Honey bees are really interesting creatures who are more do much more than just produce honey. Admittedly, it’s the honey that sparks most people’s interest in beekeeping.
Bees are also responsible for pollinating a lot of plants including about 30% of all the plant food we eat. Unfortunately, bee populations around the world are in need of help. Climate change, loss of habitat, pesticides and disease have taken a toll on bee populations world wide.
By keeping your own bees on a hobby scale in your backyard or even starting your own small business, you’ll not only get to enjoy the honey they produce but you’ll be helping your local environment.
Honey bees have 3 casts or types:
The Queen Bee
The queen can be distinguished from all the other bees by her long body. Her only job in the hive is to lay eggs, producing the next generation of bees. During the season she can lay up to 800 eggs a day.
The queen can live for 3-4 years, however once her egg laying ability starts to decline, the worker bees will decide that its time to raise a new queen. This is known as “supercedure” and indicates that the hive is preparing to swarm.
The Worker Bee
These are the bees we all see in our gardens. Once worker bee is mature, she first begins work inside the hive. She attends to the queen, cleans the cells of the comb, stores nectar and pollen from the foragers, ventilates the hive with her wings and guards the entrance. Later in her life she will graduate to foraging for nectar and pollen.
Each individual worker will produce about half a teaspoon of honey and an even smaller quantity of beeswax during their life time. A colony of bees however can produce about 200 pounds of honey in a year.
The male bee is the biggest bee in the hive, although not as long as a queen bee, he is much bulkier that either the queen or worker bees. The drone does not do work of any kind, his sole purpose in life is to mate with a new queen high in the air .
Before you start thinking that he has the ideal life, you need to understand that when he mates with a queen he dies. If by chance he lives through the whole summer without mating. He is forced out of the colony before winter as he is not necessary for the colonies survival and would just use up precious winter reserves.
You may not realize that honey comes in lots of different natural flavors and colors. The flavor of the honey you collect from your hives will have its own unique character. This is because the flavor and to some degree the color of the honey is determined by the type of flower nectar the bees collected, as well the soil the flowers were growing in.
Once you have harvested the honey you will need to decide how your sell your honey. You have a couple of options, the simplest is to cut the comb from the foundation to be sold as is. The advantage of this is that you wont have the expense of a honey extractor.
There are also a couple if disadvantages, honey in the comb can really only be eaten as it is making less poplar with customers. And by cutting away the comb your bees have to start again rebuilding the comb, which slows down honey production.
Honey is most commonly sold as liquid honey, which has been extracted from the comb. To extract your honey you will need an extractor, basically a centrifuge for the frames of honeycomb.
Liquid honey is the easiest and most popular way to buy honey, it can be used for cooking and generally as a healthy substitute for highly processed sugar.
Remember too that it’s very important to comply with both state and federal laws for processing, labeling and handling of food products when you are preparing your honey or any other bee products for sale.
Beekeeping is a rewarding hobby and it can become a profitable small business if that’s the way you want to go. You can help the bees and your honeybees will not only supply you with delicious honey but they will pollinate your local area. Become a friend to the bees and start beekeeping.
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