You may be thinking, “no way do I want to deal with bees!” And I agree with you myself, but some people do not have a problem with them. I am not allergic, but I sure have been stung before and do not want to get stung again. However, keeping bees is supposed to be safe, right? I am sure it is for those who do not freak out when a bee comes near them. Can you imagine if a whole hive of them swarmed you? Yeah, that is why I am doing my research online rather than doing it myself. I like honey but I would rather buy it from the store than take it from the bees myself. But for those of you who want to give it a try, I am going to pass on what I learned online.
The History of Honey
Apparently, honey has been around longer than most of us thought. In fact, according to the historians, Ancient Egyptians left hieroglyphs about beekeeping in a Sun Temple in Egypt from approximately 2400 BC. Then in 2000 BC, Ancient Chinese folks used honey for its medicinal magic. And in 1000 AD, honey was used as currency in Europe. But it did not make it to the United States until 1638 when European settlers showed some New Englanders how to keep their own bees. Pretty cool, right?
Medicinal Benefits of Honey
They used the sticky sweet stuff for healing burns and wounds, and for its awesome ability to kill bacteria. You can also use honey to reduce acid reflux and heartburn and there has been some evidence that it reduces the severity of diarrhea. You probably already knew that honey is good to reduce coughs and sore throats, but did you know that it can actually get rid of hiccups too? There is also some evidence that honey is good for high blood pressure, eczema, and can even ease that hangover you got from having too much fun the night before. Yeah, so even if you do not like putting honey on your peanut butter sandwiches like my husband, you can use it to help you feel better.
Make or Buy a Beehive
If you are handy, you can make your own with some high-quality wood like sugar pine or cypress, a composite roof, and a screen for the honeycomb. You can make it as big as you need and there are different designs but honestly, it is just as cheap and much easier to buy one. They do not cost much, and it saves a lot of time and energy. There are so many different kinds. You can even get one (or build one) made from an actual log. Seriously, the bees will love this one and it will look more natural in your yard than bee boxes. You can decide what you like best, of course. But make sure you have one before you order your bees.
Buy Some Bees
Yes, it is best to buy them. You cannot just go out and gather a bunch of bees and put them in a box and expect them to make honeycomb for you. The best way to do it is to buy a swarm with queens and a nucleus in a two or three-pound lot. The easiest type to use is the American Golden Italian Honeybee since they are gentler, resist disease, and produce a lot of honey. These are pretty inexpensive, and you can get a three-pound lot for about $15.00 that comes with tested Italian Queens and swarms, so you know you are getting a colony that are capable of working together and producing honey. You have to start this between April and June if you live in a temperate area that has cold winters or they may not stay. You don’t want to put your new bees in their new hive just for them to fly south the next day. Yes, that can happen. My parents once bought 1,000 ladybugs for their garden and they all flew away as soon as they let them out and they never saw them again.
Have a Bee Housewarming Party
What you get when you order bees is a nucleus, which is a small box with a hive that has five or six frames side by side and includes the queen, worker bees, a brood, and some honey stores. You will need to transfer them to your bee box or hive but most experts say to feed them first. You know how much happier and more mellow you are after eating? Well, that works for bees too, apparently. So, feed the bees and then move them to their new home where they can continue to take care of the queen. They say to feed the bees a mixture of two parts sugar to one part water. Spread it on the screen and leave them alone in a dark quiet room for a while before trying to move them.
Working the Hive
Your bees need to be happy to stay and to produce honey. Actually, it is all about the queen, of course. If she is happy, she secretes a substance that keeps the worker bees happily working and then she can concentrate on laying eggs. They can lay more than 3,000 eggs per day if the conditions are right. So, make sure you have a happy queen bee, and everyone should work well together. If the bees do not seem to be getting enough food or the queen is not producing, you may have to buy some pollen and feed them with a cloth soaked in the sugar water doused with pollen. Hopefully, they will perk up and start doing what they are supposed to, which is going out and gathering their own pollen and bringing it back to the hive. That is basically all there is to it. The bees do all the work.
Collecting the Honeycomb and Honey
When you do need to collect the honey, you need to have a bee veil, which is that thing you wear over your face to keep the bees off, and a smoker. Using this smoker will cause them to fill up on honey and become gentle and sleepy again. Shoot a puff or two into the hive and then you will be able to open the hive and remove the supers full of honeycomb to cut the combs off in chunks. If you want honey, you need a honey extractor that is like a steel tank that you can empty the honey from when you want it. And that is all there is to that.
Have a Honey Party
Did you know bees are the only insect that makes a substance that we can eat? If you do not want to celebrate National Honey Month by starting your own beehive out back, there are other ways to celebrate. Make some honey-barbeque chicken for dinner, whip up a honey cake, or pour some over your ice cream. You can also use it to sweeten your tea. You can even have a honey tasting party with your other honey-loving friends. Have everyone bring their own favorite honey and their favorite honey recipe so you can all sample some of each. Share your favorite recipes here in the comment section so we can try them too. Happy Honey Month!