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The queen bee can lay up to 1500 eggs a day. She can chose the sex of each egg she lays by fertilizing it to create a female (worker bee) or not and create a male (drone).
The workers are the most numerous, behaviorally diverse, and interesting. It is the workers that care for the queen, feed the brood, clean and defend the hive, forage for food, recruit nestmates to food sources and make the kind of decisions popularly attributed to the queen.
Drones are good for little besides mating with the queens. They stay in their natal hive for the first couple weeks, living off the generosity of the nest bees before reaching maturity at which point they begin participating in daily afternoon flights.
The small hive beetle Aethina tumida (SHB) is an invasive pest of bee hives, originally from sub-Saharan Africa. Infestations of beetles can put significant stress on bee colonies, which can be compounded by the stress of varroa mites and other conditions. If large populations of beetles are allowed to build up, even strong colonies can be overwhelmed in a short time.
High beetle populations are able to lay enormous numbers of eggs. These eggs develop quickly and result in rapid destruction of unprotected combs in a short time. There is no established threshold number for small hive beetles, as their ability to devastate a bee colony is related to many factors of colony strength and overall health. By maintaining strong bee colonies, and keeping adult beetle populations low, beekeepers can suppress the beetles’ reproductive potential.
This is just one of many serious issue that honey bees struggle with, Varroa Mites (circled in yellow in image). These little mites are like ticks to us. They suck fat bodies and infect them with a virus that kills the bees. If not monitored and treated you can lose your entire hive. When people don't treat their bees and the bees visit flowers they can infect other bees by transferring the mites to them kind of like how lice is passed on from person to person. Unfortunately, many beekeepers struggle with this issue because of people who don't take care of their bees. There are many ways to treat for mites but you must be diligent!
There are two kinds of wax moths, Galleria mellonella (greater wax moth) and Achroia grisella (lesser wax moth). Both will invade unguarded comb during the season when they are active. They prefer comb with pollen in it and as a second choice comb with cocoons in it, but they will even live on pure wax with nothing in it.
There are many components that make up a hive. The next several pictures will show you each component and what it does. We'll start from the bottom up.
The bottom board is the floor of the hive. There is a gap at the front to provide an entrance for the colony. The screen allows for air flow in the warmer months. In the cooler months you can slide a Corrugated Sheet in to help control air flow. The corrugated sheet can also be used to help count fallen Varroa mites. The bottom board should never be placed directly on the ground but rather on water-proof material such as concrete blocks.
Directly placed on the bottom board are hive bodies. Deep supers are the tallest in the bee hive they provide for broad, uninterrupted egg-laying space for the queen. This is sometimes called the brood nest.
This device is a metal grid which almost reminds me of the old refrigerator shelves. Worker bees can pass through freely but the larger queen cannot. It is placed between the brood nest and a honey super. Its purpose is to exclude the queen from laying eggs in the honey box.
The purpose of the Honey Super is to provide storage space for honey. Honey supers are shorter than hive bodies because honey is heavy and the shallow size makes it easier to handle.
Hive bodies and honey supers are each traditionally made to accommodate ten frames. Naturally, the size of the frames is specific to their components. Frames are made both of wood and plastic and are made to hold a foundation. Foundation is a sheet of beeswax or plastic imprinted with the shape of hexagonal cells. Bees use foundation literally as the "foundation" on which they build their natural combs. Without foundation there is no guarantee the bees would build their combs parallel to the frames or even inside them.
The inner cover fits on the top -most super, maintaining bee space and providing insulating dead-air space.
The top cover, aka Outer Cover, fits over the inner cover to provide weather protection.
There are long intervals in the year where no nectar is available. this is the reason bees make and store honey - to sustain themselves during protracted dearth. As beekeepers, we have the option to feed as needed. There are several types of syrup feeders. We will talk about two but show an image of one (in-hive feeder). The in-hive feeder is shaped roughly like a frame, made to hang alongside frames. You pour the syrup into the feeder and bees will crawl into the holes to drink the syrup. There is a netted plastic that lines the holes for the bees to hold onto so they don't drown.
There are several pieces and types of PPE. The veil when used with the jacket or suit provides seamless protection from being stung in the head area. The jacket or suit provides some protection from being stung in the body or legs. Understand, it doesn't not prevent stinging it only helps minimize the chances. Gloves help protect your hands but bees have been known to sting at the seams. Some beekeeper prefer to work without gloves as the feel the gloves make you clumsy.
Hive tools are necessary to help pry apart bee hive parts which the bees invariably glue together with propolis (bee glue).
Smoke is used as a calming effect for working with bees.
Now that we have viewed many of the hive components, bees, and tools lets look at the cost involved. There are components and things we haven't gone over but this will give someone thinking about getting into beekeeping an idea of some the cost. The prices I list below are average prices from where we purchase things could be more depending on where they are purchased.
Package of Bee - This consists of one queen and 2 - 4 lbs. of worker bees - average price $110
Bottom Board - $16.95
Hive Body - $16.95
Queen Excluder - $7.35
Honey Super - $9.95
Frames with Foundation - $67.60 (Total 20, 10 for hive body & 10 for honey super).
Inner Cover - $12.95
Top Cover - $19.90
Feeder - $6.25
PPE (Jacket, Veil, & gloves) - $91.90
Hive Tool - $9.95
Smoker - $39.95
The total for a starter hive and equipment is $409.70