Questions on Beekeeping

Frequently Asked Questions on Beekeeping

1. Are there different types of bees?

There are thousands of different species of bees of which honeybees are only one. Western honey bees, or Apis mellifera, are perhaps the best-known bees because humans have used them as a source of honey for thousands of years. In ancient civilizations, people observed the ability of these bees to harvest pollen from their environment in order to make honey. This fascinated them not only from the standpoint of the honey, which they enjoyed, but also because of the intricate social pattern that is a hallmark of the species.

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But, in fact, honeybees are not the only species of bee. Many bees form colonies, but in some species, most of the drones do not survive the winter, as they lack a food source. Many bee species are solitary. There may be different species of bee living in the same area unnoticed by the people around, who cannot tell the difference. Some bees even live underground.

2. Why should I go into beekeeping?

People go into beekeeping for different reasons. Some people choose to go into beekeeping for profit, as honey has been a staple source of sweetener for thousands of years. If you are reading this, you most likely plan to go into beekeeping as a hobby. Perhaps you would like to harvest your own natural honey without all the additives that are frequently found in most commercially-available honey. Perhaps you are interested in bees as a species, and you would like to learn more about them by having your own hive in your backyard.

There is no wrong reason to go into beekeeping. Indeed, the people who derive the most joy from beekeeping often have several reasons; not least of which is interest in bees. Let’s face it, bees are interesting, and people have been fascinated by their industry throughout recorded history. It is important to remember that successful beekeeping will require some education on your part, which is what this book is for. You want to become familiar, not only with honeybees themselves, but their lifecycle and the ins-and-outs of the hive.

3. Can I make money keeping bees?

Beekeeping can be a profitable business. There are beekeepers around the world who are able to make and maintain a livelihood solely by keeping bees. Of course, it may take time for the beginner beekeeper to get to that stage, but it is not impossible, as many before you have done it. Most of you reading this are probably interested in beekeeping solely as a fun pastime, but if you decide to go into commercial beekeeping, this book can help prepare you for that.

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One of the things to remember about commercial beekeeping, is that certain hive setups make the endeavor faster and more lucrative. A successful beekeeping operation will have hives that easily provide food for the bees and easily allow honey to be removed. Successful hives also are able to withstand the weather well enough that bees do not have to be replaced after the winter. It is also important to keep in mind how many bees you want in your hive.

4. Is it expensive keeping honeybees?

There is some economic investment that goes into beekeeping, although it does not compare with other agricultural pursuits like cattle ranching, for example. If you are beginning this book at this section, you will discover later that there is some equipment necessary for a successful beekeeping endeavor. Commercial beekeeping generally involves utilizing constructed hives.

There are many different hive kits to choose from, with some more expensive than others. These hive kits allow the beekeeper to easily have access to the bees, provide them with food, and easily harvesting the honey. Many hive kits are expandable, allowing you to keep more bees as you become more proficient and confident in beekeeping. Hive kits also are designed to withstand the weather, so that you can maintain your honeybee colony from one season to the next, benefitting both the bees and you.

5. Is beekeeping safe?

Beekeeping is safe enough that people have been able to do it successfully for thousands of years. Think about that for a minute: people were keeping bees even when they did not have all the fancy protective equipment that we have today. Some of this has to do with proper knowledge of how to interact with and handle bees. In reality, bees do not want to sting you. Stinging is a defensive mechanism that bees use when they feel their hive or queen is threatened.

If beekeeping was not safe, we would not be able to explain to you how to set up a beehive in your backyard, or other areas near where you and your family live. Like most living things on this planet, honeybees are able to live in equilibrium with their environment, meaning that they are only a nuisance when they have to be. The fact that people are able to take honey from hives at all and live to tell, suggests that honeybees can’t be all that bad, can they?

6. Is there anything I should know about inspecting my hive?

Inspecting your hive is similar to accessing your hive as you would when removing frames of honey from the honey super. You want to choose a time in the day when the bees are out foraging. You also want to equip yourself with a smoker to remove any remaining bees from the hive. You basically want to smoke the hive before you remove the top cover. You will do it again after you remove the top cover, and then a third time after you remove the inner cover.

