December 18, 2003
Pertaining to Bees or to
The Keeping and Care of Bees
by Edgar F. Losee
Assembly Room, A. K. Smiley Public Library
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Edgar F. Losee was born in 1930, in
Houston, Texas. His family moved to Monrovia, California, when he was six years old. He
was graduated from Monrovia-Arcadia-Duarte High School (known today as Monrovia-Duarte
High School). In his senior year he was elected student body president, Boys State
representative, and selected as All - League guard in football.
He attended the University of Redlands
for two years before enlisting in the United States Air Force. His four years of service
included action in the Korean War as a gunner on a B-29 bomber. Following his discharge,
he returned to Redlands, married Bonnie Chambers, and completed his work for a B. A.
degree at the same university.
Upon his graduation he was hired by the
Redlands Unified School District. He served the district for thirty-two years as a
teacher, principal, curriculum coordinator, and assistant superintendent of educational
After the death of his wife Bonnie, he
remarried. He and his wife Bettie have eight children between them; four are his and four
are hers. Ed and Bettie enjoy retirement for it provides many opportunities to pursue his
hobbies of gardening, reading, golf, and travel.
Since retirement, Ed has served in many
organizations which make Redlands such a special place to live. He has been a board member
and president of Family Service; a trustee, president, and docent at Kimberly Crest; a
member of the Adult Correctional Advisory Council, and a starter for the public races
during the Redlands Bicycle Classic. He is a member of the Redlands Country Club and a
member of the Redlands Fortnightly Club.
The author shares his experiences and
the knowledge gained from his eleven- year association with bee keeping.
The paper describes the four species of
bees that constitute the genus Apis Mellefera, the honey bee, but focuses on the Italian
strain which is the most popular strain in the United States. Mr. Losee also includes
remarks about the African strain that has gained the reputation of "killer
You will visit the honeybee colony and
learn about the three classes of honeybees and their division of labor: the queen which
lays the eggs; the worker which gathers the food and cares for the young; the drones which
fertilize the queen. There is also a detailed illustration of the worker bee's intricate
The subject of communication among the
bees is covered. It is explained how the queen's message is carried and how the bees
"dance" to announce the location of a source of honey.
The paper includes information about
two of the most serious diseases with which the beekeeper must contend, American Foulbrood
and the Varroa Mite. In addition to the disease information, the author provides data on
the pests and predators that create problems for the bees.
In closing there is some general
information about honey and a description of how honey is harvested and processed.
Apiary: the sum total of colonies and hives
assembled on one site for bee keeping operations
Apiculture: the science and art of raising
Bee brush: a wooden-handles brush with long, soft
bristles used to gently remove bees from places a beekeeper does not want them to be
Bee dance: the patterned motions by which bees
Bee veil: a cloth or wire veil worn by the
beekeeper to protect the head
Brood: eggs, larvae and developing immature bees
Colony: a group of related bees that live together
in a hive or another dwelling as a unit
Drone: a male bee
Extracting honey: removing honey from combs by
means of a centrifugal force machine called an extractor
Frame: the supporting structure for the honeycomb
within the hive
bees: worker bees that stand at the colonys entrance and watch for intruders
Hive: the wooden box and its parts in which the
Hive tool: a short prying tool used to open the
hive, pry frames, clean the hive, etc.
Nuptial flight: the flight the queen makes to mate
Propolis: a glue-like substance manufactured by
bees from plant resins, used by the bees to seal up the inside of the hive; also known as
Queen: the fertile female bee that lays eggs from
which all the bees in the colony will be produced
Queen cell: a peanut-shaped cell, larger than
those in which worker bees or drones develop, in which the queen pupates
jelly: the highly nutritious glandular secretion of young bees fed to the queen and
the very young brood
the stealing of honey or nectar from a hive by worker bees from other colonies - robbing
bees are usually aggressive.
