HOW TO START BEEKEEPING
Take one of our beekeeping classes taught by EAS certified master Beekeeper David Burns. Credentials matter when it comes to beekeeping classes. This ensures that you are receiving accurate information, not fork lore or opinions. Our classes are known throughout the country as one of the most thorough, complete and understandable beekeeping classes available. Check out our upcoming beekeeping classes.
Thanks for your interest in beekeeping. To us, beekeeping is one of the most enjoyable hobby/businesses ever. We believe you will enjoy it as well. Some people keep bees simply because they are an amazing creature. Did you know that a honey bee flies around 15 mph? A hive of bees flies 55,000 miles to bring us 1 pound of honey. During her life (approximately 40 days) a honey bee will gather about 1/12 teaspoon of honey. Bees must go to two million flowers to gather l pound of honey. Bees can see the same colors we see except red. They can also see ultraviolet. See what awaits as you enter into the exciting world of beekeeping. We offer free online beekeeping lessons, beekeeping videos and beekeeping podcasts, and sell beekeeping supplies, bees and queens. Come to Long Lane Honey Bee Farms in central Illinois and take one of our beekeeping classes taught by our certified master beekeeper, David Burns.
Beekeeping is really simple:
1. Purchase your hives and equipment from us now.
2. Purchase the bees from us starting in Dec of this year.
Beekeeping is so amazing and can be such an enjoyable hobby or business. Isn't it time for you to enjoy beekeeping? Think of the honey, and how your honeybees will help pollinate flowers, fruit and vegetables in your area.
We recommend you start with new equipment. Old equipment may harbor diseases such as American Foulbrood which could infect your new bees. A traditional hive is called a Langstroth hive. It was designed by Rev. Langstroth in the mid 1800s. He discovered bee space which is the space bees require to travel and work within their nest area. You've probably seen the white bee boxes in fields. A hive is made up of a bottom board, 2 deep hive bodies where the bees live and raise their young, honey supers where bees store honey for us to take off, an inner cover for a weather barrier and finally a top cover. Other equipment required is a smoker to help calm bees, a hive tool to help pry apart the boxes and some sort of protective clothing, such as a bee suit, hat and veil and gloves. I enjoy working my bees without gloves. But I had to build up my confidence. Maybe you will too.
HOW DO BEES MAKE HONEY
When honey bees reach the age of 23 days old they become foragers and fly out of the hive to gather nectar from flowers. They also gather pollen in the hind legs in pollen baskets. They use their straw like tongue (proboscis) to suck nectar into their honey tank and then return to the colony with their precious cargo. Once in the hive they transfer the nectar to transport house bees who add enzymes to the nectar and dry it for 20 minutes in their mouth pieces before dropping into a cell. Then, the nectar is fanned until it reaches a moisture level of around 18% at which time the bees cap each cell closed with wax. This is to keep the honey pure and fresh, like we can food.
EXTRACTING HONEY FROM THE HIVE
We tell our students not to expect too much honey their first year because the colony is using a large portion of their incoming nectar to produce wax. Bees consume about 8 pounds of nectar to produce 1 pound of wax. However, in their second year, after their comb is built, more incoming nectar can be stored in honey supers. But, if all conditions are right, a first year hive can produce a large surplus of honey. Let me take you step by step through the whole process of taking the honey out of the hive all the way through putting it in a jar.
MAKE SURE IT IS CAPPED (RIPE)
Honey bees ripen nectar by removing much of the moisture and when the moisture level is to their satisfaction (around 18%), they seal it off with wax, like putting a lid on a jar. This prevents the honey from drawing any additional moisture. You must be patient and wait for bees to cap the honey comb before you remove it. If you remove a frame of honey prior to it being sealed the moisture level in the honey will be too high and could cause the honey to ferment which will cause the honey to taste bad. Do not remove the frames of honey until they are fully capped over with wax. If you do have to pull out the frames prior to all of the cells being completely sealed, you can leave the frames in a room with a dehumidifier for a day or two and it will draw out moisture.
