F.A.Qs

GBKA  Registered Charity Number : 1014600

Home ] Calendar ] Whats New ] Association News Letter ] News Archives ] Contact Us ] DIY Corner ] Our picture gallery ] Goytre meetings ] Books & Equipment Hire ] Gems of information ] [ F.A.Qs ] Feedback ] Links ] Ministry Reports ]

Why not join our discussion group here

 

 Q.  WHAT WILL IT COST ME TO KEEP BEES 

 A. When you start the clothing and tools cost about 150.00 and a good second hand hive with bees around about  50.

 Q.  IS IT HARD WORK ?

 A. It depends how much  you do. As a hobby,  about 1/2 an hour  a week from about the midle of April to August. The honey is extracted once or  twice a year. Commercial beekeeping is quite hard work .since the Larger "supers" can weigh up to 50lbs and become quite difficult to handle. 

 

 Q. . WHY DO BEES STING ?

A. Bees usually sting for two reasons. Either to protect the colony or when  frightened.

 

.Q. WILL I GET STUNG IF I KEEP BEES ?

A. Yes. You will experience a sharp prick and the area stung will swell for a short time, and the next day or so it will itch a lot. Beekeepers who get stung  frequently, gradually become more immune and stop reacting. It is not dangerous unless you are stung around the eye. Some people can be allergic to the venom and may need to go to hospital for adrenalin injections.


Q. WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I GET STUNG ?

A. Bees will not usually sting, unless provoked. Usually the bee has been trapped  or crushed. When close to a beehive try to avoid moving your arms about ,aand moving around quickly., If the bees seem to become agitated, walk away through undergrowth or bushes if possible. If you are stung scrape the sting out with your fingernail, since the sting still pumps venom from the sac for some time. The bee that stings is unable to sting again and will die.

  Q.  IS IT TRUE THAT A BEE STING COULD BE GOOD FOR YOU ?

A. It is said that old Beekeepers seldom suffer from arthritis or rheumatism. I understand that in Russia, bee venom is used  as a treatment of joint conditions.   Some interesting research is being caried out,in the treatment of  Multiple Sclerosis, with bee venom.

 Q.   WHAT MAKES BEES  SWARM ?(see also making a queen)

A.   A swarm is nature's way for bees to produce new colonies.   The bees make their own decision to leave "home" for two main reasons.  1.  Over crowding or 2.The queen is getting old and unproductive.  The old queen leaves the hive with a number of older worker bees leaving behind young bees and a new emerging queen.

  Q.WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I SEE A SWARM OF BEES ?

A. Unless the weather is very bad bees in a swarm are in a good mood So dont worry. They do not easily sting even if antagonised as they will have gorged themselves with honey and can not get their bodies into the best position to sting. If the swarm is not causing any nuisance,  leave it alone.    The bees will cluster in a bush or tree and remain there, for  a short time perhaps an hour or two and depending on the weather they may stay several days. During that time scouts will be sent out to look for a new home, If the swarm becomes a nuisance the police keep a list of local beekeepers who will gladly help.

 Q.HOW DO BEEKEEPERS CAPTURE A SWARM ?

A. A swarm is looking for a home, so if they are in reach and the beekeeper can provide a suitable one they can be transferred easily. The bees can be dislodged by jarring or brushing them into a container, or by persuading them to move with a little smoke or some attractive honeycombs. They can them be carried to the new home and tipped out. Normally the first few bees in the hive will then 'fan' their scent to the other bees once it has been 'approved'. It is a dramatic sight to see a swarm 'marching' into a new hive

 

Q. A BEEKEEPER USES SMOKE TO 'CALM' THE BEES, WHY DOES THIS WORK ?

 A.Bees are wild insects and evolution has taught them to fear fire. When smoke enters the hive the bees  eat as much honey as possible as there may be a need to abandon their home.   This diverts them whilst the beekeeper carries out any work needed on the hive.

 

 Q.  ARE BEES USEFUL, APART FROM MAKING HONEY.?

A The benefit of pollination by bees is said to help the economy by millions of pounds each year. Some crops are said to yield up to 25-40% more if efficiently pollinated and farmers in some areas  pay beekeepers to put hives into their fields and orchards. In addition to pollination, bees produce wax, Propolis and Royal Jelly. and during the middle ages one of the most important jobs in an Abbey was  Beekeeping, as a huge quantity of wax was constantly needed to make the ceremonial candles. Candle making with bees wax is becoming quite popular.

