Part 4 ‘Beginning beekeeping’
It will be necessary to perform certain regular tasks if the health of your bees and the productivity of your beehive is to be maintained. In order to carry out these tasks, it will be necessary to acquire the appropriate clothing and equipment. This helps protect both yourself and your bees. Protective clothing should consist of a bee suit and should include a veil that is protective and which fully covers the head and face whilst the beehive is being handled. The veil should enable clear visibility and easy breathing.
Beekeeping gloves will be required to offer protection against possible bee stings. They need to be easily cleaned and discarded after used. Common examples of beekeeping gloves include disposable latex type gloves. These are used and discarded to minimise infectious pathogens that might be harmful to you or the bee colony.
Strong working boots like wellingtons or boots with protective toe caps are recommended in order to protect you from bee stings or from heavy equipment which may accidentally fall during beekeeping maintenance.
Cleaning equipment is also required to maintain a healthy hive. Beehives regularly require cleaning and disinfecting along with associated cleaning and equipment. Specialist beekeeping cleaning supplies can be purchased online or sometimes from gardening centers and DIY stores.
Bee smokers are designed to produce thick cool smoke that is puffed into the hive. When the bees detect smoke they assume that their hive is in imminent danger and this, in turn, makes them begin to consume honey in preparation to leave the hive. The process of this honey consumption has a calming effect upon them. The use of smoke also interferes with communication between bees so that no bee alarm is raised once the hive is opened up. Smokers have bellows attached and a wire heat shield around the body of the smoker to protect you from burns. Lighting the smoker requires some practice as you are aiming to have smouldering material that will produce the perfect smoke.
You can use rotten wood, cardboard, damp leaves, Hessian sack or you can purchase smoker cartridges or pellets.
A Hive Tool: Hive tools are an absolutely indispensable piece of equipment for a beekeeper. There are various types of hive tool and which type you choose is a question of your preference. Bees make a sort of glue called propolis from the resin of tree; they use the propolis to seal up any tiny cracks and crevices in the hive, (larger gaps are filled up with comb). The hive tool is multifunctional and is used as a metal lever which helps you prise open parts of your hive or to scrape up any mess that the bees have made. It can also be used to scrape any debris, beeswax and plant resin from your frames and to clean inside your hive surfaces.
In order to produce and sell honey from your hive, you will need a honey extractor. You will also need equipment to filter any collected contaminants and waste before packaging and being able to sell it. Required equipment can be bought online from specialist beekeeping suppliers.
If your bees lack sufficient food supplies to survive then you can create your own food supplies to prevent them from starving; make a syrup substitute for nectar by mixing white sugar with hot water, whilst making this nectar substitute you will need to continue stirring until all of the sugar is dissolved.
The type of food which you give to your bees should alter depending upon the current season. For instance, in the winter months, your syrup substitute should have low water content. This is due to the fact that if the water content is too high then your bees may not have time to dehydrate the food sufficiently in order to prevent fermentation before the cold weather begins. Consequently, if your bees require additional food stores during the winter months then you may feed them baker's fondant which they can eat immediately and which does not ferment.
During the spring and summer months, you can provide your bees with food which has higher water content. An acceptable spring and summer syrup substitute should mix one kilo of sugar with one litre of water, whereas in the autumn months you should mix one kilo of sugar with only half a litre of water.
As well as moderating the water content of your syrup substitute, you should also carefully select the type of sugar you use, and should only ever use refined white sugar because unrefined or brown sugar can cause dysentery in bees. Moreover, if you use pure sugar syrup then it will have no odour. As a result, your bees may not even notice your syrup substitute in the hive. To rectify this issue, add a little honey to your mix and apply it to their brood chamber so that they have a food trail to follow.
You can supply your food substitute to your bees via containers known as 'feeders' which can be placed above your brood chamber. These feeders facilitate restricted access to prevent your bees from falling into the feeder and drowning. To prevent your bees from drowning, you should never place an open container of syrup into your hive. Furthermore, you should place your feeders onto your hive in the evening. This will prevent the overexcitement of your bees as well as reducing the chances of external pests depleting your hive's food stores.