Beekeeping Instructions for Beginners

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From the Vintage Publication:
“The American Apiculturist.” (1885)
A Journal Devoted to Scientific and Practical Beekeeping.

By the Editor.

There are, properly speaking, two systems of keeping bees: the one adapted to the needs of the expert and specialist who keeps a large number of colonies and devotes his entire time and attention to the pursuit; the other adapted to an apiarist who keeps bees in connection with some other business, either for the pleasure and recreation, or for the purpose of adding another source of income.

The latter class constitute the majority of the beekeeping fraternity and only too often are their needs overlooked by those who write upon the subject of apiculture.

While we are aware that if one is adapted to beekeeping, and enters into it properly in a favorable location and masters it that success will follow; yet, as a rule, we advise keeping bees in connection with some other vocation, as when one becomes thoroughly familiar with all the requirements of beekeeping it is an easy matter to enlarge his apiary. Then, again, a few colonies properly managed will generally give far better results than can be obtained from a large apiary.

Those who are just commencing should remember that the less they handle their bees, and yet accomplish what may be required, the better for their colonies.

If one is naturally nervous, it is best to wear a bee veil at first and when manipulating the colonies work gently and avoid jarring or fretting them.

When looking for the queen, blow a little smoke in at the entrance as this causes the queen to run up on the comb and the bees that may be running about on the bottom board will fill with honey.

One of the first steps for the beginner is to decide, as far as possible, to which class he intends to belong, and what amount of capital he can safely invest.

Where one has a limited capital and wishes to become an expert or a specialist, it is far better to begin on a small scale and gradually increase his number of colonies making them pay their way and also furnish funds for new investments.

If your first lessons have been gleaned from flaming advertisements or reports of enormous yields, or through reading some of the overdrawn works on apiculture (so written with the purpose of making new converts), just take some wholesome, practical food for study and thought, both by securing one or more of the works on practical apiculture mentioned in this journal, and by visiting some practical and successful apiarist. In this way, you will be prepared to look at both sides; and if, after doing this, you enter into beekeeping with a determination to succeed you are certain to make it pay, provided you are adapted to the business, and other things are equal.

There is not the slightest reason why nearly every person who has a fair-sized garden should not keep a few colonies of bees and thus provide the table with nature’s purest and most healthful sweets. Success in any vocation always means hard work, together with push, tact, and energy. Thousands embark each year on the sea of business enterprise and the shoals and quicksands are strewn with stranded wrecks, yet there are those who, by rigid economy and shrewd management, accumulate a competency besides establishing a good remunerative business.

Our advice to those who wish to engage in beekeeping would as a rule be this. If at present you have no location, look about you and find a small place of from one to ten acres according to your means and the situation.

It is better to have the land slope to the south and east if possible and it should be well protected from the cold north and west winds. Perhaps you can rent or lease a place adapted to your needs. The surrounding country should be well supplied with bee pasturage in the shape of orchards, clover, basswood (if possible), wild flowers or many others that we might name but which are described in most of the works on apiculture.

Where one is located in the city or village and means to keep only a few colonies this advice is unnecessary, but with all others it is imperative that they locate in a good honey-producing district.

It is also best to learn if there are many bees kept where you wish to locate; as, while there is no law to prevent your establishing an apiary by the side of your neighbor, yet the latter has rights which it is proper and just to respect. This again will not matter without you intend to build up a large apiary.

One may secure a large yield of honey and yet find a poor market for it; hence it is always best to take into consideration the advantages for establishing a good home market. It will pay far better than shipping to large markets and giving all your profits to commission men.

There are so many items of interest which should serve as an introduction to these papers that we hardly know where to stop and must be necessarily brief and even leave many of them until we write again. In purchasing bees it is best if you want but from one to five colonies to purchase them of some reliable dealer and always select a standard frame, and it will pay you well to look into the merits of the various frames before making your purchase.

While for some reasons we prefer a frame about 10 × 15, yet as the “Langstroth Standard” is now so largely in use and is no objection as regards wintering the bees, we deem it best to adopt it in our own apiaries.

Circumstances must in a great measure control these matters, but whatever style is adopted it should be adhered to, else much trouble and expense will result.

We deem the tenement hive the best for all purposes. True, the first cost is somewhat greater, but in the end it pays.

The hives should be constructed in as simple a manner as possible, and while if one wants but a few he can make them after obtaining his colony of bees and estimating the size of the brood chamber; yet it is much better if he wants five or more hives to purchase them in the flat.

While we prefer for working bees a cross between the Italian and Holylands (from Syria), yet as a rule we would recommend the Italian as the best for the average beekeeper. Experience will teach one which is the best race.

We shall endeavor to give illustrations of different styles of hives in our next paper but have been too busy to attend to it this month.

Our first advice is “Make haste slowly,” but “stick to it” until you have either mastered the business or found that you were better adapted to some other vocation.

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