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                      A BEEKEEPING GUIDE
                    by HARLAN H.D. ATTFIELD

Original French Translation of this Document (with few or zero illustrations)

               illustrated by MARINA F. MASPERA
                             published by
               Volunteers In Technical Assistance
               1600 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 500
               Arlington, VA 22209, USA
               Fourth printing, 1989
                 ISBN: 0-86619-154-2
                          TABLE OF  CONTENTS
  The Queen
  The Drone
  The Worker
  A Home
  Langstroth Hive
  Newton Hive
  Simple Hives
  First-year Swarms
  Before the Honeyflow
  Prevent Swarming
  The Rock Bee of Giant Bee
  The Little Bee
  The Indian Bee
  The European Bee
                          ABOUT VITA
Volunteers in Technical Assistance (VITA) is a private, nonprofit,
international development organization. VITA makes
available to individuals and groups in developing countries a
variety of information and technical resources aimed at fostering
self sufficiency--needs assessment and program development
support; by-mail and on-site consulting services;
information systems training; and management of long-term
field projects. VITA promotes the application of simple,
inexpensive technologies to solve problems and create opportunities
in developing countries.
VITA places special emphasis on the areas of agriculture and
food processing, renewable energy applications, water supply
and sanitation, housing and construction, and small business
development. VITA's activities are facilitated by the active
involvement of VITA Volunteer technical experts from around
the world and by its documentation center containing specialized
technical material of interest to people in developing
countries. VITA also publishes a quarterly magazine and a
variety of technical papers, manuals, and bulletins. For more
information, write to
    VITA, 1600 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 500
    Arlington, VA 22209
This manual presents construction details for several kinds
of hives, guidelines for selecting sites and caring for
hives, instructions for proper clothing, etc. It is based on
the experiences of the Sylhet Package Program of International
Voluntary Services, Inc., a community development
effort in Bangladesh. Harlan H. D. Attfield, the author, has
been a VITA Volunteer for many years and is the author of a
number of books and articles published by VITA, including
Raising Rabbits.
                 A BEEKEEPING GUIDE
Keeping bees can be extremely fascinating. It can also be
profitable. A beginning beekeeper needs to have some knowledge
of the habits of bees, good locations for the beehives, and a
small amount of materials.
Honeybees live in a home of wax comb. These six-sided wax cells
are very strong and house the brood (immature bees) during
development and provide storage space for honey and pollen. In
nature, bees usually live in a sheltered cavity, such as a
hollow tree or rock crevice. The colony is composed of a queen,
drones, and workers.
The Queen

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There is only one queen bee in
the colony (family). As mother
of the colony, her purpose in
life is to lay eggs. She may
lay several hundred eggs in
one day. These eggs may hatch
into drones (males), workers,
or new queens. The queen can
determine which type of egg
she is going to lay. She lays
only the type that she feels
the colony needs.
It takes sixteen days for the
queen to develop from an egg
into an adult. About the
seventh day after hatching,
the queen flies from the hive and mates with one or more
drones. This is the only time in her life that the queen mates,
though she may live four to five years.
The queen is larger than the worker and longer than the drone.
Her wings are shorter in proportion to her body length than
those of the drone or worker. She has a long, tapering
abdomen. When undisturbed, a mated, laying queen will usually
be found on or near the comb containing the eggs in the
The Drone

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The number of drone bees in a colony varies seasonally. There
may be none when the bees have little food, but up to 1,000
during the honey-collecting
season. When the honey season
is over and food and water
become scarce, the drones are
driven out of the hive to
It takes 24 days for a drone
to develop from an egg into
an adult. The drone does no
work in the hive. His onlyfunction in life is to mate
with the virgin queen outside
the  hive. He dies after
mating with her. The drones
are the only male bees in the
Drones are larger and fatter than the queen or the workers.
Their bodies are not as long as the queen's. The drone has a
short tongue he uses to take food from workers and from stored
honey in the hive. He does not have legs fit to carry pollen,
and he is unable to produce wax. He has no stinger to defend
himself. Children enjoy handling drones!
The Worker

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There are 5,000 to 75,000 worker bees in a colony. They do all
the house and field work. Some workers go out of the hive to
bring in water, Pollen, nectar, and propolis (bee glue). Other
workers remain in the hive to guard against enemies. Still
others clean the hive, build wax comb, nurse the young, and
control the temperature of the hive. Workers eat honey to produce
heat in cold weather and fan their wings to keep the hive
cool in hot weather.
It takes 21 days for a worker
to grow from an egg into an
adult. During the honey-collecting
period, workers
live about six weeks. Workers
have special legs equipped
with  pollen baskets. They
also have glands that produce
wax and the scent necessary
for carrying out their many
duties. Workers are smaller
than either the drones or the
queen. They have a stinger, which, unlike the queen's, is
barbed on the end. When a worker stings something, the stinger
remains behind and the bee dies.
The cells of the queen, drone, and worker all differ, as shown.

