Bees are tiny insects with a key role in our environment as well as our health.
Beekeeping, professionally known as apiculture, is a practice that entails keeping one or multiple varieties of bees for a particular purpose be it a hobby, profit through the sale of honey, or for farming benefits.
Understanding your need for beekeeping will help to comprehend the type of bee to keep.
There are books, beekeeping associations, and other guides for beginners on this, not excluding factors such as climatic conditions which also go a long way when it comes to determining the bee variety to keep.
When Did Beekeeping Start?
Beginner beekeeping can be traced back to ancient times across the globe, having been used in batter trade by some ancient communities, used for medicinal values, brewing alcoholic drinks, making of candles from beeswax, just to mention a few.
The most commonly kept bee at that time was the honey bee.
With advancements in science and research, we now have different species of bees ranging from the solitary kind to the social types eg the honey bees which nest in very organized colonies.
Such colonies are headed by a female (a queen, which is the only egg-laying bee).
These colonies also have bees that work as foragers (worker bees) and are supposed to keep the colony alive by making honeycombs that house the eggs as well as store food for the bees. Bees’ food, which we know better as honey, is made of pollen and nectar and is used to feed the young and the queen too.
To ensure continuity of the colony, a virgin queen, once chosen, leaves the colony for a mating flight with males referred to as drones, which happens once in her lifetime.
During the mating flight, the queen bee stores enough sperm to fertilize the eggs that she will lay during her entire period as queen.
What Does It Take To Begin Beekeeping?
As a beginner in beekeeping it is deemed essential to examine:
- The place
- Your budget
- The variety of bee
- The climatic conditions
Dedication of time
Choosing the right place for the bee colony is instrumental as it determines whether they thrive well or not.
The best place to start your farming should be on farmland.
This helps in pollination and biodiversity and provides enough room for bees to forage for nectar and pollen.
You will also have to create a budget. This gives the idea of what to expect in terms of expenditures in beekeeping especially being a beginner.
It provides an overview for items to spend on as an apiarist and would entail consideration of items such as purchasing a hive, personal protective equipment and purchase of a colony.
You will also have to think about the variety of bees that you would like to keep.
In addition, you have to pay attention to climate and geography when starting a beekeeping business.
The best time of the year to start an apiculture business is in April or during spring.
After installing the hives you would have to spend 3-4 months feeding the bees.
The best food combination is sugar and water so that they build up and draw out wax comb and be more productive.
When the colony is all grown and is doing well, you can go ahead and start harvesting some honey.
When November comes, you may have to prep the bees for the cold months of winter, that is December, January, and February.
Proper understanding of bees is very important for first-time beekeepers or beginners.
You can choose to take up beekeeping classes from people who are veterans in beekeeping or enroll in an organization that teaches and train people on beekeeping.
From there the basic dos and don’ts knowledge of beekeeping is acquired. For instance, one gets to know the best equipment to use.
The proper terminologies to use and the management of the bees each and every time.
The following are the basic equipment necessary for beekeeping.
Wooden ware/beehive – this where the bees are going to live and it’s mostly made of wood.
Protective veil and gloves – these are used for the protection of the head to the neck and the hands respectively from bee stings.
Smoker – used as a distractor on the bees while working on the hives. It can also be used to calm the bees.
Skeps – This is important in safely harvesting swarms to be transferred to the hives. It provides a safe distance from the stress caused by touching the colony. It is a bucket-like structure with a long stick.
Hive tool – this helps the beekeeper to easily access the hive and move the frames. It looks like an elongated paint scraper.
Bees – the most important tool are the bees themselves.
The bees should be of two different colonies. There are two ways one can fill the hives with bees. One is by buying or getting a small screen box called a package that has about 10000 bees.
You can also buy or get a nucleus colony or a mini colony, that already has a queen bee that is actively laying eggs.
One would ask how much time is committed to beekeeping.
The answer to this is that in beekeeping, one gets out what he puts in.
The minimum amount of time that you can allot is one hour per week for the management of the bees.
The best place to set up the beehives is either south, east, or southeast so that the bees can get the best of the morning sun, or you could even set a beehive up in your home.
Make sure the hives are put in an easily accessible spot so as not to have a hard time accessing them.
Avoid putting the hives on side-walks, near children’s play area or near swing sets, and a backyard that has high activities.
There are several threats to bees and beekeeping.
Urbanisation provides lesser foraging area and yield in terms of honey and beeswax.
The use of pesticides in farming is also harmful to insects and threatens the colonies.
In addition, diseases such as Foul Brood and Nosema also pose threats to the survival of the whole bee colony.
One thing to keep in mind is that the mortality rates of beekeeping are high especially within the first two or three years.
Their deaths often occur as a result of beekeeper errors or pests like mites that disrupt the hives.
In beekeeping, you have to be willing to put in the right amount of effort.
You also have to continue learning because it is a continuous process. Be observant, practice more, and put in more dedication.
Final Advice For Beginner Beekeeping
Apiculture is lucrative if done for profit, and if done as a hobby it is a fascinating way to learn just how much these little insects do for biodiversity.
Before starting an apiculture business, however, be sure to do some research to increase the likelihood of your business’s success.