Basic manipulation of a bee hive conforms to the seasonal cycle of bee biology. Beekeepers disrupt defensive behavior by application of smoke, assist bees in protecting against infection of diseases or predation by small and large predators, provide conditions for normal brood and population expansion and also ensure adequate space for storage of reserves necessary for winter survival. When all goes well, the beekeeper harvests the reserve stores leaving adequate food for daily maintenance and overwinter success.
The "key" to progressive beekeeping and colony management is applying knowledge of colony biology in manipulation of the bee population. Behaviors such as defense, reproduction and cohesion are more than just the sum of their parts, for bee colony management skills involve accurate diagnosis of such biologies and sometimes intervention by the beekeeper. Beekeepers seek to defer swarming in favor of supersedure, aid distribution of communication chemicals and reduce defensive behaviors. They provide ample space for storage of food reserves when flowering plants are abundant and they use their bees in pollination of crops.
Beekeeping success is measure in increased product (honey/beeswax) yields and/or production of seeds, and produce resulting from pollination service and/or the enjoyment of stewardship of another organism. Bees are really not too difficult to maintain -- it all starts with an understanding of basic bee/colony biology.
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The above text is taken from The Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research & Extension Consortium, Basic Bee Biology for Beekeepers; Fact Sheet,MAAREC Publication 1.4 March 2004. You can download this factsheet and others at the MAAREC website