Okay, this post is a little bee-heavy. Owl Wood, who is not so keen on these little blighters, might want to look away. Or better yet, look and fall in love with my sweet little bees!!
I had a look in my hive on Monday. I needed to remove a plastic drone frame I was using as a mite control measure. Varroa mites like to live on bees and can easily proliferate to the point of destroying the colony. We have various treatment options, and I follow an integrated pest management plan that uses more than one method.
The idea behind the drone frame "trap" is that varroa mites love to have babies in drone cells (which are larger than worker cells.) If you get the bees to fill a frame with drone larvae, then pull it after the cells are capped but before the drones hatch, and throw it in the freezer, you kill off lots of mites (and excess drones.)
I screwed up my timing a bit pulling the frame, because as you can see, Mr. Drone is hatching out right in the middle. Some cells aren't capped yet, and you can see the developing white larvae inside them!
Okay, that's not going to make Owl Wood love bees. Let's get onto my cute little honeypies...
Here's a worker bee (right) checking out a drone (right.) Drones are bigger than workesr and have HUGE eyes, all the better to find the queen when she goes out on her mating flight.
When I took out another frame to inspect, I managed to spill some nectar on the bees (ooops. They spent the next hour licking up drop. Bees bring in nectar and store it in the cells. When it has reached the right moisture content (after being "deydrated" by the bees), the girls seal the cells with wax and voila, nectar has become honey!
Cells are tilted a bit to hold the nectar in, but if you tip it upsidedown while inspecting it, nectar can spill out. Oops.
Gordon took a picture of me looking somewhat contorted!
This is a nice frame of worker bee brood and bees. As the bee larvae develop, the cells are capped at a certain point while the babies continue their development. Drone babies become so big, they stick out of the cells, and thus the cap is domed or bullet-shaped. Worker bee cells have flat caps. That's the yellow-orange stuff you see under the bees in the pic above, on hexgonal cells that aren't open.
And how cute is this little girl? (Oh come on, Owl Wood, she's all fuzzy1)
In this shot, you can see the reddish, straw-like tongue of the worker bee in the back.
I think honeybees are some of the most amazing creatures on the planet and I could watch them for hours.
I have some old hive boxes that used to belong to a beekeeper in Dunvegan. They must be 30 - 40 years old but they're in great shape. I "flamed" the inside of these hive boxes with a propane torches. It's not always a good idea to use someone else's equipment, because diseases and pests can be spread this way. I would never use someone else's frames, but I feel confident enough to use soneone else's hive boxes after I flame them, particularly when I know the beekeeper.
Here are some girls drinking nectar spilled on a brick.
And one cutie on a rock!
I really, really love my bees.
Here's a worker peeking up over at a big fat drone. Drones don't have stingers and exist only to have sex with the queen, after which they die.
She's a little damp from the nectar I spilled on her. Oops.
Drying herself out in the sun.
This, by the way, is the beginnings of a queen cell. Sometimes the workers make queen cells because they are planning on swarming and need a new queen to take along. Sometimes they make queen cells because they've decided the old queen is deficient and needs to be killed and replaced. And sometimes they make queen cells for no apparent reason.
We're in swarming season, and my hive is busy and strong, so I am splitting it in two this Friday. I hope they don't swarm first.
Love my girls!