The Beginner's Guide to Beekeeping: Everything You Need to Know 9781610587983, 1610587987

Raising bees is becoming increasingly popular in backyards and on farms large and small-and it's easy to see why. T

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The Beginner's Guide to Beekeeping: Everything You Need to Know
 9781610587983, 1610587987

Table of contents :
Cover......Page 1
CONTENTS......Page 3
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS......Page 4
INTRODUCTION......Page 5
CHAPTER 1 Getting to Know Your Bees......Page 10
CHAPTER 2 Starting Out as a Beekeeper......Page 24
CHAPTER 3 Installing Bees and Routine Care......Page 52
CHAPTER 4 Pests, Diseases, and Problems......Page 84
CHAPTER 5 Sweet Rewards: Honey!......Page 96
CHAPTER 6 Marketing Your Hive Products......Page 122
CHAPTER 7 Having Fun with Your Bees......Page 142
CHAPTER 8 Recipes......Page 156
APPENDIX: RESOURCES......Page 170
G......Page 172
Q......Page 173
W......Page 174
ABOUT THE AUTHORS......Page 175

Citation preview

the Beginner’s Guide to

Beekeeping Samantha JohnSon

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daniel JohnSon

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contents acknowledGmentS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 chapter 1 Getting to Know Your Bees . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10

chapter 2 Starting Out as a Beekeeper . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .24

chapter 3 Installing Bees and Routine Care . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .52

chapter 4 Pests, Diseases, and Problems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .84

chapter 5 Sweet Rewards: Honey! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .96

chapter 6 Marketing Your Hive Products . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .122

chapter 7 Having Fun with Your Bees . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .142

chapter 8 Recipes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 156

appendix: reSourceS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 170 aBout the authorS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .176

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I Acknowledgments We would like to express our sincere gratitude to the following individuals for their help and assistance on this project: • Everyone at Voyageur Press for the opportunity to work on this book! We’re so pleased to be doing another book with you. • Lorin, for sharing his beekeeping knowledge with us, and for proofreading the manuscript. • Paulette, for endless hours of photo editing, research, and sticking with us through this entire project! • J. Keeler, for keeping us on task with daily discussions.

• Anna and Emily, for always being helpful. • Colin, Renee, and Terefech Snook for allowing us to come and photograph your bees. • Anna Kettlewell, Alyssa Fine, and Danielle Dale for their input on the Honey Queen Program. • The National Honey Board. • Gracie, for being our cheerleader (“Rah, rah, rah!”). • Peaches, for being cute. • Z. P., just because. • And all the worker bee girls at Fox Hill Farm and Pine Valley Farm for providing us with honey and beeswax and for pollinating our garden!

Honey bees are nature’s busiest pollinators. The benefits of honey bees are significant to food production, as up to 80 percent of crops are pollinated by honey bees. Some beekeepers travel the country with their bees and hives, offering pollination services to farmers and orchardists.

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W th fa in w m ne ev do in an be yo ou

Introduction As bees in early summer swarm apace Through flowery fields, when forth from dale and dell They lead the full-grown offspring of the race, Or with liquid honey store each cell And make the teeming hive with nectarous sweets to swell. These ease the comers of their loads, those Drive the drones afar. The busy work each plies And sweet with thyme and honey smells the hive.

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—Virgil’s Aeneid, book 1

Welcome to the world of beekeeping! We’re excited that you’ve decided to explore this enjoyable, fascinating, and potentially tasty hobby. Our hope in writing this book is that bee-ginning beekeepers will find some helpful tips for getting started, that more advanced beekeepers will pick up some new ideas and further their knowledge, and that everyone will have some fun along the way. We’ll do our best to tell you everything you need to know in order to successfully raise a hive, harvest honey, and be a part of this rapidly growing community of beekeepers. And we’ll do our best not to overwhelm you with bee humor and puns (although restraining ourselves will bee hard to do!).

So why keep bees? Beekeeping interests people for many different reasons, but here are a few of our favorites: 1. Bees make honey! This one is pretty obvious. There is nothing like the satisfaction of enjoying the sweet produce of your hives. 2. Bees make beeswax. Bees make more than just honey, you know! Additional products from your hive include beeswax and pollen, which—along with your honey—can be used to make a wide variety of products from candles to soaps. We’ll discuss all of this in greater detail later on.

Beekeeping is a fascinating hobby and the number of beekeepers in the United States is increasing. It is becoming more and more popular in urban locations as well as remaining very important in our rural areas.

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Fascinating Facts • The

top honey-producing state is North Dakota. • To produce a single pound of honey, bees must visit as many as two million flowers and travel an accumulated distance of 50,000 miles. • A colony of bees can contain as many as 60,000 bees. • In her lifetime, an average female honey bee can fly a distance equal to going 1 ½ times around the earth. • According to a USDA estimate, cited by the National Honey Board, bees are responsible for 80 percent of insect crop pollination in the United States. • Bees fly approximately 15 miles per hour.

3.

4.

5.

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Yo th he yo In addition to pollination and honey, beeswax is another wonderful benefit of raising bees—it’s an immensely useful product in a number of ways!

1.

For many people, the best part of raising bees is the harvest of honey.

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introcuction

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The most sought-after and bestselling item for most beekeepers is the honey their bees produce. It’s very satisfying to care for your hives over the year and then be able to harvest the honey at summer’s end.

3. Bees are fascinating. Really, until you’ve spent some time observing the habits of these little creatures, you won’t appreciate how truly amazing they are, from their organization to their socialization. You’ll witness the life cycle of the bees, from egg to adult, as well as their fantastic work ethic. 4. Bees aid farmers and gardeners. While in the process of travelling from flower to flower collecting nectar and pollen, bees boost the productivity of fruits, vegetables, and crops. If you have a garden, keeping bees may be an excellent parallel project. 5. Bees can be kept almost anywhere. Even in locations where it is impossible for you to own any other kind of livestock, you may still be able to keep bees and find a compact outlet for your “inner farmer.”

creatures that will only sting as a “last resort” to protect the hive. A worker honey bee that is out collecting pollen will almost never sting, because it is not worried about defending the hive. Even those bees that are inside or nearby the hive will have to perceive a considerable threat before they will begin to sting. As long as you do your homework and are gentle and careful while working among your bees, frequent stings should not be an issue for you. (In some circumstances, a bee sting can be serious; see the sidebar “Bee Careful” on page 9.)

BeekeepinG concernS You may have some questions or concerns about this beekeeping idea of yours. Let’s see if we can help clarify some issues and perhaps ease some of your concerns. 1. “I’m worried about getting stung—maybe a lot!” While the possibility exists that you will receive a sting or two over the course of your beekeeping gig, this usually is not a particularly serious concern. Unlike certain wasps or hornets, which can be aggressive depending on the circumstances, honey bees are generally passive

2. “I’m worried that this is going to be a lot of work—I didn’t get into beekeeping to do something hard!” We’ll be honest: beekeeping is, to some extent, hard work, but the work is different than caring for, say, a dog or cat or horse. Bees do not require repetitive chores on a daily basis. Bees don’t have to be fed twice a day, or walked on a leash—they don’t even need to be inspected every day. While a schedule is a good idea so that you don’t fall too far behind or miss something important, your schedule can be loose and adaptable to your lifestyle. The times of heavier work occur during the initial spring hive setup (which may only have to be done once), the honey harvest, and some general preparations in spring and fall. Overall, if you’re looking for a rewarding project that doesn’t require you to conform to a rigid schedule, keeping bees may be just the thing you’re looking for.

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3. “What will my neighbors think?” It’s possible that nearby neighbors may be (understandably) apprehensive about your new hobby—but that is only because they are probably just thinking of “bees” as some vicious group of stinging bugs, bent on seeking their next victim. You’ll just need to reassure these concerned souls that a foraging honey bee is only concerned with collecting nectar and pollen (and, incidentally, you could point out, pollinating the neighbor’s plants!) and does not pose a significant threat. You could even invite the neighbors to watch you work with the hives so they can gain firsthand experience with the naturally gentle behavior of your honey bees. And, of course, a complementary bottle of honey or two can go a long way toward making your neighbors view beekeeping in a positive light!

4. “What if I goof up?” While we certainly hope this doesn’t happen, mistakes in an uncertain world are always possible. To that end, we’ll do everything we can to keep the instructions in this book clear and concise. However, if something does go wrong—if one of your colonies of bees does not survive the winter, for instance—try not to be discouraged. You can always try again next spring—and you’ll be a wiser and more experienced beekeeper. On the other hand, there really is no one right way to keep bees . . . there are as many methods and options as there are individual beekeepers. So do your research, learn from your bees, and be the best beekeeper you can bee!

Ev an be fo

So, what are you waiting for? The world of beekeeping awaits!

A few tomato blossoms await pollination. Although tomato blossoms are usually pollinated by air movement, bees can be very helpful to ensure successful pollination

The tremendous trifecta of bounty from the hive: pollen, beeswax, and honey!

And the after-effects of the successful pollination. Gardeners everywhere should be thankful for honey bees.

Th it’

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Bee careful We don’t want you to move about in a perpetual state of fear that something bad will happen while you work with your bees, because generally speaking, beekeeping is a safe hobby that you can participate in without incident. As we discussed on page 7 (“Beekeeping Concerns”), bee stings are not nearly as frightening as many people believe. However, we do want to caution you on one thing: some people are severely allergic to honey bee stings and such a sting can potentially cause anaphylactic shock in these individuals. The good news is that the majority of people will never experience any trouble after being stung. But if you are an allergic individual, then beekeeping is probably not a hobby that you will want to pursue. Your health and well-being are much more important.

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introcuction

Even the youngest bee enthusiasts can enjoy watching and learning about our friends in the hive. Protective beekeeping gear is always important, especially for youngsters.

As with the care of many types of animals, you may find yourself looking for help and advice beyond what you can find through books and research. While a list of resources and websites can be found at the back of this book, and while we will attempt to cover as much common information as we can, you will probably enjoy the advice and company of a local beekeeper— should you be lucky enough to have one in your area. Beekeeping clubs can be a terrific way to meet other fellow beekeepers and ask specific questions that you may have.

This hive may look quiet from the outside, but inside it’s a-buzz with activity!

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chapter 1

Getting to Know Your Bees The Indians with surprise found the mouldering trees of their forests suddenly teeming with ambrosial sweet; and nothing, I am told, can exceed the greedy relish with which they banquet for the first time upon this unbought luxury of the wilderness. —Washington Irving

i

n this chapter, we’ll begin to learn about the bees themselves. It’s important that you get to know the lifestyle and behaviors of these fascinating creatures before you actually jump in and start working with them. We’ll also cover a brief history of beekeeping—did you know that you’re about to share in an endeavor that is thousands of years old?

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This is a busy group of worker bees! Their responsibilities are varied, but include capping the honey cells once the honey is dry enough to cap.

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Beekeepers throughout the ages have enjoyed working with bees and harvesting honey, along with collecting wax, pollen, and propolis to use or sell.

a BrieF hiStory oF BeekeepinG The lure of honey seems to have always been a strong incentive to people of all backgrounds across many cultures. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Chinese, Israelites, and Romans are all known to have tended bees in locations as diverse as Africa, Europe, and Asia. The ancient Maya also kept a variety of stingless (albeit less prolific) bees in Central America. But the bees we know and use today in North America are descendants of Western honey bees, which were developed in Europe and carried across the ocean by American colonists. Even prior to the 1700s, established beehives were already in place across New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. One problem that beekeepers faced throughout all these times was that there wasn’t a good way of harvesting the honey. Harvesting could involve the destruction of all or part of the hive depending on the type of hive used. Smoking the hives with sulfur was also sometimes used to kill the entire colony of

The Langstroth hive design, developed in the 19th century, revolutionized beekeeping and is still the most popular hive design among beekeepers. Two other types include the top bar hive and the Warré hive, with the top bar hive gaining in popularity with organic beekeepers.

bees, which would leave the physical hive intact but result in the destruction of all the bees. All of this changed in the mid-1800s, when L. L. Langstroth of Pennsylvania developed a new style of beehive, which is still in use today. The Langstroth hive is special because it is made of individual components that can be easily taken apart and examined without upsetting the bees or destroying their work. The bees in this kind of hive build their combs and store their honey on a series of movable frames, which can be easily and nondestructively removed when it’s time to harvest honey. Today, beekeeping means different things to different people. For some it’s a business (of both honey collection and professional crop pollination services), but for many others it’s a lovely, enjoyable hobby that can give a lifetime of pleasure. Throughout this book we hope to share some knowledge that will help you achieve that pleasure.

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all aBout BeeS MeMbers of the hive A beehive is made up of three distinct types of bees: 1. Workers 2. Drones 3. The Queen Let’s take a look at each type individually: Worker bees are female bees that typically do not lay eggs. They do, however, tend to the queen, tend to the nursery of young bees, build comb, store food, and fly miles and miles and miles from flower to flower collecting pollen and nectar. Wow! When people talk about “busy bees” they surely must mean the workers. Worker bees also have glands in their abdomen that produce wax, as well as glands in their heads that are capable of producing royal jelly, which is a nutrient-rich substance used to feed larvae (baby bees!).

The queen is usually the only egg-laying female in the hive. For this reason, the queen is given special treatment from the rest of the workers. She is fed, tended, and protected by the workers. In exchange for their care, the queen supplies the hive with the eggs needed to sustain a healthy, working colony. The queen is the largest bee in the hive, with a slender, elegant body—considerably larger than that of a worker bee. There are only two times when there might be more than one egg-laying female. One is when the main queen is aging and the hive is considering producing a replacement (known as supersedure). The other time is when the queen has died, and confused worker bees begin laying eggs. If you have laying worker bees (manifested by a sudden increase in the number of drones in the hive, or multiple eggs laid in one cell), then you have no queen and you’ll need to take action to replace her. Before a queen can lay eggs however, she must take to the skies and perform a mating flight with several drone bees, discussed next.

honey bee anatomy As an up-and-coming beekeeper, it might do you good to take a closer look at the anatomy of our buzzing buddies. Honey bees are insects, of course, and like all insects, they have bodies that can be classified into three broad regions: 1. The head, which contains the bee’s mouth, eyes, brain, and antennae. 2. The thorax, a middle section with three pairs of legs. 3. The abdomen, which contains some of the bee’s internal organs and the stinger if the bee is a female.

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Drones are male bees. They have a slightly different build than the workers, with a generally larger body and significantly larger eyes to aid in the location of a flying queen. The drones fly with new queen bees and mate with her, but do not contribute to the hive otherwise. You won’t see

drones out collecting pollen, since their legs have no pollen baskets, and you won’t see them defending the hive—drones don’t have a stinger! They cannot produce wax for building, either. Still, they are essential to the lives of bees, and a healthy colony in mid-summer might be home to 1,000 drones.

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Getting to know your bees

The individual, removable frames in the Langstroth hive make it easier to access the hive for inspection and make it possible to harvest honey without damaging the entire hive.

n

A colony of bees contains three distinctly different bee types: the queen, the drones, and the everhardworking, multitalented, and multitasking worker bees. They each have very different roles and responsibilities in the hive. The worker bee in the smallest, the drone is larger and wider and the queen is the largest and most beautiful—or so say many beekeepers. Illustration courtesy Emily F. Johnson

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A multitude of worker bees in the hive: it’s easy to see where the term “busy as a bee” comes from.

You can see that the three worker bees on the left are very different in looks and size to the larger, bigeyed drone on the right. As autumn approaches, the drones may be “kicked” out of the hive by worker bees to eliminate having to feed them throughout the winter.

the Life CyCLe of a honey bee Let’s take a moment to familiarize ourselves with the honey bee life cycle. It’s useful to you as the beekeeper to be able to locate, identify, and understand the various stages of bees you’re looking at, because a healthy hive and a healthy queen will be producing strong brood (baby bees). Let’s take a look at this brood. eggs All honey bees begin life as an egg laid by the queen in an empty hexagonal cell. On a busy summer day, a healthy queen might lay as many as 2,000 eggs!

Honey bee eggs are very tiny, and not always easy to find if you’re a beginner. Some people recommend using black plastic hive frames because the small white eggs will stand out more easily against the black and make them more visible (see the section in Chapter 2, “Anatomy of a Hive,” page 33, to learn more about frames). Larvae Within a few days, the egg hatches (“dissolves” might be a better word for it) and out pops a small larva. The larvae are white and chubby and don’t really look at all like insects. They can’t feed themselves, so they are fed instead by the workers.

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Worker bees have many occupations; and one is that of guard bee. This guard bee is clearly doing her job in communicating to this stranger that he’s got to go.

Worker bees produce royal jelly out of glands in their heads. The royal jelly is a rich substance, full of vitamins, and the workers feed this to the larvae for three days. After that, the rapidly growing larvae are switched to a diet of honey and pollen. (If, however, the hive is replacing a queen, they will continue to feed a handful of larvae straight royal jelly, which will spark the development of a new queen). The larvae are fed over 1,000 times a day! After about six days (it can be slightly shorter or longer depending on if the individual larva is to become a drone, worker, or queen), the larva has eaten its fill and has grown quite large. It is at this time that worker bees seal the larva’s cell over with a cap made of wax and perhaps a bit of propolis (a sticky substance collected by the bees).

Getting to know your bees

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Here’s the nursery! The cells you see that are filled with a white substance are actually the baby bees in the larva stage. They are fed as often as a 1,000 times a day by nurse bees. If you look closely, you can also see pollen in some of the cells and honey in a few of the other cells, stored conveniently for feeding the youngsters.

Pupae Now is where the action really gets interesting. You won’t be able to actually witness this part, but underneath the cap of the larva’s cell, the once-larva has now become a pupa. Over the next two weeks or so, the pupa undergoes a fabulous transformation, known as metamorphosis. The pupa grows legs, sprouts wings, and develops eyes, antennae, and the stripes that are characteristic of a full-grown honey bee. After about 12 days since being capped (for workers) or 14 days (for drones), a fully-developed honey bee chews its way through the cap and is free to roam the hive. (A queen bee, however, develops rapidly and only stays in the pupa stage for about seven days. During this time, the growing queen bee is exclusively fed royal jelly. If it wasn’t for this, she would simply develop into another worker bee). 15

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ad A pe th Sl fr us gu lif flo

ho So Ev flo pr W tr ho

w O to “h be th on

The honey bee is an amazing pollinator and this job also falls on the wings on the worker bee. She makes more than 10 trips per day—each trip taking as long as an hour—back and forth from flowers to hive, returning with nectar, pollen, and propolis; all essential to keeping the hive fed, healthy, and strong.

The bee in the very center of this image has climbed halfway into the cell; bees are always fulfilling one of their many duties inside the hive. It’s an amazing place.

Th is

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how bees work So just what is it that your bees do all day long? Everyone knows they fly around and visit flowers—and they somehow make honey in the process, but what really goes on in their lives? We’ve touched on a few things already, but we’ll try to run through a more thorough description of honey bee life. worker bees outside the hive Outside the hive, foraging workers visit flowers to collect nectar, which they store in their special “honey-stomachs.” While on the flowers, the bees also collect pollen on their bodies and on the fuzzy hairs on their legs (there is a special cavity on the hind legs of worker bees called a pollen

basket where a large amount of pollen is collected), and then they haul the pollen back to the hive along with the nectar. In the process, they inadvertently pollinate flowers. They also collect water. One other item that bees collect outdoors is a resin-substance known as propolis, which they retrieve from trees buds and sap. Propolis is quite sticky. worker bees inside the hive Inside the hive, the worker bees build hexagonal cells made of wax. These are for storage and for raising brood. The propolis is used as a sealant for cracks in the hive and also as a building material. Bees are very particular about the spacing of areas inside their home. This is known as “bee space” and is about ⅜-inch wide. If a particular area is deemed a bit too narrow for them (for instance, the area between frames inside the hive), they will not hesitate to use propolis to fill in the cracks. Likewise, if the bees decided that a certain area is too wide, they will make it smaller with “burr comb” (which is just a name for comb that is not where you want it!). Propolis is something you will certainly run into as a beekeeper—it will often stick to your clothing.

Getting to know your bees

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adults After a pupa becomes an adult worker bee, she performs many jobs. Young adult workers clean the hive, tend to larvae, and take care of the queen. Slightly older workers also begin to produce wax from the wax glands on their abdomens, which they use to build comb. Older workers also act as hive guards. It is only after about three weeks of adult life that they begin to fly outside the hive, visiting flowers and collecting nectar and pollen.

The worker bee has “pollen baskets” (corbicula) on her hind legs. The baskets are not what you might think; there is a small area on the bee’s hind legs where she packs the pollen to carry back to the hive.

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Awesome is the only word that can describe the miracle of the honeycomb inside a bee colony. The comb is made from wax, which the worker bees make from their wax glands on the underside of their lower abdomens.

w ne th ho ra is fa ex on ca

Deep inside the hive, worker bees are making comb. This comb will be used for storing brood, honey, and pollen. The wax is put into place by mouth.

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Both honey and pollen are stored in cells near the larvae, down in the bottom of the hive in the deep brood chambers, but when these areas begin to fill up, the bees begin to store excess honey higher up in the hive in the honey supers, which are supplied by the beekeeper when needed (see Chapter 2 for more information on the structure of a hive).

Bees use propolis, collected from trees and plants, to seal their hive. They fill in all cracks and holes with this extremely sticky substance that you’ll come to know quite well. This bee is working on a strip of propolis.

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After foraging, worker bees return to the hive with their honey-stomachs filled with nectar. This nectar is passed to “house” worker bees that hold the nectar for a time. Both the foragers and the house bees use special enzymes to break down the raw nectar into simpler sugars. This new substance is then placed into cells, and the bees begin fanning the air with their wings to help dry out any excess moisture in the honey. If the bees don’t plan on using this particular honey for a while, they will cap it with wax for safekeeping and storage.

Worker bees produce a pheromone (scent) from their Nassanoff (Nasonov and Nasanoff are also correct) gland when trying to communicate the hive’s location to her fellow workers. The bees stand with their back ends up in the air to release this scent.

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smell and Communication Smell is an important function in the life of the colony. There are special bee scents, known as pheromones, which are used by the bees as a kind of communication system. The queen bee produces her own particular pheromones, with which she can say encouraging things to the hive things like, “I’m here, everything is okay,” and motivational things like, “Keep up the good work! Build that comb! Tend that brood!” If a queen becomes elderly or dies, her encouraging messages become faint and disappear, and the worker bees sense this and go about the business of crowning a new queen (by feeding extra royal jelly to a few special larvae). When a young queen is on her mating flight, she releases another smell aimed at communicating her location to any nearby drone bees. Worker bees have their own slew of pheromones. One is produced by the Nassanoff gland on their

abdomens. You can sometimes observe a worker bee standing around outside the hive, with her abdomen pointed upwards. She is releasing a pheromone into the air to help guide her fellow foraging workers back to the hive. She’s saying, “C’mon—here’s the hive! Down here!” It’s not unlike a lighthouse beacon, calling in ships on the sea. Worker bees can also warn each other of danger with their smells. If a bee stings something, it releases a “Danger! Caution! Warning!” signal throughout the hive, which just might make other workers consider stinging as well. Even the brood gets into the pheromone act, which helps the worker bees to properly tend to the needs of the brood. The brood may signal something like “We’re three days old—time to change our diet to honey and pollen!” The sense of smell is truly important to the socialization and productivity of the colony.

Because of the very dark conditions inside a hive, touch is an important communication tool for bees. Take a listen to your hive every now and then; there’s a lot going on inside.

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Dancing And, of course, there are the famous bee dances, which workers use to help communicate the location of productive food sources (flowers) to their fellow workers. Workers perform two variations of the dance: a “round” dance and a “waggle” dance. The round dance is used to share information about a food source that is fairly close

to the hive, while the waggle dance, which is a figure-eight, is used for food sources that are farther away. When performed, the two dances are able to convey information about the size of the alleged food source, its distance from the hive, the quality of the food source, and its direction relative to the sun. Bees use the sun in much the same way that a person on a hike might use a compass.

Getting to know your bees

Coated with pollen from visiting a garden’s squash plants, this worker bee will return to the hive and “dance” to communicate to the other bees the location of the flowers in relation to the hive.

The Italian honey bee is known for its golden good looks and gentle nature.