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Wasps are not bees but are sometimes mistaken for bees by
people. (A black wasp and brown wasp are shown below.) Their

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homes are made of mud or paperlike materials. Many wasps are
parasitic, laying their eggs in or on the bodies of other
insects or spiders. Wasps are not good for honey production.
Several kinds of bumblebees are found around the world.
Although color varies a great deal, some common bumblebees
are blue-black or black and yellow. They make their homes at or
near ground level, often in empty mouse nests. Like wasps, they
are not good for honey production.
Dammar bees are the smallest of the honey yielders and are
known by many people as stingless bees (Melipona spp. and
Trigona spp.). However, it is not completely correct to call
them this because they do have stingers although imperfect for
use. These bees do not sting but bite instead. They resemble a
honeybee somewhat, but are much smaller. They build their homes
in the hollows of trees, rocks, walls, keyholes, and roof
cracks. Although these bees store honey, the yield is too
little to warrant keeping them.
In order to live and produce honey, bees need the following:
* Beeswax                          * Flowers
* Nectar                           * Tree and flower buds
* Water                            * A home
Bees need beeswax in order to make wax comb. They store honey
and pollen and raise their young in the wax comb. Workers
produce beeswax in wax glands located on the underside of their
bodies. As it is made, beeswax changes from a liquid into tiny
wax scales. Workers then use these wax scales to build wax
Workers must eat large amounts of honey or nectar to produce
wax. They keep the hive temperature between 92[degrees] and 97[degrees]F (33[degrees]
and 36[degrees]C) while making wax.
Many beekeepers help their bees to start making wax by putting
sheets of beeswax foundation in the wooden or bamboo frames of

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the hive (see Figure 1 on page 11). The foundation wax fits
into hive frames and forms the base of the honeycombs. It helps
speed up comb construction and gives the bees a pattern to
follow for building straight and easy-to-remove honeycombs.
Honeycomb foundations can be ordered from bee supply companies
(see notation in back of this Bulletin).
In order to make honey, bees must have nectar. Nectar is a
liquid, sugary substance produced by flowers and is the raw
material of honey. Honey is the bees' main source of food.
Nectar is qenerally one-half to three-fourths water. After the
workers carry nectar to the hive, they evaporate most of the
water to thicken it. They then seal the full honeycomb cells
with a thin layer of wax.
Many flowering plants make nectar, but only a few grow
abundantly or produce enough nectar to be considered good sources.
The best sources of nectar vary from place to place. As a
beekeeper, you will want to know the plants in your area that
are best for honey production.
The days when a good number of plants have nectar to be foraged
by honeybees is called a honeyflow period. If the nectar yield
is abundant from a good number of the plants of a single kind,
it is called a major honeyflower period. When the amount of
nectar plants is available in large numbers, providing one or
two major honeyflow periods and minor honeyflow periods during
other parts of the year, then beekeeping can be successful. In
the best beekeeping areas, the unproductive period is not long
in duration.
The color and flavor of honey depend on the kinds of plants
from which bees collect nectar. Honey may be clear, golden, or
even brown. Its flavor can range from mild to strong.
Many of us have planted various types of fruit plants near our
homes. Mustard grown for oil-seed provides an abundant source
of nectar and pollen, often for two or three months. The honey
is light yellow and granulates, becoming firm like sugar very
Bees must have water in order to live. Bees add water to honey
before eating it. During hot weather, they may stop collecting
food and start collecting water to cool the hive. Some water is
obtained from nectar, but a colony that cannot collect water
from other sources will die within a few days. Beekeepers often
maintain an open supply of water during dry periods.
Bees need flowers from which to collect pollen. Pollen is the
powdery material found in most flowers, which fertilizes other
flower parts to produce seeds. Many wild flowers, weeds, trees,
and agricultural crops produce pollen that bees can use.
Workers place pollen in pollen baskets on their hind legs and
carry it back to the hive. The pollen is stored as "beebread"
in the cells of the honeycomb. Later it is fed to young bees.
Pollen is needed before and during the honey-producing season
so that young bees will have enough food.
As the bees move from flower to flower, the tiny grains of
pollen stick to their bodies. This is how bees provide their
important service of pollination, or uniting the male and
female parts of the flower so that seed is produced. Farmers
are greatly appreciative of this service, which increases their
Tree and Flower Buds
In order to make propolis, bees need tree and flower buds.
Propolis is a sticky, gummy material that bees collect from
tree and flower buds. Bees use propolis to seal cracks and to
waterproof the hive.
A Home
To keep bees, you will need to provide them with a home or
"hive." Bees need a place to raise their young, to build their
wax comb, and to store their pollen and nectar. They also need
a hive for protection from wind, rain, heat, cold, pests, etc.
Some things that should be considered when building a hive are:
* The hive should be built so that it will be easy to remove
  the surplus honey.
* After the surplus is collected, it should be easy for the
  bees to start storing honey again in the hive.
* The hive should be well made so that it will house the bees
  for many honey-producing seasons.
* There should be enough space in the hive for bees to build
  new combs for brood rearing and food storage.
* The entrance hole of the hive should be just big enough to
  let the bees come in and go out. If the hole is too big,
  however, it will be difficult for the bees to defend their
  stored honey from pests.
* The hive should protect the bees from cold or hot weather. In
  a warm country, the hive should be placed in partial shade.
* There must always be a supply of water nearby, as well as a
  good source of nectar and pollen within 2-3 miles.
* A hive should be placed where the bees are unlikely to sting
Many types of beehives are used by beekeepers all over the
world. The hive used will depend on materials available in the
area. Some materials that beehives can be made of are:
* Wood.
* Straw woven into rope that is twisted around in a circle or
  square to make the beehive.
* Large rectangular cans such as empty kerosene tins.
* Tree trunks, which are cut into sections and hollowed out.
* Clay or mud jars.
* Bamboo or woven reeds coated with clay or mud.
Wooden hives are used by many beekeepers throughout the world.
If you want to build your own wooden-frame hive, you can use
the plans and dimensions in this Bulletin. Make all parts
exactly the same and keep all dimensions the same, so that the
parts will fit together well and can be easily interchanged
with the parts of other hives.
Of special importance is the space left between the frames,
floor (bottom board), wells, and cover inside the hive. For
most beehives, this "bee space" is 0.96cm (1/4") (see Figure 9,

