Raising honey bees is a fascinating and worthwhile endeavor. It can also be an inexpensive hobby. Besides being able to harvest your own honey, raising bees also helps nature through pollination. If you are just starting, the information below will give you a head start on raising your own hive.
- Getting bees. There are several types of honey bees found worldwide. The Eastern Honey Bee (Apis cerana) and the Western Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) are the most commonly used species raised by beekeepers. You can purchase bees through a local supplier. Bee supply stores may also have a swarm retrieval list. Every now and then, they are called for help in collecting bee swarms that are found near residential areas. This is how most beekeepers start off. You can also set up a hive to attract a swarm of bees. One method of attracting bees is to put an open jar of honey in the new hive. This method has a disadvantage, as it attracts other pests like ants or hornets.
- Location. Honey bees need to be in a good location where they have access to plants if they are to make products they are known for. The plants they visit greatly affect honey bee products. For example, honey is made from the nectar and is a major food source of the honey bee colony. The honey’s flavor depends on the type of flower the bees frequent. Clover honey gets its name from bees frequenting large patches of clover near the beehive. Bees also use pollen as a source of protein necessary for rearing their brood. The honey and pollen are normally stored in the hive’s honeycomb cells.
- Understand the life cycle of the honey bees. You cannot raise a hive without knowing the bees’ life cycle. Every hive has one queen bee. It is the only fertile female in the hive. There are also thousands of drone bees (fertile males) and an even larger number of worker bees (sterile females). The queen bee lays her eggs within the honeycomb cells, typically one egg per cell. Once the eggs are laid, they are taken cared of by the worker bees. When the egg has hatched, the larva is fed royal jelly produced by the worker bees. Later on, it is fed honey and pollen. The larva undergoes several moltings before it spins a cocoon, pupates and emerges as an adult bee. Drones hatch from unfertilized eggs, while females hatch from fertilized eggs. A larva that was fed solely on royal jelly will develop into a queen bee. When a queen bee emerges, it mates with the drones; after this, the new queen, along with a large group of worker bees, swarms and seeks out a new nest site to begin a new hive.
- Honey bee products. The most popular product of honey bees is honey. You can typically harvest about 24 to 30 pounds of honey in a year from a single hive. Beeswax can be used to make candles. It is also used in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and even polishing materials. Propolos, a resinous mixture used by bees to seal unwanted cracks in the hive, has various medical uses.
Some places require you to register as a beekeeper, so check with you local authorities first before setting up a honey bee hive. Maintaining a honey bee operation can be done almost anywhere. While not much money can be made from a single hive, the fun of raising your own hive is very much worth it!