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Backyard Beekeeping - Beekeeping for Beginners

Updated on January 27, 2010

Beekeeping for Beginners - Benefits of Backyard Beekeeping

You know that in the Bible, Israel is called the "land of milk and honey," right? Did you ever wonder about that? What is so special about milk and honey?

This is mostly about honey, but I will say that the folks in the Bible did not drink cows' milk. Science has pointed out that the milk of sheep and goats is much closer to the makeup of a human mother's milk than is the milk from a dairy cow. Maybe that is why so many kids have problems with milk and milk products? That is a subject for another article.

What about honey? There are several proven benefits of honey.

  1. Honey is an excellent natural sweetener - this is common knowledge.
  2. Honey gathered locally can help with allergies. In the honey are bits of the pollen that cause allergic reactions in some people. Taking a teaspoon or two of honey on a daily basis will help your body to build a resistance to the allergy similar to getting an allergy shot from a doctor. It must be honey that is from a local bee colony to be effective... who knew?
  3. Honey is good for applying to skin to promote healthy skin. It can be used to treat minor cases of acne, as well as skin burns.
  4. Honey can be given with lemon to help with symptoms of cold and flu. This writer can remember taking honey mixed with booze and lemon as a child. Went right to sleep. Next day, symptoms were gone!
  5. Honey has also been know to help with stomach cramps and hangovers.
  6. Finally, and most important, honey and bee pollen has been proclaimed the perfect food. It contains concentrations of every essential nutrient necessary to sustain life.

No wonder the land of milk and honey is a good thing. With milk that is close in make up to human milk, and honey along with the bee pollen, that has all the nutrients necessary for life, God was telling them they would have all they needed!

Backyard Beekeeping - Where to get Bees

Anatomy of a Honeybee
Anatomy of a Honeybee

Learning how to raise honey bees is an honorable hobby, and it can work into a rewarding profession as well. After all bees are totally necessary for our natural environment. They pollinate about 80% of all flowering plants. But bees are diminishing in number due to the intrusion of pests.

So, if you start beekeeping in your neighborhood, you will be helping to keep our planet green. How about that for an encouragement? Seriously, there is a need for more healthy bees.

As you know, bees live in hives, either natural or artificial. Natural hives are becoming harder and harder to find due to the pestilence mentioned above. But, if you could find a natural hive, you could bring those bees to your hive.

Oh, did I forget to mention that you need a hive? You can build your own hive, or you can purchase one from an established beekeeper.

Once you have your hive ready, you can bring in your bees. Once again, you have a choice to make.

First, you can get your bees from a natural source as mentioned above. By the way, if you find someone who has a hive in their attic or some other cavity in their house, they will gladly let you take the bees for free (might even pay you to do it).

Second, you can buy a bee package. Bee packages are sold by professional beekeepers. They are just a bunch of bees in a box with a queen in a separate container. You take them to your hive and pour them in, hoping that they will like the queen and begin a colony. Within a couple of weeks you may have a working hive.

Third, you can buy a bee package know in the bee trade as a NUC - it stands for Nuclear Hive. Actually it is a mini working hive. Usually NUCs come in a cardboard box with 4 or 5 frames of bees. There is a queen in the NUC who is related to the other bees (unlike the package bees). All you need to do is transfer the bees to your hive, and you are in the beekeeping business.

Of course there is a lot more to know about how to raise honey bees than where to get bees for your hive. The more you read and learn, the better off you will be to start beekeeping and have great success.

Beekeeping for Beginners - Seasons

The Object of Backyard Beekeeping
The Object of Backyard Beekeeping
The Honeycomb
The Honeycomb

Honeybees are a joy to behold. Raising them and studying them is a great hobby. Beekeeping has been common for hundreds of years.

Just for the record book, here is a definition from Wikipedia:

"Honey bees (or honeybees) are a subset of bees in the genus Apis, primarily distinguished by the production and storage of honey and the construction of perennial, colonial nests out of wax."

Most of the honey making and gathering takes place during the spring and summer. This is when the hive is the most active. But what happens to our little friends during the cold weather?

The colony survives the winter inside the hive by population control. They do this by giving the guy honeybees the ole bee-boot, thus reducing the population. This works because there is no function for the males during cold weather. Their basic job is gathering nectar and pollen during warm weather. Sorry guys, ya gotta go! But don't worry, it is nature's way.

The remaining inhabitants in a man-made and maintained hive feed off the stored honey left in the hive by the beekeepers. Beginning beekeepers need to be aware that some honey should be left for just such a purpose.

During cold weather they cluster together to keep warm and rotate positions within the hive so that each takes his turn being on the colder outer area and the warmer inner area. To generate extra heat when needed, workers will consume honey and move in and out of the center all the while raising their body temperatures by contracting the flight muscles in the thorax without moving the wings.

Some folks who practice backyard beekeeping may provide some kind of shelter for their honeybees. This might be a cover that fits over the boxes or a physical shelter or lean-to to protect the boxes from wind and extreme temperature. Suggested temperature for winter maintenance is about 40 degrees.

Once the weather begins to change and spring approaches, activity inside the hive picks up. At this time, if a colony is too crowded they will swarm. This is when the old queen gathers about half of the inhabitants of the hive and heads out to find another place to carry out business.

You may see swarms during the spring on a protruding branch or even a city light pole as they wait for scouts to find a suitable place for the new colony.

This is the time when a backyard beekeeping gets interesting. The beekeeper needs to be aware that he can add additional boxes or hive space to keep his colony from swarming. Selling overstocked bees is a side benefit of the hobby.

Also, if you want to get started in the hobby, you may be able to locate starter swarms by contacting your local area beekeeping club.

New colonies now begin to build the wax core of the hive to store honey and build the population of the hive. There will be a "girl fight" between queens until only one remains. She will lay eggs to produce new workers and drones, and the honey production begins.

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    • profile image

      Beekeeping Business Edwin 

      8 years ago

      I've always been told it's best for beginners to start with two hives. That way, you get your business or hobby going faster but it's not too much work to handle.

    • thewayeyeseeit profile imageAUTHOR

      thewayeyeseeit 

      8 years ago from Woodstock, GA

      Thanks Kevin. Yes, it is definitely a great hobby or small business. Keeps one off the street :-)

    • profile image

      Kevin Braun 

      8 years ago

      Good information - beekeeping is an excellent business or a hobby. I started small (just one hive) and grew it from there...

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