Let me just preface by giving my thanks to the San Mateo Beekeeper’s Guild for their free introductory lesson and for inviting us to it. The transcription of my notes to blog will be with minimal editing, so it may be a bit haphazard.
Bees need three things to survive: nectar, pollen, water. They communicate mainly through use of pheromones (can be blocked using smoke) and the “waggle dance” which mainly serves to help drones communicate location of resource pile. Type of resources heavily affects flavor of honey.
Uses for bees include their ability to pollinate yards, produce honey, beeswax, propolis, royal jelly, pollen. Honey can be used as food or for folk remedies. Beeswax can be melted, strained, and molded into candles, beauty products, soap. It is mainly harvested in the growth phase of the honeycomb. Propolis is a sticky substance produced by bees that serves as a type of glue connecting comb to some foundation. It has some folk remedy application, such as an antiseptic. Royal jelly is a chemical that when applied to bee larvae will produce a new queen. Practical uses research? Pollen can be eaten. Keep in mind that beekeeping can be combined with beer brewing to make MEAD which is absolutely delicious.
HIVE ACTIVITY. Bees do not leave the hive when the outside temperature is below 50 degrees. Keep this in mind when choosing location for future farm. Brood chamber is the lower part of a standard beehive and contains the queen and food that will not be harvested but left for the bees so that they can be self sustaining. Lowest, highest bee populations- Around winter solstice bee pop can be around 10000 and skyrocket to 80000 during the summer months (may be particular to San Mateo weather). If the weather gets too hot the wax in the beehive will melt = BAD. Swarm is natural reaction of hives when it becomes too overpopulated. This results first in extra pop of bees swarming around hive. These bees particularly aggressive. After a time swarm may result in a splitting of a hive. Splitting a hive means that another queen is produced and sent off to start a new hive elsewhere, with spare bee pop in accompaniment. Splitting can be used to start a hive naturally from a wild hive as opposed to ordering bees in the mail. Time of year also affects type of honey production. Mid-March or spring honey produces a lighter honey and mid july produces summer honey which is darker.
ARTIFICIAL HIVE CONSTRUCTION. Generally pretty boring stuff. Research “California hive”. Make sure if bought separately that your parts are interchangeable. Consists of frame, foundation, boxes, bottom board, queen excluder, cover. Also optional stuff like pollen collector. Foundation can be made of natural wax or plastic (more effective). Make boxes out of water resistance glue (such as gorilla glue or tight bond) and nails.
Bees will have to make honeycomb prior to making honey. Takes about 3 weeks to due. Therefore, drawn comb, or comb that is still good and can be reused is highly prized. Comb does go bad when it turns blackish. Can feed bees if you so like by attaching a jar to the top of hive with 1 part sugar 1 part water. Only truly necessary at beginning or end of bee season when resources are scarce?
Do not paint inside of box. Outside latex works well. White works well for super hot temperature zones. Hive can weigh up to 200 pounds. Good idea to put on top of cinder blocks for easier access.
PLACEMENT. Place hive where it: has access to morning sun, where you can get to it, in inconspicuous places, where there is no wind like in a valley.
TOP BAR HIVE. A top bar hive, also called a Kenyan or Tanzanian hive, is built slightly different. In a sentence, the structure and upkeep are much simpler, but the amount and efficiency of resources gathered are lowered. In the typical hive the different compartments are physically separate and organized in a top down fashion. Kenyan hives start with a basic box with the open end facing up… the perimeter of the top serves as a foundation for strips or bars of wood to rest upon. Each piece of wood provides a starting point for the bees to construct comb while the width of the wood separates each strip enough so that the bees do not interweave the strips of comb together. The front third of the box serves as the brood chamber while the latter two thirds serve as harvest-able honey producing comb. Rule: leave at least half of the honey as food for the bees. Centrifugal force are not necesary. Honey can be harvested by sticking a whole strip of comb into a strainer, all within a bucket. Gravity over a week with pull it into the bucket. A wet towel overhead will keep bees from trying to retake the stolen wax and honey.
There are two entrances to a regular hive, one serves as an entrance and one serves as an exit. Air circulation is controlled by the bees to also follow this plan in order to help keep the hive cool and not melt the wax. This is useful when using a smoker as it should be placed by the entrance and not the exit.
Bees do not fly at night, so any work done on the hive should be attempted during the day. Opening hive also cools the inside of hive. Remember: when temperature goes below 50 degrees all the bees head back home.
Black comb occurs more frequently the nearer to the brood chamber you are. Caused by movement of bees. When there is more than sufficient nectar for the bees, the comb on the top layer will take a whitish hue. Research good plants and flowers to put around hive to flavor honey.
3/8 – 5/16 = “bee space”
You can tell what kind of bees by looking at the cells. Queens pupae hang off the bottom of the comb, are larger. Worker pupae fill the regular cell and cap off the top. Drone pupae are bigger than worker pupae and appear slightly raised in comparison to rest of the comb.
A bee escape attachment serves much like a queen excluder except it allows bees to place honey in one section but does not allow them to go back.