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bee breeDs There are a few different varieties/strains—“breeds,” if you will—of honey bees. We’ll discuss a few common varieties here: Italian (Apis mellifera ligustica) honey bees are very popular. They’re good honey producers, they’re quite gentle (not aggressive), and they rapidly produce a large quantity of brood. However, they also maintain this brood over the winter, which means they need a lot of food to see them through—you may be needed to help supply some of that food (see the section on overwintering bees in Chapter 3). Carniolan (Apis mellifera carnica) honey bees are another common breed. Like the Italian bees, Carniolan bees are gentle and easy to work with. They keep their numbers smaller over the winter, so they require less food in storage. They are also quite adaptable to variations in environment; they’re quick to take advantage of an early spring, for instance, but also just as quick to back off in hard times, such as a drought. They are, however, a bit more prone to swarming.

Russian honey bees are gaining popularity. The Russian honey bee (technically a hybrid) shares some traits (and genes) with both the Italian and Carniolan. One of the Russian bee’s most appealing traits is its natural resistance to Varroa mites, a parasite that can cause serious problems for other breeds. Russian bees are also quite hardy and overwinter well, even in harsh northern climates. They maintain a very small colony over the winter, and this tendency helps them to make their stores of honey last longer. One potential problem with Russian bees is that they can reproduce very rapidly under bountiful spring conditions, and if the beekeeper is not careful, the Russian bees may outgrow their hive too quickly and decide to swarm. There are other hybrid subdivisions within these categories. Experienced breeders will sometimes create crossbreds aimed at surviving well in a particular geographical location, for instance. Before making any decision on which breed to start your hive, it’s a good idea to talk to local beekeepers and get their opinions and suggestions before making your final selection.

The Russian honey bee, said to have a good resistance to the Varroa mite and some resistance to tracheal mites. The Russian is a darker bee.

Pr la

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Look closely at this frame, near the bottom—those objects that look like peanut shells are actually queen cells. This hive is preparing or thinking about preparing for a new queen. Raising your own queens is an activity you might wish to pursue as you move along in your adventure with bees. The location of these queen cells indicates that a swarm may be imminent.

Professional pollination services are offered by many beekeepers/breeders. It can be a viable business, but it is quite labor-intensive.

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chapter 2

Starting Out as a Beekeeper How doth the little busy bee Improve each shining hour, And gather honey all the day From every opening flower.

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ow that you know all about the bees themselves, chances are that you’d like a few thousand of your own. But before you don that beekeeping suit and veil, take a peek at the information in this chapter, as there are a few things you’ll need to know and understand when you’re first starting out.

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There are a lot of things that you should know prior to purchasing your first bee package. This chapter will bring you a bit closer to the day when you’ll see the workers out and about on your local flowers.

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You’ll need to check out your state and local regulations prior to setting up your apiary. Following some additional commonsense guidelines will assist you in choosing the proper location for your hives as well.

reGulationS and ordinanceS In your initial burst of beekeeping enthusiasm, it’s tempting to want to fling yourself headfirst into the fascinating world of apiculture. Hives, frames, queens, brood, honey—you want to immerse yourself in beekeeping, and you don’t want to let anything or anyone stop you. These are understandable feelings, and we’re excited that you’re excited about getting started with honey bees. But before you rush out and invest in beekeeping equipment and order those bees, we encourage you to take a few moments to research some important information that may have a significant effect on your beekeeping endeavors: regulations and ordinances. It might surprise you to learn that beekeeping— as with many agricultural pursuits—is regulated on the state and local levels, and that your ability to get started with bees will depend upon the regulations that are applicable to your city and state. Before getting started, you’ll want to investigate these regulations and determine what—if anything—you need to do before setting up your beehives. You might be wondering just what these regulations entail. Well, if you live in North Dakota, for example, you’ll need to pay annual fees of 15 cents per colony and $5 for a beekeeper’s license. Other states require that you have your hives inspected regularly by an apiary inspector. Still other localities prohibit beekeeping either expressly

(by prohibiting it entirely) or in an implied manner by enacting such strict regulations as to make beekeeping impossible. For example, a city might have legislation that requires beehives to be kept at least 500 feet from a roadway, making it impossible for a person on an average-sized lot to have a beehive and still comply with the regulations. Thankfully, as long as your municipality does not entirely prohibit beekeeping, it’s usually fairly easy to comply with regulations, and the fees are generally reasonable. To find out about the beekeeping requirements required in your area, talk to your local beekeeper’s association; they will be able to enlighten you as to any necessary fees or registration requirements. You can also contact your local agricultural extension office for information. Additionally, the Apiary Inspectors of America website maintains a comprehensive list of state statutes with handy links: http://www. apiaryinspectors.org/laws/statelaws.html. Even if you discover that your city or township prohibits beekeeping, you still have options for pursuing your apicultural ambitions. To begin with, you can petition your local government to lift the prohibition on beekeeping. Join forces with other beekeepers, as well as gardeners and farmers who rely on the honey bee for pollination purposes, and you’ll likely find that they will provide willing support toward changing beekeeping legislation.

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We highly recommend that you join your local beekeeper’s association. You’ll meet area beekeepers who will be able to advise and guide you in your beekeeping adventure, and you’ll learn about tried-and-true beekeeping techniques that are specific to your area. Many beekeeping associations provide educational opportunities such as field days, guest speakers, and classes. Your annual dues will be money that is very well spent!

But what if your city prohibits beekeeping and you’re simply not able to convince the “powers that bee” to change the legislation and make it more friendly and welcoming to beekeepers? Start investigating other beekeeping options. Sometimes farm owners and gardeners in rural areas are eager to find beekeepers who are willing to establish and maintain hives on their property. This can provide the best of both worlds: you have the opportunity to keep bees and pursue apiculture, while the land owner receives the benefit of the presence of your bees in the form of pollination for his or her plants or crops. Again, your local beekeeping association can be a great source of contacts, information, and networking opportunities, so be sure to utilize this valuable resource. Even if you live in an area that is completely “bee friendly” and has little or no regulation on

beekeeping, you may run into the occasional person who just doesn’t approve of beekeeping. Sometimes area residents are uncomfortable with the idea of beehives in their neighborhood, and they may complain or express their reservations about your honey bee pursuits. Bee phobia (known as apiphobia) is real and some people are truly frightened by bees, especially when the bees are in proximity to their homes. You may wish to discuss your plans with your close neighbors ahead of time and listen to any concerns that they may have. You may be able to alleviate their fears by explaining that bees are gentle creatures that are really only concerned with doing their jobs of gathering nectar and pollen. By addressing these potential concerns in advance, you may be able to avoid potential problems down the road.

Beekeeping regulations vary from state to state and town to town; some require registration of your hives, which includes paperwork in order for you to be in line with the rules.

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Be thoughtful in the placing of your bees in relation to your neighbors. This will assist in assuring that your bees will be welcome by all. The direction you place the entrance to your hives is important due to the flight patterns of the bees.

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Check local and state ordinances before selling your honey at local farmers’ markets.

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honey production regulations In addition to the regulations and ordinances that pertain to beekeeping in general, you’ll also want to check out any regulations that may have an effect on your ability to sell honey and honey products. Some states will require you to file for a food handler’s permit or a food producer’s license before you can sell your products. Even if your state does not require you to obtain a license in order to sell honey at farmers’ markets or festivals, you may still be required to maintain a designated area for honey preparation that meets necessary criteria of cleanliness and sanitation. For example, in Wisconsin, you don’t need to obtain a license if you meet the following criteria: • You extract, package, and sell only your own honey from your own bees, and • You don’t process the honey or you process it only minimally by straining, heating, and/or making spun or creamed honey using starters from your own honey, and • You sell your products directly to your customers out of your home, over the Internet, or from a farmers' market. This includes commercial customers using your honey as an ingredient, such as a brewery. If you are bottling or processing honey from other individuals or if you are adding other flavors and ingredients to the honey (your own honey or honey from others), then you will need to obtain a retail license or a food processor’s license. In any case, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection requires a separate room dedicated to the production of your honey, maintained at an acceptable level of cleanliness, as well as commercial-grade equipment.

locatinG a Breeder Here’s a great question that probably has been bouncing around in your mind for a while, and perhaps you’ve even skipped ahead in the book to find the answer: Where exactly are your bees going to come from? Well, unless you plan on tracking down and capturing a swarm of loose bees (possible, although challenging and beyond the scope of a beginner) or collecting them one by one off of dandelions and daisies (not practical), you will be purchasing your bees from someone else—either

a bee breeder (who may live far from you) or a local beekeeper. And that’s a good idea, because this way you will be able to do your research and purchase from an established, reputable source— and besides, that wild bee roundup idea sounds a little too ambitious! Most bee breeders in the United States are located in the southern portions of the country and California (because of the warm year-round temperatures) but will ship packages of bees and queens all over the country. If you’re not planning on buying locally, then explore bee journals and

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You’ll be notified upon the arrival of your bees, and you must be sure to pick your bees up immediately in order to ensure their survival. They’ve already been on a long journey and the sooner they are safely installed into their new home, the better for all.

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This large truck is used in hauling package bees from California across the country to the Midwest where local beekeepers can pick them up.

Picking up your bees is an exciting moment—the time has come for you to become a beekeeper! Prior to picking up your bees, you should have your hives set up and your equipment ready. This isn’t something to do after your bees have arrived.

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1.

A package of bees typically consists of about three pounds of bees, including a queen. The queen is typically separated inside a tiny cage within the larger cage. There’s also a can of syrup to feed the bees but its contents only last a short while.

Handle your packages with care and set them safely in your vehicle for transport to your apiary. There could be a few loose bees on the outside of your package, so if you’re going to be placing them in your car, you might want to brush off those few stragglers.

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1. Packages. A package of bees is a small screened box—most commonly about three pounds when full—that contains a queen and about 10,000 rarin’-to-go workers. Ten thousand bees is just the right amount for an up-andcoming hive. The benefits of the package system is that you can purchase your bees from almost anywhere and have them shipped in the package right to you, either through the U.S. Mail or by another carrier like UPS. Be aware however, that shipping through the mail like this can be stressful on the bees. It is less stressful on them if they are hand delivered— for example—by a local bee enthusiast who has had the packages trucked directly to his door or has picked them up himself and brought them directly back home. In the past,

we’ve purchased bees from a local beekeeper who travels each spring from Wisconsin to California to pick up a truckload of bees, which he then disperses to beekeepers throughout Wisconsin. Your package of bees will be made up of the screened box, a small metal can of syrup that provides the bees with a meal during their cross-country excursion, and a very small, separate screened cage for the queen. She is separated from the workers because she has only just been introduced to them. The queen is, in effect, an adopted queen, and the rest of the packaged colony will need some time to become acquainted with her unique smell and personality. The queen cage provides an opportunity for the bees and the queen to get to know each other, without getting too close too soon. Installing a package of bees into an empty hive is an exciting job that requires a bit of finesse—so we will be spending a good portion of Chapter 3 helping you to install your bees safely and effectively.

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magazines for bee breeders who will ship to your location. (A breeder that offers a package replacement guarantee is a good thing—just in case your bees perish during shipment.) Generally speaking, you can purchase your bees in three different ways.

Bees in packages are stacked up awaiting pickup by beekeepers. Each package contains about 10,000 worker bees and the queen. The queen will be in a tiny box within the bee package. You’ll want to be very careful with her.

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2. Nucs. A “nuc” (short for “nucleus”) is a somewhat more elaborate way of obtaining your bees. Instead of shipping the bees in a simple box, a nuc can be thought of as a tiny hive (with only a handful of frames—see later in this chapter under “Anatomy of a Hive”). A nuc has a small group of workers, an established queen, and some brood. When it’s time to install the bees into their new hive at your home, all that is required is the careful transfer of the nuc frames into a new empty hive. Ta-da! You’re ready to go. A nuc doesn’t get shipped through a parcel carrier; instead, you will need to visit the bee breeder yourself. It can be difficult to locate a beekeeper who offers nucs, but if you can, it’s a good option.

3. Complete hives. It is also possible to purchase an established functioning beehive from a breeder or beekeeper. While this option has its merits—you are immediately in the beekeeping game with a producing queen and plenty of workers—it usually isn’t recommended for the novice beekeeper. For one thing, you will have to be immediately prepared to deal with the upkeep and care of a large hive, without the benefit of the learning curve that you might otherwise obtain when starting out small. There will also be a lot of bees in an established hive, which can be intimidating to work with, and they may be a bit more aggressive than a newly established hive from a package or nuc. For these reasons, we recommend you go for the package or nuc route.

how many colonieS Should i Start with? Remember the old tongue twister, “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” We’d like to offer this paraphrased version: “How many bees should a beekeeper keep if a beekeeper could keep bees?” The answer to this question varies depending on your circumstances; some commercial beekeepers keep hundreds of colonies in their bee yard (also known as an apiary) while a backyard beekeeper might have only one hive. Obviously, most beekeepers have somewhere between those two extremes, and that’s what we suggest for you. For your first year of beekeeping, we recommend starting out with two or three hives. Most beekeepers agree that starting with only one hive is not a good plan, as that leaves you without a way to make comparisons of your hives whenever you wonder, “Is this normal behavior?” When you have two or more hives, you’ll be able to manage your bees in a more effective manner, and maintaining two hives is really not much more labor intensive than caring for one.

Many beekeepers cite the importance of being able to save a queenless hive when you have a second hive. (If your first hive goes queenless, you can move a frame of brood into the queenless hive so that they can raise another queen and continue. If you do not have a second hive, you would have to either order a new queen or you lose the colony.) The truth is, you’ll probably soon discover that two or three hives just isn’t enough, and you’ll be trying to expand your bee yard as quickly as you can! In the minds of most beekeepers, the more (bees), the merrier!

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In the wild, bees will create a home and hive just about anywhere that’s cozy, dry, and defendable. This could be inside a tree, or log, or even in the walls of an old house. However, these locations don’t exactly lend themselves to easy access by a beekeeper! Instead, domesticated bees are (generally) kept in manmade hives that are both easy to work with, easy to access, and comfortable for the bees. Hives can be purchased preassembled, or in a kit that requires your own skill to put together. Another option, of course, is to build your own from scratch. If you’re ambitious and skilled in woodworking, then this makes a terrific project! Check out the sidebar, “Build Your Own Beehive,” on page 40 for all the details.

If you’re anxious to get going with your bees and aren’t particularly interested in building things, then you’ll want to stick with the preassembled hives, which are available from many beekeeping supply companies. We give the names of several of these companies in the appendix under “Resources.” While a variety of different manmade hives have been used throughout history, in this book we’ll be concentrating on the very common Langstroth hive, named after its patentee. Before the Langstroth hive came into use during the mid1800s, it was difficult for a beekeeper to retrieve honey at the end of the summer—in fact it often resulted in the destruction of the colony. The Langstroth hive solved these problems by allowing easy and undisruptive access to the bees, combs, brood, and honey. It accomplishes these by the use of frames. Honey bees can sometimes be found in the oddest places, such as inside the attic of an old building. You can see that this colony has built comb and needs to be removed. It typically takes an experienced beekeeper to remove such a misplaced colony and such removal probably shouldn’t be attempted by a beginner. Photos courtesy Colin and Renee Snook

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anatomy oF a hive

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Let’s take a quick walk-through of a standard Langstroth hive, so you will be able to identify each part and understand its function. We’ll start at the bottom and work our way up: 1. Stand and landing board. This is the very bottom of the hive, which is basically an empty square with a small ramp built on the front . . . the ramp is there to give your bees a nice landing space and an easy way to crawl back home after a hard day of visiting flowers. 2. Bottom board. The screened bottom board is just that—just a floor for the hive with little else to do. 3. Next we come to the actual hive boxes—the parts that really make up the bulk of your colony’s home. The hive boxes have no floor and no ceilings—just walls. First we have the “deep” hive, or the “brood” hive, as some people call it. Typically, this is the deepest box, and the one where the queen will be living, along with her growing brood. A modest amount of honey may be kept down the deep hive, but this honey is for the care and feeding of the hive population—it’s not honey you will be harvesting.

4. The honey that you’ll be harvesting is kept up higher in the hive—in boxes called supers (which is Latin for “above,” or, “higher”—as in “superior.”) Typically, supers are not as deep as brood boxes. This is to keep them easier to handle—a box full of honey can be quite heavy. The bees don’t care one way or another if the supers aren’t as deep as the brood box. 5. Above the supers comes the inner cover, which is a rather simple lid with an oval hole for ventilation. This inner cover is, in turn, covered by the outer cover. Outer covers usually have a tough exterior made of metal or copper. Simple outer covers are flat, but some hives have gabled roofs to make them more attractive in your bee yard. 6. There is one more piece of the hive that we should talk about, and that is the entrance reducer. This is a small, long, wooden piece that has two notches carved into it: one notch is quite small, and another is somewhat larger. Once in place, the entrance reducer is used as a kind of doorway to the hive. Depending on its orientation, the entrance reducer can be installed so that either the large notch is used, making a long, wide doorway for the bees, or that the small notch is present, making a short square entrance.

A hive stand and bottom board, complete with a screen that will help with ventilation. Note that the grid is a plastic sheet that assists in the detection and count of Varroa mites. You spray it with vegetable oil to make it sticky, so the mites will be trapped and you’ll be able to get an idea of their numbers.

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Some beekeepers recommend that you use black foundation frames in the bottom or brood box and naturalcolored frames in the upper or honey supers, but many people use natural-colored frames throughout their hives.

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Here we have a setup that foregoes a deep hive body, and is available complete from Brushy Mountain and is a lovely addition to your apiary. It’s called the English Garden hive.

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Why are there two entrance sizes? Well, the small notch is used in the winter (to limit cold air pouring into the hive) and is also used on new hives that are just starting out (so it’s easier for the bees to guard the entrance). The longer notch is typically used once the hive is

established and bees are better able to guard it. It’s also used in the summer when more ventilation is needed. Keep in mind that later in the summer when the bees are very busy and the hive is established, you may want to simply remove the reducer altogether.

This English Garden hive is an nice addition to our apiary, partly due to its good looks and partly due to the fact that it uses the 8-frame medium supers. The copper roof adds a touch of class and distinction to the hive.

The entrance reducer is the doorway to your beehive. Depending on how you position it, the entrance reducer has either a wide opening or a small one. Use the wide opening during the warm summer months, as it helps with ventilation. Use the smaller opening in the winter to restrict cold air; also use the smaller opening on newly established hives—it’s easier for the new colony to guard a smaller opening. The entrance reducer isn’t nailed into place—it just rests there.

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desirable at all, for it can cause the bees to consider swarming. It’s as if they think, “Hey! This place is filling up! There’s nowhere for the queen to lay more eggs! Let’s go find somewhere new!” This situation of the bees refusing to climb through the excluder has caused some beekeepers to sarcastically refer to queen excluders as “honey excluders.” Queen excluders are offered for sale in many beekeeping catalogs, and are often included in the beginner’s kits. So, what should you do? Should you use a queen excluder or not? It is really up to you. If you’re starting out with two hives, you could try putting an excluder on one and leaving the other open, then see what happens. Does the queen lay brood up in the supers where you don’t really want her to? Are the workers messing things up by hauling pollen up there all the time? Then perhaps a queen excluder should be considered. On the other hand, are the bees reluctant to cross the excluder boundary? Are they storing an inordinate amount of honey down in the deep hive boxes? Maybe you should remove the excluder. Note: If you do choose to leave the queen excluder off, just remember to be very careful when performing routine inspections on the hive. You never know where the queen might be—even up in the supers—and you don’t want to hurt her.

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The queen excluder is a piece of beekeeping equipment over which people tend to debate. A queen excluder is a mesh structure made of wire, wood, or plastic that is placed in the hive between the brood boxes and the supers. Like an exclusive club open only to members who pass a membership test, access to the supers is then restricted only to bees that can pass through the queen excluder. The spacing of the mesh is precisely designed so that worker bees can pass through and gain access to the supers above, but—as you might have guessed— the queen cannot. She’s just too big. So are the drones. Whether or not the queens feel offended by the injustice of a queen excluder, we cannot say. The purpose of a queen excluder is to prevent the queen from getting up into the supers and laying eggs. This is handy, because it means that there will only be honey up in the super frames—no brood. And since workers tend to follow the queen wherever she goes, there will be less worker bee traffic, and there will also be no pollen stored up there—since pollen is used to feed the brood. All in all, having a queen excluder can keep your hives more organized. It’s also sometimes used to keep track of your queen’s location. Without an excluder, she could potentially be anywhere in the hive. But there are some problems with queen excluders. For one thing, it takes extra effort for the worker bees to squeeze through the excluder’s mesh (and drones sometimes attempt the crossing and get stuck). Squeezing through the excluder can place unnecessary wear and tear on the wings of the worker bees. And because of the extra effort that is required, the workers may be too discouraged to haul nectar up past the excluder and into the supers. If this happens, they may store as much honey as possible down in the brood chambers, leaving hardly any cells left open for the queen to lay eggs in. This is called a “honey-bound” hive, and is not

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Typically, most beehives are painted white, which is traditionally felt to be a cooler color for the summers. Other colors can be used if you prefer something a bit more lively. These stacked hive bodies have been painted a pretty salmon color. Some beekeepers like to stencil their name or the name of their apiary on their hives.

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fraMes anD founDations Now we must discuss frames. Frames actually look a bit like their name—they look like picture frames. The frames are the areas in which the bees are actually going to do most of their work. Here the bees will build their hexagonal cells for storing honey and pollen and for raising brood. Frames sit lined up, one by one, inside the hive boxes. They are easily removable and they lift right out, allowing for easy inspection. Depending on the style of hive that you purchased, your hive boxes will have either eight or ten frames. (Our instructions on pages 40–41 for building a hive are for the eightframe variety.) Frames come in two sizes, one deeper variety for the deep brood boxes, and a shallower one for the shallow supers. Makes sense, right?

Some frames, called foundationless frames, are basically just wooden frames that are empty inside, and the bees have to work from scratch to build their comb. Because of this, it may take the bees a bit longer to engineer the combs, a process known as drawing out. Also, the comb in foundationless frames has a tendency to be a bit more fragile, which can be an issue for you later when it’s time to extract your honey. Other frames have a built-in foundation, which is a premade base inside the frame, already molded with the hexagon shape that bees require for their cells. Foundation can be made of wax or plastic, but either way, the foundation gives the bees a guide to help them get started building their hexagonshaped cells.

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Plastic foundation is more durable than wax (wax foundation typically requires thin metal wires to aid in support), will last for years, and won’t collapse under the stress of extracting honey (see Chapter 5 for more about extracting and you’ll see why it’s stressful on the frames!). Some people feel that it takes the bees longer to draw out comb on plastic foundation, while others don’t feel it makes any difference. So where does this leave you? Well, for beginners getting started, we would recommend

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There are various possibilities in choosing frames for your hives, such as the foundationless frame on the bottom (which requires the bees to build from scratch) or frames with foundation built in, as in the case of the plastic foundation at the top of this photo.

For a clearer idea of how the foundationless frames work, you can see that the bees have already begun to draw out their comb on the bottom frame. Some beekeepers prefer this more natural design, but it has its challenges, too, especially at harvest time.