Smoker: a hand-held firebox attached to bellows
that is used to generate the smoke that
quiets the bees as the bee keeper works with them
Super: a hive body in which bees store surplus
honey, so called because it is placed over or above the brood chamber
Supersedure: the natural replacement by a young
queen of the hive queen (her mother)
Swarm: a group of bees with a queen that has split
away from a colony to fly off and establish itself in a new home; a natural method of
propagation of the honeybee colony
Uncapping knife: a knife used to remove the
capping from the combs of sealed honey for the purpose of extraction; knives are usually
heated by electricity
Wax glands: eight glands of the honeybee that
One day in
the spring of 1940, my father called me out to our backyard to see his latest purchase.
Over in the far corner of our property sat a beehive. I could tell he was excited about
his purchase and the thought of having his own bees.
I must admit
the idea had me buzzing also. What were we going to do with a box of bees? Dad was great
at getting involved in new projects, but I was often the one to do the work. For example,
take the chickens and turkeys he bought. It was my job to feed and water them, collect the
eggs, clean the coops, and kill and dress the fryers. Would he be expecting me to become a
beekeeper? Left up to me, I surely could find a better hobby! That evening he told me
there was a great deal to learn about the fascinating life of bees, but not to worry, for
he had already subscribed to a bee-keeping magazine.
next few weeks Dad ordered some basic equipment from Sears. I was surprised that the
number of items to get started was rather minimal. The basics consisted of two veils,
(that told me something!), a hive tool, a bee brush, and two extra hives with frames and
foundations. The extra hives Dad called supers. This meant a hive body in
which the bees stored surplus honey, so called because it was placed over or above the
I did not
realize then how interested and involved I would become with these social insects and what
an important part of my life they would play over the next eleven years. My father and I
learned about the bees together. In addition to working with our colony and reading the
beekeepers magazine, we occasionally worked with Joe Mayer, the owner of Honeyville,
a store on Route 66 in Duarte, California. Mr. Mayer was an authority on bees. He and his
sons operated one of the biggest apiaries in Southern California at that time.
year with the bees went smoothly. We learned about managing the bees throughout the
seasons and picking up on practices that would bring optimum honey production. I also
learned that if you keep bees, you are going to get stung occasionally. Two more colonies
were added that first year. The following year an agreement with the city of Monrovia took
us out of the hobby category into the commercial business.
chief of Monrovia was a neighbor and good friend of the family. One day he asked my father
if he would be interested in handling the swarming bee calls his office received.
Dads answer was affirmative. In what seemed like over-night, we were in the
of my paper today deals with what I learned about bees and bee keeping in those years that
followed that fueled my continued interest in the subject.
Strains of Bees
encyclopedia defines the honeybee as any bee of the Apidae family; more strictly, one of
the four species constituting the genus Apis. The term is usually applied to one species,
the domestic honeybee, also know as the European domestic or western honeybee.
All of our
bees were of the Italian strain Apis Mellefera Ligustica, the most popular strain
in North America. It has been said that in the United States, commercial bee keeping, as
we know it, would not exist without the Italian honeybee. The Apis Mellefera has a number
of varieties throughout the world; however, only four have been used in the United States
with various degrees of success.
Because I am
more familiar with the Italian bees, for the purpose of this paper, I will just mention
the other three strains and focus on the Italian strain.
The Alpine bee, Apis Mellefera carnica Pollman, is native to
the Austrian/Yugoslavian Alps. It is gray-brown in color, very gentle, but requires a lot
Apis Mellifera caucasica is a gray to black bee that evolved in the Caucasus Mountains.
This bee is rather placid and is considered the gentlest of bees.
The third Apis Mellifera is the old
German brown bee. This variety is not as productive, manageable, or as hardy as the other
Back to the
Italians. These bees are a bit smaller than the German bee with yellow bands on their
bodies and yellowish hair. This strain is usually calm and gentle, although this trait can
be variable. They have a strong disposition to breeding but are also notorious for
robbing. I had one really bad experience with robbing. One weekend in the upper desert,
two of my high school pals were helping me remove honey from our colonies. We got a bit
careless and allowed honey to drip on the bed of the truck as we were loading the supers.
