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The Apiary

The Apiary Site
The site chosen for the apiary should be on firm ground sheltered (but not overhung) by hedges, bushes or trees to break the force of the wind and to elevate the bees’ line of flight safely out of way of passers-by or neighbours in adjoining gardens. The plot should enough to accommodate one or more additional hives, spaced 4-6 ft – and to provide ample room around them for the beekeeper when attending to or Inspecting the bees. Hives should be set upon firm stands to raise them clear of the ground. Their entrances should preferably have a southerly aspect though this is not essential. The immediate surroundings should be kept free of long grass and tall weeds.

Siting and Equipping a Small Apiary
The beginner is advised to start no more than two small colonies of bees, it is likely that he will or later find himself keeping more, deliberately or otherwise. Bearing mind, he /she should select a site for the apiary accordingly, and be to think ahead when assessing the amount of equipment that will be needed.

Choice of Hive

For those proposing to keep bees for the first time there is a choice of several hives. Those most widely used in Britain are British National Hive, Smith Hive, Modified Commercial Hive, Langstroth and Modified Dadant Hives. The basic feature common to all these hives is that they use rectangular wooden boxes, open top and bottom, which can be tiered one upon another, the first resting on a floorboard incorporating an entrance and the top one covered with a roof.

The frames enclosing the combs hang in the boxes. The combs in the lower part of the hive form the brood nest in which the eggs are laid by the queen and in which the resulting larvae are reared by the nurse bees. Above the box, or boxes, containing the brood nest are placed .boxes of combs for the storage of honey, as required during the season. Between the brood nest and the upper boxes (usually known as honey ‘supers’) may be placed a perforated horizontal screen (queen excluder) through which worker bees can pass but not the larger-bodied queen. The use of a queen excluder prevents the queen from laying eggs in the boxes provided for honey storage and facilitates removal of the honey at the end of the season. Whereas deep boxes with correspondingly deep combs are used for the brood nest, shallower boxes (supers) with shallower combs are usually used for honey storage. Sometimes, in order to give more room for brood rearing, a shallow box or a second deep box is added to the brood nest.

The hives described above take frames of different sizes. The frames most in demand from British manufacturers are, at present, the Standard British 14 x 81/2 in. deep and 14 X 51/2 in. shallow frames. With 1 ½ in. long lugs these frames fit the British National hive; if the hugs are shortened to 3/4 in. they are suitable for the Smith hive. These hives, like the others described, are single walled and suitable for large or small scale beekeeping. There are other hives, namely The WBC (double skinned) that look more decorative in a small garden apiary but with single walled hives management is simpler, the labour involved is less and the movement of whole apiaries for pollination or to heather moors becomes a much more practicable

To start with, a hive consisting of a floor, deep box and two or three shallow super boxes, inner cover (or crownboard) and roof should be obtained, together with a queen excluder. This will usually suffice for the first season, but it is useful to have a spare hive of the same pattern, with one deep box, in reserve in case it becomes necessary to house a swarm.

Frames can be bought completely assembled and fitted with foundation ready for use, but a cheaper alternative is to buy flat pack or self assembly along with sheets of wired foundation for assembly and nailing together at home.

Bee Space

The “Bee-Space” is the gap which bees will leave clear as a passageway between the frames and the hive walls, and it is most important because without it we could not remove and replace frames as we do. The bee-space is 1/4 -3/8 in (6-9mm); a smaller gap would be filled by the bees with propolis (bee-glue) and they would build extra comb in a larger one. Basic Hive components allow variation in the dimensions of different hives and in the provision of top or bottom bee-space. A bee-space must also exist between brood boxes and supers; otherwise they would be difficult to separate. Traditionally the British elected to have bottom bee-space, so that the tops of the frames were flush with the top edges of the box but the bottom bars were in (9mm) short of the lower edges.

1st Year BeeKeeping

When there is less than a full box of frames the bees are reluctant to work on the exposed face of the last frame, but they will more readily do so if it is flanked with a dummy board. Later, when the box is full and the combs are all drawn except the outer ones, the position of these may be exchanged with the frames next to them. Moving the foundation away from the outer wall in this way will encourage the bees to draw it out more quickly. Sugar syrup (1 kg sugar to 1ltr water) in a rapid feeder, that can be easily replenished, should always be available so long as comb building in the brood box is in progress.

Examination at 7 to 10 day intervals will show progress made by the colony and the need for more comb space or stores. When the bees are beginning to work the last comb in the brood box the colony is ready for a super for the storage of honey or to provide clustering space for the increasing population of bees. To avoid giving the colony too much room at this stage the super should, preferably, be a shallow one. It should contain a full complement of frames fitted with foundation, spaced the same distance apart as those in the brood box. The crownboard is removed and a queen excluder placed on top of the brood box; the super is placed on the queen excluder and the crownboard on the super, followed by the roof.

