Beekeeping or Apiculture is the practice of maintenance and management of bee colonies, often in a hive.
The main Purpose of Apiculture is the collection of hive products like honey, wax, pollen, propels, royal jelly and bee venom.
In addition to hive products, honey bees also shoulder the responsibility of the world’s food supply by pollinating most of the species of crops and flowering plants.
The ideal time to start beekeeping is spring.
By pollinating a large number of crops, bees are also in charge of increased farm production.
Beekeeping is very fruitful for farmers besides harvesting delicious honey they also aid in increasing yield of crops like sunflower and fruits.
An Introduction to use of Beehives
Beehives are used by honey hunters to nest bee colonies of species like A. mellifera and A. cerana in stackable boxes where they make honeycombs.
Do you Know? Honeycombs offer a variety of health benefits like improving heart health and infections. Honeycombs contain raw honey and are edible so they can be used as an alternative to sugar.
Back in the day, traditional beehives lack internal structure, therefore were of little help to the beekeeper in harvesting honey without destroying the honeycombs.
Traditional hives offered only enclosure to the colony but not more than that.
There were four methods of extracting honey, used traditionally.
- Mud Hives
- Clay Hives
- Bee Gums
Modern beehives promise easy extraction of hive products, expansion in size without colony disruption.
Modern beehives come with movable frames encouraging easier extraction without destroying the honeycombs.
Beehive serves as a safer place for honey bees to store honey and other hive products.
Frames, outer cover, inner cover, brood chamber, entrance reducer, bottom board, honey supper, queen excluder makes a beehive.
All these hive parts perform a specific function to get the job done. Let us tell you what these parts contribute in a hive
Understand parts of Beehive
Hive stand is an optional accessory. It is the bottom part of the hive that raises the hive off the ground and have angled landing board for the bees.
It is safer to have a stand where the floor is open mesh. Stands can be in the form of Pallete brick or concrete block.
It promises the extension in the life of the bottom board by preventing moisture buildup. Blockage of entrance by the grass can also be eliminated using hive stands ensuring smooth entry and exit of bees.
It is a crawl space offering normal movement of bees in the hive. These gaps or space is not filled with wax or propels. Bee spacing offers easy inspection.
In natural hives, this space is created by the bees to move freely between the layers of combs
The ideal distance would be 4.5mm to 9mm. If bee space is smaller, bees will fill the space with propolis.
If larger space is provided, brace comb will be built by bees. Adequate space will give a boost in production.
Bottom Board often refers as base or floor of the beehive on the other parts of the hive rest.
Back in the day, solid or standard bottom board was used by the bee farmers but now the beekeepers are most interested in a screened bottom board consisting of wire grid around a solid piece of wood.
This aids in ventilation of the hive and controling and monitoring the entrance of pests like verroa mites.
Plywood is recommended to be used in construction and it is less affected by dampness, moisture and other weather conditions. The bottom board also serves as the only exit for the bees.
“Entrance reducer” as the name Suggests reduces the entrance of the unwanted creatures like pests and mice.
it is a movable piece of wooden block usually fits between the bottom board and the first super.
It is not nailed to the assembly but serves as a removable piece to control the ventilation in cooler months as well as protecting the colony from the uninvited pests.
Entrance reducer can be removed when needed to open the entrance to the maximum.
Outer Cover serves the purpose of the roof offering protection to the colony from various elements.
To extend the life of the roof lid, it should be covered with metal or some weatherproof material like aluminium flashing, asphalt tiles etc offering optimum protection and reducing the risk of rain seeping to the minimum.
There is more than one type of outer cover exists to assist the apiculturist like a telescoping lid and migratory lid.
Migratory lids are helpful when the hives are to be constantly moved otherwise telescoping lids are preferred by the beekeepers.
The inner cover is a wooden tray with a small hole in the middle. It is usually placed between the top hive box and roof lid.
Inner covers provide insulation and inhibit sticking the frame to the outer cover.
It aids in regulating ventilation of the hive during hot and cold temperatures. This hole also serves the purpose of feeding the bees with sugar syrup.
The passage hole offers access to the upper part of the inner cover and hive lid.
The size of the passage hole may vary. Screened inner covers have been introduced to provide ventilation without fuss.
Bees need frames to build honeycombs. Frames with foundation are used to stock honey and pollen. Movable hive frames ensure easy extraction of honey, season after season, with the least disturbance of colony.
In the boxes, frames hang made of top and bottom bar with two sidebars. Plastic and Wooden frames are used by bee farmers.
Wood Frames commonly made of pines have a sheet of wax in a hexagonal pattern inserted in the centre of the frame.
On a commercial scale, Plastic Frames are given preference as they ensure durability.
