Beekeeping – Bee All that You Can Bee

 

Do You Love Honey?Honey and honeycomb

I mean – do you really, really, really love honey?  Do you use honey – as opposed to other sweeteners – most of the time?

I know I use it a lot – on toast – in various drinks – in recipes – etc.  Actually, I try to substitute honey for sugar as much as possible.

 

Which Is Better – Honey Or Refined Sugar?

Honey is the winner – hands down!  Even though it is 64 calories per tablespoon – and refined sugar is only 49 calories per tablespoon – honey is sweeter so, less is needed to sweeten up your food.

In addition, honey is much lower in fructose and glucose and our bodies process and absorb it slower – meaning a longer, more pronounced energy effect.  That makes honey much easier on your bodies and digestive systems than refined sugar.

Honey also has other things not found in refined sugar:

Honey and honeycomb is full of nutrients.

  • Vitamins and minerals – Vitamins C, B3, B5, and Folate (another B vitamin) – and potassium, manganese, selenium, zinc, and calcium – are prolific in honey.
  • Probiotics and digestive enzymes – Bees deposit probiotic bacteria and enzymes into their honey which aid digestion, reduce allergies, treat diarrhea, and improve our hearts and our mental health.
  • Antiseptics – Honey also has both antiseptic and antimicrobial properties that can battle a host of bad bacteria – and reduce swelling and discomfort. Have you ever hot honey tea or honey water to ease a sore throat?  On the other hand, refined sugar will actually increase inflammation and cause infections to last longer.  Think about that!
  • Allergy prevention – Studies have shown that ingesting honey grown in your area can make you less sensitive to the local pollen allergies.

 

Honey ThievesWinnie the Pooh is a honey thief!

Honey bees have been around for 100 million years!  And, we know that as far back as 10,000 years ago, humans have poached honey whenever and wherever possible.  Plus, I’m sure prehistoric mammals have been stealing honey for a whole lot longer!

We all know that bears are honey fanatics.  Just look at Winnie the Pooh for evidence!

But, did you know that honey is also adored by badgers, opossums, raccoons – and even skunks?

With all these bandits, I guess these poor little victims have to really “Bee” aware!

 

Let’s “Bee” a Beekeeper

Beekeepers inspecting hive.

If I’ve convinced you to forgo sugar and start using honey more often, you could be considering a foray into beekeeping – to produce your own deliciously sweet and sticky nectar.

But, just how can you get your honey farming project off the ground?

The first step is to understand bees – and realize that you must be thoroughly educated – and learn the ins and outs of the trade.

Whether you want this to just be a hobby or expand it into a commercial venture, it is necessary to learn all you can before making the plunge into devoting the time and buying all the equipment crucial to success.

 

“Bee” Aware Of The Social Order Of Bees

Out of the 20,000 bee species worldwide, the European honeybee is the most preferred in the United States.  Honeybees are the bugs that store more food than they can eat – and they do eat honey to survive the winter months.

Beehives usually hold between 10,000 and 60,000 honeybees.  And, there are 3 types of honeybees in every beehive:

Queen bee - largest in the middle.Bees swarm around the queen.

 

 

 

 

 

Queen – As a rule, only 1 queen is in a hive.  She is typically the largest bee – and, the only one that reproduces.  The queen never ever leaves the hive – with 2 exceptions.  The first time she leaves, as a virgin, is to mate – with as many as 80 drones.  The sperm she stores will be used for the rest of her life – 5 to 6 years – to lay her eggs –creating new worker and drone bees – and, eventually, giving birth to a bee princess who will become the new queen of the hive.  The second time she leaves the hive is after she gives the hive to the new queen.  Then, she leaves with a swarm from the hive – about half the bee colony – to search for a new hive to call home.  The bee swarm envelopes the queen to protect her from harm and keep her warm.

Worker bees in a hive.

Workers – Worker bees are all female – but, they are sterile and don’t reproduce.  Workers are in charge of gathering pollen and nectar, feeding the babies, producing / storing honey and wax, cleaning, and defending the hive.  Their lifespan is about 4 to 6 weeks.

Drones – Drone bees, being all male, are only on this earth to provide their sperm to virgin queens from other hive colonies.  After mating, they die.  After the swarm season – even if they haven’t mated – they are kicked out of the hive by the worker bees – before winter sets in – because, they no longer deserve to feast on the supplies of honey and pollen.  Then, they will most likely die of starvation or the winter’s freezing temperatures.

A great read for understanding the social life of the honeybee is Honeybee Democracy, by Dr. Thomas Seeley, a biology professor at Stanford University.

Honeybee Democracy

 

Bee Prepared!

As a beekeeper, you must commit to spending countless hours maintaining and inspecting hives to ensure the queen is laying eggs and the workers are building an excess of honey – because only the “honey excess” can be harvested.  We have to leave enough honey for the bees to survive the winter.

