Beekeeping In East Lancashire



Bees in Lancashire?

The East Lancashire  Area offers it's own unique climate to both challenge and reward the beekeeper. The weather in any two  years is never the same. The foraging areas are very mixed and a wide variety of nectar comes into the hive, making the honey very special and of a wonderfully high quality.

Here are some basic questions and answers about beekeeping in East Lancashire.


Beginning Beekeeping:

IIs beekeeping hard work?
How much will it cost me to keep bees?
How much honey can one bee hive produce?
What do I do if I see a swarm of bees?
How do beekeepers catch a swarm?
How long does a bee live?
How many bees are in a bee hive?

Bee Stings:

Will I get stung if I keep bees?
What do I do if I get stung?
Why does a bee sting?
Why does a bee die when it stings?
What is Apitherapy?

Honey and other products:

How do bees make honey?
Why do bees make honey?
How does the beekeeper get the honey from the bees?
Do the bees miss the honey that is taken?

Anything else?



Beginning Beekeeping:

Q. How much time does it take to manage a hive?

A. About half an hour per hive per week, and less time during the winter. In addition, honey is extracted once a year; this can take about two hours per hive.

Q. How much will it cost me to keep bees?

A. For the clothing, tools and supplies it' will cost about  300 but there are always bargains about and costs can be cut considerably

Q. How much honey can one bee hive produce?

A. One hive could produce 50 pounds of honey in a good season. An average hive, however, produces 20-30 pounds of surplus honey.

Q. What do I do if I see a swarm of bees?

A. Don't panic: bees in a swarm are universally in a good mood. They cannot easily sting even if antagonized as they have gorged themselves with honey and cannot get their bodies into the best position to sting. If the swarm is not causing a nuisance then leave it -- gradually the bees will cluster in a bush or tree and remain there for up to three days. During that time scouts will be sent out to look for a new home. If the swarm is a nuisance then call the police, as they keep a list of local beekeepers who can help.

Q. How do beekeepers catch a swarm?

A. Beekeepers usually catch swarms when the bees collect on a branch of a tree or bush. The beekeeper simply shakes the swarm into a cardboard box that can be secured and has adequate vents. The swarm is then taken to a prepared hive and simply shaken in. The new hive may be made more enticing by adding some brood and capped honey, from another hive. It is a dramatic sight to see a swarm marching into a new hive.

Q. How long does a bee live.

A. In the summer, a worker bee only lives for about six weeks. The workers born in the Autumn will live until the following Spring. A queen can live up to five years. However, for the beekeeper, a queen is beyond her prime in her third year. A beekeeper will usually requeen a hive once a year.

Q. How many bees are in a bee hive?

A. In the summer there can be about 40,000 bees in a hive. This number drops to around 5,000 in the winter.

Bee Stings:

Q. Will I get stung if I keep bees?

A. Yes. A few people are allergic, but most will have a swollen area at the vicinity of the sting, that should last a few days. Most people gradually become more immune to bee stings.

Q. What do I do if I get stung?

A. If stung, scrape the stinger out with your fingernail, as the stinger continues to pump venom for some time after insertion.

Q. Why does a bee sting?

A. A bee stings when it is provoked, it is frightened, it gets trapped in hair, it is crushed, or the colony is threatened.

Q. Why does a bee die when it stings?

A. Essentially, the bee loses its internals when it stings. The barbs in the sting firmly stick into the victim, pulling out the venom sacs and glands when the bee is shaken off.

Q. What is Apitherapy.

A. Apitherapy is the medicinal use of honeybee products: honey, pollen, propolis, royal jelly, beeswax, and the venom.


Q. How do bees make honey?

A. Bees take nectar, a sweet sticky substance exuded by most flowers and some insects, and mix it with enzymes from glands in their mouths. This nectar/enzyme mix is stored in hexagonal wax honeycomb until the water content has been reduced to around 17%. When this level is reached, the cell is capped over with a thin layer of wax to seal it until the bees need it. This capping indicates to the beekeeper that the honey can be harvested. Capped honey can keep almost indefinitely.

Q. Why do bees make honey?

A. Bee colonies do not hibernate during the winter, but stay active and cluster together to stay warm. This requires a lot of food --honey-- stored from the summer before. Honeybees are special in that they over-winter as a colony, unlike wasps and bumble bees. Although a hive only needs 20-30 pounds of honey to survive an average winter, the bees are capable, if given the space, of collecting much more. This is what the beekeeper encourages through traditional beekeeping practices.

Q. How does the beekeeper get the honey from the bees?

A.  Ah, yes. The honey. The queen bee is kept below the upper boxes in the hive (called "supers") by a wire or plastic grid which the queen is too large to fit through (called a "queen excluder"). As the bees cannot raise brood above this queen excluder, only honey is stored in the supers. As the season progresses, the beekeeper adds more supers until it's time to harvest the honey. A special one-way valve is then fitted in place of the queen excluder, and gradually all the bees are forced into the lowest part of the hive. The beekeeper can simply lift off the super boxes containing the honey comb. The honey is extracted from the comb using centrifugal force in a machine called a "spinner", which looks much like an old fashioned upright spin dryer.

Q. Do the bees miss the honey that is taken?

A. No. A strong colony can produce two to three times more honey than they need. If necessary, the beekeeper can feed the bees a sugar syrup in the autumn to make up for the loss of honey.

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