In no time at all we were in the midst of aggressive robbing bees. We had no alternative
but to quickly wrap things up and make a hasty retreat. My father wasnt very happy
that the job was not completed and would require another trip to the desert to finish.
leave the subject of the various strains of bees, I would be remiss if I did not mention
the Africanized variety. In 1956-57 researchers in Brazil imported the African strain of
honeybee for hybridization studies. They were crossbred with European bees to increase
their resistance to heat and humidity. Despite careful handling, some colonies were freed
and began interbreeding with the native strain. Swarms of the hybrid bee produced by the
African/European mix moved out of Brazil, migrating north at the rate of 100-300 miles a
year. By the late 1980s, the Africanized, or killer bee, arrived in southwest Texas.
In 1999 the
killer bees created quite a buzz in the media when they arrived in Southern California.
They quickly gained a killer reputation with stories of children and animals
being severely stung in seemingly unprovoked attacks.
Africanized honeybees are smaller and more resilient than the common European bee. They
are also more territorial. They exploit a wide variety of food and water sources and
out-forage their relatives. An Africanized worker bee reportedly forages herself to death
in only two weeks compared to five or six weeks for a European strain.
production is reportedly outstanding, but harvesting can be a dangerous experience. When a
hive is opened, the bees often erupt from their home in a furious attack. The bees
actually carry less venom than the European honeybees, but they attack in much greater
numbers and are more persistent.
rise in number of this aggressive, defensive and unpredictable Africanized variety, people
should be more aware of bee activity around their property. Unfortunately, there is no
quick and easy technique for easy identification other than the bees behavior.
Thanks to our winter rains this year we have had more flowers. More flowers means more
pollen and more bees, including this Africanized or killer bee variety. While
a small number of foraging bees is little reason for concern, a swarm or nest near your
residence could be trouble. I would urge you to leave the bees alone and call Vector
Control or a pest control company. Let the professionals handle the situation.
THE HONEYBEE COLONY
includes three classes of honeybees:
1. The queen which lays eggs
2. The workers which gather food and care
for the young
3. The drones which fertilize the queen
bee lays the eggs that hatch into thousands of workers. Laying eggs is the queens
only job. She doesnt gather food or help build the nest; in fact, the workers feed
and groom her. The queen bee does not rule the colony, but she is the force that keeps it
together. The workers become excited and disorganized if her presence is not sensed in the
hive. When a queen is ready to look for a mate, she makes herself known to the drones and
leaves the hive flying high into the air. The drones follow, but only the swiftest and
strongest ones finally catch and mate with her. After mating, the queen returns to the
hive. Within a few days she begins to lay eggs. Usually a queen mates once in a lifetime,
but she will continue laying eggs for the rest of her life. A queen may live as long as
five years. She can lay as many as 2000 eggs a day and up to a million in her lifetime.
As long as
the queen lays eggs, the workers pay her the greatest attention. Surrounded by the
workers, the queen walks about the hive, usually at the lowest story of the hive, which is
called the brood chamber. The beekeeper places a wire grating, or excluder,
between the brood chamber and the hives above it, which are called supers. The excluder
prevents the queen, due to her larger size, from laying eggs in the honey stored in the
six-sided comb in the hive comes in two sizes. Most of the comb cells are smaller in size
and are used for storing bee bread. Bee bread is a small amount of honey mixed with
pollen. I mention the two sizes of combs, because one of the remarkable things about the
queens egg-laying is that she lays one kind of egg in the larger cells and another
in the smaller cells. The eggs look exactly alike but develop into two different kinds of
bee. The workers come from the smaller cells, and the drones emerge from the larger cells.
