Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Sunny with a chance of nectar showers...

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! 


22 comments:

  1. I call this "Honey Bee 101" Interesting account on bees. I've always been interested in bees. In my walking with Walter post I said that Walter was a bee keeper and at age 80 he still does bees.

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    1. I think that's fantastic. He must love his bees! And he must have taken good care of his back over the years. I know a lot of beekeepers with bad backs.

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  2. This is fascinating! Thanks for sharing.

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    1. My pleasure! I still have so much to learn.

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  3. OMG, you are not even wearing gloves!
    There was lots of interesting information. Have you named your bees yet?
    Question: What happens to the honey if no human collects it? Do the bees produce it as a source of their food?

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    1. Pasha, I stopped wearing gloves early on. I actually find them cumbersome and I worry more about squishing bees when I wear gloves. (If you squish one, they let off a scent that tells the rest of the hive there's trouble, and to get defensive!) I do put baby powder on my hands, as it stops propolis and wax from messing my hands up too much, and apparently bees like the smell!

      Okay, honey. Bees usually make more honey than they need to get through the year. It is indeed their food, along with pollen. The beekeeper doesn't steal all this honey, just the stuff that's surplus to requirements. Bees need a decent store of honey to get themselves through winter, so beekeepers do their best to make sure they have enough! You can weigh the hives going into winter to figure out if they have adequate food. We also feed them sugar syrup in fall and spring to help them along if there are issues.

      So if they make lots and no one collects it. they just keep it stored in the hive until they need it. Once the honey is capped with wax, it will keep indefinitely! (Honey found in Egyptian tombs was still good hundreds and hundreds of years later!)

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  4. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! [Breathes heavily] Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! [Breathes again and then loses consciousness for a moment ] Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! ...

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    1. Okay, clearly I need to do more work with you in my "Get Owl Wood to Love Honeybees" programme!

      Breathe deeply into the paper bag!!!

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  5. Your brave like my husband, who doesn't bother with gloves. You took some good close-ups of your bees and I think bees are very cute! In fact, they are quite beautiful! May your bees give you lots of honey!!

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    1. Thank you!! I'm glad you like the photos. :0 My hubby wears gloves but I just got fed up with them, especially in the heat of summer. I have yet to be stung on the hands. :) I am getting used to bees crawling on me as I work. Mostly they are just curious!

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  6. I think you have some poster girls there, Natalie!!
    Jane x

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    1. I am totally smitten with them, in case you can't tell.

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  7. Fascinating. I love learning about your bees. Makes me appreciate the lovely honey they produce for us.
    BTW. Your photos of bees are great!

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  8. Thanks for up close and personal look at your bees. I love the photos. Our rain should bring out the sage and cactus blossoms and I'll get some bee photos for myself. While I would like to have bees someday, it does seem rather complicated.

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    1. THere is a steep learning curve, but beekeepers are a helpful bunch! It's great if you can find yourself a mentor, which is what I ddi!

      I bet you bees LOVE cactus blossoms. My bees go nuts over the sage in our garden.

      I have some fairyduster flower honey from Arizona that is very yummy. :)

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  9. Tis good to see the bees in fine fettle

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    1. THey are enjoying spring!

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  10. Very interesting, and great photos!

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  11. Fascinating! The honeybees are really cute. I don't know if I've ever told you this but I love (have an addiction?) to honey. I eat about a pound every week to week and a half. In fact, I'm eating some right now on my greek yogurt. Mmm

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    1. Wow, that's an impressive amount of honey. You should start keeping bees! And I love honey with Greek yogurt!

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