Learning to Beekeep

Raising bees is a lot trickier than the manuals make it out to be, and I speak from sad experience. My general impression is that people usually expect more honey than they actually get. Maybe in the South it's better, but in these more northern climates it takes a couple years—at least—to get built up to where your bees will be keeping you in honey. Above all, you can't just install and then ignore this tiny livestock. Professional beekeepers visit their bees at least every 3 weeks to check for signs of trouble.

Of all the subjects in this book, beekeeping is the one I feel is hardest to learn from a book—mine or anybody else's. You really need to learn it in person. So try to find a local beekeeper who will let you visit, take you through a hive, and show you the workshop where hives are made and how extracting is done. Watch the technique. Learn to see and recognize the different kinds of cells and bees. You'll catch the professional beekeeper's calm. If a pro gets stung, he or she takes a half minute out (or maybe not even that) to cuss and then proceeds with the job. You'll need to learn a bunch of facts and procedures . . . Make Sure You Ask and Learn:

1. What is the organization of brood and honey?

2. What does each type of bee look like (queen, drone, worker)?

3. What does each type of bee cell in the frame look like?

4. How do you find the queen?

5. What do the eggs and larvae look like?

6. Where and how is the honey stored?

7. How does the system of movable frames work?

8. How do you use a smoker to quiet the bees?

9. What other types of equipment does a beekeeper use?

10. How do you check the strength of your colonies?

11. How do you clean dead bees and debris out of the hives?

12. How do you make sure the queen is okay and laying well in the spring?

13. How do you add supers (the upper hive compartments in which your bees will store honey)?

14. How can you minimize swarming (which would halve the size of your colony)?

clubs: There's too much to grasp in a single casual visit with a beekeeper. Clubs: Beekeeping has to be both studied and practiced. Many areas have a local beekeepers' club. That's your best place to look for help to get started. Nowadays beekeeping is a highly organized, closely supervised occupation. Don't let that discourage you. The club will tell you the laws affecting apiculture (beekeeping), about possible inspection of hives, local zoning regulations, state registration requirements for beekeepers, and labeling regulations for honey you plan to sell. Your county agricultural extension agent may be able to put you in touch with local beekeepers. Or ask a bee supply outlet for local names. Or look in past issues of Bee Culture. Or network with beekeepers on the internet at the bee discussion lists: bee-1. com/index.html. Or write or call one of the following organizations.

American Beekeeping Federation, Troy Fore, Executive Director; 912-427-4233; fax 912-427-8447; PO Box 1337, Jesup, GA 31598; [email protected]. American Honey Producers Ass'n, Lyle Johnston; 719254-6321; www.americanhoneyproducers.org. Eastern Apicultural Society of North America, Inc., Loretta Surprenant, Sec., Miner Institute, Chazy, NY 12921; 518-846-8020. Western Apicultural Society of North America, Nancy Stewart, 2110 X St., Sacramento, CA 95818; 916-4512337.

Florida State Beekeepers Ass'n, Eloise Cutts, Executive Secretary, 2237 N.W 16th Ave., Gainesville, FL 32605; 904-378-7719. (Local beekeeping clubs meet more often.)

BEE BOOKS: Go to a beekeepers' (apicultural) school. Your local extension service can guide you to a class or program. If hands-on training from a neighborly beekeeper is not available to you, there are convenient alternatives: books, videotapes and slides.

First Lessons in Beekeeping by C. P Dadant and Starting Right, a basic manual that's been in print for 70 years and is regularly updated by editors at the A.I. Root Co. (120 pg, $7.99), are a good place to begin. This is where Kim Flottum works, editing current editions of the famous Root publications for beekeepers. (Kim helped me with this bee section.) Kim also recommends The Beekeeper's Handbook by Sammataro and Avitabile (1988), and says that Hive Management (1989) and A Practical Guide to Beekeeping by Dick Bonney (1993) are also good. Other useful books are The Complete Guide to Beekeeping by Roger A. Morse (1980, reissued 1994), the How-to-Do-It Book of Beekeeping by Richard Taylor (1984, reissued 1994), Beekeeping for Gardeners by Richard Taylor (1982), How to Keep Bees and Sell Honey by Walter T. Kelly (1991), and the Guide to Bees and Honey by Ted Hooper (1976). Sue Hubble wrote two fun anecdotal bee books. Also, Plants and Beekeeping, by F .N. Howes (1979), covers forage plants for bees.