Feeding can well be continued until the bees have made a good start at drawing out the foundation, but should be discontinued before any syrup is stored in the drawn combs. It is unlikely that a further super will be required in the first year, but if one is needed it should be given on top of the first.



LIFE CYCLE OF THE HONEY BEE. The Honey bee exists as an egg for the first three days of its life. About the third day the egg hatches to form small larvae. The larvae will exist until the 7th to 8th day. The worker bees then start to feed the larvae and the larvae continues to eat getting larger every day. The larvae become large and robust and are pearly white colour, covering the bottom of the cell. The adult bees then begin to cap the cell. The VARROA MITE must enter the cell before the cell is capped. If a varroa mite has not entered the cell before it is capped it will look for another open cell. Once the cell is capped the larvae will continue its development within the first 24hours from larvae to pre pupae. During this transformation the honey bee larvae spin a cocoon sheds its larvae skin and becomes a pre-pupa. Day 12, during the next 24 hours the pupae will enter the white eyed pupae stage, about day 13 the pupae enters the pink eyed stage and 14th day the purple eyed pupae stage. The pigmentation of the pupae cuticle then changes as it gradually tans around the mouth and antennae sockets. Day 16 the pupae are of a tanned colour with movement beginning to happen in the legs. Day 18 the pupae have turned to a black headed bee stage, and finally about 20 days the honey bee chews of the capping to vacate the cell. It is at this stage if there is Varroa mite in the cell that they will also escape with and on the honey bee. LIFE CYCLE OF THE VARROA MITE. The varroa mite will enter the brood cell 15-20 hours before the cell is capped. The mite will crawl down between the larvae and the cell wall and embed itself in the brood food. The varroa mite will turn itself upside down and breathe through a tube while it is in the food. As soon as the larvae has eaten all of the brood food, it frees the mite allowing the varroa mite to take its first blood feed from the pre-pupae bee. Usually this takes place around the tenth day of the honey bees development and it is about this time that the varroa mite lays its first egg. The first egg laid by the varroa mite is male, and she continues to lay at 30 hour intervals the remaining eggs being female. Varroa mite defecates frequently in the cells the faeces having a whitish appearance. The first male varroa egg will hatch about day 12. After 48 hours, these become eight-legged protonymphs which, after feeding on the bee larva, moult into a deutonymph. Three days later, the last moult to an adult occurs. Approximately twenty-four hours later the mites mate inside the capped honey bee brood cell. The males die after copulation in the brood cell and the female mites emerge to begin the cycle again. When the adult bee chews the cap off to emerge the adult mother mite and any of her mature daughters leave the cell. Fortunately, the survival rate of the progeny is just over one per cell, the rest dying within the cell. As the female mite lays her eggs at 30 hour intervals it is thought that the mite prefers the longer developmental cycle of the drone of 24 days over the worker of 21 days.

Worker (Female Bee)

