Adventist Youth Honors Answer Book/Outdoor Industries/Beekeeping

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General Conference

Outdoor Industries

Skill Level 2
Year of Introduction: 1929
Beekeeping Honor.png

1. Know a brief history of keeping bees for honey.

Beekeeping is one of the oldest forms of food production. It was particularly well developed in Egypt and was discussed by the Roman writers Virgil, Gaius Julius Hyginus, Varro, and Columella.

Traditionally, beekeeping was done for the bees' honey harvest, although nowadays crop pollination service can often provide a greater part of a commercial beekeeper's income.

Western honeybees are not native to the Americas. American, Australian, and New Zealand colonists imported honeybees from Europe, partly for honey and partly for their usefulness as pollinators. The first honeybee species imported were likely European dark bees. Later Italian bees, carniolan honeybees and caucasian bees were added.

Probably the most important innovation in modern beekeeping, and indeed, it is the innovation that defines modern beekeeping, was the movable frame hive. Prior to its invention, bees were housed in skeps (conical straw baskets), which did not allow inspection of the colony. Furthermore, it was not possible to extract honey from a skep without destroying the colony.

Movable frame hives were developed in Slovenia by Anton Janša (1734-1773), and perfected by the Rev. Lorenzo Langstroth in the 19th century. Langstroth was the first to suspend movable frames in boxes, spacing them perfectly so that bees would confine comb construction to the frames. This allows the frames to be easily removed without destroying the comb and without injuring the bees.

2. List at least five uses of each of the following:

a. Honey

The main uses of honey are in cooking, baking, spreading on bread or toast, and as an addition to various beverages such as tea. Because honey is hygroscopic (drawing moisture from the air), a small quantity of honey added to a pastry recipe will retard staling. Raw honey also contains enzymes that help in its digestion, several vitamins and antioxidants.

Honey is used in traditional folk medicine and apitherapy, and is an excellent natural preservative.

In ancient history, the Ancient Egyptian and Middle-Eastern peoples also used honey for embalming the dead. However, only rich and powerful people had the luxury of this type of funeral.

Honey is also the basic ingredient to mead, which is a fermented beverage. However, the Seventh-day Adventist church does not condone the use, production, or sale of mead or any other alcoholic beverage.

b. Beeswax

Beeswax is used commercially to make fine candles, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals including bone wax (cosmetics and pharmaceuticals account for 60% of total consumption), in polishing materials (particularly shoe polish), as a component of modeling waxes, and in a variety of other products. It is also used as a coating for cheese, to protect the food as it ages. While some cheesemakers have replaced it with plastic, many still use beeswax in order to avoid any unpleasant flavors that may result from plastic. Beeswax is also an ingredient in mustache wax, as well as dreadlock wax, and was used in the manufacturing of the cylinders used by the earliest phonographs.

c. Propolis

Propolis is a wax-like resinous substance collected by honeybees from tree buds or other botanical sources and used as cement and to seal cracks or open spaces in the hive. Propolis is marketed by health food stores as a traditional medicine, and for its claimed beneficial effect on human health. Depending upon its precise composition it may show powerful local antibiotic and antifungal properties. Also it is generally efficient in treating skin burns. Claims have been made for its use in treating allergy; it may stimulate the immune system, but some warn that it should not be taken if the user is likely to have severe allergic reaction to bees.

Old beekeepers recommend a piece of propolis kept in the mouth as a remedy for a sore throat.

Propolis is used by music instrument makers to better show the wood grain. It is a component of Italian varnish and was reportedly used by Stradivari

3. Name ten foods that would be very difficult to grow if there were no honey bees.

  • Almonds
  • Apples
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cucumber
  • Kiwi
  • Peach
  • Pumpkin
  • Raspberry
  • Squash
  • Strawberries
  • Watermelon

Any food with a flowering stage.

