Before you can start harvesting that sweet, sweet honey and incorporating it into your home
, You have to make some important decisions. For starters, you should figure out what type of bees to use.
you might say,
not all types of bees are basically the same
? Well, apparently not. Plus, it’s not just a race issue — but we’ll get to that in a moment.
You should also find out what type of hive works best for you, and since no one wants to be stuck with a swarm of angry bees and have nowhere to put them, we’ll concentrate on the hive first. Read on!
To be fair, there are actually dozens of different types of beehives available on the market. Some are large. Some are tiny, and some seem perfectly designed to cause a mob of rage every time you touch them. In the interest of keeping things simple for the novice beekeeper, we’re going to review two of the best designs we’ve used. That said, feel free to do a little more research on other designs if you like. After all, they are your bees; it’s up to you what kind of house they get. Otherwise, consider these top possibilities:
Upper Blade Nest
One of the simplest designs around, the scissor nest is basically a bucket-shaped one-story drawer or nest with a removable stem placed above it that opens. The main purpose of a top-bar hive is to allow beekeepers to harvest honey without unduly disturbing the bees themselves. The bee builds its comb in such a way that it hangs from the grate. So, when a beekeeper wants to check their progress or harvest honey, he just needs to carefully remove the stem and have a look. The top beam nest is also easy to make and requires very few materials. The only real drawback is that you’ll need to do frequent inspections to ensure that the bees aren’t trying to build their combs on two or more boards.
While a bit more complicated than the top-bar varieties, Langstroth nests make up for it by producing a larger crop. Resembling a stack of wooden storage boxes, these hives have a removable frame from which the bees remove their combs. The nest can be expanded simply by stacking the smaller honey sections on top of the foundation and placing a lid over the top addition. These hives are probably the most commonly used by beekeepers because they produce the most honey, so it’s easy to find suitable parts. However, they may not be liked by the bees themselves because the inspection process is a bit more annoying.
Once you know where your bees will live and work, you should actually get yourself some bees. To do that, you have to find out which species suits you best. Each different breed brings with it its own advantages and disadvantages, so consider your options carefully before you commit. Oh, and make sure you don’t equate bees with wasps; the only thing the yellowjackets deliver is a burst of aggression. Here are some types of bees that you can consider.
One of the best things about this breed is that it will limit its breeding during the non-growth season. This will prevent them from having too large a colony during the winter, reducing the chance of starvation. Also, Russian hornets are naturally immune to many of the parasites that have reduced bee populations around the world. Russian hornets are also very prolific, but at the same time tend to be less aggressive than some other breeds. They can thrive in a wide variety of climates and are a great choice for beginners.
Perhaps the most popular breed among beekeepers, the Italian bee is another breed that seems especially suited to beginners. They are gentle, prolific, and are known to build large colonies in a relatively short amount of time. However, the gentleness they show towards caretakers does not extend to other bees, as Italian bees are known to attack other colonies aggressively—a behavior that can easily spread disease. Nonetheless, they produce superior honey combs.
Caucasian bees may even be less aggressive than Russian or Italian breeds, which is ideal for novice beekeepers. However, some of their other behaviors make them less attractive. For one thing, they use large amounts of propolis to seal up any holes in the hives, making it very difficult to inspect or remove parts. They were also known to raid other colonies such as the Italian race. On the plus side, they can survive cold weather and continue to produce honey inside much better than other breeds. They are also naturally disease resistant.
There are many other breeds and hybrids available for purchase, but as a first-time beekeeper, you may want to stick with something simple. Alternatively, you can always “adopt” a colony from the wild and transfer it to your nest. Be warned, however, that in addition to the hazards associated with wild bees (including swarms, genetic deficiencies, and disease), you also need to consider local laws regarding wild animal capture. After all, you want your colony to produce wax and honey, not give you huge fines.