Friday, July 30, 2010

We should be more like honeybees..

I've decided the world would be a better place if we were more like honeybees.

Graceful in flight.

Honeybees work together for the good of the whole hive (unlike most humans, who work against each other and are managing to destroy the planet.) These girls are fanning vigorously to cool the hive and remove moisture from the curing honey inside.

The girls who couldn't fit on the front decided to do their bit on the side of the hive! Not sure how helpful it is, but bless them, they try. Honeybees fan their wings like this to help evaporate moisture from the honey until it reaches the perfect moisture content, around 16 - 18%. Then it's ready to be capped with wax, at which point the human is ready to steal it from them!

We've had excellent honeybee weather this summer, unlike the dismal, wet summer of 2009. My beehives are literally hives of activity! We should all work as hard for the common good as these girls do.

The bee flying in the centre has a load of pollen in the basket ("corbicula") on her rear leg. It's that yellowish blob up near her body.

The green leaves are mint. I have several varieties planted around the hives.

The dogs know to keep a respectful distance when I am near the beehives! But anywhere else in the garden, Sophie (r) devotes herself to trying to catch and eat bees of every description. I think she has been stung in the mouth so many times that she doesn't even react anymore!

This is my D. E. hive, of British design. It has lots of passive ventilation. My beekeeping mentor thinks we're slightly nuts for having bought this hive, but I've noticed that when it's stinking hot, there is far less "bearding" on this hive than on my traditional Langstroth hive...

Last year, before I moved the hives to this spot, I had sunflowers growing here, and a few self-seeded and sprouted up this spring. The bees don't seem to mind. It gives them a little bit of shade and a handy pollen source.

The women do all the work in the beehive. The drone's (male bee) sole job is to go out, meet up with other drones at the drone congregation area, and mate with Queenie in a bit of an orgy! Unfortunately, he dies in the process, a horrifying event in which the drone's bee-winky (not the technical term for that appendage) breaks off inside the queen. Drone-boy then falls to ground, disembowelled and quite dead! That said, I suspect our man died happy.

The drone has no stinger and is incapable of looking after himself -- he can't even feed himself! If there are any drones left lazing about the hive in the late summer/fall, they are summarily booted out and left to die. Think of them as furry little husbands lazing about on the couch, drinking beer and eating Doritos (the honeybee snack-food equivalent would be nectar and pollen), until the little missus finally gets fed up and changes the locks! Sex and Doritos: to a man, I mean, drone, that's what life is all about!
(Sorry Gordon, you know I'm just teasing!)

I'm quite fond of drones. They are big and hairy and fuzzy, with huge eyes and no ability to hurt me. It's fun to pick them up and let them crawl on your hand, but don't try that until you're sure what a drone looks like!

Honeybees are amazing! Do your best not to hurt them. I love my girls (and the fuzzy boys) to bits.


  1. I agree. Honeybees are the bee's knees.

    Did you read the latest article from David Suzuki? I saw it on facebook. Bees are disappearing and it will affect one third of our food supply. Scary.

    You, however, are doing your part! Thanks for that.

  2. I haven't seen David's latest and I will have to look it up, but I did know that bees are in great peril. Our dream is to turn our farm into a pollinator sanctuary! The local farmers will think we're nuts, but it would be so much more meaningful than fields of GMO soybeans. :(

  3. I agree with John Gray. A fascinating post. You could write the most interesting book (that you could illustrate yourself with photos and drawings) on all the farm animals and plants you deal with in your daily life.

  4. You are so interesting! I've always wanted honeybees, now I'm ready to go right out today & get some!! As long as I can always ask you questions!!! Like, after the male mates and dies, it's "bee-winkie" is broken off inside the queen? Does she throw it out? Is there all these bee-winkies laying around her bed? And the new drones see all those appendages just laying there, and dead drones laying around, and they still mate with her?? Wow! I love the info on how the bees fan their wings to cool the hive and remove moisture. That is so very cute. Thanks for all the info! I wish we all could be more like honeybees! Well, except for the appendages and dead bodies laying around the bed husband may have a problem with that.

  5. Claude, my goal in life has always been to write several books. I'm gettin' there! :)

  6. Lynn, I adore my bees and I encourage you to take up beekeeping. YOu can always ask me questions, but I still have lots to learn myself. I've found the Beesource forums VERY helpful:

    Okay, bee-winkies... the queen goes out on one mating flight in her life, and flies back to the hive with a multitude of bee-winkies, uh, inside. Now as I recall, the worker bees back at the hive do the job of removing the bee-winkies. The queen is now inseminated for life, and never leaves the hive again (unless they swarm, or she's killed and booted out by her workers or a new queen.)

    The hive is very hygienic, so the worker bees would just drag those, uh, bee-winkies outside to dispose of them!

    The mating only goes on in the drone congregation area (where various drones gather to await a sexy queen!) They mate way up in the sky, something like a mile up as I recall.

    The more I read about honeybees, the more I love them. You might enjoy "Plan Bee: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about the Hardest-Working Creatures on the Planet" by Susan Brackney, but there are oodles of great bee books out there.

    The appendages and drone-icide always seem to upset the husbands! :)

  7. You're such a great artist, Natalie--a book about your farm is a terrific idea!

    Who would have thought we'd all be talking about bee-winkies today? :)

    (Tried to comment with my Wordpress ID, but it wouldn't let me...was it something I said?)

  8. I know you'll make it, Knatolee. but hurry up so I can read some before I go. I've always wanted to write books too. My drawers are full of poems and stories, not published, except a few in some little magazines. At 99, I doubt my book of the Century will see print. So get going for my sakes. All the best, friend!

  9. BTW, I mentioned your post and your dying-happy-drones on Sean's fascinating love story. Fair to warn romantic males about possible dangers to their erogenous zones. With laughter!

  10. Knatolee - Just wanted to return & tell you that I was shocked today to find a beekeeper at the local farm market down the street from us (they sell from a church parking lot). I immediately spoke to him, asking all sorts of beginner bee questions, viewed hives he makes, and now my husband & I are going to the next local monthly beekeepers meeting! You have given me the bee bug, I believe! Thank you!!

  11. Wow your bee photos are wonderful Knatolee!

  12. While you're on the subject, can you tell us a little about Africanized bees? We just got back from two months in S. California, where they are a real problem--very aggressive and apparently taking over from our humble honeybees.

  13. That first shot took my breath away...
    Very interesting post. I always learn something. Love your analogy of drones and doritos eating couch-potato husbands.LOL!

  14. Lynn, that's fantastic!! I bet you and hubby will be instantly hooked. Honeybees are so fascinating.

  15. Ima Jean, I love your new pseudonym. :) Yes, many books in my head, including children's one. I'm slowly getting my sh*t together!

  16. Jams and Elisabeth, glad you enjoyed the pics!

  17. Your post let my thoughts buzzing. Lovely, Knatolee.

    And here's an article in 'Max Planck Research' you might enjoy reading: Dancing with the Bees.

  18. Sean- Thank you for the link. I was able to read the whole magazine by clicking at different places. The bees'communication system is fascinating.

    Knatolee - I hope you write your illustrated Bee Book soon. The more I hear, the more I want to know. And your personal experience is priceless.

  19. Sean, I don't think I ever thanked you for sharing that great article! It was excellent.

  20. Claude, I think you need to write a book too. :)


Thank you for all your comments, which I love to read!