Even with protection, you will get stung.

You will get stung!  On occasion, a bee will nestle in a fold of your clothing – you won’t notice it until they sting you.  Since they die after stinging, they will only sting you if they see it as their only option.  But, it will happen.  If you are one of the 10% that are allergic to bee stings – if you carry an EpiPen just in case of getting stung – or, if you have an anxiety attack from getting stung by a bee – “Bee”-ing a beekeeper is NOT for you!

Join the Beekeepers Association in your state – and, also a local bee club close to you.  You will get a ton of useful tips and information including the best place to purchase your bees. And, bees should be purchased locally because they are accustomed to the area.  Bees in California – are different from bees in New York – are different from bees in Florida.  You get the picture.   Colonies across the United States are acclimated to the areas in which they are raised and their hardiness is specific to their region.

Watching my bees.

Watch your bees – There is nothing more gratifying than seeing how your bees interact with each other and their environment.  Every bee colony has a unique personality.  And, you want to get to know your bees – be their bosom buddy – understand the subtle, but effective, ways they go about their daily routines.  So, pull up a lawn chair next to your hives and settle in for an hour or so – a couple days a week – to become one with them.

Read – and read – and read some more.  Never stop learning about honeybees – and, stay updated on current honeybee research.  All of these books are MUST reading for honey farmer enthusiasts:

Top-Bar Beekeeping
Top-Bar Beekeeping
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Beekeeping
Complete Idiot’s Guide
Natural Beekeeping with the Warre Hive
Warre Hive

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Practical Beekeeper Volume 1 Beginner
Vol 1 Beginner
The Practical Beekeeper Volume 2 Intermediate
Vol 2 Intermediate
The Practical Beekeeper Volume 3 Advanced
Vol 3 Advanced

 

By 

Coming Soon

By and by, I will be reviewing beehives, as well as beehive accessories and supplies in an upcoming post.  Trust me – these will be the best options – at a reasonable price – for beginner, intermediate, and advanced beekeepers.

 

A Little Lightheartedness

A beekeeper felt that he should go back to college and get more education.  On his first day, he was sitting in math class and the professor said, “I know that many of you may be feeling a bit dumb and intimidated in this class.  And, if any of you feel especially dumb, please stand up.

Everyone looked around at each other but, no one stood up right away.  After a time, the beekeeper stood up – alone.

The professor exclaimed, “Ah, so, you’re feeling a bit frightened – and a little dumb, huh?

Not really”, responded the beekeeper, “I just hated to see you standing there all by yourself!

Smiling Bee

That’s All Folks!

Anyone want to be a beekeeper?  Have I at least convinced you to eat more honey and less sugar?  Comment or email me with your stories and questions.

 

Jim, the Lifelong Gardener

jim@perfect-vegetable-garden.com

12 thoughts on “Beekeeping – Bee All that You Can Bee

  1. f1shbiscuits Reply

    I love having some honey in my tea every so often for tea time.

    It’s great how you place instructive visual to aids about honey
    and bees.

    I also learned about the ecosystem concerning the bee’s role and
    the bee empire.

    Do you do bee keeping on your own? If you do are you selling
    honey at your local market?

    I would love to know how to differentiate between genuine honey and
    fake honey. There is so much confusion on the subject matter to identify real honey.

    • Jim Reply

      I am not involved at beekeeping right now but, I am planning to take up the hobby again – very soon.

      Much of store bought honey has other high glucose additives like corn syrup – to keep the honey from solidifying (crystallizing).  So, check the label for a start.  Companies do this to stretch their honey and make more money.  But, their fake honey does not have the same healthy nutrients as pure honey.

      To find out if you have genuine, pure honey:

      If you see honey in the store that has started to crystallize, it is probably pure honey.  If you have already purchased the honey and it hasn’t started to crystallize, you can put it in the refrigerator to speed up the crystallization process.

      You can mix the honey with water and add 4 to 6 drops of vinegar.  If it becomes foamy, it is not real honey.

      You can also just mix honey in a glass of water and see if it dissolves easily.  If it does, it is NOT pure honey.  Pure honey will not dissolve and will settle on the bottom of the glass.

      You can light pure honey with a match and it will burn.  Fake honey usually contains water – which will keep it from burning.

      Stick a piece of old, stale, hard bread in honey for 10 to 15 minutes.  If the bread is still hard when you remove it, the honey is pure.  If the bread is soggy, then the honey is not pure.

      Mix honey with water and add a few drops of iodine to it.  If the solution turns blue, then there are add flours or starches in the honey.

      I hope this gives you some ways to make sure your honey is pure and genuine.

      Jim

  2. Janis S Reply

    This article is “Bee”autiful!!! I never knew honey had so many health benefits! The fact that it’s an antiseptic and an allergy preventative, is amazing! It makes me want to put honey on everything now! 

