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Posted on July 20th, 2013 at 1:24 PM by Newark Ohio Garden Club

A hive is a fascinating box of activity.  It is most commonly a Langstroth design, which is a box with removable frames and boxes.  It is made so beekeepers can inspect the hive colony, as well as take frames out for honey gathering.  What do the honey bees do inside one of these boxes?

Honey bees are very clean creatures.  In such a tight environment as a bee hive, it is essential that all is clean to prevent disease.  So as soon as a worker bee emerges from her cell, her first job is to clean and polish cells.  They are cleaned after every use, which could be honey storage, pollen storage, or bee rearing.  If there is trash or dead bees, they are removed from the hive, and tossed outside.

The bees will use propolis to seal any openings in the walls of the hive.  They collect resin and sap from trees to make the propolis.  This helps in keeping other critters out of the hive, as well as reducing cold air from coming in during the winter.  If gaps are large, the bees may use wax as well to fill the gaps.

As for temperature control, the bees have elaborate systems.  In the summer, when the heat is up, they will bring in water into the hive in various locations.  They then fan rapidly with their wings to evaporate the water, which cools the hive.  They are so organized that the air is fanned in on one side of the hive, and fanned out on the other side.  The larvae that are developing in their cells need temperatures to be between 90-97 F for proper development.  In the winter, the bees will eat from their honey stores to keep warm.  Their high metabolic rate creates enough heat to keep the queen warm inside the hive as they cluster around her.  The temperature needs to be about 95 F for royalty, and the workers have their work cut out for them all winter long.

Honey bees have a very definite life cycle.  After they graduate from cleaning cells and taking out the trash, they start working in the nursery and taking care of the queen.  They will visit developing larvae up to 1,300 times a day to feed them and make sure they are not ready for incubation.  They also feed the queen, encourage her to continue laying eggs, and even carry her waste matter away.  Nothing is too much for the queen!  After a week of this, they move on to taking care of food stores, by putting nectar and pollen in the proper cells, and fanning the nectar in order to evaporate water to ripen the honey.  Another week goes by, and they work up to making wax and building more cells or repairing existing ones.  After two weeks of building, they move downstairs to guard the hive entrance, and then finally out to forage for nectar and pollen.  What is amazing is that the worker bee will work herself to death in about six weeks during the summer, but will live up to six months during the winter, when she is not working so hard.  So much for retirement and enjoying the fruits of your labor!

Home-making for the honey bee is definitely labor intensive and never-ending.  Sounds a little like your life?  It could be worse.  Let us appreciate our electric air conditioning, whole house fans, and furnaces, grocery stores and microwaves.  And all that for a little honey in their lives.

The Honey Lady Lina

Posted on July 15th, 2013 at 1:21 PM by Newark Ohio Garden Club

Did you ever wonder how bees find nectar?    How is it that something sweet can sit outside for quite some time with no bees, then all of a sudden, there is quite a swarm of bees on the sweet something?  The answer lies in the honey bees’ ability to communicate as to the whereabouts of nectar sources.

When a scout bee finds a source of nectar, she is interested in letting the other girls at home know about her find.  She will fill up on the nectar, and go back to the hive to pass on the good news.  Once she is back in the hive, she will offer a sample of what she has found to others around her.  In order for her to communicate information about the nectar source, she then does the “Honey Bee” line dance, well, it is really the “Figure 8” dance.  She will waggle her hiney (back end or abdomen) and make a sound to signal the sugar content of the nectar.  The harder the waggle and more sound, the more sugar in the nectar.  If she moves upwards while she waggles, the direction of the nectar is toward the sun.  If she moves downward, it is away from the sun.  She can be very precise as to the direction of the nectar, depending on which direction she faces as she waggles.  She will waggle a longer distance if the distance of the nectar is far away.  Again, this can be very precise to communicate the distance.  She is doing all this, while maintaining a figure 8 format.  These girls could probably teach us a thing or two about line dancing!

An interesting phenomenon is that a honey bee, once landing on a specific variety of flower, will continue to visit the same variety of flower until she is full of nectar and pollen and ready to go back to the hive.  Why do the bees do this?  Good question!  It is the only way that the flowers can be reliably pollinated by their own kind.  The bees get nectar to make honey, and the flowers get pollinated.  Orange blossom honey is called that when the hives are moved to the orange grove during their bloom period, and nectar is gathered.  Beekeepers can then legally name the honey as such when the nectar is mainly from a specific flower source.