They are lightweight, easiest to clean, less affected by the weather but a bit expensive than wooden frames.
Another decision a beekeeper have to make is to have an inserted foundation or foundationless frames.
Foundation frames encourage bees to build honeycombs in an ordered fashion. While in foundationless frames, bees are allowed to build a comb to the size they want.
Honey super is a box where the bees reserve surplus honey. Honey supers vary in size and are categorized into deep, medium and shallow.
Medium Supers are in because they promise ease of handling. When full, deep supers are not easier to lift or move around.
Box full of honey may weigh upto 80 lbs.
Shallow Supers provide less space for the storage therefore not used on a commercial scale. But for a hobbyist’s shallow supers promises good run. Supers are wooden boxes in which frames are held.
A super usually hold 10 frames per box. Some beekeepers use 8 frames per box.
There can be more than one honey super as per the yield. During the first year, one honey super is enough as the harvest is low but in the coming years super can be added as per the need.
The brood box is where the queen resides. It is usually at the bottom of the hive. It is constructed in a way to ensure that the queen can not leave the chamber.
This is where the queen lays eggs and brood rearing happens.
Brood chamber holds 8-10 frames in them. Brood box has larger frames to facilitate the queen to lay eggs for the next generation of bees.
To get started on the journey, there is certain equipment a beekeeper will need.
These include hives, frames, smoker, hive tools, queen catcher, bee suit, Gloves, Shoes, essential oils, feeder and queen marker etc. All these equipment help beekeepers on the way.
Brood chambers are used to restrict the movement of queen bee.
They are not engaged in honey production so a framed plastic or metal grid is placed on top of the brood chamber have small holes sufficient for the passage of workes bees but small enough for the queen.
Upper chamber is for honey production and have no brood in it.
For a commercial beekeeper, it offers ease, as, at the harvest time, the honey farmer knows which combs have honey.
Assembling of a Typical Beehive
Now you have an idea bout all parts. next step is how to assemble them?. And where to purchase them?
This step is confusing for newbies. Now you can purchase beehive kit or purchase parts and assemble them. That will reduce your money cost.
There is another option that build your parts and save more cost.
My recommendation is to purchase a beehive kit. Most of the beekeepers face problems in exact dimensions.
Incorrect directions can be problem for honey extraction and good comb.
Here are two recommendations by Lawn Desire for beehive kit.
- Honey Keeper Beehive 20 Frame Complete Box Kit
- Ware Manufacturing, Building Home Harvest Complete Bee Hive Setup Kit
Why we recommend these Kits?
✪ Easy to assemble
✪ Less Cost as compared to other kits brand
✪ Durable and reviewed by hundred of users
The second step is the selection of bees. I will recommend you to watch videos from apiculture experts for selection of bees.
But here some recommended bees by experts.
Do You Know? Different bees have different climate and temperament behaviour. You should know how to manage them.
Here are some famous bees for honey production.
Italian- Apis mellifera ligustica
It is not prone to swarm. Italian bee is a good honey producer. They suit most of the climates.
Caucasian- Apis mellifera caucasca
Caucasian has a long tongue or proboscis. So it is easy for them to feed on most of the flowers.
These hybrid Russian bees made for the hardy environment. They are very resistant to mites.
So the next step is to find a location where you will place your hive kit. Beehives should be away from traffic and public places.
The face of your hive should be in Southeast direction. Select a place where you can get shade in summer days and sunlight in the winter season.
Hive should be on ventilated place.Do not place in air tight environment.
Place in a direction where front should be little lower as compared to rear.
Land should be dry and spread some mulch around to prevent the growth of grass.
It is the best suggestion to place beehives on cinder blocks and near to water resources.
Make a deal: You can make a deal with community gardens. They are ready to place your box. That is a mutual combination. You will get honey and they will get pollination agents.
When you have purchased beehive kit. All parts of beehive explained above. Here is a complete video that how you can assemble these parts.
Make sure you have all equipment required for assembling your beehive kit.
Here are some equipment required for assembling. Most of them are available in-home or you can purchase.
- Hammer & Rubber Mallet
- Measurement Tape
- Drill Machine
Note Coat Top bars of kit with beeswax. This will make their home natural and acceptance will increase.
Final step is to install swarm of bees.
- Make Sure you have purchased protective suit. It will save you from bee stings, swarm attack.
- Here are quick steps to install bees in beehive.
- Spray your bees with non-contaminated sugar syrup 30 minutes before installation.
- Pry wood cover from package.Use any hive tool.
- Remove can of syrup from package.
- Next, examine the cage of the queen and make sure she is alive. In some cases, they may die so order a new one and install rest.
