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BEEKEEPING

FOR
BEGINNERS

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE • HOME AND GARDEN BULLETIN NO. 158


BEEKEEPING FOR
BEGINNERS
Keeping honey bees is a fascinat- Beekeeping Equipment
ing and profitable pastime that can
be enjoyed in several ways. You may The basic equipment you need for
want to kee2> bees for the delicious beginning beekeeping should cost no
fresh honey they produce, for the more than about $25. This equip-
benefits of their valuable services as ment should include the following
pollinators for your crops, or per- items :
haps just for the fun of learning Hive^ to house your bees.
about one of Nature's most interest- Frames^ to support the honey-
ing insects. combs in which your bees will store
You can keep honey bees success- honey and raise young bees.
fully almost any where in the United Smoher^ to blow smoke into the
States with relatively little trouble hive, to pacify the bees when you
and a minimum of expense. This want to work with them.
bulletin supplies you wâth the basic Hive tool^ with which to pry
information you should have to get frames apart, to examine the hive
started. As a beginning beekeeper, or harvest the honey.
you will need only— "F6^7, to protect your face and neck
• A few dollars' investment in from bee stings.
materials. GloveSy to protect your hands.
• A suitable location for bee- Feeder^ to dispense sugar sirup
until bees can produce their own
Mves.
food.
• Elementary knowledge of the
habits of honey bees. Colony Life
Honey bees are social insects.
The honey bee (Apis mellifera This means that they live together
Linnaeus) is man's most useful in- in a colony and depend on each
sect. In the United States alone, other for survival.
honey bees produce about $50 mil- Most of the bees in a colony are
lion worth of honey and beeswax workers (sterile females). Some are
each year, and they pollinate more drones (males), whose only func-
tion is to mate with the queen.
than $1 billion worth of valuable
Usually there is one queen bee (fer-
agricultural crops.
tile female) in the colony; she lays
old and mates in the air with one or
more drones. When she returns to
the hive, she begins to lay eggs.
During her lifetime she lays thou-
sands of eggs—sometimes as many
as 1,000 in a day. She puts each egg
into a separate cell of the honey-
comb.
Three days after an egg is laid, it
changes to a larva. Worker bee
"nursemaids" feed and care for the
larva until it changes into a pupa.
Equipmenf used in beekeeping. Then they seal the pupa into its
honeycomb cell and leave it to finish
the eggs that maintain or increase developing. Twenty-one days from
tlic colony's population. the day the egg was laid, an adult
Worker bees number from 1,000 bee emerges.
to about 60,000, depending on the
egg-laying ability of the colony Bee Strains
queen, the space available in the
liive for expansion, and the avail- The Italian strain of bees is the
able or incoming food supply. most common one in the United
Worker bees live about 6 weeks. States. These bees are liardy, indus-
They collect food and water for the trious, and relatively gentle.
entire colony, do the housework, The Caucasian strain is also
and guard the hive against intrud- widely kept. Bees in this strain are
ers. Tliey also "air condition" the more gentle than Italian bees, but
hive and maintain a constant hive the queens are dark colored and are
temperature and humidity—what- therefore difficult to find in a clus-
ever the conditions outside. Al- ter of bees. (It is important to be
though worker bees do not mate, able to find your queen bee. You
tliey may lay eggs if the colony loses
may need to replace her after a year
its «pieen. But their eggs will not
or two, if she doesn't lay enough
keep up the colony population, be-
eggs to keep the colony strong.)
cause they develop only into drones.
The number of drones in a colony
varies with the season of the year.
There may be none during the
winter, but several liundred during
the summer. They are driven out of
the hive in the fall, when worker
Jbees can no longer collect food.
BN-30050
The queen bee normally flies from
From leFt: Worker, queen, and drone
the hive when she is about a week
bees.

