2018 Beekeeping Class: Week One- Intro to Beekeeping

One of the requirements for the IHPA Youth Scholarship was attending an approved beginners beekeeping class. There were many classes to choose from, but we ended up choosing the Friendly Beekeepers of Iowa’s (FBI) class. For this class we had to read the book First Lessons in Beekeeping by Keith S. Delaplane. Doyle Kincy was the main speaker. There were, however, special speakers on some of the nights.

The very first class was an introduction to beekeeping.

A colony is a group of bees living and working as one. As a colony, honey bees goals are to survive the upcoming winter and to reproduce. Honey bee colonies reproduce by swarming. In preparation for swarming, workers will create swarm cells to raise new queens in. A swarm cell is a peanut shaped cell that was built on the bottom of the frame. When it comes time to swarm, the old queen will take roughly half of the population of the colony and will leave. The remaining bees will finish raising the queens that are in the swarm cells. When the first daughter queen emerges, she will typically kill the other potential queens. The surviving virgin queen will take a mating flight (a trip where she mates with many drones), return to the hive, and begin laying eggs.

All honey bees start out as eggs. After they hatch out of their eggs, they are larvae. After the larvae stage is over the nurse bees cap the brood. The brood is a pupa at this point. The brood continues to grow until it chews through its cell capping and emerges as an adult bee.

During this class, the different types of honey bees were identified and distinguished. Workers and queens are the female honey bees. There are many thousands of worker bees in any given hive. Worker bees do all the nursing of the brood, cleaning of the hive, repairing of the comb, tending to the queen, guarding the hive, and foraging and storing of the food. Worker bees are the smallest bees and have small eyes. Worker bees defend the hive by stinging intruders. As worker bees grow up they switch jobs. Usually, there is only one queen in a hive. Queens are long and slender. The queen’s sole job is to lay eggs. A good queen lays about 2,000 eggs a day. The queen does nothing except lay eggs; the workers have to feed and groom the queen. The queen reassures her colony that she is there by producing pheromones that the workers distributing by fanning the smell throughout the colony. The workers will know they are missing a queen within an hour of losing her.

Workers will sometimes supersede a queen. They will do this because the queen is failing and is not producing enough eggs or because they just do not like the queen. The workers prepare to supersede a queen by creating a queen cell. A queen cell is a enlarged cell that is shaped like a peanut. Supersede and emergency cells are built on the side of the frame. Emergency queen cells are cells made to raise a queen when the queen disappears on the colony. This can happen if a beekeeper kills the queen accidentally or purposely. Or the queen may be eaten by a bird while she is on her mating flight.

This is a worker sipping up honey.
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Drones are the only male bees in the whole hive. Drones are fatter than workers and have the largest eyes of any honey bee. Drones are also incapable of stinging. Drones exist to mate with queens. Drones, like queens, cannot feed or clean themselves. Drones take mating flights and gather together to wait for queens to mate with them. After a queen mates with a drone, the drone dies. Most drones are kicked out of the hive before winter.


This is a drone. Drones can be held easily because they cannot sting.


There are also different species of honeybees. The most commonly heard of are Italian, Carniolans, Russian, and Africanized. There is no specie of honey bees native to the United States. Italian honey bees are extremely popular honey bees because they are very productive. This specie, however, tends to spend their resources rapidly which can be bad in areas where winters are long and cold. Carniolans are sometimes considered the opposite of Italians. They tend to build up slowly and spend their resources slowly. Russian bees are sometimes resistant to the varroa mite. A varroa mite is a parasite that attaches itself to bees and weakens the bee they attached themselves to. The Africanized honey bees, sometimes called “killer bees”, are bees that were originally imported to South America from Africa. They are extremely protective of their hives and tend to sting more aggressively then their cousin bees. No matter which bee one decides to get, one will always get mutt bees because a queen mates with so many drones.

One of the things that was stressed during this class was that beekeeping is local. Beekeepers in Iowa and beekeepers in Florida will manage their bees very differently. Some information, such what workers, queens, and drones are and what swarming is, is the same around the world. Other things, like what flowers are in bloom and how long bees will cluster, is different depending on where you live. The way we are going to keep our bees will be very different from the way a Floridian beekeeper will keep his bees because we live in Iowa and he lives in Florida.









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