. Q.WHY DO BEES MAKE HONEY ?

 A. Honey bees are special in that, unlike wasps and bumble bees, they overwinter as a colony. The colony does not hibernate but stays active and clusters together to stay warm. They need a lot of food stored during the summer before and this is what honey is. Although a hive only needs 20-30 lb. of honey to survive an average winter, the bees will, if given the space collect and store much more. This is what the beekeeper wants them to do. Bees in the tropical countries do exactly the same, but its not a winter they have to survive but drought.

 

Q. HOW MUCH HONEY DOES ONE  HIVE PRODUCE ?

 A. One hive can produce 60lbs. or more  in a good season with good forage. An average hive in Britain might produce around 20-30lbs.

.Q. HOW DOES THE BEEKEEPER GET THE HONEY FROM THE BEES ?

A.The queen bee is kept below the upper boxes in the hive (called 'Supers') by a wire or plastic grid which the queen can't crawl through (called a 'Queen excluder'). As the queen can not lay eggs above the excluder, the worker bees cannot raise brood above this queen excluder and only honey is stored in the supers. As the season progresses the beekeeper will add more supers until the time comes to harvest the honey. A special gate is then fitted below the super the beekeeper wishes to remove and gradually when all the bees have leftl and gone into the lower part of the hive the beekeeper can simply lift off the 'supers containing the honey comb. The honey is extracted from the comb using  an extractor which looks and works much like an  upright spin dryer.

. Q.WHY IS SOME  HONEY CLEAR AND RUNNY AND SOME SUGARY AND HARD ?

A.The type of honey made by the bees is dependent on the types of foliage and flowers available to the bees. Crops such as oil seed rape (the bright yellow fields in the spring) produce large quantifies of honey that sets very hard, and is very difficult to extract. Garden flowers tend to give a clear liquid honey.If the beekeeper wants to produce a particular tasting honey i.e. Apple blossom or orange blossom etc. the hive is put well away from other sources.In Spain they have all manner of exotic tasting honeys. This can be difficult for the hobbyist and a blend of  honey  usually  results. . Heather honey is thought to be the king of honeys and has a clear jelly consistency.

 Q. HOW DO BEES MAKE THEIR HONEY ?

A.Bees take nectar which is a sweet sticky substance exuded by most flowers and some insects (Honey dew) and mix it with enzymes from glands in their mouths. This nectar/enzyme mix is stored in hexagonal wax honeycomb where the water evaporates until the water content has been reduced to around 17%.then a thin layer of wax is aplied to seal it until they need it. This capping indicates to the beekeeper that the honey can be harvested. Capped honey can keep almost indefinitely.

. Q.HOW DO BEES MAKE WAX ?

A. Wax producing glands under their abdomen slowly secrete scales of wax about the size of a pin head. Other worker bees 'harvest' these wax scales and take them to the part of the hive requiring the new wax. Bees use about 6 lb. of honey to produce 1 lb. of wax.

.Q. WHAT IS ROYAL JELLY ?

 A.Royal jelly is the food fed to queen bee larvae. It is a creamy white colour and is very rich in proteins and fatty acids. It is produced by glands in young bees who need to maintain a high protein intake to sustain the secretion. This protein comes for the pollen that bees collect and store. Each queen larvea only needs a little less than a teaspoon of royal jelly in order to develop.,This is why as a health product it is very expensive. Many benefits are claimed for royal jelly however a sceptical view of the claims would probably be wise, especially as products sold in health shops could contain as little as 2% of the real thing.( look at the label of content)

.Q.WHAT BEES ARE IN A HONEY BEE COLONY ?

A. Three types, a single queen, thousands of workers and in the summer hundreds of drones (males). In the early autumn the male drone bees are evicted by the workers and die. 

Q.  HOW MANY BEES ARE THERE IN A BEE HIVE ?

A.  Height of summer about 40,000 dropping to around 5,000 in the winter.

 

Q. WHAT DOES THE QUEEN DO ?

A. The primary purpose of the queen is to lay eggs. During April and May she lays day and night, each egg taking about 20 seconds. That can be as much as 2000 eggs a day, more than the body weight of the queen. The queen mates only once in her life but with several males and holds sufficient sperm from the male drones to lay eggs for 3-5 years. The drone bee dies in the mating process. There are 3 types of wax cell used for eggs. In the smallest cells (5mm diameter) she lays fertilized eggs which in 21 days produce the female worker bees. In larger cells (7mm diameter) unfertilized eggs are laid which in 24 days become the male drone bees. A very special cell which hangs vertically downwards is used to produce new queens. A colony producing queen type cells warns the beekeeper of an impending swarm. A healthy queen bee is continually emitting pheromones (a bee perfume) that only the bees in the hive can smell. These pheromone odours tell the bees in the colony that the queen is still with them and all is well in the hive. This chemical pheromone communication is quite sophisticated and the personality of a bee hive will change if the beekeeper changes an old queen for a young one. In this way a beekeeper has some control over the temper and enthusiasm of a colony.