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plastic foundations, but as you get more experienced, you may want to try experimenting with wax or foundationless frames and see what happens! Some beekeepers feel that the best way is to use foundationless frames only and allow the bees to build their own comb naturally. It’s probably best not to mix different foundation types within a single hive, but you can certainly experiment with the different foundations among multiple hives if you keep more than one colony. [Continued on page 46]

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Build your own Beehive You’ve probably admired all of the prefinished and preassembled hives that are offered for sale in the beekeeping supply company catalogs, but you might be wondering whether those hives will fit your budget. Maybe you think you can only afford to keep a couple of colonies of bees because you can’t afford to purchase hives for more than that. Good news! If you’re handy with wood and tools (or know someone who is) you can minimize your setup costs by building your hives from scrap materials. You see, one of the advantages of building your own hives is that you can use scrap materials that can be easily obtained—maybe even from your own backyard! All of the materials needed for hive construction are relatively small in size, and this means that you can often find suitable boards in the scrap pile at your local lumber yard or construction site; just ask for permission before hauling away unwanted materials. People are often glad to see the materials being salvaged and put to good use, so don’t be afraid to ask! If all the wood materials for your hive can be obtained from scraps or as giveaways, then the cost to build the hive could be essentially free, especially if you already have glue, nails, and paint on hand at home. Begin by gathering everything you’ll need. For tools, you’ll need a jigsaw, a table saw, a chop saw, a power saw, a measuring tape, a rubber mallet, and a biscuit joiner (optional). You’ll also need to assemble these materials: • 2 – 1” x 10” x 12’ No. 2 pine boards • 1 – ¼” x 2’ x 4’ lauan or AC plywood • 1 – 20” x 24” aluminum or galvanized flashing (optional) • 3d or 4d galvanized box nails • Exterior glue • Solid white stain or paint • 6 biscuits (optional)

We like to use No. 2 pine boards, but some people prefer using cypress, especially in southern states. We don’t recommend using hardwoods because of their increased weight. Your supers will be heavy enough once they’re filled with frames and honey, so don’t make them heavier than they need to be! Choose the boards carefully. That may sound contradictory if you’re using scrap lumber, but if you can avoid boards with large black knots, that’s helpful, because boards with large knots can be weak and prone to cracking. As we’ve discussed previously, many standard hives are designed to hold 10 frames, but a growing number of beekeepers are opting to use eight-frame Langstroth hives. Deep hive bodies (95/8 inches deep) are commonly used as brood boxes, with medium boxes (65/8 inches deep) used for honey supers, but some beekeepers elect to forego the deep hive bodies altogether in favor of the more lightweight medium boxes for use as both brood boxes and honey supers. With this approach, all hive boxes and frames are consistent with medium-box hive-body size. These directions are for an eight-frame standard hive with medium hive bodies. Measure and cut the boards according to these specifications (the old advice is to measure twice, cut once—you may want to keep that in mind!): Materials needed for the hive base • 2 long rim boards: ¾ x 2 boards, 22” long • 1¼” short board: ¾ x 1¼ board, 12¼” long • 1½” short board: ¾ x 1½ board, 12 ¼” long • Bottom: ¾ x 12¼ x 20½ plywood (or three pine boards, 613/16” wide, 12¼” long)

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Materials needed for the hive body (per box) • 2 short sides: ¾ x 65/8 boards, 13¾” long • 2 long sides: ¾ x 65/8 boards, 193/16” long • 2 handles: ¾ x1¼ boards, 4” long

step 1: assemble the hive base The base of the hive is the most complicated portion to assemble. Begin by deciding if you will use a solid piece of plywood or three pine boards sandwiched together. If you choose the latter, join the boards using a biscuit joiner and biscuits for added strength.

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Materials needed for the entrance reducer • ¾ x ¾ board, 12¼” long

Materials needed for the inner cover • 2 short rim boards: ¾ x 11/8 boards, 13¾” long • 2 long rim boards: ¾ x 11/8 boards, 19” long • Top: ¼ x 12 x 18¼ plywood Materials needed for the telescoping outer cover • 2 short rim boards: ¾ x 1¾ boards, 15½” long • 2 long rim boards: ¾ x 1¾ boards, 20¼” long • Top: ¼ x 15½ x 21¾ plywood • 17” x 23¼” aluminum or galvanized flashing (optional)

Attach the 1¼-inch short board to one short end of the bottom, using glue and nails.

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step 2: assemble the hive body Professionally constructed hive bodies typically have dovetailed joints for optimal strength. Creating a dovetail joint can be complicated, so we suggest that you try a simpler form of corner construction using rabbets. A rabbet (note the –ET spelling; we’re not talking about fluffy bunnies!) is a two-sided cut or groove in a piece of wood. In this case, the rabbets allow for additional strength at the joints as well as a place for the frames to sit. You could replace the side rabbets with butt joints and simply screw the boards together.

Then glue and nail the long rim boards to each long side of the bottom piece, keeping the bottom flush with the bottoms of the short boards. This positions the bottom ¾-inch from the tops of the long rim boards.

Saw a ¾- by 3/8-inch rabbet in both ends of each short side board. Saw a 5/8- by 3/8-inch rabbet along the top of both short side boards—this is where the foundation frames will rest. Glue and nail the 1½-inch short board to the opposite end of the long rim boards, keeping it flush with the tops of the long rim boards.

Glue and nail each of the short side boards to the long side boards. Repeat these steps until you’ve constructed as many hive bodies as you wish to include in your hive. Three to four hive bodies for each hive is a good number to start with.

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For the hive handles, bevel the top edges of the ¾- by 1¼- by 4-inch wood pieces at 15 degrees. Center, glue, and nail each handle to the short sides of the hive bodies.

Use a jigsaw to cut a 1- by 3½-inch oval opening into the center of the top plywood piece. Glue and fit the plywood into the grooves of the rim boards, then glue and nail the rim boards together at the corners.

step 3: assemble the inner Cover Saw a ¼- by 3/8-inch deep dado—a three-sided groove, similar to a rabbet—centered, into the edges of all four rim boards. Then saw a 5/8- by 11/8-inch notch on each corner of the short rim boards.

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step 4: assemble the telescoping (outer) Cover Glue and nail the rim boards together in a rectangular shape, then glue and nail the top plywood sheet to the top. If desired, you can add a cover of aluminum or galvanized flashing to the top of the plywood for additional protection from the elements. Bend the edges over with a rubber mallet, and fasten with nails.

step 5: Prepare the entrance reducer With a jigsaw, cut two notches in the entrance reducer: 1. Make the first 4½ by 3/8 inches, positioned on the left half of the entrance reducer 2. For the second, rotate the board 90 degrees, and saw a ¾ by 3/8-inch notch on the right half. As we’ve discussed previously, the entrance reducer is not attached to the hive body; it is merely left loose and may be positioned so that the small or large opening can be utilized, depending on the season or your preference.

step 6: Paint the hive Paint the exterior portions of your hive with a primer coat and a finish coat, or opt for a solid white stain, which we recommend because it eliminates the need for a primer coat. Enlist the help of some friends or family if you’re painting large quantities of hive parts—what’s more fun that a beehive painting party?

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hive body. But the cost of this purchase is minimal in comparison to what you would have spent on prefabricated hive components! Finally, you can set up your hives and introduce your bees! And then wait for the honey to arrive!

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Last but not least, fill your hive bodies with frames from a beekeeping supply company. We have to tell you: it’s far more practical to purchase the frames rather than make them. If you’ve constructed the 65/8-inch hive body as we’ve described, you’ll need to purchase eight 6¼-inch frames for each

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This apiary was thoughtfully designed, located in an area of sunlight and partial shade. The addition of flowering apple trees and the woods as a windbreak makes this a practically perfect location for bees. Photos courtesy Colin and Renee Snook

[Continued from page 39.] Choosing a suitabLe LoCation It’s important to give some thought to the location in which you plan to set up your beehives. While bees are not terribly particular about where they live—they’re good at adapting and coping with various situations—it will benefit you and your hive if you at least start out with as many factors as possible on your side.

Some beekeepers prefer a location with “dappled sunlight”—a place where there are some trees around for shade throughout the day, but some sunlight still sneaks through the branches. However, a completely shady location probably isn’t a good idea—it may encourage dampness, hive beetles, Varroa mites, and wax moths.

sunlight First, consider sunlight. While your bees can probably handle direct sunlight, it’s preferable to have at least some shade during the day— preferably during the late afternoon. This keeps the hive from becoming too hot on the long summer days, which puts less stress on the bees and saves them some work. (A hive that is too hot requires the bees work harder—they must rapidly wave their wings to increase ventilation and keep the hive at the proper temperature.)

Direction You might want to try aiming the front of the hives—and thus the entrances—to the southeast. The sun rises in the southeast, and the idea is that aiming your hives in this direction will encourage your bees to get up early and get to work. This, however, brings up another issue. Be aware that the direction of the hive entrances will dictate, to some extent, where the bees will be doing a lot of their flying in and out (flight paths). So if there is an area of your yard (or your neighbor’s yard!) where you would prefer to not have the bees zooming around, don’t aim your entrances in that direction.

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Pa m

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It’s advisable to locate your hives near sources of nectar. Flowering fruit trees make an excellent choice for early spring feeding for your bees.

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Partial or dappled sunlight is preferred by some beekeepers. This location has a nice mix of sun and shade, but too much shade is to be avoided. The sun hitting your hives in the early morning gets the bees up and working faster.

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If you don’t live next to a pond or some other water source, your bees will be looking for a drink now and then. There are various ways of providing water for your bees, but care needs to be taken so that they don’t drown in something that is too deep for them. We’ve used a top feeder placed on the ground for watering our bees, because it has floats in it to keep them safe.

water A water source is another bee essential. If you happen to have a natural water source such as a stream or pond close to your hives, wonderful— the bees will surely use it. But this, of course, isn’t always the case, and if not, you’ll need to supply your bees with water yourself. A thriving hive can consume a surprising amount of water per day; especially when the weather is hot and dry, so it is imperative that you provide enough water nearby to ensure your bees have enough and don’t go looking for water somewhere else. The water supply doesn’t have to be elaborate—a simple birdbath works nicely, as does a shallow pan filled with water. But it is important to supply the bees with something to stand on so they won’t drown. A few pebbles that rise above the surface of the water or a floating platform made from small pieces of wood or cork can work nicely. It is also possible to use an entrance feeder filled with water, but make sure you pay attention to the water level and refill as needed.

Considerations of People and animals Odds are you aren’t the only one who uses the outdoors near your home! Your bees will need to be able to share it quietly and cooperatively with anyone else who makes use of your yard and land. A little common sense is all that is needed to be sure that your bees can live in happy harmony with humans and pets. First of all, don’t set up your bees in a place that is too close to other animals. For example, you wouldn’t want to place your hives inside a horse pasture or right next to your dog’s favorite spot to play. Likewise, putting beehives right next to a hammock or your back porch probably isn’t very smart, either. Your bees won’t be purposely trying to annoy people or other animals—after all, when they’re outside of the hive, they aren’t defending anything; they’re just out to forage. But there’s no reason to complicate matters by forcing the bees to live in a place where they’re not wanted. Remember, the direction that your hives face can have some bearing on which direction the bees come and go. Also, bees require a constant water

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This is a heavenly location for an apiary: loads of flowers as well as a water source, but do place small pebbles or rocks in any birdbath so the bees will be able to drink without drowning.

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Take care when placing your hives in close proximity to livestock or in any place where you might be working regularly.

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keeping records While record keeping might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about the responsibilities of a beekeeper, it really is good practice to maintain records for each and every hive. Your records don’t need to be extensive or elaborate; you just need to keep track of dates and figures that are important to your hive’s history. For example, you’ll use your records to keep track of many things, including:

able to remember how much honey I harvested,” or “What’s the big deal? I installed the bees in April; I’ll be able to remember that.” But the truth is that remembering details is not as easy as you might think, especially if you are maintaining multiple hives. Record keeping isn’t time-consuming, so try to be diligent about keeping track of the hive happenings, and you’ll thank yourself later on.

• Date on which you installed a package of bees • Dates of your regular inspections • Amount of honey harvested from each hive, and the date • Notation if the hive has been requeened • Results of testing for Varroa mites

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These hives have been placed up off the ground on concrete blocks. This helps prevent dampness as well as discouraging some pests.

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These are just a few of the items that are helpful to record. You might think, “Oh, I’ll be

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Windbreaks If your location is particularly windy, then your bees will appreciate a windbreak to block some of the prevailing winds. A windbreak doesn’t have to be elaborate—trees or bushes work nicely as windbreaks, although a fence made of solid materials can work, too. Depending on the situation, you might also be able to use the windbreak to provide some afternoon shade. Ground Condition What about the ground itself? A low, damp location where puddles could form is not a good place to set up your beehives. It is preferable to place your hives on a somewhat higher piece of ground. It doesn’t have to be a hill—but it shouldn’t be the lowest part of the property, either. An area with good drainage that dries out well after rain is ideal. Hive StandS You shouldn’t place your beehives directly on the ground. For one thing, the hives will stay too damp, which isn’t a good thing. Grass may grow up

and block the entrances, which confuses the bees. Sitting directly on the ground will also increase your chances of attracting pests such as skunks, mice, or even toads that may find the easy access appealing. They will be less inclined to cause trouble if they have to climb up to find the hives. Finally, hives on the ground will be a challenge on your back! You don’t want all of your time with your bees to be spent bent over; that can become very fatiguing. Some beekeepers suggest that the hive entrance should be a minimum of 18 inches off the ground. Elevating your hives solves all of these problems at once. A hive stand doesn’t have to be elaborate. While you certainly could choose to build a fancy stand (or have one built by a friend who is handy at such things), most beekeepers opt for a simpler—if less elegant—solution. Concrete blocks (also known as cinder blocks) used in construction can be put to good use when building your bee stand. They’re cheap, durable, strong, and readily available from home improvement stores or similar businesses). You can place your hives directly on a stand made entirely of blocks, and this works, but it doesn’t leave you anywhere to place your tools and beekeeping supplies as you work. Another idea might be to build a table of sorts out of the concrete blocks and wood.

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source, and they will often use the closest one they can find. You don’t want this to be the swimming pool or the dog’s water dish. Be sure to supply the bees with a good water source close to their hive.

A small platform can also be built from wood; this is extrahandy because of the room it provides for beekeeping tools, etc.

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Chapter 3

Installing Bees and Routine Care

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The bee from her industry in the summer, eats honey all the winter. —Proverb

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ny time you start a new hobby or interest, there are always new words to learn, new ideas to explore, and new tools and gadgets to purchase.

Beekeeping is no exception! Let’s dive in and take a look at some of the tools you’ll need; then, we’ll explore the basics of routine care for your hives.

In this chapter we’ll really dive into beekeeping with tips on installation and routine care. Before long, you’ll be enjoying your bees!

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TOOlS Of The TrAde ClotHinG You’re probably already familiar with the protective clothing worn by beekeepers: a full body coverall (usually white), gloves, and the very important veil. Of course, there are always beekeepers who forego the bee suit, and some even skip the gloves and veil! How do they do it? Are these people just brimming with courage? No, they’ve just learned exactly how to act and work around bees. People who have been raising bees for a long time are so comfortable around

bees and confident in their own abilities that they simply don’t feel the need for the extra protection anymore (they’ve also probably been stung and found that it wasn’t such a big deal). You, however, as a beginner, will definitely want to invest in the proper beekeeping attire—it will protect you and give you the confidence you need to be able to work happily amidst your bees and concentrate on what you’re doing. Initially, you may find it somewhat disconcerting to have bees flying all around you and crawling up your hands as you work, so wearing the right clothing will ease your mind.

The beekeeping suit, including veil and gloves, is one piece of equipment you won’t want to be without. The added protection it gives you will make you more confident when working with your bees.

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veilS Veils are also very important. Some bee suits have a veil/hood built into them, but often you’ll need to purchase the veil and suit separately. Some veil and suit combinations zip together, which works very well, while others simply tie on. Any of these versions is fine, as long as you make sure that there are no gaps between the veil and suit when you put it on. GloveS Beekeeping gloves come next. Most of the gloves you’ll find in beekeeping catalogs have very long cuffs that can be used for even more protection. This is probably the route you will want to take at first, but later you may want to experiment with other types of gloves—perhaps thinner, more tightly-fitted gloves that are more comfortable. Some people use ordinary rubber dishwashing gloves, claiming they provide excellent dexterity.

One item you might wish to have is a light hand cart for transporting equipment around your place. Here a beekeeper is hauling a new outer cover and a package of bees out to the apiary.

Bee SuitS Bee suits don’t have to be white—any light color will do. It’s important to note that bee suits are never dark colors because dark colors remind the bees of predators—bears, raccoons, and so on, which are dark in color. So if you find a light blue or yellow suit that you like, that’s fine. There are different styles—some are complete, full body suits; some are simply jackets and protect only your upper body. What we recommend for a beginner is a full body suit with zippers. The zippers are fast, easy to get in and out of, and the full body suit provides good protection. Elastic wrist and ankle cuffs are also a good idea—these will prevent any loose bees from crawling their way into your sleeve or pant leg.

tHe Smoker As a beekeeper, one tool that you absolutely must own is a smoker. A smoker is a really simple tool—it’s just a little metal can that holds a fuel (sawdust, for instance) and burns it. The smoker isn’t really supposed to hold a fire—there aren’t flames shooting out—rather, the materials inside the smoker are meant to just smolder and, well, smoke. Why the smoker? Because smoke has an interesting effect on your bees. While the phenomenon is not completely understood, the smell of smoke seems to send an alarm throughout the colony—“Hey! Smoke! There must be a fire— maybe the hive is on fire!” The bees think they might need to evacuate the colony, so they begin to take emergency measures—they start eating honey. This is so that they won’t lose all of their food supplies in case the fire threat is real. With luck, they hope, they’ll be able to eat a large amount of honey and then have enough energy to flee the hive and begin anew. But eating all this honey makes the bees very full and a bit drowsy—which actually calms them. Plus, they’re so busy thinking about the threat of a possible fire that they stop paying much attention to other things. This is why the smoker is such a useful tool to the beekeeper. Whenever you need to work with the bees, such as placing them in a hive or performing routine inspections, the smoker can be used to calm the bees and make them pay less attention to the fact that you are invading their home. After you’ve

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When to Skip the Gloves What about you? Should you leave the gloves at home and dig into the hive bare-handed? Not necessarily. It all depends on what you’re comfortable with. If the gloves aren’t bothering you, and you enjoy the extra layer of protection they give you—especially when bees are crawling all over your hands—then by all means go ahead and keep on using them. There is nothing wrong with that. But, someday down the road when you’ve been beekeeping for a few years, you just may find that removing the gloves doesn’t bother you at all. (At any rate, you’ll probably want to continue to wear gloves during more intense beekeeping situations, such as installing bees to a new hive.)

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At first, you’ll want to always wear your beekeeping gloves. That’s only natural. But eventually, most people find that they’re more comfortable without gloves. Why is that? Well, first of all, the gloves make you clumsier. Even well-fitted gloves insert an extra layer of material between your fingers and what you’re doing. For instance, the gloves may make you clumsier when fine-tuning things—such as moving frames—and the bees don’t like that. Secondly, let’s face it, the gloves are hot. It’s not as easy to enjoy what you’re doing if you’re uncomfortable. For these reasons—comfort and dexterity—many experienced beekeepers forego the gloves when making routine inspections of the hives.

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The essential smoker. When properly used, the smoker has a calming effect on the colony and will make your job as a beekeeper much easier, as well as less stressful on the bees.

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finished working with the hive and leave, the bees realize it was a false alarm and go back to work. The smoke has an additional effect—it disrupts the flow of pheromones throughout the hive, so communication is halted. One bee might notice that you’ve just taken the lid off the hive, and she will release a “danger” pheromone. But instead of this message spreading throughout the colony and upsetting everyone, the smoke blocks the smell and calms the crowd. Smoking can be overdone, however. A few blows of the smoker are usually all that is required—you don’t want to over-alarm the bees and completely confuse them. You can purchase a smoker from any beekeeping supply store. All of the smokers are essentially the same design—they look a bit like a watering can, but with small bellows that can be pumped with one hand and used to increase the smoke and blow it around. But you will also need fuel—something for your smoker to burn and create smoke. Again, the bee supply companies come to the rescue, because you can purchase smoker fuel at the same time. Smoker fuel is often made of cotton or sawdust pellets, which are materials that sort of burn, but not really. Mostly they just make a lot of smoke— which is just what you want. Of course there are other things you could burn in your smoker: pine needles, or sawdust, or

even bits of damp wood, but you must be careful that these materials don’t contain any unwanted contaminants, such as sawdust that came from chemically treated lumber. Bees are very sensitive to this kind of thing and it wouldn’t be healthy for them (or you, either!). tHe Hive tool One essential piece of equipment is a small object known simply as the hive tool. It’s a general-use lever, pry bar, and scraper. You’ll use it for opening the hives and manipulating frames. Remember, bees use propolis—their sticky building material—to seal cracks and make spaces within the hive exactly how they want them, and you’ll definitely need a hive tool to help you free up such sticky situations. There are a few different types of hive tools available, from basic scrapers and levers to more specialized models with specific jobs in mind (for instance, a hooked end for helping to lift frames out of the hive). One thing to keep in mind though, is that propolis becomes hard when it’s dry. When working with your hive (which we talk about in greater depth later in this chapter), you’ll want to use your hive tool as gently as possible to avoid making a big resounding “SNAP” that will echo through the hive and startle the colony.

Honey bees constantly seal cracks or crevices in the hive with propolis or burr comb. The hive tool will help you separate the various components and make your life a lot easier while inspecting the hive or installing bees.

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The bee brush is useful to politely encourage stray bees to move along out of your way. This is important, because you don’t want to accidently crush any bees while maneuvering hive components.

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tHe Bee BruSH You’ll also want to acquire a bee brush. This is simply a little tool that is used for gingerly encouraging bees to move out of the way. For instance, when you want to pull out a frame for inspection, but there are bees crawling all over it and blocking your way, the bee brush can be used as a polite way to ask them to move along. A bee brush has very soft bristles that should not harm your bees when used properly. Some beekeepers prefer not to use the brush at all, preferring to gently blow or slide the bees away with their hand.

Frame Grip A frame grip is good to have around. It is a small clamplike tool that can be used for grabbing onto frames and pulling them out of the hive with ease. We’ve always used them and find them handy and helpful. Frame grips help you to be careful and gentle, which is always a good thing when handling a frame full of bees! Some beekeepers find that they are unnecessary as long as you have the right hive tool to assist in lifting frames out of the supers.

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The frame grip is used to get a good hold on the frames when you lift them out for inspection.

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InSTAllInG A PACkAGe Of neW BeeS All right—enough talking about it! Let’s actually get some bees and get going! Back in Chapter 2, we talked about some ways that you might obtain your bees, including buying locally or purchasing from a bee breeder who perhaps lives far away from you. In this case you might be receiving your bees through the mail or through another carrier service. If so, you’ll want to schedule your shipment so that the bees arrive to you in the spring, a few weeks before your first flowers and blossoms begin to bloom. This will give your new colony a chance to build itself up before summer. If your bees are arriving through the post office, you will ideally time your order so that the bees arrive during the middle of the week, thus avoiding a weekend-long stay at the post office.

Once your bees arrive, it’s time to get them out of their shipping container and into the hive where they belong. (For the purpose of this discussion, we’re going to assume that you have purchased a package of bees [see Chapter 2].) In the process of installing your bees, what you’re really looking for is to smoothly transfer the bees from the screened box to the hive with as little disturbance to the bees as possible. Think about it—the bees are coming to a new place and are completely disoriented, and they don’t have a clue where they are. Those that stray during the transition process may be confused and could have a hard time finding their way back to their friends inside the new hive.

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A “package” of bees is a small screened box that contains about 10,000 bees and a queen. These bees are ready to go!

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1. Your new hive (of course!). Initially, you’ll just be using a single deep brood box. Take off the lids, and then remove three to five frames from one side, so you have a large open area in the box. 2. A smoker (to aid in calming down rambunctious bees). Get it lighted and going ahead of time. 3. Sugar syrup water in a spray bottle (this is also helpful in calming the bees). You can prepare

4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

this mixture by combining 1 cup of white sugar and 1 cup of warm water (1:1). Stir the mixture until the sugar is dissolved. Place it in a new, unused spray bottle (you don’t want any leftover contaminants that might harm the bees). Your bee suit (it’s a stressful day for the bees and a few may get riled!). The hive tool. Your bee brush. A miniature marshmallow. (Just in case you get hungry—no, not really! Later, we’ll explain what this is for.) Scrap wood or cardboard.

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preparation There are a couple of things you can do to ensure a smooth transition. First of all, you should have everything prepared and ready ahead of time. Here are some things you will need:

Prior to installation, be sure to give your package of bees a healthy spray of sugar-water. This will make the transfer into the hive much smoother.

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Okay, looking good. Your hive and equipment are ready. Let’s take a closer look at these bees in their box. Your package of bees probably weighs about three pounds and contains:

1. A lot of bees (something like 10,000!) 2. A can of syrup (this gave the bees something good to snack on during their long journey) 3. A queen (separated from the main group in her own private cage)

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These three hives are empty, and each one is ready for a new package of bees. Note that several frames have been removed from each hive to create a space wide enough to install the bees. They’ll be replaced once the bees are in the hive.

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removinG tHe Syrup and Queen All right, let’s open the box! First, take your sugar spray and generously spray the sides of the cage. You don’t need to go crazy with this, but you need to spray on a good amount. The sugar spray helps put the bees in a good mood and relaxes them. Keep the bottle handy. In all likelihood, most of the bees will be congregated around the syrup can, hanging out and

enjoying its goodness. This is exactly where we don’t really want them, because that syrup jar is actually the door. We need to get them away from the syrup jar long enough for us to remove it and get it out of the way. So, flip the box around (if it isn’t already) so that the can (and, by implication, the door) faces up. Next, take hold of the box, raise it just a small distance above the ground, and give it a gentle but firm “thunk” back to the ground. Carefully extract the syrup can from the bee package. It will probably take a few pries with your hive tool to remove it.

