Boy Scout Beekeeping Merit Badge Pamphlet

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This is a copy of the very hard-to-find and out-of-print Beekeeping Merit Badge book. Although the Beekeeping Merit Badge was discontinued by the Boy Scouts in 1995, there is an initiative by beekeepers for BSA to bring back the Merit Badge, to aid in awareness of the importance of bees to America's food supply.


- - -. - - .. : -...--~ BEEKEEPING--..1-------J. ---How to use this pamphlet.,, BEEKEEPING~ L!!Sa"" - -,.BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICAIRVING, TEXAS1988 Printing of the1983 RevisionRequirementsI. Study a hive of bees_ Remove the combs. Find the queen. Figurethe amount of the brood and the ownber of queen cells. Figurethe amount of honey in the hive.2. Show the differences among the drones, workers. eggs, larvae. andpupae at different stages. Tell the differences among honey. wax,pollen, and propolis. Tell how bees make honey. Tell where waxcomes from. Explain the part played in the life 01 the hive by thequeen, the drones. and the workers.3. Hive a swarm or divide al least one colony. Explain how a hiveis made.4. Put foundations in sections or frames. Fdl supers with frames orsections. Take off fiUed supers from the hive. Fix the honey formarket.5. Write in not more than 200 words how and why the honeybee isused in pollinating farm crops. Name live crops in your area pol-linated by honeybees.contentsTheBees'Jobs_ __ ......_................. 3TheBeeColony .................. 9Equipment __ . __ _ __ ....... 17Beekeeping Basics __ .. _............... _ 21Spring Management _ 29Summer Management _..... , _.. , 39Fall and Winter Management ............ _..... , . , , 45Bee Diseases _.. , . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49Books About Beekeeping. _.. __ . __ . __ ..................... 55Copyright 1957, 1983Boy SCours of AmerlceIrving, TexasISBN 0-8395-3362-4No 3362 Prlnted In USA 2M12882The Bees' JobsDid you ever step on a bee and kill it? Maybe you were stung by a beewhen you were younger. How much do you think that honeybee wasworth? No one could tell you, at least not in dollars and cents. Buthoneybees are worth plenty-more than most folks realize. For example,some 4 to 5 million colonies produce up to 250 million pounds of honeyand about 4.750,000 pounds of beeswax every year in this country.Every year this honey and beeswax sell lor more than SIOO million.The value of bees as pollinators, however. is more than 100 timesgreater than their value as producers 01 honey and wax.PollinationSome plants can produce seeds only if pollen is brought to them byinsects. The flower of an apple tree. for example. may not set fruitunless pollen from another apple flower is transferred to it. The beedoes the transferring job very well. Suppose farmers had to transferpollen to all the apple flowers inevery orchard. What a jobl01 course. pollen from theflower of an apple tree won't helpa peach tree.. Fortunately. a beevisits only one kind of flower duroing a trip from its hive. Here's howthe bee lransfers the pollen.At the base of a Dower there isa nectar gland that secretes asweet sugar solution (nectar),which atlracls bees. As the beeforces its way through the flowerto get at the nectar, it gets dustedwith pollen. Pollen grains stick tothe hairy back of the bee. As thebee forces its way into the nextflower. some of the pollen aeddentally gets brushed off onto thesticky stigma of the flower. Thus3Top-By .ddlng wax to this sheet of found.tlon, bees hIIve made lite cellideeper. Middle-Bees collect pl.nt waxes, from whIch they make propolls orbII. glue. 8ollom-TheM tiny pollen pellets were taken from some bee celli InwhIch 1hey hIId been packed.4pollen is transferred from one flower to another. This enables the polli-nated plant to produce seed, from which a new plant may grow.Bumblebees also carry pollen; so do butterflies and other insects.Current agricultural production practices, however, have tended to makepollination by wild bees and other native insects less reliable. Intensivecultivation such as ",onaculture, where large areas of land are used togrow only one type of crop, have eliminated the natural nesting sites ofmany wild insects. Pesticides used to control harmlul insects also havekilled many wild insect pollinalors. For this reason, honeybees are theonly reaUy important pollinators as far as farmers are concerned. Theyare the only insects that can be domesticated. multiplied in numbers,and moved as needed.About 50 different farm crops depend in part on the honeybee forproper pollination. First. there are the fruits, both large (apples. peaches.oranges, etc.) and small (blueberries, cranberries, etc.). Farmers rentthousands of hives from beekeepers every spring for orchard pollination.One or more colonies is commonly used on an acre of small fruits.Secondly, sweet clover, alsike clover, 'red clover, white dover, andalfalfa must be visited by an insect to produce seed. In some areas,farmers grow these crops just for the seed. Bees were not always usedto pollinate such crops. When bees were first used, seed yields increasedmany times. For example, in one area five colonies of honeybees 10 anacre of alfalfa resulted in yields 01 1,000 pounds or more of seed anacre. Seed yields before were only 265 to 300 pounds an acre. Cloverand allalfa also are used as forage and pasture crops lor livestock andpoultry.Bees also pollinate some grain crops-buckwheat, for example.Melongrowers have increased yields by bringing in colonies 01 bees topollinate their crop. Insects must transfer the pollen of cucumbers,muskmelons. and other vine crops. Bees also are used to