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Buzzworthy hobby
How to be a beekeeper

04/02/15
By Angie Sykeny asykeny@hippopress.com



Beekeeping is a growing trend, and it’s no wonder. Bees provide an essential service with products such as honey and beeswax, pollination for farms and gardens, and venom for apitherapy (a medicinal use of bee products).

If you want to give beekeeping a try, you want to learn before doing.
John Hamblet, vice president of Merrimack Valley Beekeepers Association and head instructor of the Bee School, recommends that budding beekeepers take a class or join a mentoring program. There are online classes available as well.
“Go to bee school,” he said. “Try to work with an experienced beekeeper. … Our club [MVBA] is one of at least seven other local clubs that I know of.”
After you’ve learned the basics, you’ll need to buy the bees and the equipment. Bees are ordered in the spring, and the standard package is 3 pounds, which equals 12,000 to 14,000 bees and one queen.
For equipment, Hamblet said you need three things: the beehive, tools and the safety equipment. The hive consists of boxes called supers. Inside the supers are the frames, where the bees build their honeycombs. Hive tools are needed to move and manipulate the hive, and a smoker is needed to calm the bees. For safety equipment, you will need a veil, a suit and gloves,
“The new beekeeper has a wide choice of suppliers and equipment,” he said. “You can buy from established bee supply houses or we have some local [suppliers]. I strongly encourage, if you’re new, to buy locally. You’ll be able to get good advice [from them].”
Hamblet estimates that the start-up equipment will total around $400.
Another thing to consider is the location of the hive. It needs to be protected from the wind, and facing southeast to get the morning sun. There also needs to be a water supply nearby, as bees need water to drink, make honey and cool the hive.
“But most importantly, you need water nearby so they don’t use your neighbor’s swimming pool,” Hamblet said.
It takes a couple hours to install the hive, but once it’s set up, it requires very little maintenance. You should, however, closely monitor the hive for the first few months to make sure the bees are adjusting.
“Look to see that there’s eggs, and that they are producing honey and there’s good activity,” Hamblet said. “The only real work comes when you want to extract the honey.”
 
As seen in the April 2, 2015 issue of the Hippo. 





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