Beekeeping 411

Peek inside the world of bees and beekeepers, find out fascinating facts and get tips for starting your own hive.
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Photo By: Image courtesy of Kurt Vollmer, vollmerapiary.com

©Image courtesy of Kurt Vollmer, vollmerapiary.com

Photo By: Image courtesy of Kurt Vollmer, vollmerapiary.com

Photo By: Image courtesy of Kurt Vollmer, vollmerapiary.com

Photo By: Image courtesy of Kurt Vollmer, vollmerapiary.com

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: Image courtesy of Kurt Vollmer, vollmerapiary.com

Photo By: Image courtesy of Kurt Vollmer, vollmerapiary.com

Photo By: Image courtesy of Bill Owens, www.gabeeremoval.com

Photo By: Image courtesy of Kurt Vollmer, vollmerapiary.com

Photo By: Image courtesy of Bill Owens, www.gabeeremoval.com

Photo By: Image courtesy of Bill Owens, www.gabeeremoval.com

Photo By: Image courtesy of Bill Owens, www.gabeeremoval.com

Born With a Mission

Beekeeping is on the rise in the U.S. and the benefits to the beekeeper and the community are numerous. Not only are bees the most important insect pollinator for plants, flowers and crops but the honey they produce is a natural sweetener that contains antioxidants which boost the body's immunity to illness.

The Autumn Buzz

Most beekeepers advise beginners to start their hives in the fall. Getting started early will insure that your hives will be ready to reap the benefits of the spring season when the honeybees become active and the pollination process begins. 

Honey Cluster

Bees get busy on a hive design that will serve as the structure for growing the bee population and producing honey.

The Young and the Restless

Honeybees create hive chambers which house the larvae, the next generation of bees. These cells are known as capped brood. As the eggs hatch, they are fed royal jelly by the worker bees which accelerates their growth to the pupa stage.

Sweet Spot

Here is a close-up look at the hexagonal wax cells created by honeybees to house their larvae and the honey and pollen they harvest.

Bee Magnets

Honeybees can be picky and don't necessarily flock to all pollinating plants and flowers but Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) is a reliable lure for bees. Other favorites include goldenrod, agastache, coneflowers and Shasta daisies.

Local Flavors

The flavor of bee honey greatly depends on where the beehives are located which is why there are so many regional types of honey available such as sourwood (the Appalachian Mountains) or orange blossom honey (Florida, Texas, California). Beehives located near a corn field will most likely produce cornflower honey which is greenish yellow in color with a slightly bitter aftertaste.

Anti-Smoke Protection

Beekeepers smoke the hive so they can harvest the honey without stirring up the bees and getting attacked. The smoke cuts off their communication from each other by blocking the pheromone (scent) exchange. It also causes the bees to begin gorging on honey, a reaction to being forced out of their hive without sufficient food. The bees' honey consumption results in an abdominal dissension making it impossible for them to sting.

Pheromone Blocking

Beekeeper Lisa Owens prepares to smoke the bees so she can easily harvest the honey without disturbing the hives. 

Show and Tell

A beekeeper checks a new hive for honey and the general health of the bees. Commercially sold beehives are designed for easy removal, inspection and the harvesting of honey. 

Honeycomb Breakdown

Several frames of honey are placed in the uncapping tank. In the uncapping tank the beekeeper will uncap the comb with a scratching tool so the honey can be easily released during the extraction process. 

Spin-o-rama

After the honeycomb is uncapped, the frames are placed in an extractor which will spin them around, forcing the honey out of the comb and down to the bottom of the extractor.  

Sweet Rewards

The honey that comes out of the extractor tap is now ready for bottling and consumption.