REMOVE THE BEES OUT OF THE SUPER
There are several ways this can be accomplished and no single way is better. It is simply a matter of what fits your style. So here are the most common ways:
a) Brush the bees off of each frame . I did this when I first started with bees. I would walk out to the hive with 10 empty frames in a medium super along with two top covers. I would lay the first top cover on the bed of my truck upside down. Then, I would place my empty super into the top cover. Then, I would take out the 10 empty frames and set them aside. I would remove one frame of honey at a time, from the hive and brush the bees off, then place it in the empty super in the truck. I would place my second top cover on the super box to prevent robbing. I would repeat these steps until I had brushed all the bees off all 10 frames. I would then place the new frames where I had removed the frames filled with honey to allow the bees to start drawing out the foundation.
b) Blow the bees out of the super. As our operation expanded I would load my air compressor into my truck with a generator to run it. I would open up a hive, and set the honey super on top of the hive on its front side. Then I would use my air compressor to blow off all the bees. The bees would land out in front of the hive and go back into the hive. This is the method that still works best for me. You can use a leaf blower if you do not have an air compressor.
c) Use bee escapes which allow the bees to exit but not re-enter. Featured below are the three most common bee escapes, the triangle, conical and Porter escape.
The triangle bee escape board goes under the honey super. Bees exit, but find it impossible to go back in through the maze.
Conical bee escapes work the same way, as this board goes under the super and the bees exit the small, red conical tubes but cannot re-enter. The side pictured faces down.
This Porter escape was invented by Mr. Porter in 1891 and fits into the inner cover oval hole. Bees exit but cannot re-enter.
Be aware that once these devices remove all the bees from your supers, the small hive beetle now has free reign throughout your honey supers. If you live in areas where SHB is well established, which is about everywhere now, you may be wise to use escape boards sparingly and instead use fume boards described next.
Another common method to get the bees out of your super is to use a fume board. A fume board is placed on top of the super with a little chemical poured onto the fabric. This chemical has many names, but it is either Butyric Acid or Benzaldehyde which is a chemical that the bees do not like nor does any human who hates the smell of vomit. The bees run out of the super to get away from the bad smell and the super is empty within 5 minutes. If a beekeeper spills some on their clothing, they can empty out the nearest coffee shop in 5 minutes too! Many beekeepers love this easy method. I'm skeptical of the product being absorbed into the wax or honey and having an overall effect on the hive. However, smarter people than me have reassured me that these chemicals quickly evaporate.
HARVESTING FOR DIFFERENT TYPES OF HONEY
Honey from specific flowers does have a different taste. I would not begin to describe the differences but believe me it is different. Here's how to harvest specific honey. Essentially you must remove your honey supers after that particular flower stops giving nectar, and place new supers on before the bees change to a different source. This way, the honey will not be mixed from different sources. Of course, some mixing may happen, but you'll get more of the type that had the largest nectar flow. Sometimes this means pulling out only a few frames if all 10 are not ready.
Here is a picture of a frame that has a combination of light honey, and dark honey in the same frame. Sometimes a honey super may have contained a small amount of brood, but it appears more in the center in a circle starting at the bottom center of the frame.
Although this frame contains honey from two different sources, the dark honey is too small to extract separately so the two are combined. If you were going to enter your light honey in a contest, you should avoid a frame like this because the darker honey will darken the overall appearance ever so slightly.
Sometimes the comb is stained darker from darker honey. Sometimes it is a result of an area of brood that was laid in the honey super.
HOW MUCH SHOULD YOU FILTER YOUR HONEY?
Here is a picture of Jesse using a hot knife to cut off the cappings. We sell hot electric uncapping knives as well as cold uncapping knives. Notice what the sealed area looks like. The capped area is white because the newly made wax is a bright color at first. As it ages it becomes darker. Once the comb is uncapped, the honey can be extracted. If you do not have an extractor, a frame can be left upside down to drip out overnight. This method requires a warm/hot room, at least 80 degrees. Let one side drain, then reverse the frame so that the other side of the frame can drain as well. You can squeeze or crush out the honey from the comb, but this destroys precious drawn comb that you could reuse.
Once uncapped, place your frames in an extractor and spin the honey out. Once the honey is extracted out of the comb it collects in the bottom of the extractor which has a valve on the bottom. Most beekeepers strain their honey. Straining is different than filtering. We use a 400 micron strainer. These might be referred to as filters, but they are really strainers. We sell a lot of these nylon strainers that fit down over a 5 gallon bucket.
These strainers can be washed and reused over and over again. The honey flows very fast through these strainers and important elements of the honey are allowed to stay within the honey but foreign particles are strained out. Filtering honey usually involves warming the honey and pushing it through very fine commercial filters.