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Here is a new queen bee in her private cage. This particular queen was not shipped with any attendant worker bees. Your queen cage, however, could have several attendants inside.

With luck, a good many bees will lose their footing and jump down to the bottom of the box. Repeat this a time or two if you need to, and give them another few sprays with the sugar water. You probably won’t be able to get all the bees away from the can—but just try to do your best and get the majority of them to move. Now, with your hive tool, pry off the syrup can and set it aside. You should also discover the queen in her private cage. Pull out her cage, too. Be careful not to drop your queen into the bottom of the package, as you’ll find it more challenging to retrieve her. In case you didn’t notice, the door of the package is now open, so put something over the top—a piece of wood or cardboard or something. Take a look at your new queen. She should be moving about happily in the cage, perhaps alone, or perhaps with

a few attendant worker bees (it depends on the provider). There should also be a hook or hanger of some sort on her cage. So, why is the queen locked up in her own private cage? Well, the fact is she isn’t actually the queen of these bees—not yet. She and this particular package didn’t start out together—they’ve actually come from different hives—and so they aren’t familiar with one another yet. We don’t want to just fling the door open and turn the queen loose—that isn’t a good idea. The worker bees need several (five to seven) days to smell the new queen and understand who she is—that is why she is separated. So how do we proceed with the coronation? Well, we’re going to let the queen and the workers eat their way through to each other! This will take time—enough time for the colony to be properly introduced to their new queen.

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This queen cage is blocked with a small cork that you will need to carefully remove prior to installing her into the hive.

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You can block up the queen’s uncorked entrance with a small marshmallow. The purpose of this is to give the queen and the colony time to get to know each other safely. The queen and the workers will eat away at the marshmallow or candy and the queen will be freed!

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Look for the doorway of your queen’s cage (it might be behind a metal slider). In most cases, the doorway is blocked with—of all things—cork! Carefully remove the cork, and use that miniature marshmallow to fill the hole. If a metal slider is present, leave it open at this point. Now the only thing keeping the queen in her cage is a long snack. Perfect! Bring your queen

cage to the new hive, and using the supplied hook or hanger, hang her cage (doorway up) between two frames—more toward the center of the hive is better. (If her cage doesn’t come with a hanger, you may have to improvise—a large rubber band works well, or two small nails or tacks gently tapped into the wood of the cage can make a quick solution.)

During installation, the queen’s cage is hung between two frames near the center of the hive body.

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course some of them won’t—perhaps they’re sort of used to their box by now and are reluctant to just abandon it without a care. You’ll need to give the box a couple of loving taps with your fist to try to encourage the rest of the bees to jump ship and leap into their new home. Also, try to make sure that some of the bees land near where the queen’s cage is. Carefully dump (and shake!) your new colony of bees out of the screened box and into their new hive. If everything goes well, most of the bees will drop right in. Of course there will be some that get confused and fly off.

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inStallinG tHe remainder oF tHe Colony Okay, queen installed! Now bring the package to the new hive, and tip it upside down so that the newly breached doorway is pointing down into the hive, right into the spot where we removed those frames and left an opening. With luck, most of the bees will drop right into the hive. Excellent! But of

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Use the bee brush as needed to guide the bees into place.

Of course, some bees will fly away and probably begin circling the area, but try not to worry too much about them right this second. Once your box is empty, or nearly empty (you probably won’t get them all out), you can carefully and gently replace the missing frames. Take care not to crush any bees—use your bee brush to disperse them if necessary. Once the frames are back in, replace the inner and outer covers of the hive as usual.

Now you’re almost there! Your bee package probably has some bees left in it, so do them a favor and place their almost-empty container close to the hive entrance—hopefully they will recognize their friends going in and out of the hive entrance and get the idea.

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With the new bees installed, the frames that you took out can be replaced . . .

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. . . and the hive covers put back into place.

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You did it! Congratulations! You have a hive! Be sure to check back in five to seven days to make sure the queen has escaped from her cage. Also—you’ll need to supply the young hive with a snack to tide them over until the flowers bloom and/or the colony gets settled. We’ll discuss this in the next section.

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Any feeders should be put into place right away after installation. This hive is being installed with a hive-top feeder.

Note: There may be a few bees at the bottom of the package that have perished during the trip— this is not uncommon. However, if your queen is dead, or a great many workers, you should definitely get in touch with your bee provider for help and replacements.

Installing a nuc hive If you were lucky enough to find a local producer who offers nuc hives (see Chapter 2), then your installation will be simpler. All that is required here is a simple transfer of the nuc frames to an empty hive body (there may be some bees left over in the bottom of the nuc; shake these out as best you can and then leave the empty nuc near your new hive). You’ll still want to wear your bee suit, keep your smoker handy, and try to make the transfer smooth and efficient. You don’t have to worry about queen cages—she’s already somewhere on the frames, and she and workers already know each other.

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feedInG The BeeS

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As we mentioned previously, the colony will need a food source until they get settled and the flowers bloom, and that food source will come from you. (You will also need to feed them late in the fall once the flowers have faded for the year, but that’s getting ahead of ourselves). How do you go about giving your busy bees a meal? A sugar-water mixture, similar to what you used in the spray bottle when you installed your bees, is just what the bees need. A good spring mixture is a ratio of 1:1. There are lots of different feeders on the market, so let’s take a look at a few of the most common ones.

One advantage to the hive-top feeder is that it can hold a large amount of sugar-water and won’t have to be refilled as often as some of the smaller feeders.

Success! The bees are now happily at home in their new hive, complete with a feeder and entrance reducer in place. The almost-empty package is left nearby to guide any still-loose bees that may be in it.

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of feeders are quick to set up, easy to refill, and are inexpensive, but they don’t hold much syrup (so you’ll be refilling fairly often), and they might entice bees from other colonies to come robbing. Also, if it’s cold, the bees may not be willing to use it, so it isn’t recommended for use in cold weather.

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tHe entranCe Feeder An entrance feeder is simple and easy to use—it is simply a small container that is filled with sugar water and placed upside down in a holder. The holder and jar are then placed just inside the entrance to the hive where the slow dripping of the jar is made available to the bees. These types

Another feeding option is the use of an entrance feeder. Entrance feeders are quick to install and easy to use, but may need to be refilled frequently. They are easy for beginners to use.

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tHe pail Feeder This is a similar idea to the entrance feeder, except instead of a jar, it uses a much larger bucket or pail, so you won’t have to refill it as often. The pail feeder sits on the top of your hive’s inner cover (right on top of

the oval hole). Then it gets covered by an empty hive body (no frames) and then an outer cover on top, just like always. The pail feeder has tiny holes or a screen through which the bees can feed.

One more option is the pail feeder, which sits on top of the hive and is then surrounded by an empty super. Like the hive-top feeder, this method is able to hold more sugar-water than the entrance feeders.

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when using a hive-top feeder.) The outer cover is put on as usual, except that now it will be sitting on the feeder. Some types of feeders come supplied with floats (rafts!) for the bees to stand on while drinking; this helps diminish any possibility of the bees drowning in the feeder.

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tHe Hive-top Feeder This is another popular way to give your hive a snack. There are a variety of styles, but basically, a hive-top feeder is a shallow pan that you can fill with sugar water and then place on top of your highest super. The feeder will have some method of allowing the bees access. (You forego an inner cover

With multiple colonies sharing this hive stand, different-colored stripes have been painted near the entrance of each hive, which aids the bees in locating their own home and keeps them from getting confused.

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WHen to Stop Once spring has truly sprung and everything is green and the flowers are out, you can stop feeding the colony and remove the feeders. In most cases, the bees can now take care of themselves until late fall, when you’ll need to use the feeders once again. However, if you experience a period of long, cool, wet weather (when the bees may not be out collecting nectar), you’ll want to check on them and feed if needed.

rOuTIne InSPeCTIOnS With a small bee yard of only a few hives, you won’t have to tend the bees every day. You won’t even have to tend them every other day. Bees are industrious and self-reliant—but they still need your help on occasion. Checking in on them once a week or so—it doesn’t have to be exact—will keep the bees happy (too much checking makes them upset), while still offering you ample opportunity to make adjustments if you see something going wrong. Now we’re going to discuss how you will actually look into the hive and what you’ll be doing in there. In the next chapter we’ll explore some of the problems that you might uncover while inspecting your hives.

In a Pinch? If your bees need to be fed now, and you either don’t yet have a feeder or don’t have it set up, here’s really simple method of feeding. Fill a large zip-top bag (one gallon) with the 1:1 sugar-water mix, and carefully lay the bag flat across the frames of your highest super (if you’ve just installed your bees, you’ll only have the one hive body as of yet). Then take a utility knife and make a series of small (1-inch) slits on the top of the bag. The bees will climb up on top of the bag and sip through the slits. The only problem with this is that you’ll need some kind of spacer between your inner and outer cover and the zip-top bag—otherwise the covers will just crush it and spill sugarwater all over the inside of the hive. An empty super could work, but is kind of big. A better solution is to buy a wooden spacer from a bee supply company that will give just enough room between the bag and the covers.

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Inspection time! While you don’t want to open up your hives too frequently (it disturbs the bees and sets back their work), regular inspections are important to maintaining the health of the hive.

Pull out a frame and take a look. Are there lots of bees crawling about, or not too many? What are they doing? Are they storing honey? Pollen? Do you see eggs and larvae?

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openinG tHe Hive All right, it’s inspection time! Days of pleasant weather are the best for inspections, because many bees will be out searching for flowers and it will be easier for you to work with fewer bees inside the hive. For the same reason, avoid performing your inspection very early or late in the day when more bees are home. Sometime between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. is a good time (give or take an hour or two). Be sure to wear your beekeeping suit and veil, and bring along your smoker, your hive tool, your bee brush, and your frame grip, if you have one. That’s probably all you’ll need for a simple inspection.

Before opening the hive, use your smoker to blow a couple puffs of smoke up into the hive entrance. You don’t have to overdo it—you just want the bees to catch a whiff of smoke. Next, slightly open the outer cover and blow another couple of puffs in there. Set the outer cover back down and wait a few moments to give the bees time to recognize the smoke. When you are working with your hive, it’s best to actually stand at the back of the hive—not in front of the entrance. Bees will be zipping in and out, and you don’t want to be in their way. So concentrate on keeping most of your movements to the sides and back of the hive.

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In addition to being on the lookout for any problems, you’ll want to monitor the bees’ honey storage. Is the honey mostly uncapped—or have the bees begun the capping process?

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Burr comb often begins to build up between hive bodies . . .

. . . but can be easily removed with the hive tool before it gets to be too big of a job.

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Inspection time is a great way to share your hobby with others who might be interested and may never have experienced the unique joys and tasks of a beekeeper.

Now pull off the outer cover and set it aside. Take the inner cover off as well. You should see some bees crowded around on top of the frames! Great! Use your bee brush to gently push away any bees that are in your way, and then pull out a frame. Don’t begin in the middle—start on one end and work your way across to the other side. The queen is most likely near the center frames, so you’ll appreciate having the extra room when you get there. You certainly don’t want to risk hurting the queen while removing frames, so be sure to work carefully and slowly. You may discover that the frame doesn’t want to come out—in fact, it probably won’t! The bees have glued it in with propolis. This is where your hive tool comes in handy—it can aid you in removing the frame. Once the frame is free, you can pull it out of the hive and take a look.

Don’t be surprised—there will be bees crawling all over the frame. Surprisingly, they won’t jump off just because you’ve removed the frame and are holding it out in the open. They’ll just hang on, going about their business, as if saying to you, “Look—we’re busy here. Would you mind putting us back?” Try to ignore the crawling bees and actually take a look at what work they’ve done to the frame. Are there drawn-out wax cells on it? In other words, have the bees begun (or completed) building the hexagon cells? If they have, that’s terrific—it means things are going along smoothly. Now—take a look at the cells themselves. Can you see anything going on in there? Try to look for eggs. It’s not easy. Honey bee eggs are very small and narrow. Using black plastic frames can sometimes help a beginner because the white eggs stand out

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addinG SuperS At first, your bees will probably work on the center frames of the bottom brood box—drawing out comb, raising brood, storing things. Gradually, as the center frames fill up, they begin to draw out the frames further. You need to keep an eye on their progress. Once they only have a few empty frames left, it’s time to give the bees another super so they have more room to work. If you don’t do this, they will run out of fresh frames, they won’t have anywhere to store honey and pollen, and the queen won’t have anywhere to lay her eggs. The bees might

look at each other and say, “This place is too small— let’s get out of here.” And they just might do that! When half of the bees and the queen take flight and go off to look for a new home, it’s called swarming, and it’s definitely not something you want to have happen. If it does, you’ll lose a lot of bees and a lot of progress. It’s much better is to enlarge the hive yourself before things get too crowded. (For more about swarming, see Chapter 4.) WHiCH Size? At this point you could put on either another deep hive body or add a shallow super. Some beekeepers like to use two deep boxes at the bottom of their hive for the bees to live in and work and raise young and then use shallow supers above for additional space. The top supers are the ones that will be filled with your honey, and many people like to use shallower boxes up there simply because they’re lighter and easier to handle. This system works well for beekeepers, and it’s all the same to the bees. When you first get started, we recommend using two deep boxes on the bottom, and then adding shallow supers as needed. Actually adding a super isn’t very difficult; you simply remove the inner and outer covers, brush away any bees that are in the way, and set your new super (with frames) right on top of the old one. Make sure the boxes are lined up properly, with no gaps. Nothing has to be fastened; the supers can just sit on top of one another. Replace the covers on your new super, and you’re all set! The bees have a new place to work. When you get to the point of adding more shallow supers, you’ll have to make a decision about whether or not to use a queen excluder. Using a queen excluder guarantees that only honey will be stored in the upper chambers—which is exactly what you want. However, a queen excluder sometimes annoys the bees and makes them more reluctant to use the upper supers. (For more on queen excluders, see page 37.) We can’t tell you exactly when to add supers or how many to add. It depends on a lot of things— the strength of your colony, how fast it is growing, and how well the food sources are producing. During the busy spring and early summer months, keep checking your hive every 7 to 12 days (not more frequently than that, and not less); so you can keep on top of how quickly the colony is filling up its frames.

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better against the black background. If you can find some eggs, that’s good. It means the queen is doing her job. What else do you see in the cells? Ideally, you’ll come across some larvae, which are chubby, white, and grublike. This is also a great sign that the queen is working well. There are other things to look for in the cells. Look for stored pollen, which could be orange or yellowish, and sometimes even other colors depending on the flowers that the bees have been collecting from. Water and nectar will be kept in other cells. And, of course, you might see some honey! Once you’ve removed the first frame, set it aside (either leaning it against the hive or on a frame rest). You’ll then remove the next frame, inspect it, and place it back in the hive. With the extra space available from the one missing frame, you’ll have a little more room to work systematically through the remaining frames. When you’re finished, slide the frames back into the original positions, and return the first frame you removed back into the hive. While you’re working, keep an eye out for burr comb, which is just a name for comb that isn’t where you want it. Sometimes bees will get ambitious and start building comb off of the frames: on the ceiling, on the walls of the hive, and in between frames. This really isn’t a problem, except that it makes it harder for you to work and harder to manipulate the pieces of the hive. It’s best to use your hive tool to scrape away any burr comb before it gets out of hand. When you’re all done checking out the frames, return the inner and outer covers to their original positions (replacing any feeders) and let the bees get back to work. Nice going! You’re really keeping bees now!

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OverWInTerInG YOur BeeS When fall comes and the weather begins to cool and days shorten, you’ll need to begin thinking about preparing your hives for winter. With luck and good preparation, your colonies should be able to survive through the winter and then continue working in the spring. Yeah! You won’t have to purchase or install bees again (unless you want to expand your bee yard with additional hives, that is).

Just Watching Don’t think that you have to wait until you have something specific to do with your bees before you can enjoy them. One of the most enjoyable things you can do on a warm sunny day is to pull up a chair a few feet from the hive and just watch. The bees won’t care that you’re there—they’ll just continue about their business of coming to and fro. There is no end to the action you’ll be able to witness—foraging workers returning from the fields, guard bees at the entrance, perhaps even young bees taking their first orientation flights to learn the location of their hive.

Fall FeedinG First of all, you’ll need to tide your bees over during that time after the flowers have faded but winter hasn’t struck yet. We don’t want them dipping into their winter honey storage (the honey down with the brood in the deeper hive bodies) too soon! You can feed your bees using the same methods that we discussed for the spring feedings, but this time, you may want to make a stronger version of the sugar-water mix, perhaps two parts sugar to one part water.

Winter time! There may be heaps of snow and cold temperatures outside, but inside the hive, your bees are clustered together, waiting out the long winter.

tHe CluSter What do the bees do all winter? They certainly aren’t out flying around, at least not in the northern climates, because bees generally won’t fly unless the temperature gets up to about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. So the bees stay inside the hive, living off their stored supplies. The queen begins producing far fewer eggs—eventually stopping completely—and the general population of the colony reduces, although to what extent depends on the breed. As the temperature drops outside the hive, the bees gather together in the center of the hive and create a cluster of tightly packed bee bodies. Because honey bees (like all insects) are coldblooded, they can’t generate body heat in the same way that mammals or birds or people do. For instance, you can burrow under a blanket or put on a jacket and the heat of your own body will immediately begin to warm the air surrounding you. But bees don’t have that ability. Instead, amazingly, the cluster of bees creates heat by rapidly flexing and contracting their wing muscles. This method, along with clustering, enables the bees to maintain a temperature upward of 80 or 90 degrees Fahrenheit inside the hive! Eventually, as winter progresses, the queen will resume laying eggs and the colony will begin raising new brood.

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As you may have gathered, the queen carries a lot of importance around the hive. While it’s true that the hive would be in grave danger without the worker bees, it’s also true that there would be no hive without the queen bee. Unfortunately, queen bees don’t last forever. Sometimes queens become weak and are less effective at their tasks. Sometimes a queen is injured in some way; sometimes the queen dies. In any case, a hive is in real trouble if it doesn’t have a queen. The worker bees in a queenless hive often get right to work, raising another queen by feeding extra royal jelly to a promising baby brood bee. Unfortunately for some hives, this changeover of authority doesn’t always work the way it is supposed to. The art of requeening is an extensive subject, and we could devote an entire chapter just to it. Since space prohibits that, here are a few items of particular note: • A colony with an aging queen is more likely to swarm, so requeening can help to prevent swarming. • Requeening can be helpful in cases of chalkbrood or spotty brood. • Requeening aids in the health of the hive, reducing the incidence of parasites, and producing a stronger colony of bees. • Older queens are not as prolific, so installing a younger queen can boost egg production in the hive. • You can requeen a hive by purchasing a new queen and introducing her to your hive (you can use the same technique that you used when adding your queen to your newly installed hive). • Unless you’re absolutely positive that your hive is already queenless, you will need to locate and remove the aging queen prior to introducing the new queen.

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requeening

Some beekeepers requeen their hives every year, while some prefer to requeen every other year. Keep an eye on the overall strength and wellbeing of your colony. If your queen is relatively young and laying well, and your colony is thriving, you might decide to hold off on requeening for a while. But if your queen’s egg laying is sporadic, the population of your colony is decreasing, and parasites are increasing, it may be a wise time to requeen.

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are not blocked. The dark color of the tar paper will help absorb heat from the sun and warm the colony on sunny days. You’ll also want to be sure that you don’t let the winter winds rip your hive covers off! This would let in all kinds of cold air and could greatly harm the colony. You can always put a few large rocks on top of the hive cover to pin it down, and this works fine, but isn’t very attractive. Some people prefer to strap their hive covers down.

Interestingly, a worker bee in the summer may only live for six weeks or so, but worker bees in the winter may live for months and months due to the reduced activity! WHat aBout droneS? In the fall, you may observe a small mob of worker bees pushing and chasing drones from the hive. Each time the drone tries to go back inside, the workers push him away again. What’s going on? The workers are trying to streamline the hive for winter. There will only be so much food in storage, and workers don’t want to waste any on a drone who doesn’t do any work. So they essentially tell him to take a hike! (Or, flight?) it’S a Wrap In particularly cold climates, it’s a wise plan to wrap your hives during the chilly months to provide the bees extra insulation and wind blockage. You can wrap the sides and top of your hive with foam board and then cover it with tar paper. Be sure to allow for adequate ventilation by cutting small openings in the covers so that the hive entrances

Candy BoardS One overwintering technique that we find helpful is the use of candy boards. Candy boards look a little like outer covers, but instead of functioning as a simple lid, the candy board is filled with a hard, sugary candy. Late in the winter, if the bees are getting close to using up all of their supplies, they can munch on the sugar that is stored in these boards. Sometimes in late winter it can make the difference between tiding the colony over until spring comes and having the colony starve. Candy boards are easy to make at home, or they can be purchased.

This worker bee (the smaller one) is telling this drone (the larger one with the big eyes) that winter is coming and it’s time for him to move along.

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Wrapping your hives (like the hive in the lower right corner of this photo) may be necessary in particularly cold climates to add insulation and provide an extra windbreak for the bees inside. Photo courtesy Colin and Renee Snook

Candy boards are sometimes used in very cold climates to help overwinter bees. The candy boards are placed on the top of the hives to provide an additional food source in case the bees’ stored honey is not enough.

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Chapter 4

Pests, Diseases, and Problems

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A swarm of bees in May Is worth a load of hay; A swarm of bees in June Is worth a silver spoon; A swarm of bees in July Is not worth a fly. —an old English ditty

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ow, wait just a minute. We know what you’re about to do. You’re about to turn the page and flip right through this chapter so that you can skip the stuff about diseases and just get on with the rest of the book. (We know, because this is exactly what we would do if we were you.) But please don’t hurry through this chapter, because it does contain some important information with which you really should become familiar. Regular inspections are essential to hive health. It’s a good idea to suit up and bring your smoker in order to keep the bees quiet and calm.

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We know you want to do the best job you can as a beekeeper, and part of that job includes being able to recognize the characteristics of a thriving, healthy hive in comparison to a hive that is suffering from disease or pest infestation. By educating yourself about the different issues that can affect your colonies, you may be able to spot a potential problem before it becomes harmful, giving you the chance to provide treatment if necessary. On the other hand, don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed with fear in regard to the safety of your colonies. Chances are good that your hives will thrive and that all will be well in honey bee land. We just want to provide you with a basic overview of pests and diseases so that you have knowledge of them and don’t freeze in horror when someone mentions the phrase “Varroa mites.” There. Now—keep reading!

ParaSiteS aNd PeStS

Bees belong in your hives—small hive beetles don’t. These African-native pests were first discovered in the United States in the late 1990s, and these troublesome creatures can wreak havoc on a hive if left to multiply. If high numbers of beetles are present in the hive, the bees may simply abandon it. While you can treat the hive with pesticides, another option is to purchase beetle traps and add them to your hive. This can be an effective way to control the population of beetles in your hives. The number of traps you’ll need might depend on your location; for instance, beehives in southern regions will require significantly more traps to assist in controlling the problem. Remember, local beekeepers are the best source of advice when dealing with pest problems in your area.

Strong Colonies Strong colonies are vitally important and are a good defense against pests and diseases. While it’s true that a strong and thriving colony won’t provide protection against predators like bears or

raccoons, it will minimize the hive’s vulnerability to pests such as wax moths or hive beetles. Maintain good hive practices and keep your bees on a pathway to good health.

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Note: Small hive beetles are said to be particularly fond of pollen, so if you’re using a pollen trap, it’s quite possible that you’ll find small hive beetles in your trap with the pollen. A large number of beetles present in your pollen trap could indicate a high level of infestation in your hive. The presence of Varroa mites in a hive is a potentially serious issue, but not a situation over which you need to immediately panic. The reason you need to be cautiously concerned over Varroa mites is because they can infect your bees with a virus that—simplistically speaking—affects wing development and leads to deformation of the bees’ wings. Because Varroa mites are so prevalent in the United States, you may occasionally discover that one or more of your hives has a few of these pests in residence. While we would all love to have 100 percent mite-free hives, a more practical goal is to maintain a low level of mites. You can accomplish this by monitoring your hives regularly for the presence of mites and then treating accordingly on an as-needed basis if the mites become too populous. There are many methods for tracking the number of mites in a hive—such as detector boards and visual inspections—as well as a variety of treatment methods—both organic and chemicalbased—that you can utilize to minimize the mite population. Beekeepers in warmer climates tend to have more difficulty with Varroa mites than beekeepers in colder climates.