4. List the duties of the drone, the worker, and the queen bees.

Drones are male bees, and their only function is to mate with the queen. A healthy hive will have a few thousand drones (out of a population of 40,000 to 80,000 bees). Drones do no work in the hive and will beg food from the worker bees. If none supply him with food, he will eventually feed himself. The phrase "busy as a bee" certainly does not pertain to the drone! Once mature, drones leave the hive and congregate together, waiting for a queen with which to mate. Ten or more drones will mate with a virgin queen on her maiden flight. "Successful" drones die a short time later. The worker bees do not allow the drones to overwinter in the hive, as they are a tremendous drain on resources and serve no function during the winter when the queen lays no eggs. They are sometimes ejected from the hive when food is scarce. Drones are hatched from unfertilized eggs, so the lack of any drones in the hive will automatically result in the production of drones when the next brood is hatched.
Workers are sexually sterile female bees. Most bees are worker bees. For the first ten days of their lives, the female worker bees clean the hive and feed the larvae. After this, they begin building comb cells. On days 16 through 20, a worker receives nectar and pollen from older workers and stores it. After the 20th day, a worker leaves the hive and spends the remainder of its life as a forager. The foragers die usually when their wings are worn out after approximately 500 miles of flight. Workers die after stinging fleshy creatures (such as beekeepers or bears), but they can sting non-fleshy creatures (such as other bees) multiple times without dying.
The queen bee is the only female bee that lays eggs. The queen's eggs hatch in three days, and the larvae are fed with royal jelly produced by worker bees. After a few more days, the larvae are fed on honey and pollen. The exception is a larva fed solely on royal jelly, which will develop into a queen bee. When the queen dies, the worker bees produce several new queens, and when these mature, they fight to the death until only one queen is left.

5. Describe how bees build combs. Why does the comb turn dark with age?

Thin scales of beeswax are produced by glands of 12 to 17 days old worker bees on the ventral (stomach) surface of the abdomen. Worker bees have eight wax-producing glands on the inner sides of the sternites (the ventral shield or plate of each segment of the body). Wax is produced from abdominal segments 4 to 7. The size of these wax glands depends on the age of the worker. Honeybees use the beeswax to build honey comb cells in which their young are raised and honey and pollen are stored. For the wax-making bees to secrete wax the ambient temperature in the hive has to be 33 to 36 °C (91 to 97 °F).

Broodcomb becomes dark over time, because of the cocoons embedded in the cells and the tracking of many feet, called travel stain by beekeepers when seen on frames of comb honey. Honeycomb in the "supers" that are not allowed to be used for brood stays light colored.

6. What is meant by the following terms:

a. Movable-frame hive
Modern beehives consist of several 4-sided boxes (no tops or bottoms) stacked on top of each other. Frames are hung inside these boxes, and bees build combs on the frames. Because of "bee space" (see below), the bees build only one comb on each frame. This allows the frames to be removed from the hive without destroying the comb.
b. Crossed comb
Sometimes bees do not behave the way the beekeeper wants them to. Instead of confining a comb to a single frame, bees sometimes build a single comb on more than one frame. The comb "crosses" a frame boundary. When crossed comb is built, the frames cannot be removed without destroying the comb.
c. Bee space
A gap in a beehive about 5/16 inch (8 mm) wide. Langstroth hives make use of the discovery of bee space. European honeybees propolize spaces less than 1/4 inch (6.5 mm), gluing wooden parts together and fill spaces larger than about 3/8 inch (9.5 mm) with wax comb. But they hold spaces between 1/4 inch and 3/8 inch open for traffic channels for the bees. Langstroth's cleverly designed hive makes use of this bee space so that frames are neither glued together nor jammed up with burr comb. This makes it possible to remove frames from the hive without damaging the hive or killing the bees.
d. Swarming
Swarming is the natural means of reproduction of honeybee colonies (considering the colony as the organism rather than individual bees which cannot survive alone). In the process two or more colonies are created in place of the original single colony. It is considered good practice in beekeeping to reduce swarming as much as possible by several techniques, as allowing this form of reproduction often results in the loss of the more vigorous division, and the remaining colony being so depleted that it is unproductive for the season.

7. What is a smoker? What materials make good fuel for a smoker?

A well-used bee smoker

Smoke is the beekeeper's second line of defense; protective clothing provides remarkably little protection from agitated bees. Most beekeepers use a "smoker"—a device designed to generate smoke from the incomplete combustion of various fuels. Smoke calms bees; it initiates a feeding response in anticipation of possible hive abandonment due to fire. Smoke also masks alarm pheromones released by guard bees or when bees are squashed in an inspection. The ensuing confusion creates an opportunity for the beekeeper to open the hive and work without triggering a defensive reaction. In addition, when a bee consumes honey the bee's abdomen distends, making it difficult to make the necessary flexes to sting.

