Many people enjoy keeping bees. Some enjoy beekeeping as a hobby. Others make a career of keeping bees. They make money by pollinating crops for farmers and by selling honey.
Beekeepers must have certain equipment to work with bees. First they must have a bee veil that usually hangs around a plastic helmet and fits closely around the neck. This keeps the bees from stinging the beekeeper around the face and head. When bees are angry they usually try to sting as close to the eyes as possible, so the veil is very important.
Beekeepers use smoke to calm the bees down. They do this by making a small fire in a smoker and squeezing the bellows to make the smoke come out. When bees are frightened they send out a special scent to alarm the other bees to attack. When a beekeeper uses smoke on a beehive, the bees are no longer able to smell the alarm scent so they keep on working in the hive.
Beekeepers use special clothing to protect themselves from stings. Some bee suits are thicker than others and give more protection. Many commercial beekeepers feel that the bee suits and gloves are too bulky and hot. They choose to risk getting stung every now and then rather than have to wear clothing that slows them down. Those who don't wear official bee suits usually choose light colored shirts and long pants. They avoid bright or dark colors. If the beekeeper wears dark colors the bees might think he is a bear. If he wears bright colors, the bees are attracted to him as to a bright colored flower.
Beekeepers know that if they move slowly around the beehives they are not likely to get stung. They also learn the best times to work with the bees. If the bees are busy gathering pollen and nectar, they are happy and hardly notice the beekeeper if he is careful. It is best not to disturb the beehives if it is a cloudy or rainy day or if it is late in the evening or after dark. The bees get angry quickly when a beekeeper opens a hive under these conditions.
Another basic tool of the beekeeper is the hive tool. This is a simple piece of metal that is long, flat and straight and curves up on the end. It works as a pry-bar to open the hives and a scraper to clean beeswax and trash off various pieces of equipment. The curved end has a notch in it for pulling out nails.
Before discussing the equipment used to make up the bee hive, it will be helpful to learn a little about the bees. The most important single bee in a colony is the queen bee. She is the largest bee in the hive and her only job is to lay the eggs for all the bees in the colony.
The smaller worker bees do all the work in the hive. When they are very young they take care of the brood (eggs, larvae, and pupae that have not hatched). As they get older they take on different jobs such as tending to the needs of the queen, gathering pollen and nectar, and guarding the entrances to the colony.
The male bees, called drones, are larger than the workers but smaller than the queen. Their only job is to mate with the queen. After this happens they die immediately. In times when food is scarce such as in the winter, the drone bees are pushed out of the hive to die.
Most beekeepers in the United States keep bees in Langstroth hives. These hives are rectangular boxes 16 1/4" wide X 20" long X 9 5/8" high. The opening is at the bottom of the hive and is built into the bottom board which extends out in front like a porch. Inside the hive box are usually nine or ten frames the bees build their combs in. The bees raise the brood (eggs, larvae, and pupae) in these combs.
A second box, called a super, is only 5 - 6 inches high and sits above the hive body. This box usually has nine or ten frames of comb in it. A special metal or plastic divider is placed between the hive body and the super. This divider has many holes in it. These holes are small enough to keep the larger queen bee from passing through it to lay eggs in the super. The…