One easy (and noninvasive) way to monitor the number of Varroa mites within your hive is to place a sticky board under the screened bottom board of your hive. You can purchase this type of sticky board from a beekeeping supply company, or you can make your own by using a thin white plastic sheet, a sheet of white cardboard, or something similar. Make your board sticky by lightly covering it with cooking spray, Crisco, oil, petroleum jelly, or some other sticky substance. Slide the sheet into the hive, underneath the screened bottom board, and leave it there for twenty-four hours. After this time has elapsed, remove the board and count the mites that have fallen through. If you’ve collected more than 50 in just one day, then it’s probably time to treat your hive to minimize the presence of Varroa mites. But if you’ve collected fewer than 50 in one day, then your infestation levels are probably acceptable and you can forego treatment for the time being. Keep an eye on the Varroa mites, however, and don’t let their presence get out of hand. These sticky boards can also be used to monitor the prevalence of small hive beetles in your hive. Tracheal (acarine) mites are far less widespread than Varroa mites but can still prove to be problematic for beekeepers. Tracheal mites infect the trachea of the bee, hence the name. Again, it is the level of infestation that you must be most concerned with. Heavily infested hives can become

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th pr an de be w th m le th hi m hi m Keep a count on any Varroa mite infestation in your hive, as this is an important part of monitoring hive health. Some beekeepers will lightly sprinkle powdered (confectioners) sugar on their bees to encourage them to groom and themselves (and each other) more frequently, thereby helping reduce Varroa mite numbers.

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These two hives have evidence of nosema; you can see the brown streaks all over the hives. Treatment of some kind is needed. Also, note the rock on top of the hive on the left, this helps to keep raccoons out.

quite weak due to loss of bees, and weak hives can be lost completely. Treatment can be accomplished with menthol pellets; requeening of the infected hive is another proven way to reduce the presence of tracheal mites. We are all fond of butterflies and moths when they’re floating around in the air outdoors, looking pretty. But wax moths inside your beehives? That’s another story entirely. Wax moths are extremely destructive, and while strong hives will usually be able to withstand the attack of the wax moth, weaker hives sometimes cannot. The moths enter the hive, lay their eggs, and leave, but the young wax moth larvae cause great destruction to the hive and leave a sticky white web-like material throughout the hive. Prevention, by maintaining strong, healthy hives, is the best way to reduce the presence of wax moths in your hives. You can also help protect your hive’s entrance with a screen that will keep wax moths out while allowing bees to enter safely. Another prevalent parasitic disease that strikes honey bees is Nosema. There are two varieties of this gut disease, Nosema apis and Nosema ceranae. Nosema apis often strikes during the

winter months when bees tend to stay in the hive and don’t make enough cleansing flights. The troublesome parasite injects its pathogen into the gut of the bee where the spores reproduce and are expelled in the feces of the bee. The disease can spread quickly at that point. If you see dead bees outside around the entrance to their hive, you should definitely pay attention because this can be a sign of nosema. Another even more characteristic sign of nosema is the presence of streaks of brown or yellow bee feces on the outside of the hive. Nosema ceranae is considered to be a more serious threat, often causing a bee colony to die quickly. Nosema ceranae is a year-round risk to all regions. There are some potential treatment options (including some organic options); the antibiotic fumagillin can be used as a preventative measure. It is particularly important to maintain good beekeeping management practices in order to ensure that your hives remain healthy enough to combat or withstand these problems.

Pests, diseases, and Problems

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diSeaSeS Now you get to meet a couple of acronyms: AFB and EFB. Rather than have you strain your brain in a gallant attempt to figure what those letters stand for, we’ll simply tell you: American foulbrood (AFB) and European foulbrood (EFB). Both of these conditions are bacterial diseases that afflict the young larvae (brood) in the hive, although AFB also affects the pupae. While there are a number of similarities between the two diseases, AFB is considerably more serious than EFB and can result in the complete loss of an entire colony or even your entire apiary. It’s not always easy to spot a case of AFB unless you know exactly what you’re looking for, but discolored, punctured, or sunken caps are suspicious. You will likely notice an extremely foul odor inside hives infected with AFB or EFB, although the smell is stronger in cases of AFB. Another effective way to determine the presence of AFB is to test for ropiness. Find a suspiciouslooking punctured cell, take a small stick (a toothpick works well), and stir around inside the cell. Then pull the stick out of the cell. If there is a stringy, mucouslike substance between your stick and the cell (like a rope), then this is highly indicative of AFB infection. Symptoms of EFB include uncapped larvae that are yellowed and twisted, rather than the usual healthy larvae that are pearly-white and C-shaped. Some beekeepers choose to treat their colonies with the antibiotic Terramycin as a preventive measure, but others are leery of introducing antibiotics into their hives. If you have a colony that is infected by AFB, then you may need to eliminate the hive and burn the equipment to avoid spreading AFB to other bees. While you can attempt to treat colonies that are already infected with AFB, the disease never goes away, and it will come back after treatment ceases.

Thankfully, EFB is milder and less serious. You can treat EFB fairly successfully with Terramycin, and many cases resolve without treatment. Here’s another disease that you won’t like reading about. Chalkbrood is the term used to describe a fungal disease that infects brood and causes it to become “mummified” (the term “chalkbrood” refers to the brood’s similarity in appearance to a piece of chalk). You’ll be relieved to know that chalkbrood is far less dangerous than some of the other diseases that can affect your hives, and sometimes the bees in the colony are successful in eradicating the disease by themselves without assistance. If you’d like to give them a helping hand, then requeen the affected hive; this is said to be an effective way to minimize or eliminate the fungus.

Other PrOblemS

Exactly as its name implies, chilled brood can occur when the hive is too cold or when there are not enough adult bees in the hive to maintain a suitable level of warmth. The brood may perish from the cold temperatures. Spotty brood, on the other hand, does not refer to a problem with the brood itself, but rather refers to brood that has been laid in a random or disorganized fashion. This can sometimes signal the presence of a disease in the hive, but it can also occur if the queen is failing. In the latter case, requeening may be necessary. Here’s another acronym that you’ll likely hear a lot about: CCD, which is short for Colony Collapse Disorder. It is a poorly understood phenomenon that has caused beekeepers plenty of concern in recent years, as incidences skyrocketed of bees disappearing from their hives. The Agricultural Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture describes the symptoms of CCD as follows: “Very low or no adult honey bees present in the hive but

An earwig. These pests can enter the hive and then come out in the honey extraction process—it’s happened to us! In the case of this type of insect pest, you’ll just want to inspect your hive on a regular basis and manually remove any “visitors.”

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with a live queen and no dead honey bee bodies present. Often there is still honey in the hive, and immature bees (brood) are present.” Some research has pointed to Varroa mites as a possible culprit in the CCD mystery, but researchers are still searching for answers to this apicultural conundrum.

aNimal PeStS As if beetles, mites, and moths weren’t enough to worry about, there are also animals that can cause trouble. Let’s take a quick look at some of these animal pests, and then we’ll look at some ways to prevent animal damage.

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Animals typically like to raid hives at night; therefore it’s important to keep a close eye on your hives, have the lids weighted down, and most importantly, install an electric fence around the hives.

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Skunks are one of the peskiest raiders of beehives. Some beekeepers will place obstacles in front of their hives to try to prevent access by skunks.

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Pests, diseases, and Problems

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Here is one clever fellow waiting for darkness, possibly getting ready to raid the hives in the distance. Be sure not to leave anything that may attract critters to your apiary—always clean up any used frames, comb, etc. before leaving.

Meet the AniMAl Pests It’s not a joke from a cartoon—bears really do like breaking into beehives and stealing honey. Bears seem to have a particular fondness for honey and larvae, and they have the strength and brawn to break into your hives and get them. A bear can easily tip over and destroy a hive, ruining months of effort by you and your bees. If you live in an urban location, you probably won’t have as much trouble with bears.

Raccoons have been known to climb up on top of a hive, remove the outer and inner covers, and even pull out a frame or two of honey to drag off and eat, upsetting the bees and ruining some of your crop. Skunks aren’t particularly interested in your honey—they just want the bees! Skunks will creep up to the hive—usually at night—and begin scratching the outside. The scratching alerts the bees that are on guard, and they come out to investigate, only to unfortunately be snatched up by the skunk, who doesn’t seem to care much about getting stung. [Continued on page 95]

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Pests, diseases, and Problems

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Bears are by far the worst marauders to the beehive. They don’t just pry off lids or steal a few bees—while looking for honey and larvae, bears typically knock over and destroy hives in the process.

a league of their Own: mice There is, however, one more common pest that can still cause trouble, despite all your efforts, and that is the mouse. Mice are especially a problem in late fall, when they’re looking for someplace warm to stay for the winter. A cozy beehive filled with good smells is an attractive location to a mouse—but a mouse in your hive is not something you want to have happen. Mice build nests, disturb the bees, and just generally make a mess of things. If you suspect a potential mouse problem, then consider purchasing a mouse guard. A mouse guard is a metal gate with holes that are large enough to allow your bees to pass through but are too small for a mouse to enter. (The reason a mouse guard is metal is to prevent mice from chewing through it—the way they might chew through a normal wooden hive entrance.) Inspect the hive prior to installing a mouse guard, and make sure there are no mice already inside!

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Swarming swarming is an event—usually in the spring—in which your queen bee and about half of the colony’s population of worker bees crawl out the door, take flight, and charge off to start a new hive somewhere else. What!? What was wrong with the home they had? And why do only half of the bees leave? Swarming is a natural thing for bees to do—it’s a method of beginning a new colony and spreading the species. When the bees sense that a hive is becoming too crowded, or they suspect that their queen is getting on in years, they may decide it’s time to swarm. The remaining members of the colony who don’t swarm will stay home and raise a new queen for themselves. Swarms aren’t a problem for bees, but they’re a problem for beekeepers, because the loss of half of the bee population takes a serious toll on the hive’s honey production. It takes some time before the new queen begins to lay the eggs necessary to replenish the colony’s numbers—time that could have gone to producing more honey. Throughout the year, your bees will form empty queen cells. Most of the time, these remain empty. The queen cells are just an insurance policy—if the queen was to suddenly die, the worker bees would have a ready-made place to raise a new queen. But if you start to see a lot of queen cells— particularly down at the bottom of your frames—then something is up. The bees are thinking about swarming.

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One easy thing that you can do to discourage swarming is to make sure you expand the hive as necessary. When most of the frames in your hive have been filled, or if your hive just seems to be packed with bees, it’s time to add another deep hive body or a super. If there isn’t enough room, the bees might swarm. If a colony does swarm, experienced beekeepers don’t hesitate to go out and bring the swarm back! Swarmed bees are usually very gentle—they aren’t worried about protecting a hive, and they’re so busy trying to find a new place to live that they are too distracted to worry about nearby people. Often, a swarm will congregate in a nearby tree. If it isn’t too high, the beekeeper will try to retrieve the branch and temporarily coax the swarming bees into a box. Once home, the beekeeper attempts to encourage the swarm into a new home—an empty hive! Photos courtesy Colin and Renee Snook

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A simple electric fence is an excellent way to prevent damage to your hives from animals. The fence doesn’t have to be large—just enough to comfortably encompass your colonies.

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Preventive MeAsures Okay, so it’s clear that animals can cause big trouble for your bees—but what can you do about it? If you know these animals are predictably and routinely traveling past your hives, your first step is to consider moving your hives to a new location. It isn’t really the animal’s fault if you’ve inadvertently set up near their traveling route, and your beehives don’t need to be an unnecessary temptation. However, if your hives are up in your yard or close to your buildings, it is likely that the animals are coming specifically to check out the hives, and this needs to be deterred. Bears, especially, need to be discouraged, because once they’ve stolen honey, they’ll keep coming back again and again for more. A simple electric fence is usually the easiest way to deter predators. It doesn’t have to be elaborate— simple metal posts and insulators—along with a few strands of electric fence wire and a charger—are

usually all that’s needed. You can find all of these components at farm or livestock supply stores or through catalogs. You probably won’t need a very strong power supply for your fence; you’re only enclosing a relatively small area, and all you’re really trying to achieve is a small pop of electricity to discourage the animals. If your hives are close to a power source, you can buy a power supply that simply plugs in, but if not, there are solar-powered fence chargers that do a fine job of powering a small fence. An electric fence is an excellent way of stopping all of the animal pests mentioned above. In the case of raccoons, putting a heavy object on top of the outer cover (a rock or a brick, for example) is often enough to prevent the raccoon from prying off the lid. One other note: be sure to tidy up your apiary after working in it. Don’t leave empty open hive boxes or frames lying about—or bits of comb or anything that might smell like honey Leaving these things around is just inviting trouble.

Pests, diseases, and Problems

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[Continued from page 90]

Dead bees are a sign that you should inspect your hives to see if there are any issues developing, such as pests or diseases.

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Chapter 5

Sweet Rewards: Honey! The careful insect ’midst his works I view, Now from the flowers exhaust the fragrant dew, With golden treasures load his little thighs, And steer his distant journey through the skies. —John Gay

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f you’re like most beekeepers, you are raising bees for a particular reason. Maybe you want to have thousands of pollinators to help with your garden, or maybe you want to make beeswax candles and need a ready source of wax.

Or maybe you love the idea of harvesting your very own honey. In that latter case, this chapter is for you. (If you’re thinking along the other lines, you’ll find more information in Chapter 6.)

Your dedicated bees have been working hard all summer, filling their hive with delicious honey, beeswax, and pollen. It’s now time to harvest and reap the rewards of all your efforts.

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As you may have guessed, you don’t just set up a new hive, install a package of bees, and then blithely arrive to harvest honey the next day. Instead, you’ll need to give your bees plenty of time to do their summer’s work before you even think about harvesting honey. Regular inspections of your hive will give you a good idea of where your bees are in terms of honey making. It’s important to wait until the bees have established a substantial supply of honey before you begin harvesting. Why? So you can leave behind a sufficient quantity of honey for the bees even after you’ve harvested. After all, they’re the ones who will need the nourishment from the honey during the winter months, so it’s important that you leave enough for their own use even after you have removed the frames that you wish to extract. The amount of honey that you leave behind will depend upon a number of factors—including your location and climate—and could vary from 50 pounds to over 100 pounds. Do you have short, mild winters or long, cold winters? Obviously in

Stack your honey supers in the honey room or area that you’ve set aside for extracting. This room should be warm, clean and ready to go.

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the latter case, you will need to leave more honey to compensate for the period of time in which the bees are without access to nectar and pollen. If you have a newly established hive and it is still a bit weak, you may need to leave every last drop of honey for them and not harvest any for yourself until the following summer. It truly depends on the individual situation. But for example’s sake, let’s say that you have a busy, bustling hive that has been industriously making honey all season. It’s now August, and upon your regular inspection of the hive, you discover that in addition to a substantial amount of honey that the bees have stored in the brood boxes, they have also completely filled two upper supers with capped honey. In this situation of happy hive surplus, you might decide to harvest the honey from the upper supers. Depending on the size of your supers, this could glean you over 80 pounds of honey and still leave your bees with plenty to live on. And that makes everybody happy.

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Capped and Uncapped honey It’s important that you only harvest honey that is capped (sealed with wax). Uncapped honey usually has a moisture content that is too high for harvesting, and this honey should be left until it is completely cured—and capped. While it’s true that

some uncapped honey is of appropriate moisture for extraction, we recommend that beginners go with the safest and easiest method, which is extracting only honey that is completely capped.

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Unless you’re using the crush-and-strain method (see the sidebar on page 116), which requires only minimal setup, you’re going to need to invest in a few specific items in order to harvest your honey using the extraction process. All of the items described below are readily available from beekeeping supply companies, and some companies offer kits in which all of the equipment is included for a special package price. At the heart of your honey extraction project is a very useful piece of equipment called a honey extractor, which allows you to remove honey from your frames with relative ease. While there are many types of extractors that fit many different price ranges, they all share some common characteristics. Honey extractors consist of a large drum with a frame basket that spins, because extractors work on the principle of centrifugal force. As the frames are spun around inside the drum, the honey is “spun out” and drips to the bottom of the drum. There is considerable variance in the number of frames that each type of extractor can hold. Some

inexpensive extractors may hold only 2 frames, while some extractors may hold 18 frames or more. Obviously, when you are able to place a higher number of frames in the extractor, you are able to significantly diminish the time you spend extracting. Most extractors are made of stainless steel, although some plastic versions can be found; plastic extractors are usually less expensive but are not as highly recommended. You’ll also have to choose between hand-crank extractors (with this kind, you’ll need to turn the handle of the extractor in order to spin the drum and extract the honey) or motorized extractors (no cranking by hand, yay!). Again, you can save a lot of money if you’re willing to put your muscles into it and try a hand-cranking extractor. You’ll need to know whether your extractor has tangential configuration or radial configuration, because with tangential configuration, you’ll need to flip the frames halfway through the extraction process in order to finish extracting the honey; with radial configuration, both sides of the frame are extracted at once and no flipping is required. [Continued on page 102]

Sweet rewards: honey!

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the tOOlS fOr the JOb

Extractors come in various sizes and price ranges. A hand-powered extractor is suitable for a person harvesting a small number of hives.

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Preparing your honey extracting room is an important part of the extracting and bottling process. Make sure everything is cleaned thoroughly, including all of the equipment, the extractor, the counter space, and the floors.

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This large extractor has been loaded with frames full of honey. In this type of extractor, you don’t need to flip the frames halfway through.

Sweet rewards: honey!

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A large motorized extractor makes the extracting job go much more quickly since it will likely hold more frames and hand cranking is not required.

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[Continued from page 99] Another important item to have is an uncapping tank or tub. This is actually a fancy term for a very simple piece of equipment. Your uncapping tank is where you will uncap your honey prior to extraction. The chunks of loose wax will accumulate on the top layer of the tank, while any honey that is in the wax cappings will strain through to the tank underneath. This is a valuable piece of honey extracting equipment. Again, there are many options from which to choose (plastic tanks, steel tanks, and so on), so evaluate what works with your budget and what will suffice for the number of hives you’re working with. You’ll also want a large uncapping knife. This piece of equipment is so named because it is used to remove the cappings from each frame, which

then releases the honey that is stored underneath. There are cold uncapping knives and electric (heated) uncapping knives. A heated knife can make the uncapping process a bit simpler and faster, although we haven’t experienced any difficulty in uncapping honey with a cold knife. By using a cold knife, you do not compromise the purity of your honey by exposing it to heat. Incidentally, cold knives are very budget friendly. If, however, you wish to speed up the uncapping process but don’t want to invest in the significantly higher-priced electric knife, you can warm your cold knife in a pan of hot water. In addition to your uncapping knife, it’s also very handy to have an uncapping fork, or scratcher, to remove leftover bits of wax cappings

The uncapping tank is simple to set up and use. It will catch the wax cappings and allow the honey to strain through the bottom of the top tank into the bottom tank. From the bottom tank, you may draw the honey off with the gate.

The uncapping knife! This is a simple version, fairly inexpensive, and a good choice for a beginner. It doesn’t add heat to the uncapping process the way heated knives do.

This is the scratcher tool. You’ll use this tool to uncap any of the cells that the cold knife didn’t uncap.

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for any imperfections or debris that appears in the honey. We’ve already mentioned the five-gallon container that you’ll need to catch the honey as it flows out of the extractor. You’ll be able to obtain this type of container from any beekeeping supply company; it will be made of food-grade plastic and will have a closeable gate at the bottom (that’s where the honey will come out when you’re ready to bottle). Speaking of bottling . . . You’re going to need something to put all of that precious honey in, so be sure to have a good supply of jars on hand prior to beginning your extracting procedure. (We thoroughly discuss the merits of plastic versus glass jars on page 117.)

A simple five-gallon bucket strainer and bottler is a great and inexpensive choice for the beginning beekeeper to use on his or her first honey harvest.

Sweet rewards: honey!

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that are missed by your knife. Uncapping forks can be obtained relatively inexpensively and are a nice item to have around. If you decide to strain your honey (which is essential if you want to be sure that your honey is free of debris, bug parts, and other unpleasant inclusions—and imperative if you decide to try the crush-and-strain method on page 116)—then you’ll need some type of strainer. As your honey pours out of the extractor, you’ll run it through a strainer on its way to your five-gallon container. This can be a slow process, but it’s very helpful for removing unwanted substances from your honey. Straining is absolutely necessary if you’re planning on exhibiting your honey at a honey show or county fair, because points are deducted during judging

Whether you choose glass or plastic bottles, make sure you’ve cleaned them thoroughly prior to filling with honey. It’s the small details that are vitally important in producing a healthy product for your family and customers.

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aN OUtliNe Of a hONey harveSt Okay, let’s say your bees have been doing a great job. They have plenty of stores down in the brood chambers, and in addition, they have supplied you with an upper super full of capped honey. Great! But before you harvest that honey, you need to know— what’s the best way of removing the super? Well, your super is going to be filled with bees, and you certainly don’t want to haul a bunch of bees back to the extracting room with you! That would be a big problem. Instead, you need a way to encourage the bees to leave the super long enough for you to remove it from the hive. There are a couple of ways you can do this. Brute Force . . . (or MAyBe not) One way, of course, is to take each frame out one by one and try to shake the bees off—but this really isn’t a good idea. It’s not easy to do, it just upsets and confuses the bees, and you probably won’t be able to shake them all off anyway. Similarly, some people try blowing the bees out of the supers with big electric blowers (kind of like leaf blowers). Same problem—the bees get upset and it’s not easy. Fortunately, there are other ways. [Continued on page 108]

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Sweet rewards: honey!

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Sweet rewards: honey!

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[Continued from page 104] rePellent Methods One method involves the use of a fume board, which is kind of like an outer cover with a felt pad underneath. The idea is that when you’re ready to remove a super, you first spray a bit of specialty repellent onto the pad of the fume board and then place the fume board on top of the super you wish to remove (the inner and outer covers are temporarily taken off). Within a few minutes, the smell of the repellent-sprayed fume board drives the bees deeper into the hive, leaving the abandoned honey supers bee-free and yours for the taking. One problem with fume boards is that if you overdo the repellent, you may drive a mass of bees right out of the hive. If you don’t use enough, the bees may not leave your super. The advantage of a fume board is that when it works, it only takes a few minutes to clear away the bees. Fume boards are available from your bee supply store, along with the necessary repellent. Some of these repellents are chemical-based, and we do not recommend that you use them. Instead, opt for

one of the natural repellents, which work well and smell good. Bee escAPes Here’s a really good method! A bee escape is a sort of maze, or puzzle, that the bees can’t figure out. About a day (or two) before you’re ready to harvest honey, you go out and place the bee escape in between your honey supers and your deep hive bodies. The maze of the bee escape is designed so that the bees can easily move down into the deep hive bodies below, but cannot immediately figure out how to come back up into the supers (if you leave the bee escape on for too long, they might figure it out). After a day or so (or even a couple of hours in some cases) all of the bees will have traveled through the bee escape down into the lower hive bodies, and your supers will be free of bees! The great part about this is that no repellents are involved, the bees don’t get upset at all, and you won’t even need a smoker when you go out to get the supers! The disadvantage to a bee escape is that you have to plan ahead a day or so before your honey harvest. Also, if you have clever bees, some might outsmart the bee escape.

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extrActing the honey After you’ve successfully removed the super that you want to extract from, you’ll assemble all of your equipment in your honey extracting room (making sure that everything is spotlessly clean). For extraction purposes, it helps if the honey in the frames is somewhat warm. Set up your uncapping tank and set your first frame on it, lengthwise. Hold the frame firmly at the top with one hand, and use your other hand to guide your uncapping knife gently down the surface of the frame, removing only the wax cappings, which will fall through to your uncapping tank underneath. Flip the frame around and remove the cappings from the opposite side. Then place the frame in your extractor. Continue uncapping the frames until you have enough to fill your extractor, then close the lid. Place your five-gallon collection container directly underneath the gate of the extractor so

that the honey will flow into it (add a strainer first) and let the cranking begin! You’ll want to spin the extractor for several minutes, remembering to flip the frames halfway through if you have an extractor that is tangentially configured. Then take a peek inside the extractor to check your frames. Has the honey been successfully extracted? Is the comb empty? If the honey is fully extracted, remove the frames from the extractor and continue on with another set of frames. After you’ve extracted honey from all of the frames that you’ve collected and all of the honey has gone through the strainer to the five-gallon bucket, snap the lid on it and set the container aside. You’ll want to let the honey sit in the bucket undisturbed for at least twenty-four hours in a warm room before bottling; this allows the air bubbles to rise to the top prior to the bottling process.