pollinalesome vegetable crops grown for seed,How Honey Is ModePollination-the bee's most importanl job-is done automatically asthe bee gathers food. As far as the bee is concerned, gathering andstoring nectar and pollen for food is its main job. The bee needs thefood to live.When a bee enters a flower. she sucks in the neclar and carries it inher honey stomach. When she returns to the hive, she gives the nectar5to a worker who puts it into a cell. The nectar becomes honey lhroughan evaporating and ripening process.Nectar is a dilute sugar syrup. Nectar from white clover. for example.ranges from 27 to 50 percent water. Other nectars have less water.more sugar. It takes some 20.000 bees to bring in one pound of nectar.This makes only aoout one-quarler pound of honey Honey contains only12. to IS-percent moisture. The bees evaporate or ripen nectar by fanning their wings so fast they actually set up a current 01 air in the hive.While the nectar is in the bee's honey stomach. and when it is Iransferred to the hive, enzymes go to work. They mix wilh the nectar sothai during the ripening process the sugars are converted into simplesugars called levulose and dextrose. When the honey is ripened. thebees cover or cap each cell with a thin layer of wax. called beeswax.Differences in HOneyThe honey from one apIary (group of beehives or bee colonies) willnot always be the same as honey from another apiary. The taste andcolor may be different. 11 will even smell different. The plants fromwhich the nectar is gathered determine these differences.In the North. white clover is one of the chief sources of honey. Thishoney is light in color. It is. in a sense. the standard for comb honey.Basswood or linden trees in some localities are sources of a honey thatis slighUy yellower than clover honey. Basswood honey has a distinctiveflavor. very popular with some people. Buckwheat yields crops 01 dark.purplish honey with a strong flavor.In the Western states, especially at high altitudes, aUaUa grows inabundance. Honey made from alfalfa nectar is light in color and has amild cinnamon flavor. In southern California. wild sages give a lightwater-white honey.The honeys of Texas olten come from mixed sources, such as whitebrush. horsemint. guahilla. and mesquite. Most of these honeys are lightor light amber. In the humid regions of the South. the honeys areusually amber and are from mixed sources. The navors are usuallyrather strong.The swamp Spanish needle in such regions as the Kankakee swampIn northern Indiana and Illinois and along the Mississippi and Dela-ware Rivers is the source of an amber honey. Sweet clover. plentiful innonhero Kentucky and other areas. is the source of honey with 8 slightgreen tint. with just a suggestion of vanllla flavor.6Food for the BeeHoney, of course, is food not only for you. but also for the bees. If thehoney supply in the hive is low you can give )'Our bees a sugar syrup.which is simply a mixture of granulated sugar and water. To make thesyrup add sugar slowly to hot water. stirring all the lime.The proportions of sugar to water vary according to the season of theyear and your reasons lor feeding. For instance. in early spring you maygive your bees a thin sugar syrup (equal parts sugar and water) tostimulate brood rearing. In the fall. when the bees are storing foud forthe winter. you may feed them a thicker syrup. Anytime the hive's honeysupply gel'! very low, you should feed the bees a thick syrup to preventstarvationPollen is food for bees, too. It is the only source of protein fed to thelarvae. Larvae are young, immature, wingless bees. Without pollen.brood rearing is practically impossible.PoUen is gathered by bees and packed in two special "pollen baskets"on their hind legs. When the baskets Me full. the bees ny to the hiveand deposit the pollen in cells on the outer or upper edge of the brood.Other bees pack the pollen in the cells. (See oottom illustration. page4.)If a colony is short on pollell. )'Ou can buy pollen substitute and giveit 10 the bees. Substilutes usually are made 01 soybean Oour and yeasl.HowBeeSwax and Combs Are MadeBees use honey to produce wax. If you magnify the underside of aworker bee's abdomen you will see lour pairs of special wax glands. Onthe surface of these glands. small scales of wax are fanned by anunusual (and still unknown) process of digestion. Bees seal honey and.brood cells with the wax and make their combs with it.Bees gather honey and produce wax at the same time, bUI they willbuild combs only if they need room for honey storage. The longer a beeretains honey in ber stomach. the more wax she produces. If the beecan store gathered honey right away. she will produce only enough waxto repair and seal cells or to make cells deeper. If bees remain filledwith honey lor 24 hours or more, enough wax scales are produced tobuild combs.Combs usually are built from the top downward. They are made oftwo layers of sixsided cells placed end to end, with a sheet 01 wax7(midrib) between them. The cells are inclined slightly downward Iromfront to back so honey will not run oulTwo or more units of a comb are started side by side. As these unitsget bigger their edges meet, so that eventually all the units in one lineform one comb. At the vertical seams where the units join are odd-shaped and irregular cells called accommodation cells.Worker ceUs are the smallest-five cells to an inch or 55 cells persquare inch on both sides. There are four drone cells to an inch and33.5 cells per square inch on both sides. A queen cell is large and lookslike a peanut. Queen cells are placed here and there on the comb.mostly at the edges. A queen cell hangs vertically, in contrast