If the queen lays only two types of eggs, from where does the queen come?
comes from the ordinary worker eggs, but the eggs have been treated in a very different
way. From time to time the workers add to the small worker cells making them larger until
they are about the size and shape of a small peanut. As the worker eggs in these cells
grow, the nurses feed them differently from the eggs in the smaller cells. From these
ordinary worker eggs in the peanut-shaped cells, new queens will come. So, queen bees are
made by worker bees.
worker, queen, or drone goes through four growing stages. After the queen lays an egg,
which is stage one in the cell, a nurse bee keeps close watch over it. Just before the egg
hatches, in approximately three days, the nurse adds a small amount of royal
jelly to the cell. Scientists are not exactly sure what royal jelly is, but they
believe it comes from glands in a nurse bees head.
second stage, or larva stage, the nurse bees continue to attend and feed each tiny larva.
After a few days, the nurses begin to feed most of the larva a combination of nectar and
pollen that has been stored in nearby cells. The larvae in the built-up queen cells
continue to be fed royal jelly, instead of bee bread. Thus it is variance in diet that
makes a queen from an ordinary worker bee.
with the larva is capped with wax by the worker bees, of course, and the larvae within
begin to make themselves cocoons. When the cocoons are safely sealed in the cells, the
young bees begin their third stage called the pupa. In the cocoon a great change takes
place. The wings, eyes and mouth parts are formed, and the worm-like creature becomes a
complicated bee. As the bee is fully formed, it gnaws its way through the wax and emerges.
twenty-one days from egg to adult, the bee leaves the cocoon with an efficient body and
the instincts of a worker bee. At this point the worker is less than one half inch in
length and weighs approximately 60 milligrams. This worker is small, but within weeks she
will be carrying loads heavier than she is and foraging on flights that may be over a
workers life is short especially during the spring and summer, which is the most
active time of foraging. The worker bee seldom lives more than a month when the honey flow
is heavy. Foraging presents many types of danger for the workers, and many do not even
last a month.
point let me direct you to my illustration and point out the details of the worker
bees intricate body. (1) The triangular head has three simple eyes on the forehead
and (2) two compound eyes. Color is important to the honeybee, yet the bee does not see
quite the same range and graduation of color man sees. For example the bee cannot focus
its eyes because the eyes have no pupils. (3) The antennae are segmented and supply the
bee with not only a sense of touch but also a sense of smell. Bees have an acute sense of
smell that is far better than ours. Honeybees use chemical substances, especially in the
form of odors, to give information to one another. These chemical substances are called
pheromones and are secreted from one gland in the bee that will bring about a specific
behavioral response in another individual of the same species. (4) Mandibles are used for
holding and in building combs. (5) Set back under the head is the proboscis used for
sipping water and honey. (6) Long spines on the middle legs remove wax from the glands.
Each leg has a claw foot used to cling to flowers and plants. (7) Toward the rear are the
wax scales and, of course as you already know from first hand experience, a barbed
stinger! (8) The rear legs have an assortment of brushes and pollen baskets. (9) The bee
has one pair of wings on each side of the thorax. The front wing of each pair is the
larger. As the bee flies, the wings are coupled together by a tiny row of hooks and act as
one wing. A bee can fly forward, sideways, or backwards, and can hover in one place.
When I first
began working with the bees, my father told me that worker bees had specific tasks they
performed. Some bees were foragers, or nurses, or guards, or house workers, while some
attended the queen.
working with the bees and reading about them, I learned that while they do have specific
duties, the tasks performed depend on the stages of bodily development the workers have
reached. For example, researchers have determined the new workers first assignment
is housekeeping; cleaning the brood cells to make ready for the next eggs.
Somewhere between the tenth and fourteenth days of their lives, worker bees secrete royal
jelly. As already mentioned, this secretion is used to feed the queen and the young brood.