Slo de a

Hold the frame upright and balance it on the uncapping tank. This helps you to get the honey uncapped as easily as possible. Using the knife, slowly work your way down the frame, uncapping all the cells.

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Using the scratcher tool helps you to make sure that you uncapped all the cells and ensures that the honey will flow freely into the extractor.

If you have a large harvest of honey, you may wish to use a heated knife or heated hand plane such as this one. It makes the job go a bit faster.

As the cappings fall into the upper tank of the uncapping tank, they’ll soon be ready to process.

Sweet rewards: honey!

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Slowly work the knife back and forth; the delightful aroma of the cappings and the honey is a memorable one.

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bOttliNg hONey The actual bottling process is an exciting—yet timeconsuming—experience. It’s a wondrous feeling to watch the honey trickle into each jar, knowing that each and every jar represents such a tremendous amount of effort on the part of your bees and a true sense of dedication on your part. Savor the

experience as you watch the jars fill, one by one by one, and absorb the moment. It’s extra special. Sentimentality aside, we have to be honest and tell you that bottling honey does take a bit of patience, especially if you’re harvesting large quantities and you must fill each jar one by one, but it’s still lots of fun and an immensely rewarding process.

Once the frames are completely uncapped, you’ll place them into the extractor according to the directions that came with it.

Be sure to put the plastic lids in place prior to extracting; you’ll want to be sure that all that delicious honey stays in the extractor. This lid protects you as well.

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Start cranking the extractor, or in the case of an electric one, turn it on. The honey gate at the bottom of the extractor should be open at this point.

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Sweet rewards: honey!

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It’s the spinning—the centrifugal force—that sends the honey flying out of the frames and cells and into the extractor.

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Make sure the gate is open prior to running the extractor; it keeps the honey flowing during the entire process.

This honey is a beautiful golden color. It’s fresh from the hive, and made from nectar collected from thousands of wildflowers.

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and let the stream of honey flow into your jar. When the jar is nearly full, slow the flow of the honey by partially closing the gate, and when it’s completely full (don’t fill the neck of the jar), close the gate entirely and stop the flow of the honey. Take care not to spill the honey over the edge of the jar, then finish the job by screwing on the lid and sealing the jar. Enjoy the process of harvesting your crop. The straining can be very slow and takes time, but it’s well worth the wait!

Cleanliness is important when bottling honey, it’s a food you’ll be serving your family and possibly marketing to friends and other markets. Treat it as such and do a good job.

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Once your honey has rested for a period of time in the five-gallon bucket, gather up your jars (they must be perfectly clean) and get ready to bottle the honey. Place your five-gallon container on a stand or table and hold an empty jar in your left hand, directly under the gate on your five-gallon bucket. With your right hand, carefully slide open the gate

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Crush-and-Strain method There is another method of harvesting honey that doesn’t require an extractor, an uncapping tank, or much of the other equipment that we’ve previously described. If you use foundationless frames, you can try the “crush-and-strain” method of honey harvesting. Essentially, you take a frame filled with honey and completely cut the comb around the perimeter of the wooden frame. You’ll place this cut comb in a pan and then begin to crush it. You can crush it with your choice of utensils (large spoon, potato masher, pestle—you could even theoretically use your hands), but the idea is just to get it nice and smooshed so that the honey is loosened up and flowing. Once this is accomplished, you’ll get a five-gallon bucket with a gate and a filter or two,

and you’ll load all of this crushed honey right onto the filter. Then you’ll cover the five-gallon bucket with its lid and set the entire container in a warm (hot) place. After a few hours, the honey will have drained through the filter and will be collected in the bucket below, while the empty beeswax comb will be collected in the filter. This is a simple and straightforward way to harvest your honey, and it is especially ideal if you’re raising bees on a small scale and want to be economical. Note: It is possible to use the crush-and-strain method with plastic frames; you would just have to remove all of the honey-filled comb from the frames. But it’s easier to use foundationless frames for this process.

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Plastic containers may not be quite as aesthetically pleasing to some, but they are practical. The squeezable containers make dispensing the honey quite simple, and the plastic jars are lighter than the glass ones, making them less expensive to ship if you plan to sell honey online or ship jars to friends and family. Plastic jars also have the benefit of coming in various shapes, including the ever-popular honey bear–shaped jars, which are often consumer favorites. If you’re planning to sell your honey, your best bet may be to bottle some of it in each type of jar. If you have 20 pounds of honey to bottle, then you might decide to use a mixture of glass jars, plastic jars, and bear-shaped containers. This way you will be sure to have a variety of products to please a variety of customers. If you’re bottling honey for your own use, then simply choose the type of container that you prefer!

Sweet rewards: honey!

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PlAstic or glAss? Let’s say that you have a five-gallon bucket filled to the brim with your lovely, freshly harvested honey. But before you can fill up your jars with your glorious golden gatherings, you’ll need to decide whether to use glass jars or plastic jars. It seems like such a simple and innocent decision—like choosing between paper or plastic at the grocery store or choosing between peanut butter that is chunky or smooth. But there are actually a few different aspects that you’ll want to keep in mind before choosing plastic bottles or glass. Glass is undoubtedly more traditional, and from a marketing standpoint, some buyers are drawn to the idea of a traditional glass jar filled with locally produced honey. On the other hand, glass jars are heavy, bulky, and have the potential to break. Some people also believe that glass jars are healthier, due to concerns that the plastic of a plastic container may leach into the honey.

Both plastic or glass jars are fine for bottling. Determine what you and your customers prefer, or simply provide a selection of each type.

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how many Jars to buy? Once you’ve settled that plastic versus glass question, you’ll be faced with another immediate decision: how many jars to order? It isn’t always easy to estimate just how much honey you’ll be harvesting, because it will depend on the fullness of the frames as well as the size of the frames you’re using. Shallow or medium supers obviously hold less honey than deep supers (30 to 40 pounds instead of 60 pounds). Once you’ve evaluated your situation, you should be able to form a fairly close estimate of the number of pounds that you will be

harvesting, which will in turn provide you with the info you need to order the proper number of jars. For instance, if you plan to harvest honey from three nicely filled medium supers, you can safely estimate a harvest of approximately 120 pounds of honey, which would indicate that you would need to order 120 one-pound jars in which to bottle it. (However, we recommend that you always order a slightly higher number than you think you need, just in case you have underestimated the amount of honey that your hives have produced.)

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At this point, it might be wise to stop for a minute and learn a bit more about honey. As you’ve likely noticed, not all honey is the same. There is an impressive range to the color of honey, from pale amber to dark brown (this is regulated by the types of flowers that the bees were frequenting as they foraged). Flavor varies widely too, and is said to be somewhat correlated to the color of the honey (the lighter the shade of honey, the milder the flavor). There are varietal honeys, and there are artisanal honeys. There are whipped honeys, and there are chunk honeys, and there are cut comb honeys. Let’s embark on a quick exploration of the world of honey.

vArietAl And ArtisAnAl honeys Here are a couple of terms with which you’ll soon become very familiar: varietal and artisanal honey. The term “varietal honey” is used to describe honey that was created by bees that were exclusively working just one type of plant or flower. For instance—if you kept a colony of bees deep in the middle of a large sunflower patch, then your bees would likely be gathering nectar from sunflowers exclusively. In this case, you would be producing sunflower honey, a specific varietal honey. In order to produce (and market) varietal honey, you have to be very careful to maintain the purity of your honey, especially during the harvesting process. It’s all too

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tyPeS Of hONey

There are varietal honeys and artisanal honeys, each having a distinct flavor all their own. Clover honey is commonly available, but you can also find local varieties such as cranberry blossom honey, sorghum honey, and tupelo honey, as well as many others, each with its own flavor and color.

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easy to mix up frames from more than one hive and then extract them together, thus blending the different types of honey into one. Possible varietals will depend on your location, but in the United States, varietals include orange blossom, aster, sumac, cranberry blossom, blueberry blossom, alfalfa, buckwheat, basswood, sweet clover, tupelo, linden, goldenrod, white, Dutch clover, blade locust, or soybean. The term “artisanal honey” is used to describe honey that is created from multiple sources, such as honey from bees that have foraged in a number of different places, or honey that has been extracted and mixed with another type of honey. Wildflower honey is a good example of an artisanal honey, as it is a blend of many flavorful flowers

that are impossible to precisely pinpoint. (Don’t automatically assume, however, that varietal honey is somehow superior to artisanal honey. In fact, if you ask producers of honey, most will tell you that the most popular (and most saleable) type of honey is wildflower honey. Here on our northern Wisconsin farm, we have many different plants blooming at the same time all summer long. Because of this, our bees have a wide variety of nectar sources, and the honey they produce is blend of these flowers and thus considered an artisanal honey rather than a varietal honey. The flavor of the honey incorporates all of the different flowers from apple and raspberry blossoms to sunflowers and wildflowers.

honey Colors

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You might wonder why the color of honey varies so greatly, but if you stop to consider the vast array of blossoms and plants that worker bees visit during their foraging trips, it really isn’t surprising that the color of honey varies as well.

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Now that we’ve talked at length about liquid honeys, we’ll introduce you to its opposite: cut comb honey. With cut comb honey, you’re storing the honey in its comb and not extracting it at all. Honey production doesn’t get much easier than this. You’ll begin by bringing in some honeyfilled frames, just as you would if you were going to extract the honey (for cut comb honey, foundationless frames are the way to go). Then you’ll cut the comb out of the frame (as you would if you were using the crush-and-strain method) and cut it into squares. The size of the squares will depend on your preferences (and perhaps the size of the containers in which you plan to store the comb). Before you store your cut comb honey, you’ll need to freeze it for a minimum of 48 hours in case your comb is harboring any wax moth larvae or eggs. This is absolutely essential if you plan to sell your cut comb honey—you don’t want wax moths hatching in the comb later on. Additionally, you’ll want to carefully select the sections of comb that you choose to use for cut comb or chunk honey. The traffic from the worker bees can cause some frames of honeycomb to become quite dark, which is less desirable for comb honey. If you’re goal is to make comb honey, you might consider using a queen excluder to minimize traffic to your honey supers and keep them cleaner

Chunk honey is a product that is somewhat similar to cut comb honey, but it involves smaller pieces of comb that are placed in jars and then surrounded by liquid honey. Again, you will want to use foundationless frames in order to create chunk honey, and you should also be careful to select newer comb that was recently created by the bees (rather than older comb that has been sitting around the hive for a long time). A jar of chunk honey is a joy to the senses: sight (it’s beautiful), taste (completely delicious), and smell (just heavenly!) As with cut comb honey, you’ll want to freeze your chunk honey to destroy any wax moth larvae or eggs. You may be familiar with some (or all!) of these terms: whipped honey, creamed honey, spun honey, or churned honey. Essentially, they all refer to the same thing: a creamed or granulated honey that is spreadable on toast and extremely delicious. But just as beekeepers cannot agree on what to call this product, there is also a great deal of variation as to the method of creating it. Generally speaking, the process includes combining crystallized “seed” honey from an already established jar of creamed honey with liquid honey in a 1:10 ratio. After the honeys are combined, the jar is left to sit for several days in a moderate temperature (55 to 57 degrees is common).

Sweet rewards: honey!

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When properly harvested, cut comb honey is interesting, attractive, and delicious! You’ll need foundationless frames, so this may be a project for later on in your beekeeping career.

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Chapter 6

Marketing Your Hive Products

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Bees work for man, and yet they never bruise Their Master’s flower, but leave it having done, As fair as ever and as fit to use; So both the flower doth stay and honey run. —George Herbert

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kay, so now it’s late summer, and your busy bees have visited a few million flowers over the course of the spring and summer months. If you’re lucky, there could be as much as 200 pounds of honey in each of your hives, which adds up to a lot of honey.

The products from your hives—including honey, pollen, beeswax, royal jelly and propolis—can contribute to helping you earn some extra income. The bees have been working, so now it’s your turn!

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What will you do with all of that delightful, delectable, delicious sweetness? After all of your hard work (and all of your bees’ hard work!), you might be tempted to put it all in jars and keep it all for yourself—right down to the very last glorious golden drop. But in all practicality, it’s not really possible for one person to consume or use that much honey, so while you’ll definitely want to create plenty of jars of extracted honey, you might also want to explore the possibility of pursuing additional uses for some of it. And then of course there’s all of that lovely beeswax that you’ll have accumulated while harvesting your honey. What will you do with that? In this chapter we’ll explore some ideas for making honey- and beeswax-based products, and we’ll discuss the possibilities of harvesting pollen from your hives. Then we’ll give you some specific suggestions for marketing your products at farmers’ markets, craft shows, or online. Let’s get going!

hONey PrOdUCtS We’ve already discussed the many ways that you can prepare honey, including extracted honey in jars, creamed honey, chunk honey, and cut comb honey. But maybe you’d like to incorporate some of your honey into other products. You’re in luck, because there are many options! While beeswax is traditionally what comes to mind when you think of homemade candles, you can also make candles that feature honey as an ingredient. And it goes without saying that honey makes a delicious addition to a limitless number of recipes (see Chapter 8 for more on this!), so be sure to experiment with creating tasteful culinary delights that feature honey. There are also plenty of opportunities to include honey in homemade bath and beauty items, including body lotions, facial cleansers, exfoliating sugar scrubs, and hand creams. Adding honey to these products expands the effects of your hive into other aspects of your life, and the delightful fragrance of honey adds an intrinsic touch of sweetness to all of these products.

There’s nothing confusing or unclear about what this sign means! It will be easily noticed by folks looking to purchase honey. A sign indicating that the honey is “local” might be a nice addition.

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Pure honey can be bottled and sold, and is indeed a big favorite with consumers, but be sure to check out the possibility of making other products that use honey as an ingredient, such as soaps and lotions.

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The products you can make from your hive include beeswax candles, lotion bars, honey sticks, lip balm, bee pollen, soaps, and many other useful items.

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all abOUt beeSwax

Sometimes it seems like honey gets all of the attention and beeswax is just an overlooked bystander. It doesn’t have to be that way, because beeswax is a fascinating product in its own right and has a wide variety of uses. When you’re finished extracting honey, you’ll have a pile of leftover cappings that were removed from the frames before extraction. If rendered (essentially melted down and filtered), you’ll end up with beautiful, pure beeswax. There are several ways to render your wax (melting it in a crockpot and then straining or melting the wax in a pot on the stove are two suggestions) but the easiest way is to use a solar wax melter. Unfortunately, purchasing one can be a rather expensive proposition, and it might not be an investment that you desire to make. Thankfully, you can make your own solar wax melter, and that can be an excellent way to save some money. For instance, you can take a medium-sized Styrofoam box and line the bottom with aluminum foil. Then take a small plastic container (without a lid) and place about an inch of water in it. Slide the plastic container into the leg of a pair of clean panty hose (tie it off so that your makeshift strainer remains taut). Place the wax cappings on top of the panty

marketing your hive Products

n,

The cappings left over after extracting the honey can be used to make candles and other products.

Some people sell blocks of beeswax they’ve made from their cappings, and some sell pre-made candles. Using various methods and molds, the possibilities are myriad.

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hose, then place the box and cappings inside the larger box. Cover the Styrofoam box with a sheet of clear plastic or glass, and place the box in the direct sunlight on a very warm day. As the sun’s powerful energy heats up the interior of the box, the wax will melt through the panty hose and down into the

small box. All of the chunks of leftover, unwanted material will remain on the top of the strainer, and the lovely clean wax will be collected inside the plastic container underneath. We recommend using a solar wax melter (homemade or purchased) rather than using the

honey Sticks You’ll often see honey sticks for sale at farmers’ markets and specialty shops; they’re popular with customers because they’re fun, convenient, and inexpensive; usually 25 cents each or five for $1. Each “straw” of honey contains one serving, making them a perfect choice for an on-the-go addition to tea or other beverages. Fortunately for you, consumers love to buy honey sticks. Unfortunately for you, they’re not the easiest item to produce. Large scale producers of honey sticks use equipment and machinery that can efficiently make vast quantities of honey sticks in a short amount of time. This is typically not a feasible option for the average beekeeper, but the good news is that, with a bit of investment in small-scale equipment, it is possible to make honey sticks by hand. To do this, you’ll need the following: • Honey (You’d already figured that one out, hadn’t you?) • Straws (Clear, straight straws are best.)

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• Plastic condiment bottle (The kind they use for ketchup in restaurants.) • Impulse sealer (You’ll use this to seal the sticks.) Basically, you’ll fill the condiment bottle with some honey, then insert the tip of the bottle into the end of a straw and squeeze the bottle until the straw is nearly filled (leave a bit about ½ inch on each end). Then place the straw on the impulse sealer and seal each end of the stick. Sound easy? It is— except for the fact that it is a time-consuming process. But once you establish a rhythm, you’ll likely be able to speed things up and make faster progress. Once you’ve amassed a sufficient supply of honey sticks (a few hundred or so is a good start), offer them for sale at your next event and watch the honey sticks disappear into the happy hands of satisfied consumers.

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moisture, so you may want to consider making products such as hand salve, foot butter, face cream, or hand moisturizer. Then there’s lip balm. Second to candles, lip balm is one of the most popular products to make with beeswax, if we’re to judge by the more than 2,000 listings for “beeswax lip balm” for sale on Etsy.com on any given day. We attribute this popularity to the fact that beeswax lip balm is so easy to make! Simply melt down beeswax and a mixture of essential oils, and then pour the mixture into small containers and let it cool. Once you have your skin glowing with good health, you can also make your home shine by making up a batch of beeswax furniture polish (a blend of beeswax and oil). Or make the day of somebody young and wrap up some colored modeling wax or crayons! The beauty of all of these beeswax projects lies in their very simplicity. With only a few simple steps and the most minimal of ingredients, you can easily create useful products that enrich your life and the lives of others, all while highlighting the versatility of the beeswax itself. What’s better than that?

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crockpot or stovetop methods because the solar method is safer and cleaner. As you may know, beeswax is highly flammable and can become very hot when you’re working with it over the stove. You would need to take extreme caution as you work not to burn yourself or let the wax get too hot. Additionally, working on the stove or in a crockpot would require that you use equipment that is specifically dedicated to your wax-rendering project. You would not be able to return the equipment to your kitchen after rendering wax with it—ask anybody who has ever tried it. So any pots, pans, or utensils that you might use would be entirely unusable for cooking in the future. Once you have your beautiful, pure beeswax, what do you do with it? Most people start out by making beeswax candles, simply because candles are an incredibly easy project and very utilitarian, too. Candles also make wonderful gifts, allowing you to share the bounty of your hives with others. Beeswax can also be a vital ingredient in cosmetic items, thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties and its germicidal antioxidants. Beeswax works extremely well as a skin protectant due to the fact that it locks in

Beeswax candles can be made quickly and easily from beeswax sheets that you can buy from various bee supply companies. They’re very popular; just add a pretty label and you’re all set.

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POlleN So your bees have been busily bringing pollen back to the hive, their little hardworking legs loaded down with bundles of yellow pollen. In the hive, they’ll use the pollen as a protein source to feed the brood as it grows. But that pollen—those infinitesimal little particles that the bees collect from flowers—can be useful to you, too. That’s because the same pollen that your bees collect is also sometimes used as a dietary supplement, thanks to the fact that it’s comprised of an “un-bee-lievable” assortment of vitamins, minerals, proteins, amino acids, and enzymes. Even though the use of bee pollen has not achieved such widespread popularity as honey or beeswax, it’s still a valuable product in its own right and can provide another item for you to sell along with your honey and beeswax. Even though bee pollen is less commonly used than the other fruits of the hive, it does have an intriguing array of uses. In Latin, the word “pollen” means mill dust or fine flour, which is an aptly fitting description for the powderlike consistency of pollen. But how do you collect the bee pollen?

You go into the hive and manually remove the pollen from each bee’s legs—ha ha, just kidding! Instead, you place a pollen trap on your hive. Now there are several different types of pollen traps that are attached to the hive in different ways, but generally speaking, when the worker bees go through the entrance to the pollen trap on their way into the hive, they go through a small opening that knocks off some of the pollen that they’ve collected. The loose pollen falls through to the trap drawer below, and the bees carry the remaining pollen into the hive as usual. Pollen traps are not designed to capture all of the pollen from the bees—only a fraction of it, because the bees must have enough pollen leftover for the health of the hive. Each day, you must harvest the pollen that you’ve collected in your traps. It must be collected daily in order to preserve the freshness and quality of the product. You also want to avoid collecting the pollen immediately after a rain, so keep an eye on the weather and collect accordingly. After collecting, do a check for the presence of hive beetles in the pollen (they are attracted to pollen) and remove any that you find. You’ll also want to remove any bits of hive debris that may be present in your collected pollen.

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Worker bees return from foraging loaded with full pollen baskets on their back legs. Using a pollen trap allows you to harvest some of the pollen for selling.

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We know what you’re thinking: now what? You’ve collected all of this pollen—what are you supposed to do with it? Well, immediately after collecting the pollen, you’ll place it in the freezer. Pollen is a perishable product and must be kept cold. (An alternative to freezing is to dehydrate the pollen, which eliminates the need for further refrigeration.) Then you’re free to use it however you wish. Some people like to eat a teaspoon of bee pollen per day in some form or another (sprinkled on cereal or added to milkshakes), but you will want to carefully test your tolerance for bee pollen by starting with just one granule on the first day. Make sure that you don’t have any type of allergic reaction, and then you can slowly increase the amount you eat per day. If you’re not keen on the idea of eating your bee pollen, you can also use it as a fun ingredient in homemade soap!

marketiNg aNd PrOmOtiNg yOUr hONey As sweet as it is, honey doesn’t sell itself. Just as an actress wouldn’t dream of handling her business affairs without the guidance of an agent, your gorgeous jars of honey can’t handle their business affairs without you.

So, as the marketing agent for your honey, what’s your first step? Simply put, you need to put your honey where people will find it. (Incidentally, this means that leaving it on the shelf in your kitchen cupboard is not an effective option from a marketing perspective.) Just because you have honey to sell doesn’t mean that you’ll suddenly have eager honey enthusiasts banging down your door to buy your products. Chances are good that most people won’t even know that you have honey available for sale. This is easy to remedy—just start spreading the word! Let people know that you have honey for sale, set up a booth at a local event or farmers’ market, dabble a bit in the realm of social media, and let the world know that you have honey available. Word of mouth is an excellent way to find buyers for your honey, because many consumers appreciate the opportunity to purchase quality, locally produced products while supporting local entrepreneurs at the same time. Here are some tried-and-true steps to become a top-notch agent for your honey and introduce the delights of your golden product to a wider audience.

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Bee pollen is an important product of the hive. You’ll need a special pollen trap to collect this product and it needs a bit of special handling to keep it fresh for consumption.

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FArMers’ MArkets When you think of a farmers’ market, you probably envision tables filled with vegetables and piles of pumpkins on the tailgates of pickup trucks, accompanied by lots of farmers in straw hats. But farmers’ markets often include far more than vegetables, including freshly baked breads, handmade items, and other assorted goodies. Your honey and honey products can be the perfect addition to a farmers’ market, as well as a wonderful opportunity to introduce your products to local consumers. Depending on your location, your area farmers’ market may run year-round, or it may only be open during certain months of the year. You may or may not want to set up at the market each and every week, in which case you may choose to pay for your space on a week-to-week basis rather than reserving—and paying for—your space for the entire season at once. One benefit of selling your products at a farmers’ market is that you know that your shoppers are already interested in locally produced, homegrown items and are likely to be interested in your honey.

crAFt shows And FestivAls Maybe it’s not the case everywhere, but in our neck of the woods, nearly every weekend brings some kind of festival to our area. We have Cranberry Fest, Watermelon Days, the Scarecrow Fest, and many others—and they all have one thing in common: an arts and crafts show with lots of vendors. These types of annual events typically draw significant crowds of people and are a great way to get lots of exposure for your honey products. Research any upcoming festivals in your area and then contact the event organizers to ask about displaying your products as a vendor. They will be able to provide you with the costs of reserving a booth, along with any guidelines and parameters for your presentation area (size, location, hours, etc.). For larger events, you’ll want to be sure to have plenty of inventory on hand. The increased cost of participating at larger festivals means that you’ll need to sell more products to cover your expenses.