Some larger processors heat their honey and filter every grain of pollen from the honey so that the country of origin cannot be traced. In other words, there are some floral sources unique to particular countries, and pollen is often tested from imported honey so that illegally imported honey can be stopped. As a result, a large amount of honey purchased in larger stores has no traces of pollen. This is very unfortunate, which makes many of us suspect that America is still importing illegal honey. Read the entire story
We are okay heating honey to 90-95 because often the internal temperature of the hive is maintained at these temperatures. However, flavor and some nutrients are lost at temperatures above 120 (f). Honey does not need to be heated to be pasteurized. It is a pure and natural product and the only raw food that never spoils. It does not need refrigerated and can be kept at room temperature forever without spoiling. We allow our honey to sit after it has been strained. It sits for at least one week. Then we bottle it. Our settling tank allows all air bubbles to float up to the top. Then we drain from the pure honey at the bottom of the tank. You can do the same in a 5 gallon bucket with a valve on the bottom which we sell too. Most honey will become hard, known as crystallized. This is normal and does not mean the honey is bad. It means it simply crystallized. This can be remedied simply by leaving a jar in warm water or using a mildly heated double boiler. LOOK AT OUR NEW EXTRACTION KIT: CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO.
A CLEAN HONEY ROOM
Keep a clean honey room. One drop of honey on the floor soon gets tracked all over the place. It is a messy job, but fortunately honey cleans up easily with water. After you are finished harvesting your honey, clean up all your equipment. Since honey is a natural product and all you are doing is bottling it, there are very few guidelines in most states. Check with your state and county for honey preparation. Here in Illinois, we passed legislation so that beekeepers can bottle up to 500 gallons of honey without inspections and permits. Since you will be giving away your honey or selling it, here are some common practices you should follow. Wear a hairnet, clean clothes, and keep your hands clean and properly wash all equipment including bottles. Use good judgment.
Bottles are expensive. We use a combination of glass and plastic bottles. Many of our customers enjoy the small well liked teddy bear bottles. Bottles must be cleaned well, dried and free of any foreign objects and dust. A common bottle for us to sell is the quart jar. Most of our customers buy the one quart size and the traditional canning jar with canning lid is very cost effective.
When labeling your honey be sure to follow necessary guidelines. In most cases a label must state the following: Contact information, pure honey and weight. I usually like to state it is from America but that is implied if your address is your contact information.
You can include anything else on the label as long as it is truthful.
QUEEN, DRONES AND WORKERS IN A HIVE
Caste Of Bees In A Hive
-Drone (Male Bee) 2,000
-Female Worker Bee 60,000
HOW TO CATCH A SWARM
A colony will swarm when it becomes overcrowded. Half the colony will leave with the old queen, and they will raise a new queen with the other half of the colony left behind. The swarm travels to a new location following scout bees that have chosen a new location. Before they get there, the swarm will rest on a tree branch or wall and sometimes the ground. This is the optimal time to retrieve the swarm, while they are resting and before they complete their journey to their final destination. If on a branch, place a hive with frames in it under the swarm and shake the branch so the bees fall into the hive along with the queen. Put a top on it and take it home to where you want to place your new hive.
WHERE DO BEES GET WAX FOR THEIR COMB BUILDING?
Bees produce wax from their wax glands on the lower side of their abdomen. Honey bees between the age of 6-12 days old have mature wax glands. They consume about 8 pounds of nectar in order to produce 1 pound of wax. Small flakes of wax are secreted from their wax glands and then worked into shape by their legs and mandibles. Bees never rob wax from other hives.
WHAT IS ROYAL JELLY?
Honey Bees produce royal jelly from their hypopharyngeal glands in their heads. This secretion is fed to all larvae for the first three days. However, a colony can produce a queen by feeding copious amounts of royal jelly to a developing larva beyond three days. In fact a queen lives on a diet of royal jelly her entire life which is about 2-4 years. Worker bees live about 45 days in the summer and several months during the winter.
WHAT IS PROPOLIS?
Bees gather propolis from trees and plants and make it into a sticky substance to sterilize the inside of their nest area. Propolis is anti-everything. Anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal etc., so bees use it as their immune system in the hive. It is also used to glue things together. In the winter propolis is cold and hard. But in the summer it is gooey and sticky.
HOW TO MAKE CREAMED HONEY
All pure and raw honey will eventually crystalize, which means the honey will appear solid and the liquid sugar becomes hard over time. The honey is still good in this state. It simply needs warmed up to become liquid again. Honey never spoils and can be left out at room temperature. The process of crystallization can be controlled to produce creamed honey. When we make creamed honey we place 1/10 of very finely ground crystalized honey into a jar of liquid honey. We keep it at between 50-55 degrees (f) for a week or more and the crystals spread and the entire jar becomes a creamy jar of delicious honey. You can make it that easy too. If you do not already have the crystalized honey, it can be purchased.
WHEN IS THE RIGHT TIME TO HARVEST HONEY?