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page 18, "side view"). If the space is less, the bees will not
be able to pass through, and they will seal it up with
propolis. If the space is wider than 0.96cm (1/4"), the bees
will build honeycombs in it. Neither of these conditions is
good for the beekeeper.
There are many types of wooden-frame beehives throughout the
world. The two most popular ones for use with bees of the size
of the Indian bee are the Langstroth and Newton types shown in
this Bulletin. Although these hives differ in size, both have
basically the same parts.
Langstroth Hive

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Figure 1 shows the Langstroth hive and its parts as follows:
1. Bottom board.  This is the floor of the beehive and can be
   made by using a piece of wood 55.88cm long X 41.28cm wide X
   1.91cm thick (22" X 16-1/4" X 3/4"), or by joining two
   wooden boards together and nailing them in position.
   Along the bottom edge of both sides is nailed a wooden strip
   55.88cm X 1.91cm X 1.27cm (22" X 3/4" X 1/2"); and another
   wooden strip 37.46cm X 1.91cm X 1.27cm (14-3/4" X 3/4" X
   1/2") is nailed along the back edge.
   The front is provided with another strip of wood that is
   37.47cm X 1.91cm X 1.27cm (14-3/4" X 3/4" X 1/2") and has an
   entrance 7.62cm long X 0.97cm in height (3" X 3/8"). If
   necessary, the entrance opening can be made larger.
2. Brood chamber.  This provides space for eggs and brood
   although sometimes the queen will lay eggs in a few combs in
   the honey super. The brood chamber is a rectangular box
   without a top or bottom and is made of 1.91cm (3/4") thick
   Its length on the outside is 50.80cm (20") and on the inside
   46.99cm (18-1/2"); its width on the outside is 41.28cm
   (16-3/4") and on the inside 37.47cm (14-3/4"); and its
   height is 24.46cm (9-5/8"). A rabbet (shelf) 1.27cm (1/2")
   deep and 0.97cm (3/8") wide is cut along the entire inside
   top edge of both width boards. The "side view" of Figure 9
   (see page 18) shows how the wooden frames rest on this
3. Honey super.  This is the storage area for surplus honey.
   Wooden frames support the wax comb. More honey supers are
   added to the hive if the bees need more space.
   The dimensions of the super and the super frames should be
   the exact size of the brood chamber and brood chamber
4. Wooden frames [for brood chamber and honey super]. Nine
   frames are usually used in each brood chamber and honey
   super, although each is capable of holding ten frames each.
   This extra space makes it easy to move the frames around
   when inspecting the hive or to take the frames out when
   extracting honey. Once the nine frames are filled, most beekeepers
   usually add the 10th. By this time, there is less
   need for routine examinations of the frames.

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   Figure 2 shows the staple-spaced frame. Frames should be
   made from good, clean lumber. The frames must be carefully
   made so they will fit easily into the hive.
The frames can be wired so they will support wax comb or
sheets of wax foundation. This can be done by drilling three
or four holes in each side bar and then stringing tinned
wire (28 gauge) tightly through the holes (see Figure 3).

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Good wiring prevents the
foundation and combs from
sagging and allows the beekeeper
to handle the combs at
any time. If beeswax foundation
sheets are available,
they should be used. Combs
built on foundation sheets
are very sturdy. Brood combs
and honey super combs can be
used for several years and
are very important to the
modern beekeeper. Wax foundation
sheets are attached to
wired frames by dripping a
thin layer of melted beeswax along each wire and pressing to
the foundation sheet. Wax foundation sheets can be attached
to wires with a small tool called the "spur embedder" (see
Figure 4).

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The spur embedder is heated in
hot water and then rolled along
each wire, which is pressed to
the foundation sheet. The hot,
metal "wheel" of the spur embedder
melts the wax foundation all
along the length of each wire.
The melted wax foundation quickly
cools leaving the sheet nicely
secured in the frame. To make
the job of wire-embedding easier,
many beekeepers start by
fastening an edge of the foundation
sheet with melted (heated)
beeswax in the groove on the
lower side of the top bar.

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Figure 2 shows this groove. If the frame is used again, the
groove may be cleaned with a nail or piece of hard wire. New
foundations are now available that have built-in reinforcement
and requires no wire. If wax foundation is not available,
pieces of old comb from a wild hive can be tied to the
frames to help the bees start storing honey and rearing
brood (see Figure 5).

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Dimensions for the staple-spaced frame are:
* Top bar: 48.26cm long X 2.54cm wide X 1.91cm thick (19" X
  1" X 3/4"). It is cut to 0.97cm (3/8") thickness on both
  ends for a length of 2.54cm
  (1"). It has a groove in the
  middle of its lower side for
  affixing the comb foundation
  sheet.   Two 1.60cm (5/8")
  staples or "U-nails" should
  be driven in the top bar on
  its opposite sides, at opposite
  ends, leaving only
  0.97cm (3/8") of each U-nail
  or staple on the outside.
  This will allow for a 0.97cm
  (3/8") spacing between

