Tails Blog

Bee Keeping

Steve Coppell - Saturday, October 30, 2010

Bees might not be the most popular creatures, but for some people out there they are both a passion and a pet.
According to Greek mythology, bees were given the gift of their sting by the gods. They were told we will give you something to guard your hives, but they were also warned once you use it, you will die. Therefore today if a honey bee stings you it dies. Understandably, bees are very selective about using their sole defence mechanism and only do so if they are protecting their colony from attack. Bees are defenders not attackers.
Beekeeping can be a fun and rewarding experience. Whether you want to do it commercially or simply for your own enjoyment. Either way, there are a number of things to think about first.
Do your research and gather as much information about the subject as possible.
Find out whether your local council permits beekeeping. Most have bylaws that allow the practice, provided they dont become a nuisance.
Consider whether your property is suitable, for example is it dry, sheltered, and well away from areas such as schools? High hedges are ideal, though not essential. Get a fellow beekeeper to look at your garden and advise you on the best location for a hive.

Make a list of clothing you will need. Purchasing a full body suits opposed to single pieces is the easiest option for beginners. However as these can be expensive, consider purchasing one second hand from another beekeeper.
Look into different options for purchasing bees. The most common way is through another keeper. Some may even give you free ones to start you off. Alternatively, contact one of the countries many beekeeping clubs or check out the National Beekeepers magazine. These sources may also offer hives.
Keep in mind October is the best time to start beekeeping.

Interesting Facts
A honey bee can have up to 100,000 members.
Each honeybee colony has its own unique oder so that its members can identify it.
Honeybees can fly up to 24kph and beat their wings 12,000 times a minute.
Honeybees are capable of seeing ultra violet light which is invisible to the human eye.
Honeybees indicate when they have located a food source by using two distinct patterns of movement, often refered to as bee dances. A curcular dance indicates a source without specific reference to its distance or direction, while a tail wagging dance indicates a sources exact distance and direction in relation to the sun.
During its lifetime, the average honeybee will produce just one twelfth of a teaspoon of honey.
To make 1kg of honey, honeybees must visit almost 5 million flowers!
Honeybees secrete beeswax from glands on the underside of its abdomen.
The queen bee lays between 1500 and 2000 eggs a day. A prolific lay can be up to 3000 eggs.

The term busy bee might have come from the fact that within 5 to 10 minutes of being alive the bees start to work. They begin their life by cleaning and incubating. They then feed the larve, make wax and build cells. They also feed the queen and the male bees (drones) Guard bees protect the hive from incoming threats such as wasps, while undertaker bees take away the dead bees.
After a while some get promoted to field bee and go out to collect nectar and pollen or propolis. When flowers are in bloom, bees are very busy.
Bees are responsible for about 80 % of the pollination of flowers

Staying Sting Free
To avoid stings when checking hives beekeepers wear white clothing to differentiate from the colonies predators which are usually brown and furry.
Bees usually warn you before they sting, so if a bee flies close to your face, you should move away. If the bee keeps following you walk off and avoid swinging your arms or other objects in the air.
If you do get stung, it is important to scrape the sting away as quickly as possible and never squeeze it, as this will make the venom spread. Fortunately stings only hurt for about a minute and then the pain decreases- with the exception of any allergic reactions of course. The first indication of an allergic reaction is that you become itchy all over, and develope a rash. If this happens seek medical assistance immediately.

Bees Back in Time
Beekeeping is a time honoured tradition. Collecting honey from wild bee colonies is one of the most ancient human activities and is still practised by aboringinal societies in parts of Africe, Asia, Austalia and South America. Some of the ealiest evidence of gathering honey from wild bee colonies is from rock paintings, dating back to around 13,000 BC. Famous beekeepers throughout have included Alexander the Great, Aristole, Phythagorous,, Napolean, Leo Tolstoy, Maria Von Trapp, and our very own Sir Edmond Hillary, who used the profits to help fund his early climbing expeditions.