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A farmers’ market is a great place to begin selling the products from your hive. People are always looking for a good local source for honey and other products from the hive.

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demonStrationS Another great way to promote your honey products is to share your knowledge with others. Many people are unaware of exactly how honey is harvested and are intrigued to learn about the details of beekeeping. By hosting a beekeeping demonstration (in conjunction with another event, perhaps), you can introduce a group of people to the joys of beekeeping and possibly make a few honey sales at the same time. Find out about events in your area in which you might be able to participate. Honey extraction demonstrations can be popular, or you can demonstrate candle making, or you could display beekeeping equipment and introduce people to the items that they may never have seen before. diSplayS and SignS If you’re setting up for an outdoor event—and let’s face it, most farmers’ markets and festivals are usually held outside—then you’ll need some kind of tent to protect your products from inclement weather. Besides, who wants to sit outside in the rain? Small (10’ x 10’) pop-up tents can be

inexpensively obtained and are easy to put up and take down, minimizing your set-up time. Next, you’ll need a table or two on which to display your products and a chair so that you can rest periodically between transactions. It’s important to make your display attractive and eye catching, so take the time to create a pleasant atmosphere for your booth. Check with the National Honey Board, as it sometimes provides free information packets. You can then display the posters and literature in your booth so that you can educate people about the wonders of honey and beekeeping. An effective way to draw people into your booth is to offer free samples or other complementary items that can introduce people to your products and increase interest. Offer a free honey stick to each customer or set up an observation hive (see the sidebar on page 133) to catch the attention of shoppers. An attractive display with quality products will go a long way toward making sales, but signs are another vital piece of the puzzle. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and we think

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Having an attractive booth and excellent signage improves your chances of bringing people in to look at your products. Take the time to put together a quality display and reap the rewards of your efforts! Photo courtesy Colin and Renee Snook

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ou no Find an attractive label for your honey and other products. People will look closer at products that are nicely presented and packaged.

Although honey is typically the best-seller for the hobbyist beekeeper, don’t hesitate to provide soaps, candles, and other items to give your customers some extra choices.

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what’S in a name? Let’s face it—naming stuff is fun. Whether it’s a new puppy, a pet rabbit, a plush giraffe toy, or your grandma’s new car, it’s delightful to ponder the incredible array of choices and try to select the perfect name. So when the time comes to select a name for your honey business, you’ll want to carefully consider a variety of choices before making your final selection. Consider the image that you want to project. Do you want the name to be gently humorous, elegant, or cute? Do you want to incorporate your own name into the name of your business (Taryn’s Terrific Honey)? Do you want to choose something that reflects your region (North Country Honey)? Maybe you’d like to include your farm name (Sweet Dreams Farm Honey Products) or maybe you’d like to include bee-related words like “buzz” or “hive” (The Heart of the Hive). The possibilities are endless and only limited by your imagination.

Here’s Lookin’ at ’Em: Observation Hives Have you ever wished that you could share the excitement and interest of your hives and honey bees with others? Wouldn’t it be fun to show people the inner workings of the hive, the day-to-day activity, and the interactions of the bees? But by the time you’ve harvested and bottled your honey and are set up at a farmers’ market for the day, you’re far removed from the real action of “where it all began,” back at the hive. It’s one thing to try and explain your enthusiasm for honey bees to others (“Well, they’re fascinating creatures and are so much fun to watch, and they work really hard, and . . . ”) but it’s another thing entirely to show others why they should be enthused about bees. But there is an excellent way to display your bees and share them with the world—thanks to a handy little product called an observation hive. Several beekeeping supply companies manufacture and sell these handy hives, which are fully enclosed units with glass sides that are specifically designed to allow observation of

the honey bees in their hive. There are different models in a range of prices from budget-friendly (less than $50) to more expensive (over $500); the less-expensive models sometimes require you to insert your own glass. When you’re ready to start observing, you’ll remove a frame from one of your regular hives and insert it into the observation hive. You can then transport the setup to your destination—whether it be farmers’ market, beekeeping demonstration, or craft show—and set up for the day, resting assured that your bees are safe, sound, and ready to cause a buzz with crowds of people. At the end of the day, simply return the frame to its original position in your hive and store your empty observation hive until your next event. While we certainly couldn’t say that an observation hive is a “must have” component of a basic beekeeping setup, we can assure you that if you’re looking for a way to draw attention to your booth or share the joy of honey bees with the public, an observation hive is a sure-fire hit.

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that is doubly true of signs. Let’s say that you’re set up at a local fair for artisans and you have 20 jars of your best wildflower honey for sale, along with some exquisite beeswax candles. Unless you have signs to attract the attention of passersby, your potential customers are going to do just that—pass on by. Get their attention with eye-catching and attractive signage that boldly announces that you have honey for sale. Choose dark lettering that contrasts nicely with a lighter background and make sure that your lettering is large enough to be seen from a distance. It goes without saying that you’ll need to watch your spelling. It may be cute when Winniethe-Pooh spells it “hunny,” but you wouldn’t want people to think that you don’t know how to properly spell the word. If you’re planning to set up your honey display outdoors, then you’ll need to consider whether or not your signs will need to be waterproof.

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Strive for a name that will be memorable to your customers; this will increase your opportunity for repeat business.

ingredients (if more than simply honey), the word “honey,” and the contact name and information of the producer.

Creating a label While you can purchase generic preprinted labels from beekeeping supply companies, you’ll have an easier time establishing yourself as a honey producer if you have personalized labels that reflect your logo and name. Professional packaging goes a long way toward establishing yourself as a credible and reputable honey producer. While you can certainly package and present your honey in a wide variety of manners, depending on your budget, we always recommend creating the finest product that you can. Strive for professionalism and showcase your hard work! It’s important to research any state regulations that apply to honey labels; some states require that specific information be included on each and every label before the bottle is sold to the public. This information might include net weight,

VirtuaL MarkEting: using tHE intErnEt tO DriVE saLEs If sitting outside in all kinds of inclement weather just doesn’t appeal to you, then you can rejoice in the fact that there are still other ways to market and promote your honey without ever stepping out your front door. In today’s interconnected world of the Internet and social media, you can reach customers, promote your products, and make sales, all with the clicks of some buttons and a little ingenuity. You may be planning to only produce honey on a small scale, in which case setting up an entire website might be more than you need. But if you’re hoping to produce larger quantities of honey and sell it to a wider range of clients, then a website might be a bright idea. There are lots of inexpensive ways to accomplish this, including

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The National Honey Board (NHB) provides lots of great information to assist you in the promotion of honey and honey products. September is National Honey Month, and you can write to the NHB and request their materials or go to their website for additional ideas and materials.

Sh en

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free blogs from Blogger or WordPress. You can also capitalize on the popularity of social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter to promote your honey business. A Facebook business page (separate from your personal account) is easy to set up and can be an effective

way to keep clients and friends up-to-date on your honey harvest and available products. There is no cost to set up or maintain a Facebook page, and you can easily post photos, information, and updates that automatically appear in the newsfeeds of interested individuals. [Continued on page 140]

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Share your beekeeping hobby with your community by participating in autumn festivals and highlight your enthusiasm for beekeeping.

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Photographing Your Honey and Products Maybe you’re an amateur shutterbug and love to snap photos of beautiful waterfalls and sunsets. Or maybe you’ve never picked up a camera before and aren’t even sure where to begin. In either case, setting out to photograph your honey and/or honey products might seem to be a daunting task. And yet there are many reasons to want attractive photography of your products: to illustrate your offerings on a website like Etsy, to place on a website or blog, to post on your Facebook page, or to use on posters or in brochures advertising your products. Quality photography is an important component of marketing. Blurry or badly composed photos do nothing to promote your products—such photographs only detract from your presentation. You want images that are tack-sharp, attractively composed, and that present your products in the finest way possible. How can you achieve this—especially if you’re not an experienced photographer?

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• think about the background. Your bottle of honey is obviously the focal point of the image, but don’t forget to take a look at the background. If you can see a basket of laundry, a pile of books, or somebody’s garbage can in the background, you’d better snap another photo. Aim for clear backgrounds without any distractions. Try photographing your products against a neutral backdrop (placemats can be a simple and easy choice).

photograph—this will lead to other problems— but just use its light to bathe your subject (the honey bottle) in a soft, pleasant light. 

• lighting is everything. We know you probably don’t have access to a studio filled with professional lights, and that little built-in flash on your camera will probably do more harm than good in this particular instance. But you can still achieve beautiful, golden lighting that will lend an attractive feeling to your photography. One excellent method is to use the light from a window—preferably a window that faces to the north. Don’t actually include the window in the

• back up and zoom in. If your camera has the ability to zoom the lens in and out, that’s great. Be sure to use it. Don’t take wide angle (“zoomed out”) shots—these tend to take in too much of your surroundings and they make things look stretched. Instead, use the zoom feature to narrow down the field of view and make your bottle of honey the star of the picture. You may have to back yourself away from the honey so that you can zoom in on it properly. • Shoot, and shoot, and shoot. Gone are the days when people took only one or two photos of a subject because of the high costs of film and developing. With your digital camera, you can take as many photos as you wish without cost, so don’t restrain that shutter-clicking

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• think outside the bottle. We agree—photos of golden bottles of honey are beautiful and eye catching. But there are lots of other images that would definitely have a place on your honey-related website, blog, or Facebook page. Get out to your hives and start snapping images. Photograph your bees as they enter and exit the hive; photograph the interior of your hive; photograph your frames right before you extract the honey. Get some help from friends and have them photograph you in your bee suit and veil. Try to capture each aspect of the beekeeping and honey-making process so that you can share the excitement with your friends and fans.

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finger. Take multiple photos, slightly change your setup or settings, and snap a few more. By increasing the number of images that you shoot, you increase your chances of snapping the perfect photo.

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[Continued from page 135] Make the most out of your business Facebook page by making frequent updates. You’ll want to vary these updates to maintain variety for your readers. For instance, while you’ll certainly post information about honey for sale, prices, availability, and so on, you’ll want to make sure that you balance these “sales” posts with other information as well. Share links to interesting articles on beekeeping or honey, post bee-related quotes, or share photos of your hives, bees, or honey. Be sure to give your readers enough variety to keep them interested and coming back to your page again and again. etSy.Com Many entrepreneurial individuals are giving Etsy.com a try. Known as “the world’s handmade marketplace,” Etsy is a popular place to sell anything

that you’ve made by hand, and bottled honey and other honey products are no exception. Etsy has over 15 million members and 800,000 sellers, and plenty of individuals are selling honey on Etsy to a worldwide client base. If you don’t mind the hassle of packaging your items for shipment, then selling online can introduce your products to a much larger group of people than you’ll ever see at a farmers’ market or festival. It’s free to set up a shop and list items on Etsy—a commission is charged only when an item sells—so it’s a low-risk chance to market your honey products to a wider audience. If you don’t make any sales, the only thing you’ll lose is the time you’ve invested in setting up your shop, and the potential gains are unlimited, so don’t overlook the possibilities of Etsy.

Offering free samples of your tasty products may be just what you need to encourage sales—who can resist your attractive (and sweet-smelling) honey products?

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The first thing we’re going to tell you is that if you sat down and calculated just how much you’ve really put into each bottle of honey (factoring in your time, effort, and investment), you’d have to price each jar at an astronomical figure. Unfortunately, no one is going to pay you $3,000 for a one-pound jar of honey, no matter how much effort you put into it, so let’s go back to the drawing board and figure out a more realistic price. The second thing we’re going to tell you is that honey prices vary greatly, depending on quality, variety, and even your location. You might see one-pound jars priced at $6, or you might see one-pound jars priced at $12, and we’ve even seen eight-ounce jars priced at $14, so there really isn’t a clear-cut answer to the question, “What should I charge?” The quality of your honey is an important factor. Your presentation is another important factor. Have you raised your bees organically? Did you heat the honey during harvest? Honey that is raw and was organically raised will generally bring a higher price than honey that comes from bees that were treated with chemicals or honey that was heated during the harvest process. While you can’t really put a price on your time and effort, it’s nice to be able to recoup some of your expenses. Evaluate the current honey market in your area by browsing farmers’ markets, grocery stores, health food stores, and other retail establishments that sell honey. Compare the prices for one-pound jars and then determine an appropriate price for your own jars. Consider offering discounts for multiple purchases, such as one jar for $8, two jars for $14, and three jars for $20. Many buyers appreciate a slightly discounted price in the case of multiple purchases, and such a discount might increase your sales. You can also consider

the possibility of adding in bonus items, such as a free beeswax candle with the purchase of three jars of honey. Experiment with different promotions that might entice buyers to look more closely at your booth and the products that you’re offering for sale. On the National Honey Board’s website, you’ll find a month-to-month chart of nationwide retail honey prices, courtesy of Bee Culture magazine. In September 2012, the average price for one pound of honey was $5.73, up nearly $2 from the average September 2006 price, which was $3.91. Obviously, these figures are average prices and will fluctuate from region to region, which is why it is important to investigate the prices in your area before determining what to charge for your own honey.

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Pricing Your Honey

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Chapter 7

Having Fun with Your Bees

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The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams. —Henry David Thoreau

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omebody once said that all work and no play make Jack a dull boy. But as we all know, honey bees work all the time, and their lives certainly aren’t dull! We like to think that a happy balance falls somewhere between Jack and those bees. Caring for hives and honey bees is pleasant work, but sometimes, you might want to explore a bit of extra fun with your bees, and in this chapter we’ll show you how.

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Now that you’ve cared for and tended your bees all year—and harvested all that honey—let’s talk about some of the fun you can have with it! “Bee Happy!”

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ExHibiting YOur HOnEY Your cupboards are filled to overflowing with golden jars of honey, and you think it’s the most beautiful and best-tasting honey in the whole wide world. Maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t, but there’s one sure way to determine the quality of your honey in comparison to honey produced by others, and that involves a bit of friendly competition. Beekeepers everywhere enjoy the thrill of exhibiting their honey, whether it’s on the local level at a county fair, or on a national level, such as at the American Honey Show, held annually in conjunction with the American Beekeeping Federation’s North American Beekeeping Conference and Tradeshow. This large show offers a dozen classes for honey, including classes for light honey, dark honey, creamed honey, chunk honey, and cut comb, as well as classes for beeswax and a special class for honey gift baskets. (The baskets are then auctioned off for the benefit of the Honey Queen Program.) If you’re extra ambitious and want to showcase your honey internationally, then don’t miss the National Honey Show in England. Since the 1920s, the National Honey Show has been a favorite of

beekeepers and honey enthusiasts throughout England, and the 2011 show attracted more than 200 exhibitors and nearly 1,300 entries. On the local level, many county fairs offer classes for honey, so check with the secretary of your county fair for information on available classes that you can enter. As with any type of fair exhibit, you’ll want to do your homework ahead of time. Read the fair’s rulebook, and pay close attention to any pertinent rules that might apply to showing your honey, such as choosing suitable containers of the proper size, exhibiting honey that was harvested during the current year, and so on. The size of your county fair and the level of enthusiasm for local beekeeping will likely determine the number of classes offered in the beekeeping and honey division. Some fairs will only offer a few basic classes for extracted honey. Other fairs offer a wide range of classes for comb honey, chunk honey, extracted honey, creamed honey, and beeswax along with posters, scrapbooks, and other beekeeping exhibits. Some fairs even allow you to exhibit the bees themselves!

Sure, you’ll want to save a lot of honey for yourself—but there’s bound to be extra. Why not take a few of those appealing-looking jars and have some fun as well?

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Fair time! Rides, games, and people competing for prizes—perhaps it’s time for you to join in the fun and enter your honey in the competition!

If you’re serious about being competitive in the honey exhibits, then carefully examine the judging criteria for the various types of honey (usually included in the fair’s premium book). Each type of honey is judged using slightly different criteria, but generally speaking, judges are looking for these qualities and characteristics: • • • •

Uniformity—of appearance and color Cleanliness and overall appearance The absence of granulation and pollen The neatness and appropriateness of the container • The absence of uncapped cells or watery cappings (in comb honey) • A neat and tidy comb cut (for chunk honey in jars) • Flavor (for extracted and chunk honey) Extracted honey is also judged on density, and honey that exhibits an improper amount of moisture may be disqualified. Additionally, points can be deducted for honey that is crystalizing or honey that doesn’t appear to be clean (such

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as with the presence of lint, foam, dirt, or bee body parts. Now let’s put all this info in practical terms. For a moment, let’s say that Liam and Claire are each exhibiting a jar of chunk honey at the county fair. Liam prepares his jar in a hurried manner, carelessly cutting the comb with a ragged edge before slopping it into an empty jar. Then Liam adds some extracted honey to finish filling the jar, but he spills quite a bit of the honey over the edge of the jar. He doesn’t bother to take the time to clean it up; instead, he just throws on a lid and sticks the sticky jar on a shelf until the day of the fair. Claire, on the other hand, takes her honey preparations very seriously. She carefully cuts her comb honey out of the frame, taking care to make paralleled, four-sided cuts without ragged edges. Then she deposits the piece of comb into a jar, taking care not to dislodge the cappings. When Claire adds the extracted honey to the jar with the comb, she goes slowly to ensure that the flowing honey does not spill everywhere and make a mess on the outside of the jar.

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Canned goods, preserves . . . and maybe some honey? Find out if your local or state fair offers a honey-judging division.

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If you intend to enter your honey in a honey exhibit or competition, remember that the judges will be looking critically at all aspects of the product, including the color, clarity, and absence of foreign particles, not to mention the overall appearance.

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Different varietals of honey can be sampled and enjoyed at a honey-tasting, which can be a fun and popular event.

So on the day of the honey judging, who do you think wins? As you might have guessed, the person who invested the time and effort into preparing a quality product—Claire—brings home the top prize, while Liam goes home without any ribbon at all and just his sticky, drippy, sloppy bottle of chunk honey for a reminder of his carelessness. Liam won’t make that mistake again—will you? In a less obvious example, pretend that you’re a county fair judge and are looking at two bottles of extracted honey. Both of the entries are bottled in appropriate jars, the presentation is clean, and the overall impression is good. But upon closer inspection, you notice a thin layer of foam at the top of one jar, and what’s that?—yes, it’s a bee part. So if you’re the judge faced with these two bottles, what would you do? With everything else being equal, you would give higher placing to the bottle that was free of foam and extra “parts.” This is something to keep in mind when harvesting and packaging your honey for competition—if you want to be competitive against the other exhibitors, take the extra time to do the finest job you can.

aLL HaiL tHE HOnEY QuEEn (Or PrinCEss) By now, you know all about queen bees and their vital importance to the hive. But now we’re going to introduce you to something a bit different but still quite queenly: the Honey Queen Program. Honey Queen Programs are highly popular in some parts of the United States—Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin have state programs—and these programs provide excellent promotional benefits for the beekeeping industry. In general, a Honey Queen serves as a spokesperson for the beekeeping industry and provides media interviews, event appearances, public relations, and other important functions that help to introduce the public to the joys of beekeeping. Since the 1950s, an American Honey Queen (and usually an American Honey Princess) has been crowned annually by the American Beekeeping Federation after an extensive application and interview process. We recently had the opportunity to interview Alyssa Fine, the 2012 American Honey Queen, and Danielle Dale, the

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2012 American Honey Princess Danielle Dale

2012 American Honey Princess, and they generously shared information about their experiences participating in the Honey Queen program.

competition because I have a very strong beekeeping background, thanks to my father’s interest in honey bees. After serving for one year as the 2011 Pennsylvania Honey Queen, I was eligible to compete for the national title. The criteria at the national convention are much the same, but on a larger scale. I competed against honey queens from across the country, and earned the title of 2012 American Honey Queen.

How did you become involved in the Honey Queen program? Alyssa Fine: I grew up with honey bees in my backyard because my father is a beekeeper. We had vaguely heard of a Honey Queen Program, but we didn’t know much about it. This changed when my father attended a beekeeping seminar and met the Pennsylvania Honey Queen. He got as much as information about the program from her as he could, and that year I entered my state’s competition. During the competition, which is more like a job interview, I had to demonstrate my knowledge of beekeeping. I wrote essays, gave marketing presentations, and interviewed with a panel of judges that made the final decision. I was prepared for this

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2012 American Honey Queen Alyssa Fine

Danielle Dale: I grew up in a beekeeping family and am a third generation beekeeper! I started my hobby at the age of 12 and have always loved teaching people about the importance of honey bees. I learned about the Wisconsin Honey Queen position when I was quite young, and it was always a goal of mine to have that title. Becoming the Wisconsin Honey Queen was my stepping stone to the national level, and it was a dream come true to travel nationally this year representing such an amazing industry!

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We can imagine that being the American Honey Queen/Princess is quite an honor. Can you briefly describe some of your most memorable experiences during your time in this position? Alyssa Fine: It is an incredible honor to be a national representative for the beekeeping industry that I know and love. I have had an amazing year as the American Honey Queen. I have had the opportunity to travel extensively throughout the United States and even into Canada, educating the public about the importance of honey bees in everything from honey production to production agriculture. It seems silly, but doors seem to open for a person who wears a crown. I visited the apiary on the roof of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. I captured a swarm on a cool morning in Houston, Texas. I wore 10,000 live honey bees on my face during bee beard demonstrations in Columbus, Ohio, and Palo Cedro, California. Along the way, I’ve been interviewed on television and radio numerous times. It’s surreal to Google yourself and something actually comes up! The most unique part of this year has been the networking. The world truly gets smaller everywhere I go. I have spoken to thousands upon thousands of people from all across the nation, and no matter where I give a presentation, someone has heard of my tiny hometown of Monongahela, Pennsylvania. Danielle Dale: Becoming the American Honey Princess has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. The experiences I’ve gained this year will benefit me for the rest of my life. It has been wonderful to learn more about what beekeeping is like in different parts of the country, and I have made lasting relationships with people in over 20 states. One of my most memorable experiences has been demonstrating a bee beard at the Ohio Lithopolis Honey Festival this year. I’ve also spoken to over 9,000 students in schools, had 50 media interviews, and, at one point, was traveling for 80 days without coming home. What are some of the best aspects of being a beekeeper? Do you have any words of encouragement for young people who are interested in beekeeping? Alyssa Fine: My interest in beekeeping grew when I realized that I could transform beeswax or honey into value-added products like candles, hand

lotions, lip balms, and various cosmetics. At that time, I became more involved in beekeeping and the production of various products of the hive. If it were not for my father’s interest in beekeeping, I would not have been exposed to any of these things. Beekeeping is a wonderfully versatile hobby that can become a full-time career. For anyone who is interested in beekeeping, remember that there is no time like the present. Get started now by joining a local beekeeping organization where you can partner with a mentor who will show you the ropes. If you think you’re too young to get started on your own, ask your family members to get you started. Plenty of people have an interest in honey bees and beekeeping. Perhaps they just need some encouragement to get started.

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Danielle Dale: Beekeeping for me has been a family tradition. My grandparents on both sides of my family were beekeepers, then my dad, and now me. In this day and age, people are always looking for things to do as a family, and beekeeping is definitely a great way to bring your family together. Honey bees are fascinating insects; I love going out and watching them work. It’s very beneficial to use our honey bees to pollinate our garden; they pollinate over 100 crops nationwide, which accounts for nearly one-third of our food supply. In recent years, the honey bee population has been in decline, and becoming a beekeeper is a great way to help the honey bees, and, of course, you can’t beat having fresh honey every year.