    I love your joke at the end! It was hilarious! I’m going to have to use that as well!! 

    How does one become trained as a Beekeeper? 

    • Jim Reply

      Hi Janis,

      The best way to become trained as a beekeeper is join your local bee association and read a whole bunch – just like I explained in the article above.

      Just make sure you are ready for that occasional bee stinger that will need to get plucked out of your skin!

      🙂

      Jim

  3. Christine Reply

    This is a great post… even though I am absolutely terrified of bees.

    I still find it very interesting to know how they form and interact within their bee community. I never knew there was such hierarchy in the bee world.

    As for honey, my husband loves it. I myself use it as a sugar substitute. Much healthier for you!

    Thanks for the information about the bee world. 🐝🍯

    Christine 

    • Jim Reply

      Hi Christine,

      You’re welcome.  I’m glad I could shed some light on the wonderful world of beekeeping.

      You might be interested to know that most beekeepers started out by being terrified of bees – but, over time, they usually get over it.

      Jim

  4. Paul Reply

    Dear Jim,

    Thanks a lot for the detailed post on Bee keeping and I love the creativity when you said “Bee all that you can bee”.

    To be honest with you while listening to Dr. Raymond Francis videos in Youtube, he is advising to avoid using sugar (He is advising that the sugar is very dangerous to our health) while sharing the information with my honey she said instead of sugar we will use honey (Honey suggesting honey – trying to play with the words like you Lol).

    But she said it is hard to find the pure honey nowadays and your post on Bee keeping is a greater help for us at the right time.

    The advantages and benefits you discussed about honey is very helpful.

    Indeed you have convinced me to forgo sugar and use honey. Thanks for the humour and I can’t stop laughing.

    Surely Bee keeping is on my bucket list. Thanks for the informative post.

    Paul 

    • Jim Reply

      Hi Paul,

      I’m glad you found my beekeeping post so informative.  The more you research sugar – the more you will find out that refined sugar is actually poison to your body.  And, that is not a good thing – for sure!

      I don’t think I’ve every found someone who advocates using sugar.  Everyone always says that honey is a much better sweetener.

      Jim

  5. swangirl Reply

    Hi Jim,

    I really enjoyed reading this since my parents kept bees when I was a baby. That was here in Alaska in the tiny town of McCarthy in the Wrangell St. Elias National Park. After we moved even further into the park (and off the road system) we no longer had bees but I have always thought about trying it again. My parents also collected birch sap and made birch syrup and after we moved we had different landscape with very rich, deep soil that lent itself to gorgeous gardens. From then on it was chickens, rabbits and thousands of square feet of gardens instead of honey and birch syrup. We grew enough produce to last us all year and won many first place ribbons at the State Fair as well as a few Grand Champions as well! The fair is held in Palmer which is the site of the original farming colony set up during WWII here in Alaska when it was still a territory. This is the site of record setting, giant cabbages, pumpkins etc. Even with these great farms for competition we still grew record setting produce on our little homestead hundreds of miles away.

    I miss all of it! I live closer to the city now land is expensive. When I get a piece of property again I will definitely have gardens and hope to have bees as well! A friend of the family kept bees nearby here so I know it is possible! This area is much more temperate in climate than where I grew up in the interior. Winters are not as cold so it should be a bit easier to keep bees here I would think.

    I will definitely come back here and read your recommendations!

    Thank you,,

    Jessica

    • Jim Reply

      Hi Jessica,

      It sounds like your family has had quite a bit of experience with beekeeping, farming, and gardening.  It is very heartening to see folks who do whatever it takes to be as self-sufficient as possible.

      You must be very proud of winning so many State Fair competitions!  That is definitely a reason to do even better next year!

      I think you may be a kindred spirit!

      🙂

      Jim

  6. Rika Reply

    Hi Jim,

    You’ve got me convinced to eat more honey.  I never realized there are so many differences between honey and sugar.  I would love to become a beekeeper but I live in the city.  I don’t think my neighbors would think it is funny:). 

    I know bees play a very important role in nature and there are even concerns that their numbers are on the decline.  I think in becoming a beekeeper you help to maintain the balance in nature.

    Just for interest sake, how much will it cost to get started with beekeeping?  The protective clothing, hives and whatever else you might need.

    Thanks for sharing an excellent article about bees and beekeeping.

    • Jim Reply

      Hi Rika,

      I’m glad you found my beekeeping post informative.

      Typical cost for a beginner – starting with one hive is about $1,000 – give or take a few bucks.  That includes the hive, tools, clothes, and a 3 pound starter package of bees – with queen.

      Most beekeepers recommend starting with two hives.  If you follow their advice, add about $500 for the second hive.

      That’s the bad news.

      Now, the good news is, that if you can sell at least half the honey you produce every year, you may be able to recoup your initial investment in roughly 3 years.

      Jim

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