In this article we are going to take a brief look at why man keeps Bees as an Introduction: Start Beekeeping for Beginners.
Why Keep Bees?
In the beginning….it’s ok this is not going to be a bible class.
Humans have been using bees for centuries, way back long before the discovery of Sugar Cane and Sugar Beet, the only sweetener available was Honey and a bonus was the bees also produced Beeswax which could be burnt to provide light. In some remoter parts of the world it is still the case, that bees are not kept at all, but the wild colonies are just robbed for the honey and the beeswax. However, in the modern world even though honey and beeswax remain an important part of beekeeping this is far outweighed by their value as Pollinators of our crops. It has been estimated in some studies, that the value to the food chain per hectare is as high as $3,250.
As we can see Man needs the honey bee, which is the only source of honey and beeswax. But around the world today the honey bee is under attack from many quarters such as Pesticides, Mites, Viruses and Fungus. If these are not controlled or kept in check by beekeepers then the colonies die. In the UK in particular virtually all feral colonies have been wiped out.
There are many reasons for keeping bees, apart from the altruistic idea that the beekeeper is some kind of saviour. You are dealing with an insect that is incredibly complex in its workings within the wider world, let me give you a couple of examples,
- It is an insect that can communicate the distance and direction to food sources by dancing on the surface of a vertical comb in complete darkness inside the hive.
- We may think that it is just one bee, but the colony in which it lives is actually a huge super organism, each individual contributing to the well-being of the whole.
- Here is another interesting one, it can actually see in colour, however when it is flying at speed it switches to Black and White vision to conserve energy!
The more you learn about the life and behaviour of this fascinating insect the more you will want to learn. As a beekeeper you need to be able to read what is happening in the colony, Are they making preparations to swarm? Do they have enough space to store the honey or do you need to provide more? Is the colony healthy or do you need to treat and if so how do you treat it? One thing is for sure though, there will be many times when they surprise you with their actions and do what they want to do….hence my tag line “The Bees don’t read Books”.
Not everybody is cut out to be a beekeeper.
Bee keeping my not be for you, however passionate you are about nature and the world around us. You can come out with top marks in theory lessons, but when you come face to face with an open hive containing thousands of bees, you might be totally unprepared and horrified of the thought of having to handle them.
I would highly recommend that you join your local beekeeping association, they are based all over the United Kingdom, here you will meet other like-minded people, be able to attend talks and in most associations they will hold meetings at their apiaries, where you can learn about opening a hive and handling the colony by watching experienced keepers, who will be more than willing to answer questions and explain what they are seeing and what to look out for. Many associations run courses over the winter and I would recommend considering joining one of these as well if possible. Another very valid reason for joining is that you will get to know if this is something you would be able to handle, before you go off and spend a lot of money of equipment and stock, only to find it is not for you.
In my next blog I will be looking at how a colony of bees actually work and also making a start on looking at the bees themselves.
If you have any questions or just any observations, then please add them to the comments below or give me a follow on Facebook and contact me there and I will reply once I have read them.