Sunday, February 6, 2011

Bee Keeping Part Two

Bees are a society within themselves, there are are the workers, drones, and the queen.

The workers are actually sterile females, they do exactly as their name implies, which is work. They work from the moment they hatch out of their hive cell and until the day they die. The worker bee has three jobs to carry out during their life. Their first job is hive maintenance, along with receiving nectar and pollen from incoming bees. This consists of repairing wax cells, and feeding larvae. The second job they are assigned is temperature regulation within the hive. They accomplish this by going outside the hive and gathering water to cool the hive during the summer months. In winter months they beat their wings to create heat to warm the hive. Their final job is to leave the hive to gather pollen and nectar from surrounding vegetation. The worker bees live for around two months, throughout their entire lives they do not rest or sleep, they literally work themselves to death.

The drones are the males, they ironically do nothing to contribute to the hive other than breed with the queen, that is their sole purpose. They do not even feed themselves, the workers feed them. Each hive has a 'drone spot' it is simply a corner of the hive where the drones gather together. The drones live for one season until autumn, when the workers cast them out of the hive to starve or freeze to death.

The queen plays a vital role in the hive, not only does she keep the population at a healthy level, but she also governs and runs the hive. She decides when to start more brood (baby bees) and when to leave a hive and start another. She is constantly guarded by an entourage of worker bees making sure when she lays eggs they are cared for and that she is given food at all times. Queens can live for about three years


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Bee Keeping Part One

Apiculture the act of keeping bees for honey, wax, royal jelly, and pollen. Bees hives are called apiaries and those who harvest and maintain them are called apiarists. Beekeeping has been practiced for centuries. The Egyptians, Mesopotamians, and the Romans all participated in apiculture. Honey was once seen as a cure all by the Mesopotamians and an antibiotic by the Egyptians; of course these claims are debatable. Thankfully with modern inventions such as the smoker, it is easier to control the bees and keep them sedated when carrying out hive maintenance. Also, with removable frames we no longer need to 'crush' the entire hive in a 'press' as people did long ago, therefore, we can keep an entire colony alive and produce even more honey in an active season. Throughout the ages beekeeping has changed, however; one thing did not though, which is the bees themselves. They have managed their own lives longer than mankind has managed them. With that being said, it is imperative we keep that in mind.

When most people mention bees they immediately think of little stinging minions buzzing around awaiting their next victim, nothing could be further from the truth. Bees are actually docile and when handled
properly there is no need for a bee veil. They will sting to protect their home and queen, but they would rather keep their life and their schedules than bother with humankind. 

There are three main races of bees which are: the Italians, Carnolians and Caucasians. The Italian bees are known to be the most irritable of bees, they are less likely to swarm, and they are slow builders, which means less honey than other types of bees. Carnolians are gentlest of honey bees and are also quick builders. The only draw back is that they are prone to swarming. The Caucasians are slow builders, and do not do well in the heat, but they are very gentle and are one of the most productive as far as honey goes. As an aspiring apiarist do your research which bee variety best fits your climate, location and expectation of honey and wax harvests.