gardening go hand in hand. Many garden plants need pollination to produce
edible fruits, and virtually all of them need pollination to
produce viable seeds. Orchards
absolutely require pollination in the spring and early summer
to produce edible apples, pears, cherries, etc.
It just so happens that the honeybee is the
most efficient pollinator. In years past, we could take
pollination for granted because there were many feral honeybee
colonies which would do the job for free. In the late
1980's, tracheal mites and Varroa mites, Asian bee mites, were
introduced into America by some idiot queen breeder from
Florida when he snuck some Yugoslavian queens into the United
States. He sold queens and 3 pound packages of bees to
migratory beekeepers, those who move hives from the Southern
states northward as the season progresses, making their living
off the $25 to $45 per hive per crop pollination fees.
They spread the mites nationwide, and by the early 1990's
tracheal mites and Varroa mites were decimating honeybee
Factory by Miles Stair
How to maximize
honey production and receive adequate pollination from
only a few hives. This book is complete, covering
virtually everything about beekeeping, from how to
assemble hives to how to prevent swarming, processing
honey, etc. Those who have adopted my methods of
beekeeping have been able to average close to 200
pounds of honey per year per hive, as I have since
1991. In 1995 I set a world record for multiple hives
of 645 pounds of honey from two hives sitting
side-by-side! Updated, with many full
color photos - 126 full size pages.
Why an e-book?
For research, the power of a computer can be
utilized to search for any word, phrase or topic in the
entire book! You can then print individual pages,
whole chapters or the entire book. Available at this link.
Those beekeepers who treated their hives
with miticides (Apistan Strips for Varroa mites, canola oil or
grease patties for tracheal mites) could keep the mites under
control and keep most of their hives alive. Feral
colonies, however, could not be treated, and they were
virtually wiped out. Those gardeners who depended upon
feral colonies to pollinate their gardens and orchards began to
experience greatly diminished crops, and many had to start
keeping a few colonies of honeybees just for their own
pollination needs. The side benefit of honey production
was a very nice bonus!
These two hives of mine produced a
combined 645 pounds of honey in 1995 - a world record
for two hives sitting side by side, and was reported in
the June, 1996 "American Bee Journal." The March photo
shows the hives on the covered hive stand I build to
keep the hives dry in our rainy Pacific Maritime
climate. By June the cover was removed and six "western" supers were
on each hive. By July 4th they were all full and capped, and
those were full by August.
This article is not intended to be a
complete, illustrated guide to beekeeping, but rather an
incentive for those who need it to begin beekeeping.
Thousands of books have been written on beekeeping - I wrote one myself - and no short article
can begin to cover all aspects of beekeeping.
A normal beehive will average 40 to 45
pounds of surplus honey a year, according to reports dating
back a century. You do not have to settle for "average"
production, though. Ormand Aebi set a world record with 404
pounds of honey from one hive in one season, and I have no hope
of achieving that production. Mr. Aebi lives in Santa
Cruz, CA and has a eucalyptus tree nectar flow from January
through June, whereas approximately 70 percent of our nectar
flow (blackberry & clover) occurs in the 7 weeks between
the first week in June and the 3rd week in July.
Use a smoker sparingly
- use only as little smoke as necessary to calm the bees. When the bees
smell the smoke they gorge themselves on honey and become more placid and
easier to work. And they are not going to "work" any more for at least
several hours after the hive is inspected and smoked. Excessive use of a
smoker can easily lead to the loss of a day's nectar collection at the peak
of honey production! Make a "stopper" to block the smoker to inhibit the
flow of air through the smoker to put it out when finished working the
hives. Hot smokers casually left burning can cause fires if they come
into contact with clothing, dry grass, etc.
To obtain high honey yields, I had to invent
methods to help the bees evaporate the nectar into honey more
quickly, and I had to stimulate huge hive populations without
inducing swarming, both of which I detail in my book. I also
build elevated high stands (shown above) with a removable
cover. The high stand cover sheds winter rain, the stand
itself is placed over a black plastic sheet to eliminate ground
moisture under the hives, and the stands are level side to side
and have a 1/2" drop toward the front to keep the bottom board
dry. The hive stand cover is in place from mid-August,
when all honey supers must be removed and the hives treated for
mites, and remains in place until honey supers are placed atop
the hive in May.
