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Beekeeping

Beekeeping (apiculture) is the practice of managing honeybee colonies to attain desired objectives. The most common primary objectives for managing colonies are to:

Beekeeping (apiculture) is the practice of managing honeybee colonies to attain desired objectives. The most common primary objectives for managing colonies are to:
  • Maximize the collection of nectar (ie. to maximize honey production); and/or
  • Provide pollination services for local food crops.
In order to attain the desired results, be it honey production, pollination services, or other goals, the beekeeper needs a plan. The fundamental elements that drive the plan are:
  • 1. Knowledge of local nectar flows.
  • 2. Knowledge of honeybee biology.
  • 3. Beekeeping techniques to manipulate the colony.
  • 4. Deciding on the goals and how to best use the colonies.

The Beekeeper's Calendar

In February and March beekeepers are checking to ensure that the bees have enough food and are strong and healthy. If a colony becomes weak, it is combined with a strong one. If a colony becomes too strong, it may be divided in half by the beekeeper, thus creating two colonies. Poor queen bees may be replaced with new ones, and beekeeping equipment is removed from colonies that did not survive the winter. In the world today, this unfortunately occurs 35% of the time. During April and May, beekeepers are checking to ensure that the bees have enough room to expand the colony. If the bees outgrow their physical space, they will swarm. During swarming, a little over half of the population of bees leaves the hive to start another colony. If this happens, the beekeeper will lose the year’s honey crop from the colony that swarms. In June and July, the majority of honey and pollen for the year is gathered. During this critical time, the beekeeper might need to visit the hives every day. Full boxes of honey are removed for extracting, and empty boxes returned to the hives for refilling. Pollen traps are emptied into freezers for storage, and no one gets a day off. By August and September, the last of the honey crop is gathered and the bees are prepped for winter. Beekeepers ensure that brood is redistributed to make all colonies of equal strength. Colonies are fed if needed, and weak colonies are combined to make strong ones. In colder climates, all of the colonies are wrapped in an insulated blanket by October.

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