She is the other Female , but the smallest bee in the colony – only about half the size of the drone or the Queen. The worker Bee is produced from a fertilised egg – unlike her brother the drone who is produced from an unfertilised egg. The honeyBee egg will hatch in about three days and emerge as a small white larva. At this stage one of the worker Bees who is acting as a nurse will fill the cell in which the larva is resting with a substance called Bee milk. On the eighth day the cell will be capped with wax. The worker Bee will emerge from her cell 21 days later. She is then ready to her duties in the hive. In the summer time a worker Bee will live for just over a month – about 36 days. During the winter she will live for about 6 months. When the worker Bee emerges from her cell she still has a little more maturing to do – during these few days she will be doing cleaning duties around the hive. After a few days she will take her first flight around the hive. There are various roles within the colony that the worker Bee will perform – usually they will all progress from one role to the next but are able to perform any job at any time. The roles include nursing & cleaning, as mentioned earlier, also wax production, honey processing and guard duties. These roles are all ‘in-door’ duties and after about 20 days she will become a forager. When the worker Bee is in this stage of her life her role is to find and collect pollen, nectar, water and propolis. These substances are required by the hive to live. The pollen is used by the Bees as a source of protein and vitamins. It is collected from flowers and carried back to the hive on the Bees hind legs. Nectar is stored in the honey comb, transported back to the hive is a specially designed honey stomach. Nectar, gathered from flowers is primarily sugar and water. Polpolis is a sticky substance gathered from plant buds, again carried to the hive on the Bees legs and is used for maintaining the hive. A small number of the foragers will become what are known as scouts. The scouts explore the area around the hive for the best flowers from which to gather nectar. When they find a particular flower with a high sugar content they will return to the hive and ‘dance’ for the other Bees. The dance is a way of communicating to the other Bees the best forage available and the direction to go in order to find it. A worker Bee has a life span of about 36 days. When a colony is at full strength in the peak summer months there may be as many as 50 – 60 thousand adult Bees and approaching 40 thousand Bees developing in the brood frames. A Worker bee is any female eusocial bee that lacks the full reproductive capacity of the colony’s queen bee; under most circumstances, this is correlated to an increase in certain non-reproductive activities relative to a queen, as well. Worker bees occur in many bee species other than honey bees, but this is by far the most familiar colloquial use of the term. Honey bee workers keep the hive temperature uniform in the critical brood area (where new bees are raised). Workers gather pollen into the pollen baskets on their back legs, to carry back to the hive where it is used as food for the developing brood. Pollen carried on their bodies may be carried to another flower where a small portion can rub off onto the pistil, resulting in cross pollination. Almost all of civilization’s food supply (maize is a noteworthy exception) depends greatly on crop pollination by honey bees, whether directly eaten or used as forage crops for animals that produce milk and meat. Nectar is sucked up through the proboscis, mixed with enzymes in the stomach, and carried back to the hive, where it is stored in wax cells and evaporated into honey. Workers must maintain the hive’s brood chamber at 34.4 degrees C to incubate the eggs. If it is too hot, they collect water and deposit it around the hive, then fan air through with their wings causing cooling by evaporation. If it is too cold, they cluster together to generate body heat. The life of all honey bees starts as an egg, which is laid by the queen in the bottom of a wax cell in the brood area of a hive. A worker egg hatches after three days into a larva. Nurse bees feed it royal jelly at first, then pollen and honey for six days. It then becomes an inactive pupa. Honeycombs have hexagonal cells on both sides of a vertical central wall. As shown in the photo, these cells are inclined upward, primarily to retain liquid nectar and honey. During its 14 days as a pupa, sealed in a capped cell, it grows into a worker (female) bee, emerging on the 20th day. In most species of honey bees, workers do everything but lay eggs and mate, though Cape honey bee workers can lay eggs. They build the comb from wax extruded from glands under their abdomen. They clean, defend, and repair the hive. They feed the larva, the queen, and the drones. They gather nectar, pollen, water, and propolis. They ventilate, cool and heat the hive. When a colony absconds (all bees leave the colony) or divides and so creates a swarm and then establishes a new colony, the bees must regress in their behavior in order to establish the first generation in the new home. The most urgent task will be the creation of new beeswax for comb. Beekeepers take advantage of this by introducing swarms into new or existing colonies where they will draw comb. Comb is much more difficult to come by than honey and requires about six times the energy to create. A newly hived swarm on bar bars (top bar hive) or empty foundation (Langstroth box hive) will often be fed sugar water, which they can then rapidly consume to create wax for new comb (Mature hives cannot be so fed as they will store it in place of nectar, although a wintering hive may have to be fed if insufficient honey was left by the beekeeper.)