The average honey yield per hive is
approximately 40 pounds because the bee colony tries to limit
its population to about 45,000 individual bees. They can
determine high hive population levels by detecting the level of
carbon dioxide in the hive. When the bees feel the hive
population is sufficient to gather their winter supply of honey
for food, they swarm. What we must do is prevent swarming
and artificially induce very high hive populations - up to
80,000 bees per hive. If a hive that large does swarm,
there are still enough bees and brood left to bring in 100 to
150 pounds of honey.
By drilling a 3/8" hole in the front of each
hive body and honey super and providing an upper ventilation
slot, air moves a little faster through the hive, displacing
carbon dioxide and providing more evaporation for the
nectar. With these modifications, hive populations can
reach a critical mass of over 80,000 bees. The population
of "housekeeping" bees remains about the same, so the extra
bees are virtually all field bees, bring pollen and nectar back
to the hive. That is why I have been able to average
about 200 pounds of honey per hive per year for the past dozen
You will have noticed that I used the word
"usually" or "normally" in the paragraphs above. While we can
manipulate hive populations, we have no control over the
weather. If there is a summer drought, the nectar flow
can dry up and reduce honey yields considerably, so testing
various hive configurations and methods of working with
honeybees can take up to a decade to determine the "average"
results. Fortunately, it is easy to store honey for use in lean years.
Hive location is also critical.
The hive entrance should face Southeast or South, with a good
field of view in front of the hives. The hives do not
need to be in the orchard or garden in order for them to do
their pollination duties, but it is best to keep the hives
within sight of a house if possible. I once had to place
two hives out of sight of a house, and a bear really tore them
Swarms can be easily caught in bait
hives. Old brood should be recycled by removing the outer
two frames of each brood chamber in March, when they are
usually empty of bees and honey. The frames are then
spread apart, and two new frames with foundation placed in the
middle. On such a cycle, the brood comb will be replaced
every five years. That old brood comb is smelly and a
very obvious attractant to bees, and can be used in a bait hive
to catch swarms! Yes, a swarm will just fly right into
the bait hive. Below is a photo of one swarm coming into a bait
hive on June 19, 2004. All those white dots in the air are
bees. Of course it is best to avoid swarms in your own
hives through swarm
It only takes twelve
2 x 4's to build a good hive stand, 7 for the bench, 2
for the upright cover supports, and 2 for the
cover. Six 2 x 4's are cut to 66" by cutting off
10" and 20" pieces; the short pieces become the
rectangular bracing used at each end and in the middle,
as shown. The 66" 2 x 4's are nailed and glued on the
outside of the braces, resulting in a table 11 1/2"
high and 23 1/2" wide. Two 2 x 4's are cut at 46"
and become the front cover support, and the 50" halves
become the rear cover supports, leaving a 4" drop
toward the front to drain off rain. The
leftover 2 x 4's are used for the sides of the cover
and for bracing under the hive stand, as shown.
Pressure treated 2 x 4's are used, and the stand will
last for decades.
Remember, I have only given you a few high
points on beekeeping. This is one hobby where planning
ahead by extensive reading can really pay off. For example,
working with beehives means lifting, so you will want to keep
the weight of component parts under consideration before you
purchase anything. A full "deep" super can easily weigh
90 pounds - at arms length - so while they work as hive bodies,
deeps are not ideal for use as honey supers. A "western" or
mid-depth super (6 5/8") weighs a little over 52 pounds when
full of honey, yielding about 37 pounds of honey and having
about 15 pounds of wood and wax. A "shallow" honey super
weighs about 38 pounds when full, yielding approximately 26
pounds of honey. The type of centrifugal honey extractor
you decide to use also is a factor here. My Maxant 3100
extractor will hold 6 frames of shallow supers but only 3
"western" or deep super frames. Obviously it is in my best
interest to use shallow supers both for the lighter weight and
the efficiency of extracting the honey with my extractor.
Wooden frames must also be tightly wired, using a frame
squeezer with an eccentric cam, to properly handle the
centrifugal force of extracting and still last for decades of
use. Plan ahead! Beehives can also be used in warfare!