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  frames (see Figure 6).
* Side bar: Each is made of 0.97cm (3/8") thick wood and is
  22.23cm (8-3/4") long and 2.54cm (1") wide. There are four
  holes in each side bar for wiring the frames (see Figure 2,
  page 12). These holes should be drilled before assembling
  the frame.
* Bottom bar: 43.18cm long X 2.54cm wide X 0.97cm thick (17"
  X 1" X 3/8").
5. Inner cover. This helps insulate the bees from heat and
   cold. It also keeps bees from building comb and propolis
   under the outside cover. The inner cover is made from wood,
   fiber mat, or jute sackcloth cut to the same length and
   width as the honey super.
6. Outside cover. This protects the frames and supers underneath.
   A flat-top cover can be made of 0.97cm (3/8") thick
   boards nailed to a rectangular frame 5.08cm (2") high, all
   covered with galvanized sheet metal, tar paper, or other
   waterproof material. A simple, flat-top cover is shown in
   Figure 1, page 11. The boards are nailed to two strips of
   wood made to overlap the front and back top edge of the
   honey super. Any cracks are filled neatly with coal tar
   spread from the outside surface of the cover. Clay, putty,
   or other crack sealants can also be used.
   A sloping-top cover is shown on the Newton beehive (see

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   Figure 9, page 18). This type of cover can be used with
   either the Langstroth or Newton hives. Many beekeepers prefer
   a sloping cover, which sheds rainwater quickly. It is
   usually made to fit loosely over the hive and is provided
   with a 2.54cm (1") diameter screened ventilation hole on the
   front and back.
7. Handles. For ease in handling, one handle should be placed
   in the center of each side of the brood chamber and honey
   super--a total of four handles on each chamber or super.
Most beekeepers prefer to place their beehives off the ground
on a wooden, rock, or brick stand so the bees can better

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protect their home from ants and other insect pests. Figure 7
shows a pole stand. The pole is made with a log about 10.16cm
(4") in diameter and well
soaked in wood preservative
(solignum) or a mixture of
equal parts old crankcase oil
from the petrol station and
kerosene or paint thinner. It
is then buried in the ground
leaving 30.48cm (12") above
the ground. A board (also
soaked in wood preservative)
40.64 X 30.48cm (16" X 12")
is nailed or screwed in place
on the top of the log. The
hive is placed on this
platform and sometimes tied
down with ropes to prevent

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Figure 8 shows a beehive raised 22.86cm (9") off the ground by
using simple leg stand. Stands should be made strong and hold
the hive in a level position.
Try to make your beehives from
light, well-seasoned, good
quality wood. The wood should
not have too strong a smell.
The outside wood of the hive
should be painted with a light-colored
exterior paint to protect
the wood from weathering
too quickly. A mixture of equal
parts of old crankcase oil and
kerosene can be used as "paint"
for the outside of the beehive.
If possible, glue all
hive parts together with a
waterproof glue before nailing
Newton Hive
The Newton hive is smaller than the Langstroth type and allows
the bees to control the temperature in the hive with less
effort. Small colonies in large hives may have their brood
chilled during cold winter nights and early mornings. The bees
will leave the outer frames and upper frames to cluster in a
tight mass in the center of the brood chamber.
It should be remembered when selecting a beehive design that a
hive is merely the tool of the beekeeper. A proper system of
management can make one kind equally as successful as another.

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Figure 9 shows the dimensions for the parts to the Newton hive,
as follows:
1. Bottom board. This is made of wooden planks the same width
   as and 10.16cm (4") longer than the brood chamber. Wooden
   strips 1.27cm X 2.24cm (1/2" x 7/8") are nailed along the
   back edge and two side edges. The front is provided with
   another strip of wood and has an entrance 8.89cm X 0.97cm
   (3-1/2" X 3/8"). Although seldom necessary, the entrance
   opening can be made larger by removing the wooden strip.
2. Brood chamber. This is a box without top and bottom and made
   of 2.24cm (7/8") thick wood with outer dimensions 28.27cm X
   27.31cm x 16.21cm (11-1/8" X 10-3/4" X 6-3/8") and inner
   dimensions 23.83cm X 22.86cm X 16.21cm (9-3/8" x 9" X
   6-3/8"). A groove shelf 1.27cm deep X 0.97cm wide (1/2" X
   3/8") is cut along the entire inside top edge of both width
   boards. The "side view" shows how the frames rest on this
   The brood chamber provides space for eggs and brood,
   although sometimes the queen will lay eggs in a few combs in
   the honey super. The brood chamber and honey super are
   exactly the same size.
3. Honey super. This is the storage area for surplus honey.
   Wooden frames support the wax comb. More honey supers are
   added to the hive if the bees need more space. The dimensions
   of the super and the super frame should be the same as
   those for the brood chamber and brood chamber frames.
4. Wooden frames [for brood chamber and honey super]. Seven
   frames are usually used in each brood chamber and honey
   super. The brood chamber can be used with six frames and one

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   "division board" (see Figure 10). The division board is a
   wooden partition that serves as a movable wall and is used
   to reduce the space inside the brood chamber so that bees
   can keep the brood warm and well protected from pests and
   periods of cold. The frames can be wired by following the
   steps given for the Langstroth frame on page 12.
   The dimensions for the Newton staple-spaced frame and division
   board are as follows:
   * Top bar: 25.4cm long X 2.24cm wide X 1.27cm thick (10" X
     7/8" X 1/2"). It is cut to 0.64cm (1/4") thickness on both
     sides for a length of 2.06cm (13/16"). It has a groove
     in the middle of its lower side for affixing the comb
     foundation sheet. Two 1.60cm
     (5/8") staples or "U-nails"
     should be driven in the top
     bar on its opposite sides,