Worker Bee Rolls

Cell Cleaning (Day 1-2)Brood cells must be cleaned before the next use – cells will be inspected by the queen and if unsatisfactory will not be used. Worker bees in the cleaning phase will perform this cleaning. If the cells are not clean, the worker bee must do it again.Nurse bee (Day 3-11) Nurse bees feed the worker larvae worker jelly which is secreted from glands that produce royal jelly. Advanced Nurse Bees (Day 6-11) Feed royal jelly to the queen larva and drones receive worker jelly for 1 to 3 days at which time they are started on a diet of honey and pollen. Wax production (Day 12-17) Wax Bees – build cells from wax, repair old cells, and store nectar and pollen brought in by other workers. Early in the worker’s career she will exude wax from the space between several of her abdominal segments. Four sets of wax glands, situated inside the last four ventral segments of the abdomen, produce wax for comb construction. Worker activities d Honey sealing (Day18 – 22 ) Mature honey, sufficiently dried, is sealed tightly with wax to prevent absorption of moisture from the air by workers deputized to do same. Drone feeding Drones do not feed themselves; they are fed by workers. Queen attendants The attendants groom and feed the queen. They also collect QMP (Queen Mandibular Pheromone) from the queen and share it with the bees around them who also share it spreading its effects through the hive. Honeycomb building Workers will take wax from wax producing workers and build the comb with it. Pollen packing Pollen brought into the hive for feeding the brood is also stored. It must be packed firmly into comb cells and mixed with a small amount of honey so that it will not spoil. Unlike honey, which does not support bacterial life, stored pollen will become rancid without proper care. It has to be kept in honey cells. Propolizing The walls of the hive are covered with a thin coating of propolis, a resinous substance obtained from plants. In combination with enzymes added by the worker this has antibacterial and antifungal properties. Propolis is used to aide with ventilation and at the entrances of hives. Mortuary bees Dead bees and failed larvae must be removed from the hive to prevent disease and allow cells to be reused. They will be carried some distance from the hive by mortuary bees. Guard Bees (Days 18 – 21) protect the entrance of the hive from enemies Soldiers hang around near the entrance and attack invaders. They work in concert with entrance guards. Entrance guard bees inspect incoming bees to ensure that they are bringing in food and have the correct hive odor. Other bees will be rejected or attacked with soldier bees. Outside guard bees may take short flights around the outside of the hive in response to disturbances. Fanning bees Worker bees fan the hive, cooling it with evaporated water brought by water carriers. They direct airflow into the hive or out of the hive depending on need. Water carriers When the hive is in danger of overheating, these bees will obtain water, usually from within a short distance from the hive and bring it back to spread on the backs of fanning bees. The worker bee has a crop separate from the nectar crop for this purpose. Foraging bees (Days 22 – 42) The forager and scout bees travel (up to 1.5 miles) to a nectar source, pollen source or to collect propolis.

Top Bar Hive Description

The top-bar hive is so named because the frames of the hive have only a top bar, not sides or a bottom bar.

The beekeeper does not provide a foundation (or provides only a fractional foundation) for the bees to build from.

The bees build the comb so it hangs down from the top bar

This syle of hive is also known as the Kenyan Hive

The hive body is often shaped as an inverted trapezoid in order to reduce the tendency of bees to attach the comb to the hive-body walls.

Unlike the Langstroth design, a top-bar hive is generally expanded horizontally, not vertically.

The top-bar design is a single, much longer box, with all the frames hanging in parallel. Unlike the Langstroth hive, the honey cannot be extracted by centrifuging because a top-bar frame does not have reinforced foundation or a full frame.

Because the bees have to rebuild the comb after each harvest, a top-bar hive yields more beeswax but less honey.

However, like the Langstroth hive, the bees can be induced to store the honey separately from the areas where they are raising the brood.

Therefore, bees are less likely to be killed when harvesting from a top-bar hive than when harvesting from a skep or other traditional hive design.

Commercial Hive Description

Commercial hives are exactly the same external dimensions as a National hive, but instead of having a rebate the hive is a simple cuboid. Because of this the frames are larger and have shorter handles or lugs. The brood box is picked up using small hand holds cut into the external wall of the hive. Supers have this same feature, which can make them difficult to hold when full of honey. Some beekeepers therefore use National supers on top of a Commercial brood box.

General Hints

It is a mistake to think that there is a lot of money to be made from beekeeping, and any who make a start under that impression will without doubt be greatly disappointed. As a matter of fact, it would be absurd to believe beekeeping as a sole means of obtaining a livelihood on account of the uncertain climate of this country; in one year the returns might be extremely good, whilst in the following one they may be nothing and with a great reduction in the working capital as well. Taking the craft on the whole it is profitable enough if thoroughly understood, but so many rush into it before they are even acquainted with the parts of a hive, let alone with the bees themselves, that disaster is inevitable both to the beekeeper and the bees, total extinction, indeed, is often the result To be successful there must first be a close study of the bees and their ways from practical books on the subject; novices can also obtain great help by joining either the local or county beekeepers’ association, as it brings them into touch with experienced beekeepers, who are always ready to give advice or a helping hands At the same time it is a great mistake for them to become entirely dependent upon such aid as so many do, for there are many so-called beekeepers who have possessed bees for years and yet have never once handled them, and certainly never captured a swarm. Most associations organise lectures and demonstrations, so that there is no excuse for anyone to remain in ignorance concerning this most interesting of all crafts. A note of caution , Some associations are better then others and it may be wise to try a few local ones before you decide to join, After all, they have to fit-in with you as well as you, them. There are many more who would like to keep bees were it not for their sting. It would be foolish to suggest that one will never be stung, ( YOU WILL !! ) but as bee stings are good for rheumatism ( IF you believe popular myth & some science) a few at least should be acceptable. just remember that some people will react badly to stings and some will be allergic. A great deal depends upon the care exercised in manipulating the hive and the bees whether a bad time of it is experienced or not.