Beekeeping (or apiculture) is the maintenance of one or more hives of
Traditionally beekeeping was done for the bees' honey harvest, although nowadays crop pollination service can often provide agreater part of a commercial beekeeper's income. Honeybees were imported by American colonists from Europe , partly for honey and partly for their usefulness as pollinators. Other hive products are pollen and propolis , which are used for nutritional and medicinal purposes, and wax which is used incandlemaking, cosmetics, furniture polish, etc.
There are several types of beekeepers:
Some southern US beekeepers keep bees primarily to raise queens and package bees for sale. Northern beekeepers can buy earlyspring queens, and/or 3 or 4 pound packages (of live worker bees) from the South to replenish hives that die out during thewinter.
Most commercial beekeepers migrate with the seasons, hauling their hives on trucks to gentler southern climates for betterwintering, and early spring build-up. Many make nucs (small starter or nucleus colonies) for sale or replenishment of their ownlosses during the early spring. Some may pollinate squash or cucumbers in Florida, or make early honey from citrus groves inFlorida, Texas or California. As spring moves northward, so do the beekeepers, to supply bees for tree fruits, blueberries,strawberries, and later vegetables. Some commercial beekeepers alternate between pollination service and honey production, butusually cannot do both at the same time.
When interacting with the bees, novice beekeepers usually wear protective clothing (including gloves and a hooded suit, or hatand veil). Experienced beekeepers do not use gloves, because they make one clumsy and can transmit disease from one hive toanother. Bees are calmed with a puff of smoke before opening a hive. This triggers a feeding response in anticipation of possiblehive abandonment due to fire.
Fifty years ago, most US hobby beekeepers were farmers or relatives of a farmer, lived in rural areas, and kept bees withtechniques passed down for generations. The arrival of tracheal mites in the 1980s and varroa mites in the 1990s removed most ofthese beekeepers because they did not know how to deal with the new parasites and their bees died. The modern hobby beekeeper ismore likely to be a suburbanite: he or she tends to be a member of an active bee club, and is well versed on moderntechniques.
The bees are usually kept in Langstroth hives , that is, wooden boxes filled withframes that each hold a sheet of wax: the bees produce wax and build honeycomb using the wax sheets as a starting point, afterwhich they may raise brood or deposit honey and pollen in the cells of the comb.
A few hobby beekeepers are adapting various Top Bar Hives commonly foundin Africa. These have no frames and the honey filled wax is not retrurned to the hive after extraction, as it is in theLangstroth hive. Because of this the production of honey in a top bar hive is only about 20% that of a Langstroth hive, but theinitial costs and equipment requirements are far lower. Top Bar hives also offer some advantages in interacting with thebees.
In the Northern Hemisphere , beekeepers usually harvesthoney from July until September , though inwarmer climates the season can be longer. The rest of the year is spent keeping the hive free of pests and disease , and ensuringthat the bee colony has room in the hive to expand.
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