The beehive consists of five major components. The Langstroth hive is the most common type of hive used in beekeeping. Many people have the image of the skep (woven basket) to keep bees, but without frames one may not keep bees in that type of hive. Housing bees in a hollow tree seems like a good idea, but to check the health of the hive is impossible without destroying the colony. And all bees kept in Maine must be some type of hive that the colony can be inspected by the State of Maine bee inspector.
There is a hive stand which keeps the hive off the ground, much like the foundation your home sits on, except it is made of wood. This provides the bees a point to land before entering the hive. There is a bottom board which the actual hive sits on. This is like the floor in your home.
Above the bottom board is the brood chamber, or the big box you see when you look at a bee hive. This is where the activity or living of the hive takes place. In here are frames which honey and pollen are stored and eggs are laid. This is the real operations of the hive. You might see two or more supers on a hive. As the flowers begin to bloom and the hive fills, additional storage area is need. The beekeeper will add more supers as the season progresses. Above this is the inner cover, which provides a dead air space in the hive. Finally, the cover of the hive is called a telescoping cover and usually it is metal covered. This is just like to roof on your house and keeps the element out.
Thinking about the importance of the honey bee in our area and in our global economy, pollination comes to mind first for me. It is common knowledge that up to 80 percent of everything we consume somehow is dependent on the pollination of the honey bee. Is the honey bee important to us? Without question pollinators are important. Years ago it was not uncommon to see beehives in people’s back yards because they had fruit trees, blueberries, cranberries, nut trees, gardens and other crops that needed pollination. In addition they gained the benefit of honey, wax and pollen for home use. There is something special about working a beehive, taking out a frame of honey and eating some of it that day.
Here are some interesting facts that you might wish to share with others. There are no wild honey bees in Maine. We might see a colony of bees in a tree, but those have come from some hive somewhere. The wild population of bees was hit very hard by disease.
- The State of Maine insect is the honey bee – not the black fly!
- All beehives kept in the State of Maine must be registered. It is a minimal fee.
- On April 12, I sat outside and watched the bees from our hives return with many different shades of pollen. They appear to be very happy gathering from poplar, maple and the blossoming flowers.
Bill Dorrity is a Master Maine Guide.