So, a worker is now a nurse bee. After two weeks of development, the hive worker is ready
to venture into the fields in search of nectar or pollen. While some gather nectar and
pollen, others search for water or propolis. Propolis is a glue-like resin material
collected from trees and plants and often called bee glue. One other housekeeping chore is
that of undertaker. The undertaker bee, usually a younger working bee, arrives on a death
scene and performs the task of removing a dead body from the hive.
or male bee, is present in the hive only in the spring and early summer and is of no
concern in the fall, when all but one bee in each colony is of the worker caste. The only
role of drones in the colony is to mate with the queen. Drones are not physically equipped
to collect nectar or pollen, nor can they defend the hive, as they have no stingers. They
are easier to identify because of their larger size. In the hive they tend to hang
together in groups.
emerging from their cells feed on honey. Later they learn to solicit food from the
workers. As they reach old age, they apparently lose the ability to feed themselves.
Though they continually try to solicit food from the workers, they are unsuccessful and
soon die of starvation.
become sexually mature within fourteen days of age. At this time they begin to take short
orientation flights searching for their mates. When drones spot a queen, they fly high in
the sky to mate. A queen might mate several times on her nuptial flight. The drone dies in
the mating process. The genitalia is contained within the drones abdomen. In mating
the genitalia and parts of the abdomen are torn loose from the body, and the drone falls
lifeless to the ground.
bees seem to regard the drones with favor up until the queen has mated. After that, the
drones are no longer needed and become a drain on the hives resources. When the
nectar flow declines, the workers ban the drones from the hive. Many a time I observed
drones trying to re-enter the hive only to be turned away by the worker guard bees. The
smaller worker bees will gang up on a drone and repeatedly kick and shove him out of the
fabric of the honeybee society depends upon communication an instinctive ability to
send and receive messages and encode and decode information. Honeybees in the hive are
confronted with many of the same kinds of problems that humans are confronted with in
their every day lives. They must be able to recognize their queen and one another. They
need to communicate immediate danger and where food can be found. In the hive, these tasks
must be done in an orderly manner.
communicates by producing a substance that can be obtained from her by direct contact.
This substance evidently stimulates the working behavior in the hive. Whatever attracts or
carries the message has simply been called queen substance. To
tell each other where nectar and pollen may be found, the worker bees have
developed two kinds of dance, a round dance and a tail-wagging dance. Each dance is
performed on the vertical surface of the honeycomb. I will do my best to describe the two
dances for you.
dance is the simpler of the two dances. Upon returning to the hive, the forager will
regurgitate a drop of nectar to announce a source for honey located near the hive. The bee
then whirls around in one place while the surrounding bees use their feelers to pick up
the flowers scent clinging to the bees body.
tail-wagging dance is more complicated and tells the bees the nectar source is a greater
distance from the hive. In this dance the bee makes a flat figure eight with a straight
line between the loops. This line serves as a pointer in that it tells the other bees how
far right or left of the sun to fly upon leaving the hive. The bee does this by laying out
the 8 on the comb in such a way as to locate the sun at the top, regardless of
where the sun really is in the sky. The bee then makes a run at an angle from this
imaginary sun. The bees comprehend this angle and apply it as they search for the nectar.
The tail wagging tells the bees where to fly in relation to the position of the sun. Thus
it is that the other bees are able to make a beeline to a newly discovered
nectar source that may be a mile or more distant from the hive.
As a young
teenager I had the opportunity to observe these dances through a glass-covered hive that
was located inside the Honeyville Store in Duarte, that I mentioned earlier. The store
sold only honey and beeswax but had displays that gave information to customers about the
life of a honeybee.
of the bees seems unbelievable, yet it has been confirmed by scientific experiments
numerous times. There is no doubt the bees understand the language, as long as it is
introduced into a hive of the same kind of bees. Each distinct species and geographical
race possesses its own dialect. But this subject is beyond the scope of what we needed to
know to raise bees.
Diseases and Predators
beekeeper, in addition to the manipulation of his bees to enable them to produce more
honey than they need, he must also maintain the hive by protecting the colony against
diseases and predators. For the purpose of this paper, I will only mention two of the most
serious diseases about which a beekeeper must be concerned.
number of bee diseases that can have a debilitating effect on the hive, none is more
serious than American Foulbrood. It is a disease caused by a strain of bacteria that
infects the bee larvae and kills them in the pupa stage.
two problems with Foulbrood that make it difficult to control. First is that the bacteria
can enter a spore in which it can live for years. A second problem is that the bacteria
reduce the dead pupae to sticky globs that are difficult for the bees to remove from the
hive. It is also easy to contaminate ones hands or a hive tool with the disease and
transfer the disease to another hive.