3
Caucasian bees use an excessive The best time to establish a new
amount of propolis in their hives. honey bee colony is in springtime.
They collect this gummy substance Fruit trees and flowers are in bloom
from buds and injured tree parts, then and should supply the colony
and they use it as a "cement" in with sufficient nectar and pollen.
their hives. Frames that become If you begin with a new swarm or
heavily propolized are difficult to package of bees, instead of Avith an
remove. established colony, it is usually a
Some specially bred hybrid bees good idea to provide them with
(crosses between two or more bee sugar sirup that is a mixture of half
strains) are available. They are usu- sugar and half water. You can put
ally more productive than stand- this sirup in a feeder in the entrance
ard strains. But after a year or two, of the beehive. The sirup will keep
the offspring they produce may the bees from starving until they
bear no resemblance to the original can make and store their own honey.
hybrid bees.
I£ you keep hybrid bees, it is a
good idea to replace your queen each How To Build a Beehive
year. This should assure a uniform-
Factory-made beehives and
ly strong colony.
frames are best. Their parts are of
standard size and are interchange-
Getting Started able.
The best way to get started keep- If you prefer to build your own
ing bees is to buy a bee colony beehive, use a factory-made hive as
already established in a well-con- a model. Reproduce all parts exactly
structed hive that has honeycombs and keep all dimensions the same,
built into removable frames. so that the parts will fit together
If you already have a hive, you well and be interchangeable with
can buy a package of 2 or 3 pounds corresponding parts in other hives.
of bees with a queen, from another Of special importance is the space
beekeeper or from a bee supplier, you leave between frames in your
and put them into your hive. Be hive. It should be about one-fourth
sure the bees you huy have a certifi- inch. If the space is less, it will be
cate of inspection to indicate that too small for the bees to pass
they are free of hee diseases. through, and they will seal it off
Another way to begin keeping
with propolis. If the space between
honey bees is to capture a live swarm
frames is more than one-fourth
and establish it in your hive. (Bees
inch, it will be too wide and your
are usually gentle when swarming.)
Or you might transfer a colony, bees will build honeycomb in it.
with its combs, from a cave or tree Neither of these is desirable.
to the hive. But it's probably best The diagram on page 6 gives
not to try these two methods until plans and dimensions for construct-
you have worked enough with bees ing a 10-frame beehive—the most
to be relaxed around them. common hive size.
Beehive cutaway to show interior and placement of movable frames:
Bottom, full-depth Jiive body,- middle and top, shallow hive bodies.

Wliere To Keep Beehives vailing winds—particularly in


winter.
When your Jiive is stocked with a Be sure there is a constant supply
bee colony, put it where the bees are of fresh, «)ol water nearby.
unlikely to sting anyone. For more information, write for
If you live in a warm area, put Leaflet No. 530, "Shade and Water
for the Honey Bee Colony,"
the hive in the shade. If you live
available free from the Office of
in an-area tJiat has extended periods
Information, U.S. Department of
of freezing temperatures, expose it Agriculture, Washington, D.C.
to the sun and protect it from pre- 20250.
ftabb«!

A. Corntr of lO-frsM« hiv* fceJy, ili>wi«|


construction niii position of fromos

B. Pert of *ni of hivo bo4y, thoNÍii|i rokbot,


«rtiich fhould bo MoJo of tin or (oUoRiiod
CROSS SECTION OF HIVE BODY AND FRAME

Outsid« cov»r
11.m .V(1 „r
-^
.1
II
1 Insid« cov«r
'wi
CROSS SECTION OF SHALLOW SUPER
Shallow sup«r

Ou«en excluder

Wire
T Brood chamber
^i

- .71"-
Reversible bottom
board

SIDE,ENO,ANO TOP ELEVATION OF FRAME

Plans and dimensions for a 10-framc beehive.