Also check out Beekeeping: A Complete Owner's Manual (1986), a user-friendly book by Werner Melzer, a German expert who presents the European bee scene. The Honey Bee: A Guide for Beekeepers, by V R. Vickery, a Canadian, reads like a textbook but is up-to-date and thorough. The Hive & the Honey Bee, newly revised and enlarged (1,324 pages!), edited by Joe Graham and published by Dadant, is more advanced reading, has often been used as a college entomology and apiculture text. The ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture, edited by Kim Flottum and Roger Morse, first published in 1897, was in its 40th edition last I heard. It's encyclopedically complete, including history, anatomy, hive styles, etc. Also check out Bees and Beekeeping: A Year in the Life of an Apiary, by Keith S. Delaphane. The Beekeepers Handbook (1998), by Diana Sammataro, Alphone Avitabile, and Roger Morse, covers the life history and behavior of bees, bee management, disease control, and honey removal and processing.


American Bee Journal is an excellent monthly, $20.95/year, from Dadant and Sons. Free sample copy: 217-8473324; fax 217-847-3660; 51 S. 2nd St., Hamilton, IL 62341; [email protected]; www.dadant.com/journal. APIS is an entomology newsletter, now out of print, but archived on the web at APIS.ifas.ufl.edu. The new configuration of the APIS newsletter is found at groups.yahoo.com/group/APIS_newsletter. Bee Culture: The Magazine of American Beekeeping appears monthly. They offer a free sample. Also, "Who's Who in Apiculture," a list of bee organizations and government bee specialists, is published every May in Bee Culture and available at www.airoot.com. (Then click on beekeeping.) It's $21.50/yr from the A.I. Root Co.: 216725-6677; 800-289-7668; 623 West Liberty Street, PO Box 706, Medina, OH 44258-0706; [email protected] beeculture.com. Bee World, the Journal of Apicultural Research, and Apicultural Abstracts, are all published by the International Bee Research Ass'n: international tel. 44 2920 372409; international fax 44 2920 665522;18 North Rd„ Cardiff CF10 3DT, UNITED KINGDOM; [email protected]; www.ibra.org.uk. Canadian Beekeeping offers news, interviews, features, and ads, both in the text version and on the website where there are also current and back issue samples; $21.40 in Canada; $20 in U.S.: 905-936-4975; Box 678, Tottenham, Ontario, CANADA LOG 1W0;

[email protected]/; www.Canadian beekeeping.com/.

New Zealand Beekeeper comes from the National Beekeepers Ass'n of New Zealand; 11 issues per year (Feb.-Dec.). Overseas air mail costs U.S. $38; ship $31: 07-8382589; fax 07-838-2960; PO Box 447, Hamilton, NEW ZEALAND; [email protected]; www.nba.org.nz/. The Speedy Bee, "The Beekeeper's Newspaper," is a monthly for $17.25/year. Free sample copy is available from Troy Fore, Jr.: 912-427-4018; PO Box 1317, Jesup, GA 31598-1317. Beekeeping Supplies

Blossomland Supply sells both beekeeping and candle-making supplies: 616-473-3917; 800-637-5262; PO Box 74, Berrien Center, MI 49102; [email protected] blossomland.com; www.blossomland.com. Brushy Mountain Bee Farm offers a free 84-pg catalog of beekeeping equipment and supplies, protective clothing, candle- and soap-making supplies, books, beekeeping videos, etc.: 800-233-7929 or 336-921-3640; fax 336-921-2681; 610 Bethany Church Rd., Moravian Falls, NC 28654; www.beeequipment.com. Dadant is the largest bee equipment supplier. Ask for their dealer subsidiary in your area: 800-637-7468; 51 S. 2nd St., Hamilton, IL 62341; [email protected]; www.dadant.com. Mann Lake Ltd. offers a free 84-pg catalog of beekeeping and candle-making supplies: 800-880-7694; fax 218675-6165; 501 S. 1st St. Hackensack, MN 56452; [email protected]; www.mannlakeltd. com.

Rossman Apiaries sells supplies for beekeepers, including package bees: 800-333-7677; PO Box 905, Moultrie, GA 31776; [email protected]; www.gabees. com.

Western Bee Supplies manufactures and sells a full line of bee equipment. Order online, or request a catalog: 800-548-8440 or 406-883-2918; PO Box 190, Poison, MT 59860; www.westernbee.com.

Continue reading here: About Bee Stings

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