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     at opposite ends (see Figure 11),
     so that the frames
     stand 0.97cm (3/8") apart.
   * Side bar: Each is 13.97cm long X 2.24cm wide X 0.64cm
     thick (5-1/2" X 7/8" X 1/4"). There are two or three holes

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     in each side bar for wiring the frames (see Figure 12).
     These holes should be drilled before assembling the frame.
   * Bottom bar: 22.56cm long X 2.24cm wide X 0.64cm thick
     (8-7/8" X 7/8" X 1/4").
5. Inner cover. This helps insulate the bees from heat and
   cold. It also keeps bees from building comb and propolis
   under the outside cover. The inner cover is made from wood,
   fiber mat, or jute sackcloth--cut to the same length and
   width as the honey super.
6. Outside cover. This protects the frames and supers underneath.
   Many beekeepers prefer a sloping cover, as shown in
   Figure 9, page 18, because it sheds rainwater quickly. It
   usually is made to fit loosely over the hive and is provided
   with a 1" screened ventilation hole on the front and back.
   In the simple, flat top cover shown in Figure 1, page 11,
   boards, 0.97cm (3/8") thick, are nailed to two strips of
   wood made to overlap the front and back top-edge of the
   honey super. The full outside length of the cover is 33.35cm
   (13-1/8") and 28.27cm (11-3/8") between the inside edges of
   the two wood strips. Any cracks in the cover should be
   filled neatly from the outside with coal tar, putty, clay,
   or other type of wood sealer.
7. Handles. For ease in handling, one handle should be placed
   in the center of each side of the brood chamber or honey
   super--a total of four handles on each chamber or super.
Beehives should be placed on stands off the ground like the
ones decribed for the Langstroth hive on page 16. Stands should
be made strong and should hold the hive in a level (or slightly
slanted forward) position.
It is suggested that the hives be made from light, well seasoned,
good quality wood. The outside of the hive should be
painted with a light-colored, exterior paint to prevent the
wood from weathering too quickly. A mixture of equal parts of
old crankcase oil and kerosene can be applied as "paint" for
the outside of the hive. If possible, all hive parts should be
assembled with a waterproof glue before being nailed securely.
Simple Hives
Simple, or single body, beehives are combinations of brood
chamber and honey super. The queen will tend to lay her eggs in
a concentrated circle, leaving the bordering areas for honey
storage. These hives are only practical in regions where there
is no nectarless seasons. Areas with nectarless seasons require
beehives where honey can be stored to support the bees.
There are many kinds of simple hives the beekeeper can make,
depending upon available material. Several types are shown

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Figure 13 shows a kerosene tin hive fitted with staple-spaced

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frames or transitional frames (see Figure 14). The transitional
frame is similar to the staple-spaced frame but uses half side
bars, saving the cost of bottom bars and half of the side
bars. Thus, the cost of the frame is reduced by nearly half and
the use of wires is not necessary. Bees will build straight
comb as far down as they can, but great care must be taken not
to break the comb through improper handling.
The tree trunk hive can
be used when a colony
of bees are found
living in the trunk of
a dead tree. If the
tree is not too large,
the section holding the
colony can be cut out
and secured to
stand. Supers can be
added to the top as the
bees need more space
for honey storage (see

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Figure 15).
The transwoven hive is made of bamboo or woven reeds and is

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often coated with clay or mud. This hive (see Figure 16) can be
used with full staple-spaced
frames or transitional
frames with
Newton hive dimensions
(see page 20). These
hives are simple to
make, but last only for
a few honey seasons
because the material
weakens with age.
A beginning beekeeper will need some simple equipment to help
his work with the bees and to protect him from bee stings. The

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equipment needed can be seen in Figure 17.
1. Hat with netting. This is used to protect the neck and face
   from bee stings. A veil can be made from any wide-brimmed
   hat and a piece of mosquito netting or wire screening,
   45.72cm (18") wide and as long as the circumference of the
   hat brim. After this has been sewn into a cylinder, it is
   sewn to the hat. At the back center of the netting are sewn
   two "tapes" each 137.16cm (54") long. At the front are sewn
   curtain rings about 20.32cm (8") apart.
   When the veil is put on, the tapes are passed under the arms
   and through the rings. Pulling the tapes tight pulls the
   edge of the netting tight against the shoulders. The remaining
   tape is passed back under the arms to stretch the front
   flat and is then brought, again, to the front to be tied.
2. Gloves.  These are used to protect the hands from bee
   stings. Gloves used in beekeeping are usually the "work-type."
   They are often made of soft leather or canvas-type
   cloth. Sleeves are sewn to the glove tops to protect the
   beekeeper's arms from stings. The sleeves can be tightened
   to the arms by the use of string or elastic bands. Experience
   shows gloves are unnecessary and even detrimental.
3. Smoker.  This is used to distract the bees. When worker bees
   smell smoke, they fill themselves with honey. It is difficult
   for a bee with a full stomach to sting because it
   cannot double up. Light puffs of smoke at the entrance and
   on top of the opened hive are usually enough.
   Some beekeepers use a straw torch and blow smoke into the
   hive. This is not good because burnt grass is also blown
   into the combs making the honey dirty. The hot embers could
   singe the bees making them more apt to sting.
   In most countries a smoker is used in which the burning

