An overview of beekeeping.
Also, in exchange for giving our friend a cut rate for quantity buying, he takes our cappings (the wax that is cut off the combs and which has a goodly amount of honey left in it) and markets them for us at the city stores he sells to.
Cappings, we’ve discovered, command an even higher price than honey because, (1) rendered beeswax is worth more per pound than honey on the open marker and (2) people can use cappings to relieve their suffering from allergies caused by local plants. Since bits of pollen are incorporated into the wax, chewing it like gum will create an immunity to said pollen.
At any rate, selling the cappings saves us the trouble of draining and boiling them and rendering the wax.
In rendering, the wax is boiled in water until it rises to the top, cools, hardens and is broken loose. The bottom of the pan is then scraped free of dead bee bodies and general grunge, and the process is repeated until the wax is relatively free from debris.
Candles made from this beeswax are lovely things, sweet smelling and capable of giving off a brighter light than ordinary paraffin wax candles. Hunters who make their own shot also use beeswax for bullet molds and artists find innumerable uses for it. Old wax can always be traded back to bee supply companies for new comb foundations, too.
Although we have not yet entirely solved the problem of providing ourselves with a year-round cash income, our eleven hives are good for three to four months of expenses. Since the bees require no more than one day a week of our time, we think that’s a pretty good exchange. Eventually we’d like to work up to twenty-five hives, which is about the number we figure we can handle easily and which should carry us at least half the year.
Our own success with bees is due to a combination knowledge and luck . . . and there’s no way I can hope to tell you as much about getting started in this business as you’ll learn by reading publications which are already available.
The first book we happened to read was the Boy Scout manual on bees. It will get you started . . . but at every crucial point it advises you to consult your counselor.
Another handy manual is STARTING RIGHT WITH BEES, and after you’ve graduated from that, try THE ABC AND XYZ OF BEE CULTURE. Then if you really get involved, take on THE SOCIAL BEHAVIOR OF THE HONEY BEE (a Dover Press paperback). It’s highly scientific and theoretical rather than pragmatic, but it’ll sometimes help in distinguishing fact from fiction in all the old wives’ tales you’re likely to hear.