Honey Farming for Food Storage: How to Select Your First Hive

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Honey Farming for Food Storage: How to Select Your First Hive

Before you can start harvesting any of that sweet, sweet honey and plopping it into your food storage, you’re going to need to make a couple of crucial decisions. For starters, you’ll need to figure out what kind of bees to use. But wait, you might say, aren’t all bee breeds basically the same? Well, apparently not. Besides, it’s not only a question of breed—but we’ll get to that in a moment.

You’ll also need to figure out what kind of hive will work best for you, and because no one wants to get stuck with an armful of angry bees and nowhere to put them, we’ll be concentrating on hives first. Read on!

Hives

Just to be fair, there are actually dozens of types of beehives available on the market. Some are large. Some are small, and some seem perfectly designed to cause an angry swarm every time you touch them. For the sake of keeping things simple for the novice beekeeper, we’re going to review two of the best designs that we’ve had experience using. That said, feel free to do a bit more research into other designs if you’d like. After all, they’re your bees; it’s up to you what kind of home they get. Otherwise, consider these top possibilities:

  • Top-bar Hives

    One of most simple designs around, the top-bar hive is basically a drawer or bucket-shaped, single-story hive with removable bars laying across its open top. The main point of the top-bar hive is to allow beekeepers to harvest honey without overly disturbing the bees themselves. The bees build their combs in such a way that they hang from the bars. Thus, when a beekeeper wants to inspect their progress or harvest some honey, he or she needs only to carefully remove the bar and take a look. Top-bar hives are also easy to construct and require very few materials. The only real downside is that you’ll have to make frequent inspections to make sure that the bees aren’t trying to build their comb across two or more boards.

  • Langstroth Hives

    Although a bit more complex than the top-bar variety, the Langstroth hive makes up for it by yielding a larger crop. Resembling a stack of wooden storage boxes, these hives feature removable frames on which the bees draw out their comb. The hive can be expanded by simply stacking smaller honey sections on top of the foundation and placing the cover over the top-most addition. These hives are probably the most commonly used by beekeepers because they can generate the most honey, which makes it easy to find compatible parts. However, they may not be preferred by the bees themselves because the inspection process is somewhat more intrusive.

Honey Breeds

Once you’ve figured out where your bees are going to live and work, you’ll need to actually get yourself some bees. To do that, you’ll need to figure out which particular species is best suited to you. Every different breed brings with it its own advantages and disadvantages, so consider your choice carefully before you commit. Oh, and make sure you’re not confusing bees with wasps; the only thing that yellowjackets produce is a bumper crop of aggression. Here are a few breeds of bee that you might consider.

  • Russian

    One of the best things about this breed is that it will curtail its breeding during non-growth seasons. This will prevent them from having too large of a colony during the winter, thus reducing the chance of starvation. Also, Russian bees are naturally resistant to many of the parasites that have been reducing the bee population worldwide. Russian bees are also very productive, yet at the same time tend to be far less aggressive than some of the other breeds. They can thrive in diverse climates and are a great choice for beginners.

  • Italian

    Perhaps the most popular breed among beekeepers, Italian bees are another breed that seems perfectly suited to beginners. They’re gentle, productive, and have been known to build large colonies in a relatively short period of time. However, that gentleness that they display towards keepers does not extend to other bees, as the Italian bee has been known to aggressively raid other colonies—a behavior that can easily spread disease. Despite this, they produce superior honey comb.

  • Caucasian

    Caucasian bees may be even less aggressive than the Russian or Italian breeds, which is ideal for the first-time beekeeper. However, some of their other behavior makes them a less attractive. For one thing, they use a substantial amount of propolis to close up openings in the hive, thus making it very difficult to perform inspections or to remove sections. They are also known to rob other colonies just like the Italian breed. On the plus side, they can survive colder weather and continue to produce honey in it much better than other breeds. They are also naturally resistant to disease.

There are many other breeds and hybrids available for purchase, but as a first-time beekeeper, you’ll probably want to stick with something simple. Alternatively, you could always just “adopt” a colony from the wild and move it to your hive. Be warned, however, in addition to the dangers associated with wild bees (including swarms, genetic deficiencies, and disease) you’ll also need to consider local laws regarding the capture of wild animals. After all, you want your colony to produce wax and honey, not net you a massive fine.

Lee Flynn

Lee Flynn

Freelance writer who promotes home safety and preparedness through the proper use of food storage and emergency equipment. He is an expert on protection preparedness.
Lee Flynn

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