At the time
we had our bees, the treatment for American Foulbrood was to destroy the infected colonies
by burning them. A state apiary inspector usually handled this job. In the last years of
our bee-keeping experiences, we had twenty hives destroyed because of Foulbrood. It was
hard to watch years of investment in time and money being reduced to ashes.
can be prevented by medicating bees beforehand; it cannot be cured once they have it. I
have read that the seasonal application of Terramycin has proven to be a good control. The
beekeeper can mix the drug with confectionery sugar and dust the brood comb with it or
feed the bees a sugar syrup with the drug dissolved therein.
threat is the Varroa Mite, a parasite of the Asian honeybee, discovered in the United
States in the late 1980s. The mating female mites that are about to lay eggs move into
cells containing larvae just before the cells are capped. The mites immerse themselves and
feed on the larval food that is there. When the young mite larvae have finished this food,
they start to produce eggs that hatch. The young as well as the old female mites pierce
the membrane of the bee larva, now turned pupa, and feed on its blood. If too many mites
are present, the bee will die. If there are only a few mites, the bee may continue to
develop. But when it emerges from its cell, it usually has a short life span or is somehow
maimed. With fewer bees and underdeveloped bees, the colony becomes severely weakened.
chemicals have been tested for Varroa control. Several compounds have been affective,
being non-toxic to the honeybee and toxic to the mites. Though the Varroa Mite causes a
most serious disease to the European honeybee, the Asian and Africanized bees protect
themselves from the Varroa Mites through grooming. These bees bite the mites and remove
them from the hive. The mites are present in the hive, but with a reduction in number,
they are kept from being a serious problem.
There are a
number of other honeybee diseases, but I have elected to forego discussing them in this
paper. Suffice it to say there are control methods for most of the problems. The important
thing for the beekeeper is to be alert and able to diagnose problems early, while the
colony is strong enough to survive.
to the diseases there are a number of pests and predators a beekeeper must contend with,
depending on the location of the apiary. One pest is mice. Mice are a nuisance. Mice will
nest in stored combs and in hives containing bees. It is an interesting fact that mice can
successfully build a nest within a hive. This is usually done during the winter months
when the bees are not as active.
wooded or mountainous areas, bears will sometimes attack beehives and do tremendous
damage. Unfortunately there is little you can do to protect against damage by bears.
be a serious problem for the beekeeper. The skunk will scratch at the hive entrance. As
the bees crawl out to protect their home, the skunk will eat them. It is difficult to
control attacks by skunks, and weaker hives are often decimated. The skunks
continuous feeding can also irritate the bees and keep them in a constant state of alarm.
The end result is that the bees get more aggressive and are more difficult to handle.
There is a
wax moth that will enter a hive, usually at dusk, and deposit its eggs. In the weaker
colonies, the wax moth larvae will reduce the comb to nothing but a tangled web.
from the problems and back to the years prior to 1946, we continued to collect swarms and
add to our apiary. When we reached eighty colonies, we decided that was all we could
handle. From the beginning, we had purchased all of the bee-keeping equipment and
assembled it ourselves. We had built and painted hives and had assembled the frames as
well. Over the years we selected four locations for the apiary. Two spots were in the
Covina area, and two were in the upper desert - near Hesperia and the other near the
little town of Hinkley. The honey flow in the Covina area was orange. In the upper desert
it was alfalfa honey flavored with a hint of white sage and eucalyptus.