When the nectar is dried by the bees to a moisture level of about 18% the bees will "cap" each cell with wax to seal it off. So when a frame of honey is capped over it can be harvested. Harvested means you remove the frame, cut off the cappings with a hot or cold knife and then spin out the honey using an extractor. If you harvest honey before the cells are sealed over, the moisture content will be too high and the honey will ferment in the jar and have a vinegar flavor and is not good to eat.
WHICH IS BETTER A 3 LB PACKAGE OR A NUC
A three pound package of bees consists of about 10,000 bees. It also includes a new fully mated queen held in a separate cage. A nuc is the nucleus of a strong colony. Most nucs are made by removing 4-5 frames of brood, honey and pollen and selling it as a nuc. Nucs include a queen that is already released and laying well. Which is best? It depends. Packages are available earlier in the year. They are produced in the deep south and shipped north. Nucs cannot be produced in the north until June. Northern beekeepers can never produce enough nucs to satisfy the number of new beekeepers each year. But package bees can meet this need. Packages can abscond, meaning all the bees leave a few days after being installed. But nucs do not abscond. But with nucs you are buying someone's comb which could harbor disease. Make sure your nucs have been inspected and given a health certificate. Many states also require that nucs have a moving permit before being sold to protect against the spread of disease.
Healthy, strong colonies will swarm. This is when half of the colony leaves with the old queen to find a new home. The colony left behind raises a new queen. This is natural way beehives reproduce and make a new hive. However, beekeepers don't like swarming because it means that hive is weaker for a while and will not produce as much honey that year. How can swarming be controlled? Usually it is very difficult. However, giving your colony room to grow can ease the swarming tendency. Excessive swarming can also be a genetic trait of the honey bee as with Africanized bees.
Beekeeping is a must for pollination. Honey bees are our major food pollinators. According to the USDA, "Bee pollination is responsible for more than $15 billion in increased crop value each year. About one mouthful in three in our diet directly or indirectly benefits from honey bee pollination. Commercial production of many specialty crops like almonds and other tree nuts, berries, fruits and vegetables depend on pollination by honey bees. These are the foods that give our diet diversity, flavor, and nutrition". (Citing: http://www.ars.usda.gov/News/docs.htm?docid=15572)
THE WORK OF A HONEY BEE IS DETERMINED BY THEIR AGE
AGE IN DAYS WORK
1-2 Clean cells and keep brood warm
3-5 Feed older larvae
6-11 Feed younger larvae (because their royal jelly glands are mature at this age)
12-15 Produce wax, build comb and transport food in the hive
18-21 Guard entrance to hive
22-34 Forage to gather nectar, pollen, propolis and water
35-45 Bees perish from working themselves to death. Bees live for months in the winter.
CAN BEE STINGS REALLY PROVIDE HEALTH BENEFITS?
Beekeeping can provide health benefits. Bee stings should never be used in place of medical treatment. Many people, including some doctors have found that honey and bee sting therapy can be an effective healing aid. Some people have claimed that bee sting therapy has helped with MS, arthritis and other health problems. This approach should always be pursued only under the recommendation and close observation of a medical doctor. Honey can be used for burns, coughing, herpes and more. (CITING: webmd)
HOW DO BEES KNOW WHERE TO GO FOR NECTAR?
Bees show other bees where the best source of nectar is located by the waggle dance. Foragers return to the colony with a load of nectar in their honey stomach and begin dancing in a figure 8 pattern on the comb while giving out samples of the nectar they found. The dance consists of the dancer vibrating which tells other bees how far away the flowers are. She also dances at a certain angle on the comb which tells the bees which direction to fly.
HOW MANY HIVES SHOULD I START WITH?
As a certified master beekeeper, I recommend starting with at least two hives if the budget allows. Two hives allows the beekeeper to exchange resources to equalize the hives should one become weak.
WHEN AND HOW TO FEED HONEY BEES
In the spring, when it is warm enough for bees to fly, feed them 1:1 (one part sugar and one part water) sugar water in an entrance feeder. In the summer, bees rarely need fed unless there is a summer dearth. A dearth means there is a gap of available nectar because there are very few substantial flowers in bloom until fall. During this time we recommend using our Burns Bees Feeding System.
In the fall if bees are low on stored honey, feed them 2:1 (two parts sugar to one part water) sugar water in either a frame feeder or a top feeder. Do NOT use an entrance feeder in the fall as it usually causes other hives to rob the hive with the entrance feeder. This is not an issue in the spring when nectar is available.
In the winter, bees often consume all their food to generate enough heat to stay warm. Use our Winter-Bee-Kind on your hive for the winter. It insulates, feeds and provides an upper vent for the bees during the winter.
