Ever since I heard about the bee populations of the world suffering Colony Collapse Disorder, (CCD), and the implications regarding the pollination of crops if the bees continue to decline in numbers, I have had an interest in starting up a colony. The truth is, commercial beekeeping is in a huge decline in the US, due to cheaper honey being imported from places like China, and CCD. Beekeeping has been practiced for over a thousand years. It will be up to the backyard hobbyists to keep this culture alive.
After thinking about getting some bees for about a year now, I starting doing what I always do – research it to death. I am the queen bee of researching, (which is very odd considering how much I hated doing it in high school and college). I have read enough now to know I really want to do this beekeeping thing, so I ordered the equipment, (researched for a week about this!), ordered the bees, found myself a local bee club and a mentor, and visited a bee yard, (apiary), or two to make sure I had “The Right Stuff”.
When thinking of a beehive, the picture many of us see in our mind is the old fashioned basket type, called a skep, (pictured to the left). In some parts of the world the same design was made of clay. Today there are mainly two types of beehives in use. One that many purists are using is called a Top Bar hive. It does not have “frames and foundations” for the bees to pull comb on for their brood and honey storage, but is rather set up more like what bees may encounter in the wild, resembling from a bee perspective…a hollow tree.
This is a very easy hive to make on your own and does not require much carpentry skill. Needed for a top bar is only some wood, nails, a saw and some basic tools. It is definitely the hive of choice in many developing countries, and is gaining popularity in the US as well. The only downside to these hives is that to extract honey, the honey combs are destroyed.
The other popular type of modern bee hive is called a Langstroth Hive. It is named after the Reverend Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth, a native of Philadelphia. PA, who devoted his life to the study of bees. He discovered what is known as “bee space” which, simply put, is the amount of space desirable to bees, (in a frame hive), for moving around and not attaching comb to the inside of the hive. Other hives with removable frames were already in use, but Langstroth’s discovery was monumental, and although he developed these hives in 1851, they are still widely used all over the world today.
A variation of the standard Langstroth Hive is what I chose for our yard. Since I have knee and back issues, and a honey super, (the top boxes that the bees store honey in), can weigh 90 lbs when full with honey laden combs. I decided to go with a more petite version of a Langstroth hive. My hive uses smaller hive bodies, (where the bees raise the brood), much smaller supers and has only 8 frames instead of the standard 10. This will be much easier for me to manage. Only the width of my 8 frame hive is different in dimension than the standard Langstroth Hive, so I am able to use the same frames and foundation as everyone else.
If I am very lucky my bed and breakfast guests and I may get to sample some honey this fall. This all depends on the weather and the bees. They need a great deal of honey for themselves to ensure the hive makes it through the winter. Bees do not hibernate, and although their activity is greatly reduced in the winter, they still must eat.
My bee friends may laugh at me, but since I have a guests frequent my yard almost everyday, I made my hive a bit more like eye candy than the normal hive. I have painted it to match the trim of our home and the guest house, and the roof is pitched and copper clad, making it look much more like a gnome dwelling than a bee hive, but the bees don’t know they are living in pretty digs, nor do they care. I will post more about the bees as time goes on in the life of bees.
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Tags: bees beekeeping