What Bees Need produced by flowers. It is the raw


material of honey and tlie bees'
Bees need four basic niateFials: main source of food.
Nectar, j)o]len, proi^olis, and water. Several hundred kinds of plants
They make honey out of nectar. produce nectar, but only a few kinds
They make pollen into beebread
are common enough, or produce
(food for young bees). They use
enough nectar, to be considered
propolis to seal cracks and water-
major sources.
proof their hive. They dilute honey
with water before eating it, and The best sources of nectar for
they use water in their hive "air con- producing surj^lus honey vary from
ditioning system." place to place. As a beekeeper you
will want to learn the plants in your
Nectar area that are best for honey pro-
duction. Here are some of the plants
Bees can't make honey without that are major nectar sources in the
nectar, a liquid sugary substance United States—
alfalfa locusífc aster grasses
aster mesquite corn maple
buckwheat palmetto dandelion oak
catclaw tuliptree fruit blossoms poplar
citrus fruit túpelo goldenrod willow
clover sage
cotton sourwood
fireweed star thistle How Bees Make Honey
goldenrod sweetclover The nectar that bees collect is gen-
holly sumac erally half to three-fourths water.
horsemint willow After nectar is carried into the hive,
The color and flavor of honey de- the bees evaporate most of the water
pend on the kinds of plants that from it. While evaporating the
bees collect nectar from. Honey may water, they change the nectar into
be clear, amber, or even reddish; honey. Then the bees seal the honey
its flavor can range from mild to into cells of the honeycomb.
strong. Try to put your beehive Beeswax begins as a liquid made
where the bees can collect the kind by glands on the underside of the
of nectar that will make the honey worker bee's abdomen. As it is pro-
you like best. duced, it hardens into tiny wax
scales. Worker bees then use this
Pollen
wax to build honeycomb.
As worker bees gather nectar Beekeepers often provide their
from flowers, tiny particles of pol- bees with honeycomb foundation
len stick to their bodies and are made of sheets of beeswax. This
carried back to the hive. The bees foundation fits into hive frames and
store this pollen as "beebread" in becomes the base of the honeycomb.
cells of the honeycomb. Later they It enables bees to speed up comb
feed it to young bees that are de- construction, and it provides a pat-
veloping into workers and drones. tern for building a straight and
(The few young larvae selected by easy-to-remove honeycomb.
the workers to become new queens
are fed a special food—royal jelly—
made by the workers in their own
How To Move a Colony
bodies.) Pollen, then, is necessary If you need to move your bee
for producing the new bees that be- colony, remember that you must get
come new honeymakers. the bees oriented to the new loca-
An average-size colony of bees tion. Otherwise, unless you move
uses about 100 pounds of pollen each the colony at least several miles, the
year. That is w^hy you need to locate bees will find their way back to their
your colonies near good sources of old location.
pollen. Many wild flowers, orna- If you want to move your bees
mentals, weeds, shrubs, and trees only a few hundred yards, first take
will provide pollen. Some especially them several miles away and leave
good sources are : them for about a week. When they
are oriented to the new location, to the hive, or onto the supers al-
move them to the site you originally ready in^lace.
intended, and let them get oriented Always leave plenty of honey for
there. the bees. Kemove only the amount
Or, move the colony a few feet that you estimate to be more than
each day, until you have moved it they can use. Be sure there are at
to the location you want. least 60 povmds of honey m the hive
It is not advisable to move bees when winter begins; otherwise, your
during the period of honey produc- bees might starve before springtime.
tion. The honey already stored will Since one frame holds 3 to 5
add extra weight; new honeycomb pounds of honey, an average size
may break loose; or you may dis- colony needs about 10 to 15 frames
turb your bees and cause a slow- of honey to get through a winter.
down in honey storage.
Night is the best time to move a Honey Production
colony. All the bees are inside then.
If the weather is cold, you can com- Beekeepers usually measure
pletely close the hive entrance. honey production in pounds. The
If the weather is unseasonably average yearly production of sur-
warm and the colony strong, do not plus honey from a colony is about
seal the hive entrance. You might 50 pounds, though a properly man-
suffocate your bees, even if you seal aged hive can produce several times
that amount.
them in for only an hour. Instead,
cover the entrance and top of the Liquid honey
hive with a fine screen.
Probably the most efficient way to
Staple, crate, or tie the hive so
get honey out of the comb is to un-
that parts cannot shift during the
cap the honey cells with a w^arm
move.
knife and spin the liquid honey out
of the cells in a honey extractor. The
How To Manage a Colony honey is poured off; the emptied
comb is returned to the hive, to be
As your bee colony grows, it will refilled with honey.
need more room. If the bees become It may not pay, however, to buy
too crowded and there isn't enough an extractor for the amount of
honey yielded by only one or two
room for expansion of the brood-
colonies. You may, instead, be able
rearing area, they will swarm (fly
to rent or borrow an extrad:or from
off in large numbers, along with the
a bee dealer, a neighbor, or a local
queen, to start a new colony). You beekeeper association. But using
should prevent this, if possible. borrow^ed equipment sometimes
Loss of a swaxm of bees may leave spreads bee diseases.
the remaining colony too weak to The least expensrv^e (but also tJie
store surplus honey. least desirable) w^ay to harvest
To make more room for your bees, liquid hoiirey isto cut out the entire
add extra boxes of combs (supers) comb, squeeze the honey from it,