Smoke is of no use with a swarm, because swarms do not have honey stores to feed on in response. Usually smoke is not needed since swarms tend to be less defensive, as they have no stores to defend, and a fresh swarm will have fed well from the hive.

Many types of fuel can be used in a smoker as long as it is natural and not contaminated with harmful substances. These fuels include hessian, cardboard, and rotten or punky wood. Some beekeeping supply sources also sell commercial fuels like pulped paper and compressed cotton, or even aerosol cans of smoke.

Proper smoker fuels
  • burlap rags, cotton rags, cotton string or twine
  • Woodchips, pine needles, twigs, sticks, dried leaves and grass
  • Stove pellets
  • Charcoal (burns long and hot, may be best to use with other fuel)
Improper smoker fuels
  • poison ivy, poison sumac, etc
  • insulation material
  • plastic or rubber
  • newspaper (as sole fuel source)
  • greasy rags

8. What consideration should be given when choosing a hive location?

Hives should be located near an ample source of pollen and nectar. Also, there should be a source of clean water with a quarter mile. If there's no water the beekeeper should provide a pan of water with a place for the bees to land (such as a board, rocks, or gravel).

Hives should be located in the sun rather than in the woods, and windy ridges should be avoided. They should also be located away from constant noise (such as a highway) and away from children. The hive needs to be easily accessible to the beekeeper so that the temptation to neglect the bees is reduced. In order to prevent vandalism, hives should also be located near a dwelling, but screened from common view.

9. How are honey bee diseases spread from hive to hive?

There are two main ways diseases are spread from one hive to another: by the bees, and by the beekeeper. Spreading by bees is covered in the next requirement.

The beekeeper must keep his tools clean. If disease is detected in one of the hives, the beekeeper must take steps to control the disease, and must thoroughly clean the beekeeping tools between hives. Failure to do this will cause the problem to spread to the remaining hives.

Beekeepers spread disease by moving infected frames from one hive to another, by not cleaning out dead hives (encouraging robbing), using old, infected equipment, and by not recognizing the presence of disease (and thus not treating it). Inattentive beekeepers are responsible for most bee disease among their hives.

10. What is robbing? Describe a robber bee.

Robbing among bees is about the same thing that it is among people. A bee that invades another hive is a robber bee. If the hive is unable to defend against the robber, the robber will gather as much honey as it can carry and take it back to its own hive. This is done during times of low nectar availability (it's a lot less risky for a bee to gather nectar than it is for her to invade another hive).

If the robber's hive is infected, she may carry the disease to the invaded hive. If the invaded hive is infected (more likely), she may carry disease back to her own hive.

11. Name four ways to help prevent swarming. Why should swarming be prevented?

During the first year of a queen's life the colony has little incentive to swarm, unless the hive is very crowded. During her second spring, however, she seems to be programmed to swarm. Without beekeeper "swarm management" in the second year, the hive will cast a "prime swarm" and one to five "after swarms." The old queen will go with the prime swarm, and other swarms will be accompanied by virgin queens.

Swarming is to the beekeeper what losing all of his calves is to a cattleman. The hive that cast the swarm is often so badly depleted that it will be unproductive for the entire season. For this reason, beekeepers try to anticipate swarming and assist the bees to reproduce in a more controlled fashion by splitting hives. This saves the "calves" and keeps the "cow" in condition to accomplish some work.

Beekeepers that do not wish to make increase may use one or more of the many methods for swarm control. Most methods simulate swarming to extinguish the swarming drive.

Bees will not swarm if their hives need more honey. Therefore, you can reduce the likelihood of swarming by supering the hives. Supering is the process of adding an empty super to the hive. The bees will begin building comb in the empty supers and then fill them with honey.

The Demaree method of swarm control is to remove a frame of capped brood with the queen. This frame is put in a hive box with empty drawn frames and foundation at the same location of the old hive. A honey super is added to the top of this hive topped by a crown board. The remaining hive box is inspected for queen cells. All queen cells are destroyed. This hive box, which has most of the bees, is put on top of the crown board. Foraging bees will return to the lower box depleting the population of the upper box. After a week to ten days both parts are inspected again and any subsequent queen cells destroyed. After another period of separation the swarming drive is extinguished and the hives can be re-combined.

