Beekeeping and Extracting Honey
Beekeeping involves caring for bees as a hobby or collecting bee products, such as honey, for selling. In any of these situations, the person interested in beekeeping should be aware of the supplies required to extract honey and promote the overall health and wellness of their honeybees.
A colony of bees needs a beehive. In the wild, bees will build their hive. However, beekeepers will provide them a human-made hive where it will be easier to harvest honey and help the bees in maintaining their colony. Typically, beekeepers choose a Langstroth hive or top-bar hives. The first was designed by Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth, the father of beekeeping. Considered the best option for beginning beekeepers, it features frames in which bees can build their comb. The frames are separated by a space and arranged so that each can be removed individually for inspection. On the other hand, top-bar hives modify the Langstroth hive, where the frame is replaced by a single top bar, from which the bees build their combs that hang down, unsupported by the other sides.
Beekeepers must also wear protective gear to extract honey because worker bee stings are filled with venom, making stung a painful experience. However, after a few stings, the person becomes immune to swelling. Using a veil and full-length clothes is the safest way beekeepers can prevent being stung. Beginners can also use gloves and a bee suit until they become more experienced.
Other useful tools when collecting honey or checking on the bees include a smoker, a hive tool, and a scraper. A smoker is a tool that covers up the odor of the bees’ pheromones, preventing them from communicating and helping the beekeeper work with the beehive. A hive tool is a crowbar-like tool that helps the keeper separate the beehive boxes that may be stuck together with propolis or beeswax, while the scraper helps remove the build-up of these bee products on the hive components.
Lastly, beekeepers need a honey extractor to extract the honey from the frames. The honey extractor can be manual or run by a motor and sized to the existing number of hives. Honeybees produce honey by collecting nectar from blossoms or leaves, or stems of plants. This sugary solution has water as at least half of its composition, but when the bees convert to honey, the product only contains about 16 to 18 percent water. Honeybees also collect pollen from the anthers of flowers, which provides young bees with the proteins they need to grow, and propolis, a material found in the buds of trees that helps honeybees seal cracks in the hive.
Experienced beekeepers may prefer to requeen their hive if they see that the current queen has not been performing well as an egg layer or is laying too many unfertilized eggs, also known as drones. Requeening a hive requires finding the old queen first and killing her, then installing a new queen, which can be bought from a supplier, captured from the wild. If one of the first two options is chosen, the new queen must be introduced in the center of the hive in a cage with a candy plug that will be eaten by the time the other bees have accepted the new queen as her pheromones take over the hive.