Saturday, April 28, 2012

Honey Bees Making a Start Beekeeping for All

Knowing honey bees, and having the knowledge for their management, are the two most important factors in making a start in the business of beekeeping. The knowledge should be obtained first or, at least, gaining it should keep pace with any increase in the numbers of honey bees. As in any business, it’s the same with bee-keeping, your need to have a broad and deep knowledge of the subject to succeed in this line of work. So many people fail in different kinds of business because they start it with only a narrow or superficial knowledge of their chosen profession. A very good way to gain the knowledge is working with an experienced and successful bee-keeper. This is one of the quickest ways of learning bee-keeping; and, if the teacher is competent, it can be a very enjoyable experience.

The beginner is not always able to get the best as an instructor, it is therefore, a good idea to supplement such instruction by a course of reading, and thus be able to make comparisons and discuss the instructor's methods in the light of those procedures used by others. In fact, I am inclined to think that a thorough course of reading is the most desirable first step that can be taken by a prospective bee-keeper. Having done this, the next step is to subscribe to a honey beekeeping magazine. At this stage a season with an expert bee-keeper would be of great value, when the reading will enable the learner to use the information, and see the reason for things instead of being simply an imitator, following blindly in the footsteps of his teacher.

Many people who now keep honey bees never had any formal training. Many have become interested in honey bees from the capture of a stray swarm. Neighbouring bee-keepers would be visited, books or magazines borrowed or bought, improved hives and methods adopted, and, as the honey bees increased, so did the enthusiasm and interest, until, finally, the honey bees received more time and attention than did the regular business. Then bee-keeping eventually become a speciality or the sole business.

When a person has decided to embark on a bee-keeping venture as a business, they should learn the business thoroughly before investing extensively. No hard and fast rules can be laid down, so much depending upon circumstances. A young man with no established business would do well to pass one or two seasons in the company of some experienced bee-keeper, as has been already suggested, while a more experienced person already in business, with a family to support, may find it advisable to move into bee-keeping gradually, reading and studying as his honey bees’ increase. Whatever the method employed, let the work be thorough; and, especially, be sure to get plenty of actual experience before venturing into honey beekeeping as a business.

On occasions, a person already has some honey bees when he decides to become a full-time bee-keeper. Perhaps he never formally makes any such decision. He captures a stray swarm, and saves the honey bees, and the stock increases with such wonderful speed that the owner becomes a bee-keeper of substance and scarcely realizes it. This amazing speed with which honey bees increase is one strong argument in favour of a person securing a few colonies and building them up into an apiary instead of buying a large number of colonies at the beginning. By rearing queens that will supply the newly made colonies with brood, and you furnishing them with full sheets of comb foundation, the amount by which honey bees can  increase in a favourable season is something almost beyond belief. Just how or where the first colonies come from may well be considered.

Sometimes the person who has steady work, and a good income, can buy honey bees and in the hives that they intend to use. If the honey bees and hives can be obtained locally, from a reliable bee-keeper, so much the better. Of course, there are instances in which a person has more time than money, or there may be a trace of the opportunist in their make-up, and, in either case, the hunting of honey bees, or the putting-out of decoy hives to catch stray swarms, will appeal to them. In those parts of the country where many honey bees are kept, as in Colorado or California, there is no difficulty in catching swarms in decoy hives; in fact, there is difficulty in keeping swarms out of chimneys and the walls of buildings. While out riding one day a man in Colorado, pointed out one house where the walls were covered with five colonies.

He used ordinary boxes instead of hives, and put them pretty high up in tall trees, as a good hive, easily accessible, is quite likely to be stolen.  A piece of old black comb is fastened inside the hive or box, and the hive or box is firmly fastened to the tree so that it is not to be easily blown down, a position being chosen where the hive will be in the shade. A tree on the edge of the woods should be chosen, because, when a swarm reaches the woods, it at once begins a search for a suitable hollow in which to make its home. This is sometimes done in advance by worker bees when foraging.  The hives or boxes are examined at least once a week, more often if there is time, and when one is found to be occupied by honey bees the hive or box is removed and another put in its place.

Honey bees are also found by walking through the woods in the swarming season.  After the honey bees have been found, then the next task is getting them out of the tree and into a hive. Sometimes it is possible to shake them from a light branch into a box, if they are located on a large limb, you might need to cut off the portion where they are located, and lower it by means of a rope. Having captured the honey bees they need to be transferred from the box to a hive. Frames with drawn comb should be put in the hive.  A white cloth or canvas should be placed in front of the hive and the honey bees shaken onto it.  Make sure there is a slight incline up to the hive entrance. If the hive is left on the spot for several hours, perhaps until dusk, nearly all of the live honey bees will go into the hive.

As said at the beginning, if a person has and a reasonable income they might find it more satisfactory to buy honey bees in a hive; but if they have the time and inclination to get a start by hunting honey bees, or by putting up decoy hives, then this should help them to do it.