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Beekeeping for beginners

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by ChronicWeb

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Home Beekeeping

Modern Beehive Unlike most other aspects of self-sufficiency, beekeeping is not essential to producing your own food. While honey can replace sugar in almost any recipe it's entirely unneccessary in a balanced diet. Despite this, home beekeeping can be an incredible asset to any smallholder, particularly those with little or no land for several reasons:

  • Little space - nothing can compete with the amount of yield per square foot that bees can produce as they can harvest nectar from miles around and always return to their queen. Keeping bees is possible without any land, as they gather nectar from other people's land. Even city centres should have enough flowers locally to produce good amounts of honey. Rooftops are the best place to keep hives as their flight paths are well above human heads
  • Little effort - bees are not domesticated to depend on humans, they work continuously for their own colony and essentially we steal the excess honey they work so hard to produce - beekeepers with less than 20 hives will generally spend about an hour a week tending to the hives, mostly just keeping an eye on them to ensure they have enough to keep going and the colony is not growing too big for it's hive. Bees are more self-sufficient than we could ever hope to be.
  • High return - Honey is enjoyed by many and (as the bees do most of the work) producing poor quality is impossible. Honey is a luxury item which can add enjoyment to your life, as well as being a good source of income. If you can sell what you don't need you should cover the cost of equipment in your first year (if you don't, honey is self preserving, and will keep forever). Honey is better for you and sweeter than sugar (use two thirds the amount when replacing sugar with honey in any recipe) Beeswax is also a highly prized by-product, which can be used to make high quality soap, candles, lip balm, rust prevention and lubricant, metal or wood polish, or to condition and waterproof leather.

    Bees live in colonies which work like a single organism. There is only one queen who lays eggs in the brood chamber. She is fertilised by the drones and the rest are workers who make the cells of the combs, clean them, fill them with nectar and honey, guard the hive and forage for nectar. A beekeepers job is to provide the hive for colonies to live in, make sure they are strong and healthy, prevent them from becoming overcrowded and swarming. Bees only need to be looked after in spring and summer, as they hibernate from late autumn until the end of winter.

    You will need:

  • A beehive - can be bought second hand at specialist auctions.
  • A Bee Veil - covers just the face, and gloves for your hands, or you can buy a full beekeepers suit on eBay for about the price of a fancy dress costume (another use!)
  • A smoker - which calms the bees and makes them less likely to sting.
  • An extractor - can usually be borrowed. One of many reasons why joining a local group is highly recommended. Buying an efficient extractor is too expensive unless you use it regularly with more than a dozen hives.

    Most of the bees requirements are built into the hive, although a feeder filled with sugar water might be needed if you take large A modern beehive is made up of several sections which help to separate the bees from their honey:

  • Brood chamber - Where the queen lays her eggs.
  • Deep brood frame - additional space for growing young, as well as storing nectar and honey, depending on it's needs
  • Queen Excluder - Board with holes through which the queen is too large to pass, separating her.
  • Clearing board - Board through which bees can only pass in one direction.
  • Super - Section which can be harvested for honey and beeswax.

Beekeeping may not take much of your time, but it does require some time to gain knowledge and experience before you can become a competent beekeeper. It's best to join a local club to gain experience and guidance from more experienced hobbyists before purchasing your first hive. Beekeeping courses are usually quite expensive but there is an online course you can take which is much cheaper and can be referred back to if any problems arise.

Beekeeping for Beginners


Beekeeping-Basics.pdf - Basic Beekeeping Information.

Small-beekeeping-doc.pdf - 7 thing you should know before keeping bees.

Glossary of terms:

    Brood - The eggs and young grubs of bees

    Swarm - A colony of bees

    Swarming - when a swarm produces another queen and splits into 2 in mid to late spring

    Skep - Old fashioned beehive less efficient and unsustainable as bees are often killed when removing honey

    Cappings - The beeswax which is removed with a flat knife when extracting honey

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