What about the pollen?  It is the source of protein the honey bees need to feed their larvae in order for them to develop properly.  It is very  important that the pollen is from different sources.  Just as different fruits and vegetables provide different vitamins and minerals for humans, the different pollens provide protein variety for honey bees.  So the bees take a little pollen back to the hive in their pollen baskets, but also spread the pollen around to the flowers for pollination.  So the bees get something they need to survive, and the flowers are pollinated for the next generation of flower plants (weeds included).

The next time you see a honey bee on a flower, watch as she travels around on the same plant, and then on to another of the same plant variety.  She is doing what she was programmed to do.

Posted on July 12th, 2013 at 1:25 PM by Newark Ohio Garden Club

The squeezable honey bear container created by Dutch Gold Honey is 57 years old!

When you substitute honey for other sugar in a recipe, you’re adding liquid, so you should adjust the recipe. You can substitute honey for up to half of the granulated sugar in a recipe. For every cup you add, reduce the nonsweet liquid by 1/4 cup and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and lower the oven temperature by 25 degrees.

from Midwest Living May/June 2011

 

Posted on July 10th, 2013 at 1:19 PM by Newark Ohio Garden Club

A bee hive can house from 15,000 to 80,000 bees, depending on the season.  Wow!  Even though there is only one Mama Queen, she is not really in control of her own destiny.  Depending on how much she is fed by the nurse bees will determine how many eggs she lays in a given time.  The more food, the more eggs.  Usually, there is a spike in egg laying in the early spring for the upcoming honey flow, and by the late summer, the production drops significantly.  She is capable of laying eggs equaling twice her weight in one day.  She can sure be a busy girl.  And think about it, if she does not lay enough eggs as the nurse bees think she should, she could actually be killed by her own children.  It is indeed a cruel world with all that pressure.

If the hive finds itself queen-less, what they do is actually “make” a queen.  They will select a few eggs to develop into queens.  When the workers have decided to make a queen, they enlarge the cell to accommodate the larger queen bee.  It looks somewhat like a peanut and it very easily identified, as it is outside the normal comb.   Before the fertilized eggs hatch, queen and worker bee eggs are the same.  Three days after the eggs are laid, they hatch into larvae.  The nurse bees will feed the queen larvae royal jelly for six days.  the nurses will visit them hundreds of times in a day to provide them food.  In those six days, the larvae will grow very quickly and fill the space of the cell.  Then the nurse bees cover the cell with a porous layer of wax, and allow the larvae to spin a cocoon.  In seven days, a queen will emerge, ready to fight for supremacy.  Before she hatches, she sounds a war cry, letting the hive know she is ready to come out.  Any other queens in the hive will fight with her to the death, until only one is left, and she will be the reigning queen for two to three years.  That is, unless she under performs.

What about the worker bees?  The queen and worker bee eggs are the same, but what makes the difference is what they are fed while they are larvae.  Have you ever heard of the quote “You are what you eat.”?  That is truly the case for queens and workers.  While the queen larvae receive royal jelly the entire larva stage, the worker larvae receive royal jelly for only three days, then get a mixture of honey and pollen.  And that is the only difference.  The moral lesson of the story is then, watch what you eat, and if it is royal jelly, you too can become a queen.

As for drones, the male bee, they are produced from infertile eggs, and are laid in a cell only somewhat larger than a worker cell.  From the time the egg is laid to the time the drone comes out of the cell is 24 days, as compared to 21 days for workers, and only 16 days for queens.  Proof that the male is slower than the female!  Just remember this the next time you are accused of being late for a date!  His primary role is to mate with a virgin queen.  If he is one of the lucky ones to mate, he will pay for it with his life.  His “tool” is torn away after he mates, and incurs a mortal wound for which he falls to his death from 200-300 feet in the air, where the mating ritual takes place.  So much for the honey moon.  The remaining drones will hang around, just in case, for the summer, but will be killed by the workers in autumn.  They would eat too much honey and serve no good purpose during the winter.