HOW TO DEAL WITH VARROA MITES
Beekeeping changed when varroa mites arrived in our country. All hives have varroa mites. These mites will eventually weaken your colony of honey bees and cause it to potentially die, especially in the winter. Beekeepers who ignore mites will lose their hives eventually. Beekeepers must have a plan to reduce varroa mites in the hive. In our beekeeping classes we teach a four part approach: 1) The use of green drone comb trapping of mites, 2) screen bottom boards, 3) powdered sugar dustings and 4) breaking the queen's brood cycle.
My wife has a blog dedicated to honey recipes. Visit Sheri's Honey Recipes
Hollywood has portrayed bees as killer bees. However, bees that beekeepers use are European bees such as Italian bees. They are very gentle. Africanized colonies are very aggressive. They are located in the south west in the US. Outside their colony they are well behaved. However if a hive of Africanized bees are disturbed they will attack. They are the same size as other honey bees, though slightly smaller if studied under a microscope. It is unlikely that Africanized bees will move much further north in colder climates.
HOW TO HELP BEES SURVIVE THE WINTER
Are you crossing your fingers hoping your bees will make it through the winter? Beekeeping has changed over the last 20 years. Now more bees die in the winter.Last winter was one of the toughest years on bees. Did you take all the steps necessary to ensure your bees were properly secure for winter? Reducing varroa mites greatly reduces viruses which kills hives in the winter. We have an all-day course teaching how to prepare for winter.
WHEN TO ADD ANOTHER HIVE BODY OR HONEY SUPER?
Beekeeping is all about timing. Timing is everything when adding addition room for your hive to expand. If you wait too long, they swarm. If you add a hive body or super too soon and it seems they never go up there. It is best to wait to add your second hive body only after about 6 frames have been drawn out with wax on the first hive body, then add the second. The same is true when adding a honey super. First, wait until 6 frames are drawn out in the upper deep hive body. Then add the honey super. We offer the honey supers you need.
DO YOU HAVE A WAX MOTH PROBLEM?
Wax moths always find a weak hive. Maybe you lost a hive last year to wax moth. Be proactive and take the necessary steps to ensure you can avoid common mistakes that lead to wax moth infestations. A wax moth infestation means your hive became low in numbers. A strong and healthy hive does not have wax moth problems. The way to keep wax moths out is to keep your hive very healthy and populated.
KNOW ABOUT SMALL HIVE BEETLES
Small hive beetle is the cockroach of the hive. This beetle can lay eggs in your hive which grow into larvae and ruin your honey and could cause all your honey bees to leave the hive. Did you know there are some simple traps to capture small hive beetles? A few beetle traps between the frames in the deep hive bodies can keep beetles under control. Be sure and keep an eye on your traps. They may need emptied often.
HAVING TROUBLE FINDING YOUR QUEEN?
Are you new to beekeeping and find it almost impossible to find your queen in the hive? Our certified master beekeeper, David Burns, has raised queens for years. Here's what he suggests: "Look for a retinue, a circle of bees attending to the queen. Also, the queen has a larger thorax and longer abdomen. Also as the queen walks she briefly leaves a wake of open comb behind her. Of course marking the queen makes it easier to identify her".
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO WHEN YOUR HIVE IS QUEENLESS?
There are some signs to indicate you may no longer have a laying queen in your hive. It could be louder than usual, more chaotic and restless. If you lose your queen, your hive could quickly go downhill due to a lack of future bees. The queen lays 1,000 to 3,000 eggs a day to build up populations of bees. And without a queen for 3 weeks the workers will begin to lay unfertilized eggs which turns your hive into a drone (male honey bee) factory. You need to take immediate action to ensure you have a good laying queen. If you let the hive raise their own queen, it will take nearly 30 days. That's 30 days without new bee populations. It is always best to purchase a mated queen immediately upon discovering the hive is queenless. Do not delay.
President Obama just issued a proclamation to help save honey bees.
We are David and Sheri Burns and we are passionate about beekeeping. We want to help you with all of your beekeeping needs and beekeeping supplies. We are located near Fairmount, Illinois. Take a look at the extensive beekeeping classes we offer. We make your hives right here in Illinois and we provide honey bees and honey bee queens. Our hives are fully assembled and painted with all the frames included. Plus we include an entrance feeder and a queen excluder. We appreciate your support, and value your business. Look over our online store. Our customers are mentored by EAS certified master beekeeper, David Burns. We carry a full line of beekeeping supplies and have over 150 free online beekeeping lessons. We share our years of experience and research to help you in all your beekeeping endeavors. Scroll down and watch our video explaining the various parts to the hive and more.