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Take your time. After each smoking stage, you want to wait at least a minute for the bees to leave. During your inspection, you want to examine the frames. Perhaps during your inspection, you see that the queen that you purchased (and introduced) is out of her cage. This means that the cage can be discarded. Make sure that you reassemble the hive box correctly.

7. I want to buy a manufactured hive kit. What kind of hive should I buy?

We have touched on the subject of commercially-available hives a few times in this book. There is an active market for commercial hives as many people decide to go into the pastime, and as the industry makes some advances and improvements on preexisting models. Commercial hives differ in size, the material of construction, and, of course, cost. Some hives are made of wood, while some are made of synthetic plastics.

The choice of which hive is the best fit for you and your family, depends on a few different factors. How many bees do you plan to keep? Do you want a hive made out of wood or one made out of plastic? Do you want to be able to increase the number of bees you have over time without having to purchase an additional hive? How much money do you plan to spend on a hive? All of these are important questions to ask when considering which hive is a good fit for you.

8. Where should I set up my beehive?

This book assumes that you will be setting up your beehive in your backyard or another spot near your house, but there are many options in terms of places to set up your hive. Bees carefully choose their location for their hive, because they have certain needs in terms of access, size, proximity to other areas, temperature, dampness, and the like. As we have mentioned previously, there are many different types of bees. Some species of bee even live underground.

You may want to set up your beehive in your backyard, though there are other options as well, depending on the size of your property. As you can imagine, certain factors like temperature and protection from the elements are important. This is not only to encourage your bees to make honey, but for the basic need to keep the bees alive.

9. Is it safe to have hives so near the house?

Bees are generally not a danger to human beings unless an allergy exists. Of course, bees do sting, but honeybees are generally considered docile and typically will not sting humans unless threatened. In short, bees are safe to keep in your backyard as long as no one is allergic to their sting, and anyone handling bees is properly educated and trained on how to deal with them. In reality, if you have a backyard with flowers, you may already have a hive nearby.

Indeed, some people occasionally stumble on a bee in their backyard without knowledge that they have a hive nearby. Even more than that, some people may be surprised that they have more than one species of bee in the area. What this means is that bees, honeybees in this case, are perfectly capable of living in equilibrium with humans. What’s important for you as a beginner beekeeper to know, is how to interact with them effectively for your mutual benefit.

10. Why is it necessary to have a deep super and honey super instead of a single box?

The purpose of having two super boxes is so that there is an area for the queen to lay her eggs that is separate from where the workers are making and depositing honey. Otherwise, there will be eggs deposited together with honey, which will make the process of removing the honey from the bee box a cumbersome task. The boxes are designed to allow free movement of all except the queen throughout the hive. The queen is blocked by the queen excluder, which is placed between the deep super and the honey super.

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11. Am I harming the bees by keeping them?

In this day and age, many of us are concerned about reducing environmental impact and learning to live in a healthy balance with our environments. The question of whether it is beneficial to the bees themselves to be kept in a hive, as a pastime or commercially, is an interesting one. The reality is that a beekeeper that has been educated well on the subject should be able to maintain a hive without unnecessary loss of life to the hive members.

Beekeeping as a pastime should not be harmful or detrimental to the bees if you are doing it properly. We hope that we have educated you enough on the subject to allow you to do that.

12. How can I learn more about beekeeping?

It may be a good idea to connect with a local beekeeper in your area or to join a beekeeping club.

13. Why are honeybees so fascinating?

This is not an easy question to answer. Many people are fascinated by honeybees because they have preconceived notions about non-human life. Human beings are the smart ones, right? We build things, we have complex social relationships, and we grow crops for our own survival. It is more than a little fascinating to discover that there are other creatures on this earth with social structures as complex as our own, in a manner of speaking. In reality, the honeybee social structure is both complex and straightforward at once.

Nevertheless, that is not the only reason people find honeybees fascinating. Some people are entranced by the ability of bees to industriously forage for pollen and make honey. In doing this, bees not only create something that is delicious and nutritious to humans, but they also play an essential role in their environment, serving as vectors of pollination. Indeed, many flowering plants require bees for their own survival. Also, as human beings face questions of how we, too, can live in equilibrium with our environment, the example of the honeybee helps guide us in the right direction.