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For those young people who are interested in beekeeping, I say go for it! You’re never too young or old to start. Try to get involved in a beekeeping association in your area. I know you will find that beekeepers are some of the nicest people you will ever meet, and they will help you get started, and some clubs will even offer scholarships to young people. Do you have any advice for young women who are interested in the Honey Queen program? Alyssa Fine: Although beekeepers keep honey bees in every state throughout the United States, at this time, not every state has a Honey Queen Program. If any young women are interested in becoming a Honey Queen or Princess, they must speak to their state and local beekeeping organizations to suggest that they begin sponsoring

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a Honey Queen Program of their own. Most states would be more than willing to implement a program, but they just need a little push in the right direction from interested candidates. Danielle Dale: It’s important to know that being the Honey Queen or Princess is a job. We work as spokespersons for the beekeeping industry, and the program has high standards. The selection process is based on our knowledge of the industry and our ability to communicate with people. If you are interested in the program, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Continue to study the industry—we never stop learning! You will never regret becoming the Honey Queen! If you’re interested in participating in a Honey Queen Program, your first step is to start on the local level. Talk with your area beekeeping organization to find out if such a program exists near you. You will typically need to serve for at least

six months on the local level before attempting to become the State Honey Queen, and you’ll need state-level experience before applying for the National Honey Queen program. Candidates are judged on poise, confidence, personality, speaking ability, communication skills, professionalism, knowledge of beekeeping, enthusiasm, and other important areas. Keep in mind that most Honey Queen Programs require candidates to be between the ages of 16 and 25, although the exact age range varies slightly from program to program.

garDEning WitH YOur bEEs Honey bees are one of the greatest gifts to a garden, but you can provide one of the greatest gifts for your bees when you put in a garden or plant trees for their benefit. It really is one of those win-win situations: your bees benefit from the convenient access to superb sources of pollen and nectar, and your garden will flourish from the wonderful pollination benefits that the bees provide.

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Having a garden and bees at the same time is a wonderful dual project—each hobby will complement the other, and both benefit you (flowers with their beauty, bees with their honey)!

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Observing your bees working the trees and flowers on your property is a wonderfully educational and fascinating pastime. A honey bee may visit between 2,000 and 5,000 flowers in a single day (although they take multiple trips to do so)!

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Bee Balm

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Clover

Sunflowers

For the maximum benefit to your bees, it’s ideal to have continuous blooms throughout the entire season, so bear this in mind when making plant selections. If your apple blossoms finish blooming by mid-May, try to plant something else that would be ready to bloom just as the apple blossoms finish up. Then plant something that would be scheduled

to bloom in mid-summer, and perhaps some late summer flowers to round out the season. When planting a bee-friendly garden, always remember that you should avoid using pesticides or herbicides in your garden. Placing these chemicals on your plants could prove harmful to your bees.

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It’s also good to remember that bees are not terribly picky, and they will make use of whatever plants and trees are available to them, so feel free to plant vegetables, fruits, flowers, and trees that appeal to you personally. Having said that, there are certain plants that bees seem to especially love, and here in Wisconsin, our honey bees seem particularly fond of these garden treasures: • Bee balm • Clover • Sunflowers • Fruit trees (especially flowering crabapple) • Cucumbers • Sedum

• • • •

Cat mint Squash Goldenrod Dandelions

There are many excellent books on gardening (and even some devoted to gardening with bees in mind), so check your local library for additional information on this topic. One of the most wonderful things about gardening is that every year presents new opportunities to experiment with your plants. It’s hard to say who will enjoy your garden more—you, or your bees!

Keep an eye on your garden and crops to see which flowers/ blossoms your bees are working on any particular day or week. It helps you know what variety of honey your bees are creating for you.

Fruit trees seem to be a favorite with our bees!

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Autumn Joy sedum is a great plant for bees. It blossoms in the late summer/early fall, at a time when other plants are finished blooming for the year. Don’t be surprised to see a lone bumblebee or two working alongside your honey bees!

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Fruit trees

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Gardeners love bees, and that’s because bees love gardens—particularly squash and cucumber blossoms!

Goldenrod

Lilac

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Flowers are so important for your bees—all of these end products came directly from them, so make sure your bees have plenty of sources.

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Dandelions are one of the first flowers of spring and the bees stay busy on them while waiting for additional trees and flowers to bloom.

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Chapter 8

Recipes Eat honey, my child, for it is good. —Proverbs 24:13

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ow we’ve come to the part you’ve all been waiting for. You’ve patiently read through all of the previous chapters, you’ve learned about everything from hive equipment and Varroa mites to extracting honey and marketing techniques. Now you get to put your honey to good use in some

extra-delicious recipes that are our top picks and are sure to please your taste buds! And remember the words of Democritus, the Greek philosopher and physician who lived to be 109 years old: “The secret of my health is applying honey inside and oil outside.”

Enjoying honey can be as simple as adding it to your tea in the morning, but there are many, many other uses for honey (and the other products from the hive). We’ll explore the possibilities in this chapter.

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Honey Butter on Toast

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Honey Cinnamon Butter and HoneyOrange Zest Butter

HOnEY buttEr This is just the best on toast in the morning! ½ cup softened butter ½ cup honey Combine the butter and the honey until smooth and creamy. Amounts can be modified to taste; for instance, if you’d like it less sweet, use ¾ cup butter and ¼ cup honey. Variations: Add 1 teaspoon cinnamon—it’s delicious on toast, too! Add 1 teaspoon orange zest— delicious with scones or muffins.

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Honey Muffins

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This is a moist and tasty muffin recipe with a sweet touch of honey that’s sure to become a family favorite.

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2½ cups all-purpose flour ½ cup sugar 3 teaspoons baking powder ½ teaspoon salt 1 egg, lightly beaten 1 cup milk ½ cup butter, softened ⅓ cup honey In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients, and set aside. Thoroughly combine all wet ingredients, and then add them to the dry ingredients. Mix until moistened, but don’t overmix. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 16 to 20 minutes. Makes 12 muffins. Variations: Add blueberries or another type of fruit for delicious variations. Or add some of your favorite nuts for added crunch.

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PEanut buttEr HOnEY ’n' banana sanDWiCHEs Years ago, our mom’s local grade school served this sandwich as “seconds” for any student who cleaned his or her plate at lunchtime. (Mom always did!) 2 tablespoons peanut butter, smooth or chunky 1 to 2 tablespoons honey ½ tablespoon butter, softened 2 slices of bread Half of a banana, sliced in rounds Combine the peanut butter, honey, and butter in a bowl and mix well. Spread onto bread and top with slices of banana. Just about everyone loves a good peanut butter sandwich, and this one is delicious! You can leave off the bananas if you prefer—the peanut butter and honey are still terrific. What’s not to love?

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Peanut Butter Honey ‘N’ Banana Sandwiches

Makes 1 sandwich.

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Honey Candied Pecans

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HOnEY-CanDiED PECans

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These are simply the best! They’re easy to make, although you have to be careful, as this candy is very hot! And you have to work fast once you’ve removed it from the heat. Truly a delight! 1½ cups sugar ¼ teaspoon salt ¼ cup honey ½ cup water ½ teaspoon vanilla 2 cups pecans

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In a medium saucepan, add the sugar, salt, honey, and water, and bring to a boil, stirring constantly until the temperature reaches 242 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat, and add the vanilla and the pecans. Stir quickly, place on waxed paper, and separate with a fork. Makes four 3-ounce servings.

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Variation: Walnuts or almonds are really good alternatives if you prefer those nuts over pecans.

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HOnEY aPPLEsauCE There nothing like homemade applesauce with a little honey, and it’s exceptionally good for you! 4 medium to large apples, a mixture of sweet and tart apples ½ cup honey ¼ cup water 1 teaspoon cinnamon Wash and peel apples, then cut them into small slices. Place the apples, honey, and cinnamon in a covered saucepan, and add water. Cook over low to medium heat until the apples are tender, about 20 to 30 minutes (cooking time varies depending on the variety of the apples). Beat until smooth, or leave the sauce as a chunkier version. Your honey applesauce can be stored in the fridge for two weeks.

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Homemade Honey Applesauce

Makes 6 to 8 servings. Variation: Add additional fruit, such as cranberries. If you do so, you’ll need to add a bit more honey or ¼ cup of brown sugar to offset the tartness.

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Honey Cornbread

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HOnEY COrnbrEaD

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Drizzle a little extra honey over this heavenly cornbread, and everyone will want more!

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1 cup flour 1 cup yellow cornmeal ⅓ cup sugar 1 tablespoon baking powder 1 cup milk ¼ cup butter ¼ cup honey 2 eggs ½ teaspoon salt Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and grease a 9 x 9 baking pan. In a mixing bowl, stir together flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, and baking powder, then add the milk, butter, honey, and eggs; stir just enough to combine. Pour the mixture into the pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until done.

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Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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HOnEY WaLDOrF saLaD Variations of Waldorf salads have been around for years. Try this one with its delicious honey dressing, and watch it disappear. 2 large apples 1 cup celery 1 cup seedless grapes, halved ¾ cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped 1 lemon, juice and zest (about 2 to 3 tablespoons juice) ¾ cup mayonnaise 2 tablespoons honey Salt and pepper to taste

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Honey Waldorf Salad

Chop apples and celery into bite-sized pieces, and add them to a large bowl along with the grapes and walnuts. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, zest, mayonnaise, and honey. In a large salad bowl, gently toss the apples, grapes, celery, and walnuts with the dressing. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Makes 6 servings.

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Colorful Sweet Pepper Salad with Honey Dressing

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A simply beautiful salad—fresh and delicious! You can add other fresh garden veggies to this salad or substitute cucumber, onion, or tomato for one or more of the peppers. You really can’t make this salad incorrectly—with fresh food, it’s all good!

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4 bell peppers of different colors (green, red, yellow, and orange) 3 tablespoons lemon juice 2 tablespoons honey ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder ⅓ cup olive oil ¼ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon pepper Cheese, such as Swiss or Monterey Jack

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Wash peppers and remove seeds, then slice into thin strips. Place the peppers in a medium-sized bowl. In a separate bowl, thoroughly whisk together the lemon juice, honey, garlic powder, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Pour the dressing over the peppers, and mix until the peppers are completely coated. Chill in the refrigerator for an hour or more, then top with cheese. Makes about 6 servings.

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Wildflower Honey Lemonade Drink

WiLDFLOWEr HOnEY LEMOnaDE Nothing’s better than two friends sharing some lemonade together on a warm summer afternoon. Grab a pal, a lemon, and some honey, and enjoy! ½ cup lemon juice ¼ cup wildflower honey Thoroughly combine fresh lemon juice and honey. Pour an equal amount of the mixture into two beverage glasses. Serve over ice and add additional water to fill the glasses. Garnish with lemon slices. recipes

Makes 2 servings.

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Carrot-Raisin Honey-Nut Carrot Salad

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CarrOt raisin HOnEY-nut saLaD

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A forever favorite with everyone, it’s easy to make and requires no cooking! 3 cups shredded carrots, patted dry 1 cup seedless raisins ½ to 1 cup roasted walnuts, chopped ½ cup mayonnaise ¼ cup honey 1 tablespoon orange juice ½ teaspoon orange zest In a medium bowl, mix together the carrots, raisins, and walnuts. In a separate bowl, thoroughly mix the mayonnaise, honey, orange juice, and orange zest and then stir into the carrot/raisin mixture. Refrigerate for an hour or more, and serve cold. Makes about 4 to 6 servings.

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sWEEt raDisH CraCkErs The cilantro adds a touch of fun to this appetizer. It's so pretty and sets off the radishes just perfectly! 6 ounces cream cheese ¼ cup sour cream ½ teaspoon garlic salt 2 tablespoons honey 1 tablespoon vinegar 24 onion crackers with poppy seeds (or choose your favorite cracker) 12 radishes, sliced very thin A handful of freshly picked cilantro

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Sweet Radish Crackers

In a bowl, thoroughly combine the cream cheese, sour cream, garlic salt, honey, and vinegar. Spread one tablespoon of the mixture on each cracker, then top with three or four radish slices and one sprig of cilantro.  Makes 24 crackers.

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Beyond using honey in food recipes, there are many other items you can make that include honey as an ingredient, such as soaps. In addition, beeswax will enable you to go further, making candles, lotion bars, and lip balms, among other things.

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The ingredients to make an easy honey-oatmeal soap include a glycerin soap base, some oatmeal, and—of course— some honey! We enjoy using creative molds to make our soaps more enjoyable.

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Resources

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Beekeeping Suppliers Betterbee 8 Meader Rd. Greenwich, NY 12834 800-632-3379 www.betterbee.com (A great resource for locating area bee clubs and laws/ regulations state-by-state) Blue Sky Bee Supply P.O. Box 1837 Hiram, OH 44234 877-529-9233 www.blueskybeesupply.com (Specializing in beekeeper’s clothing) Brushy Mountain Bee Farm, Inc. 610 Bethany Church Rd. Moravian Falls, NC 28654 800-233-7929 www.brushymountainbeefarm.com Dadant & Sons, Inc. 51 S. 2nd St. Hamilton, IL 62341 888-922-1293 www.dadant.com

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Mann Lake 501 1st St. S. Hackensack, MN 56452 800-880-7694 www.mannlakeltd.com

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Miller Bee Supply 496 Yellow Banks Rd. North Wilkesboro, NC 28659 888-848-5184 www.millerbeesupply.com

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Rossman Apiaries P. O. Box 909 Moultrie, GA 31776 800-333-7677 www.gabees.com (Bee supplies as well as queens and package bees)

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Ruhl Bee Supply 17845 SE 82nd Dr. Gladstone, OR 97027 (503) 657-5399 www.ruhlbeesupply.com

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Walter T. Kelley Co. 807 W. Main St. Clarkson, KY 42726 800-233-2899 www.kelleybees.com

GloryBee Beekeeping Supplies 29548 B Airport Rd. Eugene, OR 97402 800-456-7923 www.glorybee.com (Extracting supplies)

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Western Bee Supplies, Inc. P. O. Box 190 Polson, MT 59860 800-548-8440 www.westernbee.com

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Organizations

Bee Packages and Queens

National Honey Board 11409 Business Park Circle, Suite 210 Firestone, CO 80504 303-776-2337 www.honey.com

C. F. Koehnen & Sons, Inc. 3131 Hwy. 45 Glenn, CA 95943 530-891-5216 www.koehnen.com Italians and Carniolans

The North American Beekeeping Conference and Trade show http://www.nabeekeepingconference.com/

R Weaver Apiaries, Inc. 16495 C.R. 319 Navasota, TX 77868-9704 936-825-2333 http://www.rweaver.com

American Beekeeping Federation 3525 Piedmont Rd. Building 5, Suite 300 Atlanta, Georgia 30305 404-760-2875 www.abfnet.org

Noble Apiaries LLC 5420 Dixon Ave. W. Dixon, CA 95620 707-628-6046 Queen Bees for sale https://www.queenbeesforsale.com also package bees for sale http://www.packagebeesforsale.com

American Honey Producers Association www.ahpanet.com Heartland Apicultural Society www.heartlandbees.com Western Apicultural Society http://groups.ucanr.org/WAS/

Gardner Apiaries 510 Patterson Rd. Baxley, GA 31513 912-367-9352 http://www.gardnerapiaries.com/

Eastern Apicultural Society www.easternapiculture.org Magazines and Publications

Strachan Apiaries, Inc. 2522 Tierra Buena Rd. Yuba City, CA 95993 www.strachanbees.com (New World Carniolan Bees and queens)

Bee Culture magazine (Catch the Buzz) www.beeculture.com American Bee Journal 51 S. 2nd St. Hamilton, IL 62341 217-847-3324 www.americanbeejournal.com Forums www.yourgardenshow.com/bees (The Bee Culture editorial team is the forum moderators) www.beesource.com (One of the most active online beekeeping communities) www.beekeepingforums.com http://forum.beemaster.com www.homesteadingtoday.com/beekeeping/ www.worldofbeekeeping.com/forum

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ha he hi hi hi hi hi hi an bu co La ob op pr hi ho bo ca co ex ex ha la m pr pr re re ty ho H ho ho

index abdomen, 12 adults, 17 AFB (American foulbrood), 88 American Beekeeping Federation, 146 American foulbrood (AFB), 88 anatomy of bee, 12 Apiary Inspectors of America, 25 apiphobia (bee phobia), 26 artisanal honey, 119–121 bears, 90–91, 94 bee brush, 57, 59, 66 bee escapes, 108 bee phobia (apiphobia), 26 bee suits, 53–54, 59 beeswax, 125–127 beetles, small hive, 85–86 bottling, 103, 112–118 bottom board, 34 breeders, locating, 28, 30–31 breeds, 22 brood, 14, 20 burr comb, 17, 77, 79 candy boards, 82, 83 Carniolan honey bees (Apis mellifera carnica), 22 CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder), 88–89 chalkbrood, 88 chilled brood, 88 chunk honey, 121 churned honey, 121 clothing, 53–54 clustering, 80 Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), 88–89 comb, 18, 38–39. See also burr comb; comb honey comb honey, 119, 121

communication, 20, 56 cosmetics, 127 craft shows, 130 creamed honey, 121 crush-and-strain method, 116 cut comb honey, 121 dancing, 21 demonstrations, 131 direction, 46 diseases, 88 displays, 131 drawing out, 38–39 drones, 12–14, 82 earwigs, 88 EFB (European foulbrood), 88 eggs, 12, 14, 78–79 entrance feeders, 71 entrance reducer, 34, 36 Etsy.com, 140 European foulbrood (EFB), 88 exhibiting honey, 143–146 extracting honey, 97, 99–103, 110–114 farmers’ markets, 130 feeding, 70–74, 80 festivals, 130 foundationless frames, 38–39 frame grips, 57 frames, 11, 13, 35, 38–39 fume board, 108

ho

in in In Ita

La la lif lo

gardening with bees, 149–155 gloves, 54, 55 ground condition, 51

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hand cart, 54 head, 12 hive beetles, small, 85–86 hive boxes, 34 hive designs, 11 hive stands, 51 hive tool, 56, 59 hives anatomy of, 33–39 building, 40–45 complete, 32 Langstroth, 11, 33–34 observation, 133 opening, 76–79 preventive measures and, 94–95 hive-top feeders, 70, 73 honey bottling, 103, 112–118 capped and uncapped, 98 color of, 120 exhibiting, 143–146 extracting, 97, 99–103, 110–114 harvest outline, 104–110 labels for, 132, 134 marketing and promoting, 129–141 pricing, 141 products from, 123–124, 168–169 recipes for, 157–167 regulations on production of, 28 types of, 119–121 honey extractor, 99, 101, 110, 112–114 Honey Queen Programs, 146–149 honey sticks, 126 honeycomb, 18, 38–39. See also burr comb; comb honey honey-stomachs, 17, 19 inner cover, 34, 35 inspections, routine, 74–80 Internet marketing, 134–135, 140 Italian honey bees (Apis mellifera ligustica), 22

marketing and promoting honey, 129–141 marshmallows, 59, 63, 64 mating flight, 12, 20 menthol pellets, 87 metamorphosis, 15 mice, 91 Nassanoff gland, 19, 20 National Honey Board (NHB), 134, 141 nosema, 87 nucs (nucleus), 32, 69 observation hives, 133 ordinances, 25–26 outer cover, 34 overwintering, 80, 82–83 packages installing, 58–69 picking up, 29–30 pail feeders, 72 parasites, 85–87 pests, 85–87, 89–91 pheronomes, 19–20, 56 photography, 136–139 pollen basket, 12, 17 pollen traps, 128–129 preventive measures, 94–95 propolis, 15, 17, 19, 56 pupae, 15 queen cells of, 23 communication and, 20 illustration of, 13 installing, 62–64 in packages, 31 requeening and, 81 role of, 12 queen cells, 92 queen excluders, 37, 79

Langstroth, L. L., 11, 33 larvae, 12, 14–15 life cycle, 14–15, 17 location, choosing, 46–49

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raccoons, 90, 94 recipes Carrot Raisin Honey-Nut Salad, 166 Colorful Sweet Pepper Salad, 164 Honey Applesauce, 161 Honey Butter, 157 Honey Cornbread, 162 Honey Muffins, 158 Honey Waldorf Salad, 163 Honey-Candied Pecans, 160 Peanut Butter Honey ‘n Banana Sandwiches, 159 Sweet Radish Crackers, 167 Wildflower Honey Lemonade, 165 record keeping, 50 regulations, 25–26, 28 requeening, 81, 87 royal jelly, 12, 15 Russian honey bees, 22 scratcher tool, 102, 111 signs, 131, 133 skunks, 89–90 small hive beetles, 85–86 smell, 20 smoker, 54, 55, 56, 59 spotty brood, 88 spun honey, 121 stand and landing board, 34 stands, 51 stinger, 12 strainer, 103 sugar syrup, 59 sunlight, 46 supers, 34, 35, 79, 104–110 supersedure, 12 swarming, 79, 92–93

thorax, 12 tracheal (acarine) mites, 22, 86–87 uncapping fork, 102–103 uncapping knife, 102, 110–111 uncapping tank or tub, 102, 110–111

A

varietal honey, 119–121 Varroa mites, 22, 34, 86, 89 veils, 54

D to eq th ha ho Sa H Ev bo th D Be it’s fr al pe

water, 48, 51 wax moths, 87 whipped honey, 121 windbreaks, 51 wings, 12 workers communication and, 20 drones compared to, 14 illustration of, 13 queen excluders and, 37 role of, 12, 15, 17, 19

Sa w gi va ad ve th ha of ce th ju M Sa Th th Ve lis Pr C

A Sa ag

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About the Authors Daniel Johnson, writer and photographer, likes to spend his time lugging around heavy camera equipment in all kinds of weather to take pictures of things like dogs pulling sleds at -20 below or people hauling hay at 90 above. He loves to photograph horses as well, and he is the co-author (with Samantha) and photographer of Horse Breeds: 65 Horse, Draft, and Pony Breeds; How to Raise Horses: Everything You Need to Know; and the Horse-a-Day box calendar, all from Voyageur Press. He’s also the author and photographer of The 4-H Guide to Digital Photography. During the making of The Beginner’s Guide to Beekeeping, Dan discovered that it’s possible—though not easy—to take bee pictures from behind a beekeeping veil. In his spare time, he also photographs frogs, one of which has been his pet for the last twenty years.

and Pine Valley Farms in northern Wisconsin. Since 1999, they have been involved with raising and showing registered Welsh Mountain Ponies, and they also keep an assortment of purebred rabbits, including Mini Rexes and Holland Lops. Several hundred thousand honey bees also make their home at Fox Hill and Pine Valley, which keeps life sweet.

Samantha Johnson is an award-winning writer, as well as a proofreader and pony wrangler. On any given day, you might find Samantha pursuing a variety of occupations: crafting words into articles, advertisements, or books; planting heirloom vegetables in the garden; or harvesting honey from the hives. On another day, she might be hauling hay, feeding livestock, or assisting with the delivery of a newborn foal. She is also a horse show judge, certified with the Wisconsin State Horse Council and the Welsh Pony and Cob Society of America, and has judged horse shows across the United States from Maryland to California and locations in between. Samantha is the author of several books, including The Rabbit Book, The Field Guide to Rabbits, and the co-author (with Dan) of The Beginner’s Guide to Vegetable Gardening. Samantha enjoys making to-do lists, watching old episodes of Little House on the Prairie, and daydreaming about buying a couple of Cheviot sheep and a Miniature Jersey cow. As brother and sister collaborators, Dan and Samantha pursue their writing, photography, and agricultural interests at the family-owned Fox Hill

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SaSmnthm J

To Dad, our favorite beekeeper First published in 2013 by Voyageur Press, an imprint of MBI Publishing Company, 400 First Avenue North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401 USA © 2013 Voyageur Press Text and photography © 2013 Daniel Johnson and Samantha Johnson All photographs are from the authors’ collection unless noted otherwise. All rights reserved. With the exception of quoting brief passages for the purposes of review, no part of this publication may be reproduced without prior written permission from the Publisher. The information in this book is true and complete to the best of our knowledge. All recommendations are made without any guarantee on the part of the author or Publisher, who also disclaims any liability incurred in connection with the use of this data or specific details. We recognize, further, that some words, model names, and designations mentioned herein are the property of the trademark holder. We use them for identification purposes only. This is not an official publication. Voyageur Press titles are also available at discounts in bulk quantity for industrial or sales-promotional use. For details write to Special Sales Manager at MBI Publishing Company, 400 First Avenue North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401 USA. To find out more about our books, visit us online at www.voyageurpress.com. Digital edition: 978-1-6105-8798-3 Softcover edition: 978-0-7603-4447-7 ISBN-13: 978-0-7603-4447-7 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Johnson, Daniel, 1984The beginner’s guide to beekeeping / by Daniel Johnson and Samantha Johnson. pages cm ISBN 978-0-7603-4447-7 (pbk.) 1. Bee culture--Amateurs’ manuals. I. Johnson, Samantha. II. Title. SF523.J58 2013 638’.1--dc23 2012050636 Editor: Jordan Wiklund Design Manager: James Kegley Series Design: Carol Holtz Layout by: Kazuko Collins Printed in China Cover credit: Cultura/Floresco Productions/Getty Images

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