The trips to
our apiary in the upper desert were often an adventure. Hauling bees/honey over Cajon Pass
in the early 1940s could be a challenge in our old truck. There is one drive I shall
We were on
our way to take care of our bees in Hinckley early one morning and passed a terrible
accident involving a semi-truck. We learned later that the truck driver had lost his
brakes near the summit. He had stayed with the run-away truck most of the way down the
grade before jumping to his death.
jumped, the driverless truck crossed from the south-bound lane, cut across the north-bound
lane, and crashed into a two story building. The first story of the building was totally
destroyed, but amazingly, the sleeping occupants on the second floor escaped unharmed!
Months later I read about it in a Ripleys Believe It or Not article.
In our third
year of the bee-keeping venture, we bought a small manually operated extractor. We had our
own labels printed and sold our honey in one or two pound jars. Three years later we were
using a twenty-frame extractor and sold the honey to the Superior Honey Company in
Alhambra. The honey was sold in five-gallon metal cans, each weighing approximately 60
I thought I
would conclude this paper on honeybees with a few words about honey. This natural product
has played an important role in human nutrition since ancient times. Up until about 250
years ago, it was the sole sweetening agent. In the sixteenth century as the Europeans
were bringing honey bees to America, trade in Caribbean sugar cane introduced the world to
another sweetener, sugar.
quite simply, almost as many types of honey as there are flowers. Knowing my interests in
honey, a few close friends are always bringing me a new flavor to sample; a lavender from
France, a mountain fireweed from Oregon, to name a few.
foraging bee makes its rounds sucking up nectar, the nectar is taken into a honey sac
where it undergoes a change. The nectar is changed by juices that come from glands, just
as saliva comes from glands in your mouth. When the field bee returns to the hive, she
gives her nectar to a house bee. The house bee spends some of her time squeezing the
nectar in and out of her own honey sac, and rolling it around her tongue. During this
process, some of the moisture is removed from the nectar and enzymes from the house
bees glands are added.
In the next
step of the process, the house bee looks for a cell in the comb where she can store the
honey. Finding an empty cell, she forces the honey out of her sac. When the cell is full,
the honey is quite thin and moisture needs to be removed. To remove the moisture, the bees
fan their wings to circulate the air. Once enough moisture is removed and the honey is
thick enough, the workers cover the cells with wax. Once capped in the comb, the finished
product is imperishable.
To remove or
harvest the honey, the beekeeper removes the super with the capped frames from the hive.
The bees are removed from the frames by gently shaking the frames and using a bee brush or
using a fume board saturated with a chemical substance that repels the bees. Years ago we
used carbolic acid on our fume boards a practice that is not approved today by the
Environmental Protection Agency. Repellents are effective in harvesting honey because bees
are not disturbed as much.
Next is the
extracting process that involves three basic steps: uncapping the combs; placing the combs
in an extractor machine to remove the honey; and straining the honey to remove bits of wax
or extraneous material.
is one of the top- producing states in honey production. Not too long ago, I read that
honey production has been down for the past two years, but bee- keepers are receiving
about twice as much money for the product.
in color from white through dark amber. The lighter-colored honeys have a milder flavor,
and the dark honeys have a stronger flavor. Clover and orange honey are the most popular.
Comb honey is very popular with the public, as is the new trend of flavor-infused honey.
Infused honey is made by adding a flavoring ingredient such as mint, ginger-lime, or
rosemary to the honey. Then it is heated and strained.
you might think the bee colony is a totalitarian government, a matriarchy with the worker
bees as mere workers. Today, however, after years of scientific experiments, we know that
is not the case. The beehive is a remarkable society. It is a strange dictatorship where
the queen is vote-less and the ruled have equal votes. It appears the honeybees have
developed into a well-nigh-utopian insect society.
Colin, The World of the Honeybee.
York: Taplinger (1975)
Sons, The Hive and the Honeybee.
Illinois, Dandant and Sons (1976)
Morse, R.A., ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture.
Edition A.I. Root Co. Medina, Ohio (1990)
Morse, R.A., The New Complete Guide to Beekeeping.
Press, Woodstock, Vermont (1994)
Richard, The Joy of Beekeeping.
Martins Press, New York (1974