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Honeybee Farming

Beekeeping Equipment:

Equipment requirements vary with the size of operation, number of colonies, and the type of honey plan to produce. The basic equipment required are the components of the hive, protective gear, and smoker and hive tool, and the equipment needed for handling the honey. The hive is the man-made structure in which the honey bee colony lives. Over the years a wide range of hives have been developed. Today most beekeepers use the Langstroth or modern ten-frame hive. A typical hive comprises of a hive stand, a bottom board for entrance prevention, a series of boxes or hive bodies with suspended frames comprising foundation or comb, and inner and outer covers. The hive bodies that contain the brood nest are separated from the honey supers (where the surplus honey is stored) with the help of a queen excluder.

Hive Stand

It is actually an optional piece of equipment. It uplifts the bottom board of the hive. This support eases dampness in the hive and prolongs the life of the bottom board. It helps keep the front entrance free of grasses and other weeds. Hive stands may be a concrete blocks, bricks, railroad ties, pallets, logs, or a commercially produced stand. It may support a single colony, two colonies, or a row of several colonies.

Bottom Board

It serves as the floor of the colony and as a landing platform for foraging bees. Since the bottom board is open in the front, the colony should be slanting forward slightly to prevent rainwater from running into the hive.

Hive Bodies

The standard ten-frame hive body is accessible in four common depths or heights. The full-depth hive body, 95⁄8 inches high, is mostly used for brood rearing. These large units offer adequate space with minimum disturbance for large solid brood. They also are appropriate for honey supers. However, when occupied with honey, they weigh over 60 pounds and are difficult to handle.

Frames and Combs

It is the basic structural component inside the hive and it is held within a frame. In a man-made hive, the wooden or plastic beeswax comb is started from a sheet of beeswax or plastic foundation. After the workers have added wax to draw out the foundation, the drawn cells are utilized for storage of honey, pollen and used for brood rearing.

Frames are 175⁄8 inches long and either 91⁄8, 71⁄4, 61⁄4, or 53⁄8 inches high to fit the different hive-body depths. Each frame comprises of a top bar, two end bars, and a bottom bar. Top bars may be either grooved or wedged; bottom bars are split, solid, or grooved. The choice of bars is generally a personal preference that includes consideration of cost. Top bars are suspended on edges in the ends of the hive body.

Queen Excluder

The primary purpose of the queen excluder is to confine the queen and her brood and to store pollen in the brood nest. It is an optional piece of equipment and is utilized by less than 50 percent of beekeepers. Many beekeepers use the word “honey excluders” to queen excluder. Because the workers are disinclined to pass through the narrow openings of the excluder to store nectar in the supers above until all available space in the brood chambers is used up. To minimize this problem, the bees are allowed to begin storing nectar in the supers before filling the excluder. Nectar stored in drawn comb will force the bees to pass through the excluder.

Supers of foundation should never be placed above a queen excluder. An excluder is constructed of a thin sheet of perforated metal or plastic with openings large enough for workers to pass through. Beeswax combs used for brood darken with use, so a queen excluder can help ensure separation of brood combs from honey combs to avoid unnecessarily darkening honey. They are also used to isolate queens in a two-queen system and to raise queens in right colonies. It may also help in finding the queen. If you place an excluder between two hive bodies, after 3 days you will be able to find which hive body contains the queen by locating the eggs laid.

Inner Cover

The inner cover rests on top of the topmost super and beneath the outer cover. It prevents the bees from sticking down the outer cover to the super with propolis and wax. It also provides an air space just under the outer cover for insulation. During summer, it protects the inner parts of the hive from the direct sun rays. While, during winter, it prevents moisture air from directly contacting surfaces. The center hole in the inner cover may be fitted with a porter bee escape to help in removing bees from full supers.

Outer Cover

An outer telescoping cover protects hive parts from adverse weather conditions. It fits over the inner cover and the top edge of the outer most hive body. It is normally covered with a sheet of metal to protect the structure. Removal of the outer cover, with the inner cover in place, annoys few bees within the hive and let the beekeeper to more easily smoke the bees before colony manipulation. Beekeepers that routinely move hives use a simple cover, often called as a migratory lid. In addition to being lightweight and easy to remove, these covers allow colonies to be stacked.

Plastic Hive Equipment

Traditionally, the basic parts of hive have been made out of pine, cypress, or redwood. Today, all hive components are available in plastic. Plastic hive components and frames that snap together are durable, strong, lightweight, and easy to assemble, and require low maintenance. While plastic frames and foundation are becoming gradually popular while plastic hive covers, bottom boards, and hive bodies have not proved to be as beneficial because plastic not allow easy moisture ventilation. It also warps easily, and some types are much light, which makes them difficult for drawing foundation.

Painting the Hive Parts

All parts of the hive exposed to the weather must be protected with paint. Inside of the hive should not be painted as the bees will varnish it with propolis (a mix of plant sap and wax). The only purpose of painting is to preserve the wood. Most of the beekeepers use a good latex or oil-based paint. Usually light color especially white is desirable because it prevents heat buildup in the hive during summer.

Bee Smoker

A bee smoker is essential for working bees. The smoker consists of a metal fire pot and grate with bellows attached. The size of the smoker depends on individual requirements. The 4 x 7 inch size is probably the most broadly used. Some beekeepers like the model with a hook to hang the smoker over the open hive body. To produce thick smoke, coals must be above the grate and unburned materials must be above the coals. Suitable smoker fuels include burlap, corn cobs, wood shavings, pine needles, cardboard, punk wood, bark, cotton rags and dry leaves. An alternative liquid smoke is available, that is mix with water and spray onto the bees with a mister-type applicator.

Hive Tool

It is a metal bar important for prying apart frames in a brood chamber or honey super, separating hive bodies. It is also used for scraping away wax and propolis. Most of the beekeepers prefer to hold the hive tool in the palm of their hand to keep it accessible and this way help keep their fingers free for lifting boxes and frames. It should be cleaned from time to time to remove propolis, wax, and honey. It can be done simply by stabbing the tool into the ground or by burning it in the hot fire pot of a smoker. Both methods help prevent the spread of bee diseases. A screwdriver or a knife are poor substitutes for a hive tool and may cause hive body damage.

Protective Clothing

Bee keepers should always wear veils to protect face and neck from stings. Three basic types of veils are available:

  • Veils open at the top to fit over a hat.
  • Completely hatless veils.
  • Veils that form part of a bee suit.

A wire or fabric veil that stands out away from the face and lightweight hat that fits securely offers the best protection. Veils without hats are good for transport but do not always fit as securely on the head as they should. The elastic band that fits around head often works upward, allowing the veil to fall against your face and scalp as you bend over to work with bees. A wide variety of bee suits are available in a wide price range. Coveralls (bee suits) are useful to avoid getting propolis on your clothing and greatly reduce stings if they are maintained properly and laundered regularly. Long-sleeved shirts with attached removable veils are popular. White or tan colored clothing is most suitable, because bees react unfavorably to dark colors, fuzzy materials, and clothing made from animal fiber. Coveralls made from nylon fabric are excellent, although they may be too hot to use in the summer.

Beginners who fear being stung should wear leather gloves. Simple lab work and household gloves can be also utilized as these reduce stings and sticky fingers from honey and propolis. Ankles with dark socks and open wrists are areas susceptible to stings. They often attack ankles first because they are at the level of the hive entrance. You should secure your pant legs with rubber bands or tuck them inside your shoes or socks. Protect open shirt sleeves with rubber bands to reduce stings to these sensitive areas. You should avoid using lotions and fragrances because such odors may attract curious bees.


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