- Remove cork from queen bee’s cage
- After that attach queen bee in the centre of the hive. Use thumbtacks or staple to place the queen cage in the centre of the hive.
- Again spray them with sugar syrup and pour bees in hive.
- Replace frames one by one.Place outer cover on the hive.
That is all you need to build a beehive. Now have a look at types of beehives.
Types of Beehives
Beekeeper is often intimidated by the number of choices he has when it comes to a beehive.
There are different options for the hives to ultimately choose from that fits best for the keeper.
However, among many, three main types of hives that are used globally.
- The Warre
- The Top-Bar
Each carries its pros and cons but the ball is in the beekeeper’s court to decide which option suits his situation the most.
Choices may vary depending on the magnitude of business and the resources a beekeeper have.
Langstroth is the most commonly used beehive style named after its inventor Rev. LL Langstroth in 1852.
Langstroth hive is a stacking rectangular boxes having frames to build comb to stock honey and brood.
Some changes have been made to the traditional design. Langstroth boxes are divided into three categories Deep, Medium and Shallow.
Lower chamber often has deep boxes for brooding purposes. Which are beneficial for the increasing size of the colony.
Medium-sized boxes are used for the collection of honey. It is a vertical expandable hive, expandability can be achieved by adding boxes upward.
Langstroth introduced the concept of bee space for the normal movement and functioning of bees.
Firstly laid out by Langstroth the concept of bee space is being used in other beehive styles as well.
This design yields maximum honey production. Langstroth single-handedly revolutionized bee farming by introducing the concept of the removable frame which allowed the reuse of combs.
Most Langstroth hive parts are readily available and relatively interchangeable. As it is universally used, support is fairly easier to find. Heavy lifting is required to lift the boxes.
It is the oldest known hives, being used for centuries. Bars are laid across the top horizontally from which bees build comb down naturally.
These are frameless beehives from which bees hang their combs. No foundation or wooden frames are required to be assembled.
This beehive design is inexpensive therefore suitable for people having fewer resources. Queen excluders are not required as combs are built downward. A TBH can be easily built and easier on the new beekeeper’s back.
There are some cons for this hive design as there is little room for expansion because a hive is a long horizontal box.
Top bar hives are exposed to swarming or overcrowding. There’s only just one method of honey extraction that is the removal of combs from the bars.
Bees have to build new combs each year. colony feeding is not easy in this model.
Not a lot of people have knowledge of this type of design therefore difficult to get help when needed. Hives parts are not easily available.
A French priest called Emile Warre invented this beehive design resembling a hollow tree.
It is also called “People’s hive” because of its user friendly design.
Just like Top Bar Hives, it is frameless and foundationless.
Squared boxes are stacked vertically like in Langstroth model. Top bars are used by the bees to build comb down naturally.
When the colony expands, more space can be provided by adding a box underneath the existing ones.
Warre hives are appealing to those who are interested in keeping bees in natural styles.
Warre hives offer lower cost and low maintenance alternative in comparison with other hives.
Some heavy lifting is required to lift the boxes. Inspection is not possible as the top bars cannot be removed. This design is also illegal in some states.
Out of the three, Langstroth design offers maximum yield and is globally used by the beekeepers to get best results. But depending on the beekeeper’s needs and resources one can work with other designs as well.
For those taking beekeeping as a hobby can give any of the design a go.
Benefits of Beekeeping
✪ Beekeeping is a profitable hobby. The beekeeper can make a lot of money by selling beeswax, propolis and honey, of course.
✪ Beehives can also be rented to farmers for pollination. Bees not only bring a positive impact on your own gardening space but they also pollinate another area by flying outside which then helps in keeping our ecosystem sustainable and distinct.
✪ Bee venom has a profitable market. As per apitherapist’s claim, bee venom can be used in the treatment of bursitis, tendonitis, Hypertension, PMS and Asthma etc.
✪ Apitherapy includes health benefits like treatment of many human ailments such as Arthritis, Parkinson disease and other diseases related to the nervous system.
✪ It is heard that tending honey bees reduces stress, working with bees hearing the soothing hum instantly put you in a better mood.
✪ Hive products also aid in boosting immunity of people with HIV/AIDS. Bee pollen aids in healing and rejuvenating skin as they contain minerals, vitamins, flavonoids.
✪ Products can be used to reduce wrinkles and blemishes. It is not a time or labour-intensive activity as bees do not need constant attention.
✪ Beekeeping, if taken on as a career, can be a vital source of income generation, with beekeepers going around the world selling their products locally and abroad.
✪ Beekeeping sits well with small scale farmers making profits off of small investments.
✪ Beekeeping offers profit with minimal investment, as no land ownership is essential. It can be started with a few equipment and tools.