Your Extension Experts
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7 April 1995
Volume 3: no. 3
We are privileged in this issue to have a guest writer in the person of Dr. Clarence Collison, MSU Entomology Department Head. I hope that you enjoy his `BEE' piece and if you are interested in learning more, stay tuned for he has promised to do some follow-up articles for us later. Spring is here, so everybody get your nets out, refurbish the `jars', and start looking! The crane flies are already out in abundance. Look for these delicate legged insects around lights on warm nights. When you catch one be careful for the legs will come off easily. I spray captured specimens with hair spray to help keep their legs. A quick drying spray adhesive (non sticky)will also work. Crane flies belong to the Order Diptera, Family Tipulidae. They are most often seen in damp localities, especially where there is rank vegetation. They are generally weak fliers. These delicate insects are often called mosquito hawks but most adult crane flies feed on nectar of flowers. Night collecting should be outstanding during the warm nights we are having at this time. Please also give attention to the Entomology Camp information included in this letter, our deadline is approaching quickly.
Beekeeping can be a fascinating project, a hobby or a profitable sideline for those individuals that can overcome the fear of being stung. For some individuals beekeeping is a full time occupation. Almost anyone can keep bees. However, the few people who are allergic to bee stings and pollen, should avoid all contact with bees. Honey bees normally only sting to defend themselves or their colony. When colonies are handled properly and precautions are taken, stinging should not be a problem. Most persons develop a tolerance for bee venom in time. This reduces the sensitivity to pain and swelling.
You may want to keep bees for the delicious fresh honey they produce, for the valuable benefits of their valuable services as pollinators, or perhaps just for the fun of learning more about one of nature's most interesting insects.
Honey bees are social insects. A honey bee colony typically consists of several thousand bees that cooperate in nest building, food collection, and brood rearing. Each member of the colony has a definite task to perform, but it takes the combined efforts of the entire colony to survive and reproduce. A colony normally has a single queen, fifty to sixty thousand workers at its peak and several hundred drones during late spring and summer. Individual queens, workers or drones cannot survive by themselves. The social structure of the colony is maintained by the queen and workers and depends on an effective system of communication. The exchange of chemical secretions (pheromones) among colony members and "communicative dances" are undoubtedly responsible for controlling the activities necessary for colony survival. Division of labor within the worker caste primarily depends on the age of the bee but varies with the needs of the colony. Reproduction and colony strength depend on the queen, the quantity of food stores, and the size of the worker force.
If you decided that you wanted to get started in beekeeping, you would need the basic components of the hive, a source of bees, protective gear, ancillary gear, and equipment for handling the honey crop. The hive is the man-made structure in which the honey bee colony lives. New bee equipment is generally unassembled when purchased. Assembly directions furnished by bee supply dealers are usually easy to follow. It is important for beginners to purchase their equipment early so that it will be ready to use when the bees arrive. Some beekeepers find they can save money by making their own equipment or purchasing used equipment. With both approaches, it is important that the equipment is standard size. Purchasing used equipment can present problems and is not recommended for the beginner. Initially you may have problems simply in locating a source of used equipment and determining its value or worth. In addition, secondhand equipment may be contaminated with pathogens that cause various bee diseases. Always ask for an inspection certificate indicating that the apiary inspector did not find any evidence of disease.
There are several different ways of getting started in the bee business: buying package bees; purchasing a nucleus colony (nuc); buying established colonies; collecting swarms; and taking bees out of trees and walls. Most beginners start with either a package or a nuc. Packages are the preferred way. In purchasing nuclei and colonies you might be buying other beekeeper's problems, such as mites or disease. Collecting swarms and transferring bees is difficult and not recommended for the beginner. The best time to start with bees is in the spring or early summer.
Ancillary equipment includes the bee smoker and hive tool which are essential for working bees. Bee veils should be worn at all times to protect the face and neck from stings. Beginners who fear being stung should wear canvas or leather gloves. Many experienced beekeepers who find gloves too cumbersome decide to risk a few stings for the sake of easier handling. White or tan clothing is most suitable when working bees.
Contact Dr. Collison if you are interested in `keeping bees'. Other insect project materials and information are available through your county 4-H Agent. Insect pins and boxes are available through the MSU Entomology Department.
Dr. Michael R. Williams
Entomology & Plant Pathology
Mississippi State, MS 39762-9775
phone - 601-325-2085
home - 601-323-5699
FAX - 601-325-8837