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   material is contained inside. Figure 18 shows a smoker with
   a bellows attached, while Figure 19 shows a more simple
   smoker made from a round tin and a couple of pieces of metal
   tubing. The beekeeper must use the tube to blow smoke from
   the tin. The longer end should be wrapped with a layer of
   cloth so it does not get too hot.
   The best material to burn in the smoker is old, dry sacking
   or rotten wood, since these burn slowly and give off a cool
   smoke. Rags, cotton waste, wood shavings, cowdung, dried
   corn cobs, and dry leaves also make good fuel for the
   The material should be lighted nearest the longer mouthpiece
   tube so that the smoke is filtered through the unburned
4. Hive tool. This helps to pry apart the hive boxes and
   frames. It can be purchased from a bee equipment company or
   made by the beekeeper from an old truck "leaf-spring" cut to
   20.32cm or 25.40cm (8" or 10"). The sharp edge is used for
   scraping wax and propolis from inside the hive.
Once a source of bees has been found, they will have to be
moved into the hive. Bees are best moved when they are swarming.
Swarming is a process of producing a new colony. Bees usually
start swarming when a colony has become overcrowded just
before the honey season. Bees may also swarm or leave the hive
when food sources or water become scarce, when there are small
food reserves in the hive, or when the hive is destroyed.
Before the bees swarm, the queen lays a single fertile egg in
each of the prepared queen cells. She then leaves the hive,
with about half the bees, in search of a new home. The remaining
bees in the hive wait for a new queen to mature. The new
queen mates with the drones and the colony life goes on.
Swarms may be found hanging on tree limbs or under overhangs of
buildings. once a swarm is located, it should be caught immediately

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and transferred to a hive Figure 20 shows a swarm of
bees that have landed on a tree limb. With a hard shake, the
bees are knocked into the beekeeper's basket and then shaken
into the brood chamber of an empty hive.
Bees in a swarm seldom sting, but a face net and smoker will
make the transfer safer.
A source of bees may be transferred from a tree, house, or old
hive to a new hive. The best time to transfer these bees is
during the honey season.
One way to transfer bees to a new hive from a tree or building
is to first get the smoker ready and be sure to wear proper
clothing. Then use the smoker continuously and make noise by
hitting the tree or building with a board or hammer. Soon a
swarm should come out of the old hive. They will collect on a
nearby tree limb or other object. The old comb may be cut out
and sections of it tied into a frame with string. The swarm is
then shaken into the new hive and left undisturbed for a few
days. It will not take long for the bees to fill the rest of
the frame with wax comb and begin storing food and raising
The best time for inspecting the colony is a bright, sunny day
when the bees are working normally. Bees should not be disturbed
on cold, rainy, or windy days or at night.
After lighting the smoker, the hive should be approached from
the side to avoid blocking the bees' entrance. A few puffs of
smoke should be given at the entrance. The inner cover should
be lifted a little with the hive tool, and smoke blown into the
hive, and the inner cover replaced. After a few moments, the
inner cover should be removed and placed upside down against
the hive. The frames should be pried apart with the hive tool,
taken out, and examined one by one. They should be handled

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carefully over the open hive and turned as shown in Figure 21.
During this work, the queen should always be kept in mind. The
frame on which she is located should be placed back in the hive
early. The frames should be handled gently and crushing the
bees should be avoided.
If you should be stung by a bee, the sharp edge of a hive tool
or fingernail should be used to take out the stinger as quickly
as possible. Never squeeze it out with your finger tips. Rubbing
only causes more irritation. Some persons are allergic to
bee stings. If stung by even a single bee, they develop a rash
over their body and have difficulty breathing. They shouldn't
go near hives. For most people, however, pain is felt for only
a few minutes, with any swelling lasting for just a short time.
After inspection of the colony is finished, all the hive parts
should be carefully returned to their proper places. Opening
the hive too often will upset the life of the colony and could
cause them to abandon their home in search of a quieter place
to live.
When inspecting a hive, look carefully for pests and remove
them from the hive.
There are many things that can be done to help bees make more
honey. Experience will make the beekeeper more aware of ways to
increase honey production. A few ways to make beekeeping a
success are listed below:
1. Do not keep colonies that are mean and hard to handle. Keep
   only those colonies that are calm and quiet, produce lots of
   honey, swarm little, and defend their hives against moths,

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   wax beetles, ants (see Figures 22 through 25), and robber
   bees from other hives.
2. Prevent swarming. About one-half of the bees are lost when
   they swarm. A crowded brood chamber is one of the main
   causes of swarming. Always make sure that bees have enough
   room in the brood chamber and honey super by adding additional
   brood boxes or supers before current ones are completely
3. Locate hives properly. Hives should be placed near good
   sources of nectar, pollen, and water. The hives should be
   protected from direct wind and hard rains.
4. Timely visits. Getting a good honey crop is a year-round
   job. Bee colonies should be checked every month (except during
   cold winter days) for honey and pollen supply, population,
   and condition of the queen and brood.
5. Remove pests from the hive. The most serious pests are those
   that come to breed in the hive, like some kinds of beetles
   and moths. These pests will lay their eggs in any combs not
   defended by the bees. The larvae (grub, worm-like young)
   feed on pollen and other food in the cells, chewing large
   holes and tunnels in the combs.
The legs of hive stands can be made antproof with an application
of sticky grease or "tangle-foot." Care must always be
taken to prevent weeds and grass from growing up under the