Another common swarming control method is to simply keep the brood nest open. In preparation for swarming bees fill the brood nest with honey which causes the queen to stop laying which slims her down to fly and leaves nurse bees unemployed to go with her. The concept of this method is to open the brood nest to employ those nurse bees and get the queen laying again and redirect this sequence of events. This is done by any number of slight variations from empty frames in the brood nest, frames of bare foundation in the brood nest or drawn combs in the brood nest, or moving brood combs to the box above to cause more expansion of the brood nest.

Another swarming control method is called checkerboarding. In the early spring, frames are rearranged above the growing brood nest. The frames above the brood nest are alternated between full honey frames and empty drawn out frames or even foundationless frames. It is believed that only colonies that have enough reserves will attempt to swarm. Checkerboarding frames above the brood nest apparently destroys this sense of having reserves.

12. What three requirements must be met for the colony to successfully weather a winter?

  1. There must be enough bees to keep the hive warm and raise the first brood of the spring. Basically, each hive should have enough bees to cover five or more brood frames.
  2. There must be enough honey in the hive to feed the bees during the winter. A colony needs at least forty pounds of honey. The hive should consist of one hive body and two supers, or two hive bodies and one super.
  3. The colony must have a healthy, laying queen. The queen will lay a large brood in the late fall, and these bees will maintain the hive during the winter. She must also lay a new brood in the spring to restore the hive to its summer population.

13. What is the advantage of using a double-brood chamber system?

The double-brood chamber system provides an easy way for a small-scale beekeeper who does not have a lot of equipment to create new queens. In this system, the hive is stacked up like this:

Brood box with brood cells, workers, and honey
Queen Excluder
Queen Excluder
Brood box with existing queen, brood cells, workers, and honey

After a few weeks, the workers in the upper story will have raised several queens by feeding royal jelly to the larvae and enlarging their cells. The beekeeper can collect these queens and use them to requeen existing colonies or create new ones.

14. Carry out the following duties of successful beekeeping:

It's a good idea to perform these duties with (or under the supervision of) an established beekeeper. If you know anyone who keeps bees, talk to them and see if they would teach you and let you help them. If you don't know any beekeepers, contact your local bee inspector. Bee inspectors will know all the beekeepers in your area and will be able to recommend one to you.

a. Spring feed to stimulate brood production

Bees can be fed sugar water (2 parts water, 1 part sugar) in the spring, and it's a good idea to add a two tablespoons of vinegar to each gallon of sugar water to keep it from spoiling. New colonies should be fed for a couple of weeks until they have built out their comb.

b. Supering and other swarm prevention techniques

It's a good idea make sure the bees have plenty of space to store honey, and adding supers gives them plenty of space. Adding too much space in the summer does not hurt, but adding too little will cause them to quit making honey and will encourage them to swarm.

c. Extract honey and put into jars

Honey is extracted by removing frames from the supers. Do not extract the honey into an open container, or the bees will be attracted to it. This can incite them to rob.

d. Fall feeding and "taking the hive down" to prepare it for the winter months

Feed the bees more sugar water (with vinegar) in the fall, to make up for the honey you have harvested from them. Remove all but one super. Bees need a small hive for overwintering, as they are easier for the bees to heat. Many beekeepers also insulate their hives at this time. Install entrance reducers to keep mice out of your hives.

15. How do you know when a frame is ready to be removed from the hive for extraction?

During a honey flow, remove the frames periodically and check them. If they are full of honey, and at least 80% of the cells are capped, the honey is ready to be extracted. Extracting it too soon can cause the honey to ferment.


A big "Thank You" to the people over at Your kindness and willingness to dispense knowledge made this chapter possible. - Jim Thomas, 30 Sep, 2006.

Some of the content for this answer book entry were copied with very little modification from the following:

Other information was gleaned from these resources:

Again, a big THANKS to the people at Beemaster's International Beekeeping Forum. A great deal of the more difficult answers were gathered from this forum, and the kind, helpful people there have reviewed this material (though I will fiercely claim all errors as my own). - Jim Thomas, 30 September, 2006.