Simple basics for becoming a beekeeper

July 29, 2015

Keeping bees is a fun hobby that has the added benefit of supplying you with your own delicious honey. These suggestions will help you properly set up your hive and avoid those nasty stings.

Simple basics for becoming a beekeeper

Advice for getting started

Getting started doesn't take much effort but some decisions are better than others.  Here are suggestions to take the most advantage of your new hive.

  • Bee-supply specialists offer complete beginners' kits, including bees, hive, tools, protective clothing and instructions. As the honey season progresses, you can purchase extra supers and frames.
  • Bees need plenty of fresh water. A nearby stream or pond, a pan of water with a wooden float for the bees or a slowly dripping hose will supply them.
  • Start a colony in early spring so the bees can build up their numbers before honey flow begins.
  • Begin with only one or two hives. Two have an advantage, since if one queen dies, the colonies can be combined.
  • Open the hive as little as possible once they are installed. A half-hour inspection every week or two is enough to monitor bees' welfare.
  • Of the various strains available, Italian bees are best for beginners. They are gentle, good foragers and they resist disease.

Avoiding stings

Being a beekeeper isn't without its risks, but remember bees sting only when they are feeling threatened. You can go sting free with the proper care and attention.

  •  It is important to wear protective gear. A hat and veil are basic; overalls, gloves and stout boots are recommended.
  • Bee stingers left in gloves release a scent that stimulates other bees to sting. You should never dispense with protective clothing unless you have developed a tolerance to bee stings and have learned how to handle bees without provoking attack.

What to do if you get a sting

When a bee stings, its barbed stinger is trapped in the skin and is torn loose when the bee escapes (and later dies). The venom sac remains attached to the stinger and pumps poison into the wound. Here's the proper procedure to remove the stinger.

  • Scrape off the stinger as quickly as possible with a fingernail or knife blade. The direction of the scraping motion should be from the point of the stinger back towards the venom sac.
  • Don't try pulling it out by grasping the stinger with fingers or tweezers, this simply squeezes more poison into the wound.
  • Ammonia, baking-soda paste or a paste made from crushed aspirin and water can help neutralize the venom.
  • Very few people are genuinely allergic to bee stings; most people develop immunity after a few stings. If you have severe reactions, consult a doctor.

It isn't hard to set up your own bee hive but the practice of beekeeping takes time to master. Follow these guidelines and you should be tasting your backyard honey in no time.

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