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hives. Sometimes birds (Figures 26 and 27) will be noticed
catching bees in the air and eating them. Usually the number of
bees lost this way is not a serious problem to the beekeeper.
Beekeepers in other countries have been known to shoot these
birds or trap them with thin nets stretched high in the air.
To make a good job of beekeeping, make sure your colonies are
"humming" with young bees at the time of the honeyflow. Young
bees are the best gatherers of honey and pollen.
The times of major and minor honeyflows vary from place to
place. A successful beekeeper must learn to adjust hive management
to seasonal changes in the life of the colony.
First-year Swarms
A swarm captured shortly before the major honeyflow and placed
in a new beehive will probably use most of the honey they make
to build combs for brood rearing and honey storage. The colony's
honey stores should not fall below three kilograms (kg)
(6-1/2 lbs) or about 2 full frames.
Before the Honeyflow
Examine each beehive and clean the inside of pests and dirt. If
a colony is below average strength, it can be helped by adding
a frame or two of capped (sealed) worker brood from a stronger
colony. Another good practice is to make the strength of all
colonies equal, so they all require your attention at about the
same time, and respond equally to one kind of treatment. New
colonies should be fed a 50% sugar solution until the honeyflow
Prevent Swarming
Generally the swarming season comes just before the major
honeyflow. Swarming is the colony's way of satisfying its
natural urge to reproduce itself. By this method, the number of
bee colonies is increased. The desire to swarm varies among
different colonies of bees. Swarming can be caused by an onrush
of a sudden honeyflow, the sudden failure of the queen to lay
eggs, a hot or poorly ventilated beehive, lack of space for egg
laying and honey storage, and honeycombs in the worker brood
area. If the bees feel crowded, they will surely swarm--or
worse, desert the brood and beehive completely. Be sure to keep
beehives in the shade and, if necessary, make the entrance
opening to the hive larger during hot periods. If the bees
cluster at the entrance on warm nights, it could mean they are
feeling crowded and need more frames or supers, although this
is normal in a busy hive.
The natural order of the frames in the brood chamber should not
be disturbed. Only poor, irregular combs, or combs filled with
drones, should be removed. Combs of drones should be placed in
the honey super or outside the frames containing brood. In this
way these frames will not act as barriers to the queen as she
moves from one frame to another.
Frames in the brood chamber filled with honey and pollen should
be moved to the outside of the brood area or into supers
above. The frames should be carefully arranged with your fingers
and spaced evenly apart. Prevent crowding by giving the
bees enough well-drawn combs for brood rearing and honey
Some beekeepers feed their weak colonies a sugar-water mixture
of 1/2 sugar and 1/2 water to encourage them to rear more
brood. A bee feeder is easy to make. All that is needed is a
small container--a tin or glass jar--with a removable lid. Tiny
holes are made in the lid. The sugar-water mixture is placed in
the container and the lid is replaced. The container is then
turned upside down and placed on the top of the inner roof hole
inside the hive. An extra brood box without any frames is
placed over the feeder and topped with the outer roof. This
prevents the building of combs above the frames. The bees will
go under the container and extract the sugar-water from the
tiny holes in the lid. Feeding should be done with care, as
this often causes robbers from other colonies to attack the
weaker colonies having cans of sugar-water.
As nectar and pollen are being placed in the beehive, try to
remain ahead of the bees in giving more frames and supers. The
second super should be added between the first super and the
brood chamber, not directly above the first super. Additional
supers may be added in the same way, just above the brood
chamber and below the other supers.
Colonies should be examined once a week. Frames full of honey
are removed to the sides of the brood chamber or placed in the
honey super. New frames with wax foundation should be placed
next to the frames containing brood but not between brood
frames where they will act as barriers to the queen.
When the honeyflow begins to slow down, the frames containing
capped honey are removed. harvesting must start while the bees
ate still bringing in nectar, otherwise robbing of weak colonies
by stronger ones may begin. Such lawlessness in the beekeeper's
apiary (the place where beehives are kept) will often
cause a week colony to desert the beehive, leaving the brood to
die. When selecting frames of honey, be sure not to take combs
that are not yet sealed with wax. This honey has not fully
ripened and still contains too much water. Honey of this type
will ferment quickly and should be avoided. When harvesting the
crop, take out a frame of filled honeycomb and bold it near the
entrance of the hive to shake or brush off the bees. The frames
of honey are placed in covered empty supers and taken away for
extracting (emptying the combs of honey). When the honeyflow
has finished, unnecessary supers are removed, and the bees left
with a proper store of honey to last until the next honeyflow
Beekeepers usually measure honey production in kilograms or
pounds. The yearly production of surplus honey varies depending
on the strength of the colony and the region where the
beekeeping is taking place.
Probably the most efficient way to get honey out of the comb is
to uncap, or remove, the thin cells covers with a warm knife
and spin out the liquid honey with a honey extractor (see

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Figure 28). The honey extractor is made with a drum and basket
fitting inside that holds two or four wooden frames. The honey
is neatly removed and the combs returned to the hive to be
refilled with more honey.
It may be too expensive to buy or make an extractor for the
amount of honey produced by a few colonies. Several nearby
beekeepers might like to share this expense.
A less expensive (but wasteful) way to harvest liquid honey is
to cut out the entire comb (leaving a 2.54cm [1"] strip along
the top), squeeze the honey from it, and then strain the honey
through a coarse cloth (jute sackcloth) to remove wax particles