. Q.WHY IS THERE ONLY ONE QUEEN ?

A. We dont understand why bees will only tolerate one queen but any attempt to introduce a second queen will probably results in her death. If a queen dies unexpectedly the bees are able to make an emergency queen from eggs that are less tha than 3/4 days old.

Q.HOW DO THEY MAKE A QUEEN ?(see also swarming)

A. The making of a queen will be triggered off usually by a combination of conditions. Congestion in the hive, and lack of egg laying space or perhaps the presence of an old ailing Queen.  Bees construct a numberof wax queen cells which look like a peanut-shell  and point downwards. The old queen lays fertilized eggs in each queen cell and the young (nurse) bees feed the young queen larvae with a rich creamy food called Royal Jelly. They extend the cell downwards until it is about 25mm in length. Nine days after laying, the first queen cell is sealed with a layer of wax capping. This is the time for a large swarm (called a prime swarm) of bees to leave the hive led by the older bees. The old queen has been starved of food to make her lighter and able to fly. The older bees encourage the old queen to join the swarm. Eight days later the first virgin queen leaves her cell. Two things can now occur, either the first virgin queen leads a smaller swarm from the hive (called a cast) or she locates the other queen cells and kills her sisters by stinging through the wax wall of the their cells. About a week later- the young queen takes her first flight to orientate her to her new surroundings. The queen will shortly take several mating flights in which she will mate with up with several male bees called drones. Three days later the mated queen will begin to lay fertilized eggs. This queen will stay with the colony until at least the next year when she too may lead a prime swarm.

  Q.HOW LONG DOES A BEE LIVE ?

A. During the summer a worker bee only lives for about 40 days. As no young are raised over the winter months, the workers born in the autumn will live until the following spring. A queen can live for up to 5 years however she has passed her prime in her third year. The length of time a bee live largely depends on its work rate, how far and how often it flies and so on.

Q. HOW DO THE BEES SHARE  THE WORK IN A HIVE ?

A. When a bee is born it's first job is to clean out the cell in which she was born. Jobs are then allocated on the basis of relative age and what needs to be done. The following table will give you an idea of a bee's life.

 
Days Old Duties of Worker Bees
1 - 2 Cleans cell and keep the brood warm
3 - 5 Feeds older larvae
6 - 11 Feeds youngest larvae
12 - 17 Comb building, packing and cleaning
8 - 21 Guards the hive entrance
22 - on Foraging for water, pollen & nectar

. Q.  HOW DOES A BEE FIND ITS WAY HOME

A. Bees use the position of the sun and there is ssome evidence of sensitivity to the earths magnetic field. Also bees eyes are sensitive to polarised light which penetrates through even thick cloud so they are able to 'see' the sun in poor weather.

 Q .CAN A BEE SEE COLOURS ?

A.  Yes, but their eyes are sensitive more to the blue end of the spectrum and into ultra violet. Some flowers reflect large amounts of ultra violet light and to a bee will be very bright, others have special patterns and makings that can only be seen in ultraviolet. Bees are totally red 'blind' and see red flowers as another colour.

 Q . HOW FAR DO BEES FLY ?

A. It is possible for bees to fly as far as 5 miles for food, however an average distance would be less than a mile from the hive.

.Q.   WHY DO BEES COLLECT POLLEN ?

A.  Pollen is mixed  to form a type of Bee bread which is fed to the growing larvae. Pollen is the bee's source of protein and fats.

 Q.  DO BEES COLLECT NECTAR AND  WORK DURING WINTER ?

A.  Not normally.  During the winter months a strong colony will cluster together, using their bodies to generate heat. This cluster is about the size of football, the bees take turns to be on the cold side,outside.

Thanks go to Graham and Annie Law for allowing GBKA to reproduce FAQs. from their site.

Click to email the News Editor