The Book Stall

Homegrown Honey Bees

Homegrown Honey Bees
An Absolute Beginner's Guide to Beekeeping
by Alethea Morrison

Storey Publishing,, 2013

This primer on beekeeping, composed by a man-and-wife team that kept close record of their own experiences, describes the first year of a beginner's beekeeping from planning, set-up and harvesting with loads of advice on what to expect and how to prepare.
Homegrown Honey Bees

"My husband, Mars, is a photographer and an obsessive documentarian," author Aletha Morrison explains. "During the first couple of years that we kept bees, he photographed how to install a new package of bees, light a smoker, inspect a hive, manage pests, harvest honey, and almost everything in between. We understood what beginners needed to know because we were learning ourselves at the same time."

Their heavily illustrated and brightly packaged primer begins with an introduction to the beekeeping lifestyle and some basic bee entymology. They detail the equipment needed to get`started, how to acquire a starter colony, and where to locate hives. Chapters include The First Month, The First Season and The First Harvest, highlighting the lessons they learned and the discoveries they made during those periods. In between, they profile beekeepers they've met along the way and offer excerpts from a "Bee Diary" chronicling their first year

Our first year of keeping bees, we freaked out when our hives started smelling like dirty socks. Did they have foulbrood disease? Our bee mentor, Tony, assured us the distinctive scent was ripening goldenrod honey and that it freaked him out his first year, too!

Our first harvest ever was goldenroad honey, and it tasted like apples. Though goldenrod honey is quick to crystallize, and our turned solid within a week, we enjoyed it in our tea all winter long.

Replacing the Queen

Domesticated honey bee queens live for an average of two years or less and have to be replaced. The survival of a bee colony is dependent on the queen to produce large quantities of healthy eggs. When one dies or fails to produce, a beekeeper must "re-queen' quickly.
Queen Honey Bee with workers

But replacing a queen is no simple matter, as bees in a hive won't tolerate intruders. "If you release her directly into the hive, they will consider her an enemy and probably kill her," Alethea Morrison explains. "To kill an unfamiliar queen, a cluster of bees forms a tight ball around her, making it so hot she suffocates."

Morrison suggests leaving the queen in the cage the supplier delivers her in and keeping it corked shut. Mist the queen and her cage with a small amount of sugar syrup dispensed from a spray bottle, then insert the cage between the two center frames, screen-side down to direct the queen's pheromes into the hive.

"After five days the queen's pheromes should have spread through the hive, and the bees will be ready to accept her. Prep yourself and your tools, including a spray bottle with sugar syrup, and puff smoke through the entrance and the inner cover," Morrison instructs.

"Open the hive, but do not use any more smoke on the frames. Observe how the bees behave toward the queen in the cage. Are bees swarming over the cage grabbing or biting the screen? Try brushing them lightly away. Do they quickly return? These are signs of aggression, so close up the hive and come back in a few more days.

On the other hand, if the bees are passing over the cage casually and inserting their antenna solicitously toward the`queen, it is time to remove the queen cage and spray it lightly with the sugar syrup to keep the queen from flying away when released.

"Hold the cage close to the center of the hive, and peel the screen back with your hive tool. Make sure the queen crawls down between the frames."

Come back in a week to check the hive's vital signs.

Advertise Here

8-Frame Hive Kit
8-Frame Hive Kit

Beekeeping Jacket with Veil
Beekeeping Jacket with Veil

Bee Hive Smoker
Bee Hive Smoker

Leather Bee Gloves
Leather Bee Gloves

Hive Tool
Hive Tool

Visit the Booths
Market Entrance
Reviews Archive
Search the Market
Lease a Booth
Book Search
Buy Direct Directory

Farmer's Market Online
Copyright © 2013 Outrider News Service. All rights reserved.