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(see Figure 29). Although the crushed comb cannot be used again
by the bees, you can melt it and sell the beeswax.
The beginner can melt and clean wax in a large tub or pot. The
bits of wax and comb material should be put in the tub or pot
and covered with water. The container should be on a sturdy,
fireproof stand so a fire can be built underneath it. Heat the
water until it boils. The beeswax will rise to the top of the
container. Do not let the water boil over the top of the container
since the hot wax will burn.
When the wax is completely melted, strain the mixture through a
piece of jute sackcloth or screen wiring. This will remove any
remaining large particles. If the mixture is strained into a
pail that is larger at the top than at the bottom, the wax cake
can be removed easily after it cools and hardens. Pure wax will
be on the top. Unwanted particles at the bottom of the cake can
be removed by trimming and scraping. it can then be used to
make candles or sold in the market.
Honeybees are the most widely studied insects in the world.
There are many types of honeybees throughout the world and many
differences between them. Local universities, extension agents,
or experienced villagers can help a beginning beekeeper determine
which types of bees are best for their area. They can also
give advice on proper management techniques for each type.
THE ROCK BEE or GIANT BEE (Apis dorsata)
Rock bee colonies move from place to place to avoid extreme
cold or in search of honey plants and water. They fly fairly
high and fast and make a sound similar to, but fainter, than
that of a passing airplane. This sound is sometimes heard by
farmers working in their fields.
A rock bee colony builds a single large comb fastened to the
branches of tall trees. Sometimes the comb may be seen hanging
from roofs or ceilings of neglected buildings. Sometimes many
colonies of the rock bees are found living close together.
The worker is light brown in color while the queen is darker
and longer. The drone is black in color and is the same size as
a worker.
Rock bees are good honey gatherers and have been seen to begin
the day's work earlier and stop later than the Indian bees.
They store surplus honey, usually in the front portion of the
comb, which is harvested two or three times during the year by
professional honey gatherers. A single colony may yield up to
35kg (77 lbs) of honey during a year.
Unfortunately, rock bees have ferocious tempers and have been
known to attack people and animals when disturbed or excited.
They are, however, controllable with smoke and are as successfully
managed in this way as any other species of honeybee.
Professional honey gatherers and modern beekeepers are able to
handle them with little difficulty. Some beekeepers have tried
to keep rock bees in box hives, but the bees prefer their homes
in high places and soon leave after a few days.
THE LITTLE BEE (Apis florea)
These bees move about often and seldom remain at one place for
more than five months at a time. They make a single small comb
about the size of the palm of the hand. The comb can be found
hanging from branches of bushes, trees, empty boxes, piles of
dried sticks, or the ceilings of buildings.
The workers are very noticeable. The portion of the bee's body
just behind the legs and wings is bright orange, with black
and white stripes near its end. These workers are much smaller than
the golden brown queen and black drones with smoky grey hair.
Although little bees are more gentle than rock bees, their
small comb yields only 0.5-1kg (1-2 lb), and they prefer to
remain in the wild.
THE INDIAN BEE (Apis indica)
This is the best bee for producing honey and can easily be
housed in wooden boxes, packing crates, kerosene tins, earthen
jars, and wall recesses. Unlike its rock bee and little bee
sisters, the Indian bee makes several combs for storing honey.
There are several regional varieties or strains of the Indian
bee. Two common strains are the hill and plains varieties. The
worker bees of the plains variety are comparatively smaller and
have a deeper yellow color. At higher altitudes larger and
darker bees are found.
The habits of this bee vary from strain to strain. Generally
speaking, it is a bee with a gentle temper and is easy to
handle even by the beginner. It responds to smoking; but in
several cases, bees showed a little uneasiness.
On the average, colonies yield 3-5kg (7-11 lbs) of honey each
year at higher altitudes and 1-3kg (2.2-7 lbs) each year on the
plains. Experienced beekeepers in other parts of Asia have
recorded yields of 13-18kg (29-40 lbs) of honey per year using
special, movable frame hives, described in this Bulletin. By
continually selecting the best honey-producing colonies and
discarding all the rest, some experienced beekeepers have had
hives yielding as much as 25-40kg (55-88 lbs) in one year. This
requires much skill and a location where the bees will find
good honey plants.
The Indian honeybee is a good producer but has a few defects to
keep in mind. Sometimes colonies will leave the hives of the
beekeeper and return to living in the wild. At other times, a
strong colony will rob the honey from weaker hives in the
beekeeper's yard causing its death. In addition, the bees use
little propolis and are often helpless against certain types of
wax-moth, which enter the hives and damage the combs.
THE EUROPEAN BEE (Apis mellifera)
This bee is worth learning about because of the large amount of
honey it is able to produce. Average yields of 45-180kg (99-396
lbs) per colony in groups of 500 or more colonies are common in
the United States. The best yield recorded to date is that of
45.3kg (100 lbs) from a colony in the USA.
The European bee is found all over Europe and has a large
number of well recognized varieties and strains. The Italian
variety is considered to be the best and has been introduced inčalmost all countries of the world. It is similar in habits to
the Indian bee in that it makes its home in enclosed places and
builds several combs for storing honey. Queens are good layers;
the bees have gentle tempers, good honey-gathering habits, and
guard their home against all bee enemies except wasps. It has
adapted itself particularly well to the movable-frame hive and
modern methods of management. Man has even developed special
strains for gentle temperament, honey gathering, pollination,
and other qualities.
Importation of the European bee should be restricted to well
equipped Government-sponsored establishments with quarantine
arrangements. Private beekeepers are urged not to import
foreign bees to avoid several bee diseases, which are common
among bees available in Europe and America.
First Lessons in Beekeeping, Dadant & Sons, Inc.
Rearing Queen Honeybees, Roger A Morse, Wicwas Press, 1979.
Beekeeping, B. R. Saubolle and A. Bachmann, Sahayogi Prakashan,
All India Beekeepers' Association, 424 B, Shaniwar Peth, Poona,
     2 India.
International Agency for Agriculture Development, 3201 Huffman
     Boulevard, Rockford, Illinois 61103 USA.
              PRODUCTION LOGS

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