The Guide to Beekeeping for Adults and Kids
Thanks to Megan Potter for submitting this great collection of resources on behalf of EnrichingKids.com.
Beekeeping is the term used to describe human maintenance of a colony of honeybees. A beekeeper usually keeps his bees in hives contained in a “bee yard.” The beekeeper maintains the beehives so that he can collect beeswax, honey, pollen and propolis. A beekeeper may also maintain the hives so that the bees will pollinate his crops. Finally, beekeepers may use the hives to produce new generations of bees for sale to other beekeepers.
More than 20,000 species of bees exist in the wild today, but many of these species live solitary. Most beekeepers raise honeybees, which are extremely social and live in large colonies. In Europe and America, the most common species of domesticated bee is the Western honeybee. There are three subspecies of Western honeybees including the Italian bee, European dark bee, and Camiolan honeybee.
Wild Honey Harvesting
The earliest evidence of honey gathering appears in rock paintings from the year 13,000 BCE. In ancient times, people collected honey from wild bees by using smoke to subdue the bees and then breaking the hive open. Unfortunately, this method usually ended in the destruction of the bees’ home. Today, more humane methods are used for collecting honey.
Domestication of Wild Bees
Humans eventually began to domesticate bees using artificial hives that they constructed out of straw baskets, pottery, wooden boxes, or hollow logs. Domesticated bees were present in Egypt by 2422 BCE. Domesticated honeybees were also kept in ancient Greece and in Israel during the Bronze and Iron Age. Additionally, beekeeping was practiced in ancient China.
In the 18th century, European philosophers began studying bee colonies to better understand their behaviors and biology. They discovered that the queen bee lays eggs in open cells, but they did not understand how the queen’s eggs were fertilized. Eventually, scientists discovered that the queen bee was inseminated by a drone far from the hive. They also learned that a colony of bees has only one queen who is mother to all of the other bees in the colony.
Invention of Comb Hive
In the earliest methods of honey collection, the beehive was usually destroyed. However, the invention of a hive with removable combs allowed beekeepers to collect honey while still preserving the bees and their home. This hive was first developed in the 18th century and was perfected over the years. Its development is largely responsible for the growth of honey production in the United States and Europe.
Throughout the years, inventors have designed domestic beehives in a variety of dimensions. However, all hives are rectangular or square and use a wooden frame. In the past, hives were made from cypress wood, pine, or cedar. More recently, hives constructed from polystyrene have become popular among beekeepers.