- The History of Beekeeping
Beekeeping is one of the oldest forms of food production. Some of the earliest evidence of beekeeping is from rock painting, dating to around 13,000bc. It was particularly well developed in Egypt and was discussed by the Roman writers, Virgil, Gaiu Julius Hyginus, Varr and Columella. Techniques have been passed down through generations with modern use hive products changing little since ancient times.
- Before the 1980's most U.S. hobby beekeepers were farmers or relatives of a farmer, lived in rural areas, and kept bees with techniques passed down for generations. The arrival of tracheal mites in the 1980s and varroa mites and small hive beetles in the 1990s led to the discontinuation of the practice by most of these beekeepers as their bees could not survive among these new parasites.
- The Art of Beekeeping
- The control of a colony mainly consists in taking care of the state of the “demography” of the hives. Although some call it a "science," the "art" of the beekeeper is in managing a colony's population so that the maximum number of bees is available for a task at a particular time. Most beekeepers are interested in a surplus of honey. Maximal honey production occurs when the most workers bees (both foragers and ripeners) are present at the exact same time that nectar-producing flowers (in both numbers and nectar production) are also at an optimum. For pollination, both the grower and beekeeper are looking for a surplus of foraging honeybees. Package bee and queen producers try to have as many nurse (young worker) bees as possible on hand. Queen breeders also try to manage drone population numbers.
- A colony of bees is composed of a single queen, many workers (infertile females), drones (males), and a brood (eggs, larvae, and pupae). A hive is the box used by beekeepers to house a colony.
- A colony of bees tries to accumulate a surplus of provisions (nectar and pollen) during the more favorable seasons (when there is a lot to forage, such as flowers available, along with good weather) in order to be able to survive the more unfavourable seasons and reproduce. This period is the winter in the Northern hemisphere; in the Southern Hemisphere and in Africa this period is the dry season, or Summer.
- The population of the colony varies according to the seasons. It is important for the colony to have a large population (30,000 to 60,000+ individuals) when there is a lot of forage available, in order to achieve the greatest possible harvest. The population is minimal in the winter (6,000 individuals) in order to reduce the consumption of provisions. The colony should not be too weak, however, because the bees which overwinter have to revive the colony again in the spring. If the population is too small over winter, another problem may be encountered: honeybees need to cluster together in winter in order to maintain the temperature (95F degrees) required for their survival.
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- (photo WainDecker)