8
and then strain the honey through jars. Support the jars so they do
a coarse cloth to remove wax par- not rest directly on the bottom of the
ticles. Although the crushed comb container, and so water can circu-
cannot be used again by the bees, late beneath them.
you can melt it and sell the beeswax • Heat gently, until granules
that you salvage. have disappeared. (The time re-
quired will vary, depending on the
Comb honey size of the jars of honey, and the
Some beekeepers produce comb temperature to which you heat
honey by cutting out pieces of them. DO NOT heat w^ater above
honeycomb, putting them in glass 160° F.; excessive heating wdll
containers^ and pouring liquid darken your honey and lower its
honey around them. quality.)
Another popular method of pro- • Stir occasionally, to distribute
ducing comb honey is to place small heat evenly throughout the honey,
wooden boxes or "sections" in the and to determine when the granules
top of the hive just before the honey have disappeared.
flow begins (illustration, p. 5).
Bees will neatly fill the sections with What's In a Sting?
honey—about a pound in each sec-
As a beginning beekeeper, you'll
tion. If you remove the sections as
want to know what happens when
soon as they are filled, you will have
a bee stings you.
no problem with honey dripping or
A bee's stinger is barbed and has
leaking, and no further handling
a poison sac attached to it. When
or processing will be necessary.
the bee stings you, the barb and sac
usually tear out of the bee's body.
Granulated honey
Convulsive movements in the sting
Honey tastes best when it is fresh, muscle then push the stinger deeper
whether in the comb or in liquid into your flesh and pump venom
form. But some honeys, even when into the wound.
fresh, granulate or become sugary— If you are stung, remove the
and most honeys will granulate stinger immediately by scraping it
sooner or later. The size of granules off with your fingernail or a knife
that form, their appearance and blade. Do not try to pull it out, be-
flavor, depend on the kinds of plants cause this will force more venom
that the bees collected nectar from. into your skin.
Granulated honey is good food. Stings are intensely painful when
In fact, some people prefer it to first inflicted. The pain is followed
either liquid or comb honey. But by reddening and swelling near the
if your honey granulates and you sting. N"ormally pain will subside
do not prefer it this way, liquefy it after a few minutes, but the swell-
by this method : ing may persist a day or more.
• Place jars of granulated honey Usually you develop a resistance
in a container with enough water or immunity to stings after you've
to reach to the level of honey in the been stung a few times. But some
people become allergic to bee stings ing you. This amount will vary, de-
and develop a severe reaction to pending chiefly on the strain of bees
them. Such persons should consult and the weather. (Bees are more ir-
an allergy specialist if they plan to ritable in cool, cloudy weather than
work with bees. they are when it is warm and
sunny.) Direct smoke into the hive
Avoiding Stings entrance before you disturb the bees.
When you remove the hive cover or
Smoke pacifies bees. Always use a super, apply smoke to the bees as
a smoker when you are working you expose them.
with them. But use only enough Wear protective clothing : A veil
smoke to keep the bees from sting- over your head and face; thin rub-

BN-30060
BN-30061

Brood combs showins (A) k«althy brood necessary for high-honey production and
(B) diseased brood, which results in weakened colonies and low-honey production.

