Tuesday, December 21, 2010

December bees

I was pleased to see some action in both of my beehives this past Sunday. It was a beautiful, sunny day with temps around the freezing mark. Some bees were zipping out of the hives to relieve themselves (they will not defecate in the hive!) They don't stay out long, because they can become too chilled to fly.

Inside the hive, the bees form a tight cluster around the queen, and the workers take turns being on the colder edges of the cluster. The bees like to keep the centre of the cluster (where Queenie is) at a toasty 35C or thereabouts. It's amazing how much heat they can generate in there!

Here's a good post on wintering honeybees, on the Brookfield Farm Bees & Honey blog. The blogger also recommends a great book called The Biology of the Honey Bee by Mark L. Winston. I found it fascinating, but if it's too technical for you, check out The Queen Must Die and Other Affairs of Bees and Men by William Longgood.

I hope my girls make it through the winter!

PS: Sophie is eating dead bees in the snow. It is normal to have some bees dies over the winter. They either crawl out of the hive to expire, or their corpses are tossed out, then they blow around on the snow a bit, which was why Sophie was behind the hives eating them. I've heard bees taste somewhat sweet owing to minute amounts of nectar or honey in their tummies.


  1. Well, I have learned a lot about bees from this post. Thanks for the bee education. So it won't hurt for pets to eat the dead bees?

  2. Thanks for visiting, Bobbi! My dogs both eat live honeybees all the time, much to my dismay. I think they have been stung in the mouth so many times, they no longer react to stings.

    I suppose if the dog had an allergy it wouldn't be a problem. The chickens eat them too!

  3. Great post, Knatolee, from a compassionate and realistic heart.

    Amazing! Once, I wrote a poem about the two sealskins my Inuit friends had given me as gifts. I hung them on my wall. People felt sorry for the seals. They never thought that seals were food, clothing and income for the Inuits. After describing the hard work my friends did to survive on Baffin Island, I wrote:

    I wonder why
    we worry about who eats whom
    when Life is a cycle?
    We all prey and we grow
    feeding on each other.

    A worm for a bird
    a seal for Jonahsie
    an egg that could be born
    a drink of pure water
    a breathing tomato
    a flower for a vase
    some grass to walk upon
    the warmth of the sun, of a smile, of a body
    a poem for a soul
    and stars to fill a dream.

    I hung two sealskins on my wall.
    A Man must face himself
    and accept it.

    Now I could add:

    Some bees for a dog.

  4. Is it safe for animals to eat dead bees? Won't the stingers prick their mouths or irritate their digestive track?

  5. Away for a few days. Best wishes to all of you, for Christmas and New Year.

  6. Claude, I love your poem!! Keep them coming. :) And I especially like your new line about the dogs and bees. Happy Christmas and I hope you have a wonderful 2011!

  7. Hi Ahab,

    Nah, not an issue! :) Honeybees do keep their stingers somewhat retracted into their abdomens anyway, when not in use. But think about all the animals that eat bees: bee-eating birds, my chickens, my insane dogs... I really should do some research, but my guess is that only an animal with a venom allergy would have a problem, but then I wonder if it has the same effect when swallowed vs. injection by stinger?!

    And my nutty dogs eat live bees and wasps and hornets all summer long. I try to discourage them but it's hopeless!

  8. I'll tell my beekeeping neighbour to see this post. There's always something new to learn and you are a good teacher.

    I've witnessed a few frogs eating bees in our pond...sometimes they die (the frogs)

  9. I hope you and Gordon have a very happy Christmas

  10. Thanks Jams, you too. I am about to get another helping of sticky toffee pudding cake!

  11. Fran, it was that year I spent at the Halifax Museum of Natural History, teaching little kids about honeybees. I learned a lot and got very enthused! :) And it was a hoot making 30 little kids run around doing a bee "waggle dance"!


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