Introduction

The sweet reward of honey has kept humans interested in honeybees for thousands of years, but the symbiotic relationship between humans, as beekeepers, and the honeybees is believed to have started alongside farming and the domestication of animals.

Today, there is grave concern for the very existence of this precious creature and this course is just one of the many efforts that we, humans, are making to reduce colony loss due to a phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder.

The content of this course was developed at Rodale Institute, by our expert staff, in the NE geographical region of the Unites States. As you move through the lessons, you may come across statements that do not reflect the reality of your specific location. We encourage you to join your local beekeepers’ associations, other groups and organizations, take the content of this course and adapt it to your regional climate reality.  

Your course instructor has a long experience working with and around honeybees. You see him not wearing personal protection while teaching the course, but make no mistake, honeybees can attack when they feel threatened and you can end up with serious injuries. In time, you may eventually feel comfortable enough to only wear a veil or gloves, but if you are novice, we encourage you to wear full body protective equipment. Also helpful is using a smoker to distract the bees while working in a hive.

A gentle puff of smoke is effective at preventing the bees from stinging and it works in different ways. Smoke disrupts the communication channel created when bees release an “alarm pheromone” to announce danger. When they smell smoke, bees think the hive will be destroyed by fire, they go into survival mode and start gorging on honey necessary to rebuild the hive. For a while your presence in the hive is not their first concern, and you can keep working sting-free and keeping the bees safe at the same time. Once the smoke dissipates, the bees recover their natural sensitivity to the alarm pheromone. Remember to follow fire protection guidelines when working with fire and hot containers, especially in arid climates.

A word of caution on water and bees. Since bees are small creatures, they can easily drown in the water you set up for them, so here are a few safety guidelines. Always provide clean, fresh water in a wide and shallow container and include a stone, wood board or stick as a raised landing pad for bees.