10
Brood comb infested with greater wax moth larvae.

ber gloves; and close-woven, light- Government Printing Office, Wash-


colored overalls sealed at the ankles, ington, D.C. 20402.
wrists, and neck. Keep your colonies strong. This is
good beekeeping practice. It is also
your best protection against wax
Bee Diseases and Pests moth larvae, the serious insect pests
Several diseases attack honey that invade unprotected honey-
bees. None of them are dangerous combs. To learn more about the wax
to humans. moth, write for FB 2217, "Con-
Nevertheless, most States have trolling the Greater Wax Moth,"
laws to control bee dise<ases and to available for 10 cents from the Su-
prevent their spread. In many- perintendent of Documents, U.S.
States it is illegal to offer for sale Government Printing Office, Wash-
bee colonies and equipment that are ington, D.C. 20402. Include your re-
not accompanied by a certificate to turn address and ZIP code.
indicate that they are free of disease.
Before you buy or sell bees, notify
your State or local bee inspector. Learn More
If you need more specific infor- About Beekeeping
mation on bee diseases, consult your
county agricultural agent. Or write A good way to get information on
for a copy of AIB 313, "Diagnosing keeping bees in your area is to talk
Bee Diseases in the Apiary," avail- with a local beekeeper. He will be
able for 15 cents from the Super- glad to show you how to open a hive
intendent of Documents, U.S. and handle the bees, how to reduce

11
the likelihood of your being stung, in laboratories across the country,
and how to get honey out of the usually in cooperation with State
hive. agricultural experiment stations or
Your county agricultural agent universities. Here is a list of USDA
should be able to supply you with bee research laboratories :
pamphlets or direct you to other Arizona—Honey Bee Pollination
information sources. Or you may Investigations Laboratory, 2000
find that you can take a course in East Allen Road, Tucson, Ariz.
beekeeping at your State agricul- 85721.
tural college. Louisiana—^Bee Breeding Investi-
You might also find it useful and gations Laboratory, Room 240,
enjoyable to join a beekeepers or- Agricultural Center, LSU, Baton
ganization ; most States have one or Rouge, La. 70803.
more. And you can subscribe to bee Maryland—Bee Disease Investiga-
journals, or borroAv beekeeping tions Laboratory, Building A,
magazines or textbooks from your Agricultural Research Center,
public library. Beltsville, Md. 20705.
More complete information on all Utah—^Wild Bee Pollination Inves-
phases of beekeeping is available in tigations Laboratory, Room 261,
Agriculture Handbook Ko. 335, F. & B.S. Building, Utah State
"Beekeeping in the United States." University, Logan, Utah 84321.
It is available from the Superin- Wisconsin—Bee Management In-
tendent of Documents, U.S. Gov- vestigations Laboratory, Room
ernment Printing Office, Washing- 436, Russell Laboratories, Uni-
ton, D.C. 20402. Price, $1. versity of Wisconsin, Madison,
Wis. 53706.
ÜSDA Bee Laboratories Wyoming--Bee Disease Investiga-
tions Laboratory, University Sta-
Department of Agriculture work
tion, Post'Office Box 3168, Lara-
on bee culture and insect pollination
mie, Wyo. 82071.
is directed by the Apiculture Re-
search Branch of Entomology Re- You may address questions to
search Division, Agricultural Re- these laboratories. Or, if you wish,
search Service, Beltsville, Md. Most you may visit the laboratory nearest
bee research, however, is conducted your home.

Prepared by

Entomology Research Division


Agricultural Research Service

Washington, D.C. Issued October 1968

For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office


Washington, D.C. 20402 - Price 15 cents

U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE : 1968 O—311-620