A little creature called apis melifera has provoked an
interest unequaled by any other insect. The honey bee, as
she is more commonly known, has a heritage that may go back
twenty million years fulfilling a major role in the
pollination of plants. The transfer of pollen from the
anther (or male part) to the stigma (the female part) is
essential to the formation of the plant's seeds and the
propagation of the species. The plant, to entice the honey
bee, secretes nectar.
Enzymes in the honey bee's honey stomach start the
conversion from nectar to honey. Subsequent enzyme action
and evaporation of water converts ten pounds of nectar into
one pound of honey. Honey is the food of bees but it is
also an attraction to other animals: among them man.
Man's attraction to sweetness led him to forego the pain of
bee stings so that he might have honey. Records of man's
encounter with bees exist from as much as 20,000 years ago.
Early cave drawings show a man taking honey from a hive
while angry bees fly around him.
Folk lore and honey found in ancient Italian and Egyptian
tombs, attest to the role that honey has played in
mankind's history. Mead, an alcoholic brew, was made from
honey that was mixed with water and allowed to ferment.
Honey was used for medicinal purposes and as a major
sweetener. Beeswax made fine candles.
What once had been wild bee hives that existed in hollow
trees and rocks, now became somewhat domesticated beehives
in hollow logs, jars, or boxes that were attended by
beekeepers. They were moveable in many instances, such as
the hives on Egyptian rafts, to follow the flowers as the
seasons changed. One problem shared by almost all the early
hives was that they were difficult, if possible, to inspect
and remove honey from without greatly destroying bees and
hive. Gathering honey usually meant killing off some of the
hives, mashing the comb once it was removed, and draining
off the honey. Later hive designs utilized strips of wood
across the top allowing the bees to build free form combs
down from them which resulted in hives that were easier to
work with but it was not until Reverend Lorenzo Langstroth
invented the moveable frame hive that a good design for
inspecting bees became available.
With the Langstroth hive, not only could the brood chamber
be inspected for disease, but supers could be stacked
upward and, since the queen stayed in the lower part of the
hive, surplus honey was stored above in frames free from
any brood. Though not the first hive to allow expansion,
and thus allow for a storage of honey and less crowding of
the bees that would force swarming, it was the first design
to have comb that was enclosed on four sides by a wooden
frame that allowed for easy removal and reuse of the comb.
Since four to twelve pounds of honey, and the time, are
consumed by bees in the production of one pound of beeswax,
honey production could be increased from that alone. Being
able to remove surplus honey without having to kill off the
bees meant that many more bees were available come spring
to gather honey.
Swarming had been the means by which the beekeeper
resupplied the hives that had been killed off in the old
days. With a hive with removable frames and expandable
size, swarming was discouraged. Since swarming greatly
reduces the number of bees available to collect nectar and
make honey, minimizing swarms maximizes honey production.
In suburban areas minimizing swarms can also minimize
problems resulting from terrified neighbors as well as
controlling hive population and the resulting needs of more
time and money to manage them.
The advent of refined white sugar caused honey to be relied
upon less than it had been but the recent upsurge in the
return to natural foods, for flavor and nutrition, has
greatly increased the demand for honey. Food research has
also shown additional benefits of honey such as extended
freshness of baked goods made with honey.
Even without considering honey production, bees still
remain an essential part of nature's scheme.
Suburbanization and agricultural practices have greatly
reduced the number of wild bees (there are 20,000 species
of bees in the world) and as a result pollination has
fallen off drastically in some areas to the point that the
crops would be unprofitable unless bees were brought in to
pollinate them. Since only the honey bee and a few other
species lend themselves to easily being hived and moved,
farmers must now pay from thirty to eighty dollars per hive
to insure proper pollination to get a bountiful harvest of
fruit or seed. While it is true that the honey bee is not
native to the Americans, neither is the apple, peach,
cherry and many other plants that depend upon bees for
pollination. As well as all the other pleasures that the
honey bee has to offer, she is serving the nation through
STARTED WITH BEES
CONSIDERATION FOR THE BEES
IV. CONCERNS IN THE
HANDLING OF BEES
REQUIREMENTS FOR THE NOVICE BEE KEEPER TRAINING
VI. Long Island Beekeepers
Club Good Neighbor Policy
Suggested Readings for a Comprehensive Understanding of