getting bees: starting your colony, buying a package hive, and purchasing nucleus hive.
1. Starting Your Own Colony
Starting your colony means you will have to lure wild bees into an already built hive. It is not an easy task to do, and you will need to be appropriately geared and have the right equipment to do it. This method is not recommended for people who are only starting out and have no prior dealings with bees.
Remember, bees sting if not handled correctly, and such incidents could turn fatal. Another disadvantage of this method is, the wild swarm could carry diseases that will interfere with the eventual honey output. They could also be too aggressive. This is thus, out of the question for people who would love to get serious with starting a productive hive.
More so, the property laws of different regions vary. While in some places it is possible to lure a swarm of bees into your hive, in others, they are the property of the government or the person on whose property they have built a colony.
2. A Package Hive
A package hive consists of different bees drawn from various established colonies. The package usually includes a queen, drones and the worker bees.
Because they have been drawn from different hives, the other bees will need some time to get acquainted with the new queen. Hierarchy is something bees take seriously, and a queen cannot be imposed on them and be accepted right away.
While this a remarkably slow process and the production of honey does not start right away, it can be a gratifying experience for someone interested in seeing how colonies are built from scratch.
3. Nucleus Hive
A nucleus hive is a new hive that has already accepted the queen and production has begun. This hive will take a lesser time to acclimatize to the new surrounding because they already have a working system in the hive.
Get an Established Colony
The other option is to buy an established colony. The good thing about buying an established colony is that they usually have been drawn from a different colony, and the running of the hive is effective. The production often is on full-scale, and there is no taking time off to get used to the new queen.
They are also less likely to miss a season as they lay out the social and physical foundation of the hive, as would be the case with a package hive.
There also will be enough worker bees, as opposed to the package where the queen has to lay eggs and the young bees are fostered to adulthood in order for the hive to operate in full capacity.
How Much Honey Bees Cost
The price of honeybees depends on the supplier. The standard pricing is based on the size, and whether it is a package or nucleus hive. The average cost for 2-pound packages usually falls between $95 – $135. 3 pound, on the other hand, go for $130 – $160.
The nucleus hives which are often more expensive can fall anywhere between $150 – $300.
Where to Buy A Colony
There are so many places you can order honeybees from. You can check in with the local bee supplier first before looking for other options.
Looking for a local supplier is beneficial because it dramatically cuts on transport costs. Long haul transport can take a toll on the bees, and essentially, care is usually taken to avert this. More so, they are more available for questions and other inquiries. Arrange to personally inspect the colonies beforehand.
This way, you can have a look at the overall condition of the bees before they are sent to you. Ask the seller for documentation from official bodies that mark the health of the colonies in order to confirm they are up to standard.
If you do not have a local supplier or if the quality of the bees does not satisfy you, you can have them sent to you. Most beekeepers can send the bees to pretty much any part of the country.
Remember, it is much easier to buy bees during winter when the hive activity is pretty low. It is also best to move them at this time. It is best to order bees early in the year so they may be settled in by spring, which is a very busy time for the bees.
Most beekeepers are in the southern states, but over the time they have worked out means of getting the honeybees to pretty much anyone who would love them. The overall costs will be inclusive of all the logistics allowed by the seller.
What makes good honeybees?
There are certain traits inherent in bees that a prospective beekeeper should look out for when they go out to buy honeybees.
- Frequency of Swarming
When a colony grows too big, a part of it leaves the hive and seeks a new settlement. Usually, it is the queen that leaves the hive and leaves one of the daughter queens to take over the colony. This phenomenon is referred to as swarming.
Swarming upsets the running of the hive, and, therefore, the production of honey. When purchasing honeybees, ensure the type of bees you are purchasing do not swarm too frequently.
Bee stings can be fatal. You may want to purchase bees that are gentle in their manner. Some types of bees are gentle; others can be quite aggressive and defensive. This can make the task of getting the honey a risky one. Also, they may pose a risk to your family and neighbors if they sting with little provocation. Bees are not bound to the hive; they fly far and wide to seek water and nectar. Thus, their aggression might spill to other people and livestock if you have purchased the wrong type.
- Susceptibility to Disease
Some types of bees are overly susceptible to diseases like Nosema disease. The last thing you want is a colony that can get easily wiped out by disease.
- Survival during winter
Quite understandably, the production of honey during winter goes low, as there are no flowers to draw nectar from. During this time, honeybees depend on their reserves. However, some types of bees do not react well to winter. They use up all the honey, and the survival rates are very low. The numbers of the colony drop.
4. Building up During Spring
After winter, spring is the time that the colony should replenish its supplies and its numbers. Look out for honeybees that build slowly through the spring.
Types of bees
- Italian Bees
Italian bees, just as their names suggest, were originally from Italy. Beekeepers prefer this type of honeybees to all others. They are distinct in their yellow color. They are somewhat gentle and do well during the winter. This is the recommended type of bee, especially for those who are new to beekeeping.
- Carniolan Bees
This type of bees is originally from the Austrian Alps. They are very gentle and are Gray/brown. Just like the Italian bees, they use food well during the winter and record high build-up rates during the spring. Perhaps the only cons that these gentle honeybees have are that they take a remarkably longer time to build a new comb. This is especially detrimental to a new beekeeper looking to build a new colony. They are also prone to frequent swarming.
- Africanized Honeybee
This particular type of bee is known for its extreme aggression. They originated from Africa.
Be sure the places you want to buy bees from having the type of bee that you are looking for.