to thehorizontal positions of worker and drone cells.Commercial beeswax is made by melting old or broken combs andthe cappings removed during the boney-extracting process, Beeswax isused as an agent in salves. ointments, camphor, and pomades. It'sused for making candles. comb foundations. polishes. and many otherproducts. Beeswax makes the best candles because it doesn't smoke asit bums. It doesn't soften at higher temperatures, so beeswax candlesdon't bend or droop.PropollsBees also produce propolis. often called bee glue. This is a gluelikematerial made from resinous WilJ[es collected from the buds and limbsof certain plants. Bees also will pick up tar, chewing gum, or anysimilar waxy material to make glue. The bees use propolis to fill cracksin the hive. They also use this material to make hive entrances smalleror to strengthen hive parts.8The Bee ColonyLet's hop Into a helicopter andhover a medium-sized city for awhile. The population could beanywhere from 30,000 to 75.000,That's how many bees live in ahive, too. You'll find that the cityand tbe beehive are quite similar.From the helicopter you cansee a network of streets. The bee-hive has streets, too-bee spaces,they're called. How about thepolice offICerS on the corners? Thebees have a police force, too. anda good one. It keeps out bee rab-beTs. In the city you can see p-pie going to work, for there arefamilies to feed. Bees also have families to feed Workers leave the colonyfor work every day.As you look down at the city, look for the window air conditioners.You won't see units in the bee cily, bUI iI's air-cooled nevertheless. Thetemperature is always about the same in the bee city. How do they doit? With the wings. Bees have a fanning system that gives them perfectventilation and air condilioning.This is about as far as the comparison between a city and a beehivecan go. For one thing, males don't work in the bee city. Sterile female.bees called UJOrken do all the labor in the beehive. The males, calleddrones, are loafers. They stay In the hive all the time. The worker.> wiUkill unwanted drones. The bee city has no mayor or other form ofgovernment. Instead, It has a queen.TheOueenThe queen is not a real queen, At leasl. she doesn't rule over hercolony. She doesn't direct the colony's policies. She's simply an egg-laying machine. She can lay 1.50tl 10 2,000 eggs a day, She can be themother of 100,OUO workers in one beehive.9Top-A sealed queen looks like a peanut. Middle-Left to right are the queen,drone, end worker. Botfom-The butletllke cappIng. ere drone brood.10The queen comes from the same kind of egg as lhe worker. Her diet iswhat makes her a queen instead of a worker. The larva of a potentialqueen is fed an extremely rich food-called royal jelly-by nurse beeworkers. Other bee larvae get the rich food only for lhe first three daysof the larval stage. Then Ihey are fed a mixture of honey and pollenduring lhe rest of the larval developmental period.The nutritional quality of the queens food influences her development.She is larger and longer than the other bees. and has fully developedreproductive organs. Her abdomen comes 10 a point Her wings seemshorter tban the worker's. (See illustration, page 10.)The queen chews around the tip of ber cell and emerges at the end of16 to 18 days. If the queen in a hive is killed accidenlally. a new queenis reared by the nurse bees from a worker larva. The worker larva.however. cannot be more than three days old.Soon after emergence the queen gets food, then destroys any remain-ing queen cells. Often she may have 10 fight and kill queens that havealready hatched.Between 5 and 10 days after the queen hatches, she takes one ormore flightJ and males with one or more drones while in the air. Afterthis the queen remains fertile for life. About two days later she beginslaying eggs. The eggs are pearly while and aboul one-sixteenth of aninch long. The queen usually lays eggs from February 10 October. Thelength 01 the egg-laying period depends on weather and available pollen and honey.In lhe egg-laying process, nOI all eggs gel fertilized. An unfertilizedegg produces a drone: a fertilized egg. a worker or queen.. Uthe queendoesn'l mate within three weeks after hatching, she usually loses theability to mate. BUI she can still lay eggs that develop into drones, Evenif she mates, she may nol aJways become fertile and thus will produceonly drones. A queen lhat produces only drones should be replaced.While a queen can live 3 years or more, most beekeepers replace herwith a new queen every year or every 2 years.The DroneA bee without a sting-that's the drone, He can't even collect honey,The only useful thing he does is male with the queen so worker beescan be produced. Alter a drone males with lhe Queen, he dies. Theother drones simply loaf. They eat food that is stored In the hive. Buttheir life of luxury is short. After the swarming season or whenever the11race have three to five bands of yellow on the abdomen. The head andmost of the resl of the body is black. The Italian bees winter well, and ifpurebred are usually gentle.Probably the second 1II0St popular race is the Caucasian race. Thesebees are often recommended for backlot beekeepers, especially if neigh-bors are close. Purebred Caucasians are quite gentle. They swarm verylittle and winter well. One strain is yellow, somewhat like the Italians.Bees of the strain used by most beekeepers are gray. There are otherraces-Carniolan, Cyprian, Egyptian-and there are crosses, too.If you wanlto start a lively discussion among beekeepers, ask whichis the best race of honeybees. Actually there isn't any c1ear


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