We've been waiting for a sunny and calm morning to do our inside the hive inspection (and for me to model my new beesuit :^) Today was perfect with morning temperatures in the mid-60s. We gave the hive entrances a few puffs of sage smoke to keep the bees calm. Our goal was to make sure that the brood comb and honeycomb were being drawn out straight and also to make sure that the queens were laying both worker and drone brood.
Everything looked good: lots of brood and lovely drawn honeycomb. Can you spot the baby bee?
Bonus image: the day after we hived our second swarm we noticed freshly excreted wax under the hive; it looked like a pile of ice chips. Before swarming the bees the bees load up on honey so they are ready to draw comb when they find a new home. Apparently, they couldn't harvest it fast enough! This little pile fell through our bottom board which was why we could see it.
Bee Image from Flow Hive Forum
We are once again hosting bees! We hived a swarm captured from a neighbor's tree on April 30th, and hived our second swarm two weeks later-delivered by our friend Marvin. We are using our Danish Sweinty Langstroth Polyhives this year and so far our bees seem to be very happy with their new homes. This week we are seeing thousands of bees each afternoon doing their orientation flights. I decided it was time to reacquaint myself with the Life Cycle of the Honey Bee, and here is what I found out about worker bees. Click the link to read about queens and drones :^)
Life Cycle of the Honey Bee
The lifecycle of a honey bee consists of three main stages: the larval, pupal, and adult stages. Within a normal hive situation, a single queen bee lays fertilized and unfertilized eggs. Fertilized eggs can hatch worker and queen bees, unfertilized eggs hatch drone bees. Eggs hatch after about 3 days, but development rates and processes vary among bees within the hive, as well as between species in the genus Apis.
Worker bees are female bees that hatch from a fertilized egg. After hatching, the bees spends an average of six days in the larval stage. During the first few days larvae are mass-fed a compound known as “worker jelly” or “brood food”- a mixture of fluids produced by the hypopharyngeal food glands and the mandibular glands of adult worker bees. Larvae are fed between 150-800 times per day for up to three days before the diet is changed to a less rich content and less frequent feeding schedule. During the larval stage fat bodies are built up that are able to store lipids, glycogen, amino acids, and mitochondria bodies for later use in the pupal stage. After eight or nine days, the brood cells are capped and the larvae molt. They begin to spin a cocoon with silk produced from thoracic salivary glands, this marks the beginning the pupal stage.
The pupal stage is when most parts of the adult bee form; the wings, legs, abdomen, internal organs, and muscles. Pupae draw upon the stores of the fat bodies built up during the larval stage during this period of growth. Stored lipids, amino acids, and glycogen fuel the continued growth of the developing pupa. After about 20 to 21 days, the pupa chews through the brood cell cap and emerges as a teneral or callow bee. These newly hatched bees do not leave the cell for three to four hours, as they have a soft skin, or cuticle, that takes time to harden.
Once emerging from the brood cell, bees must feed within a few hours. Without the bacteria and proteins that ingesting pollen brings, the development process and lifespan of the bee can be threatened. Young bees spend the first one to three weeks of their lives carrying out functions within the hive. These tasks include feeding and cleaning larvae, cleaning the hive cells, building comb, guarding, patrolling, accepting pollen from foragers, storing, curing, and packing pollen, and more. After about three weeks the glands that produce larval food and wax begin to degenerate. The bee moves from the brood nest and begins integration into the life of a forager.
Worker bees typically live 15-38 summer days. In the winter, changes in the bees anatomy- specifically well-developed hypopharyngeal glands and an increased supply of fat bodies, enable worker bees to live 140-320 days.
~from Evergreen's The Terroir of Honey, Spring 2016
While out for a morning walk in Santa Ana CA, we had the good fortune to come across Nancy and Tom Larson who have been hosting honeybees in their ceramic elephant for the last ten years or so. The only entrance was a tiny hole in the back of the saddle. The bees were happy to pollinate their flowers and fruit trees, but since there was no way to open the elephant, the Larson's had never tasted the honey. Not only are these two beekeepers and bird lovers, but Tom also builds elevated raised beds (to make it easier for the elderly volunteer gardeners) and grows organic vegetables which they donate to food banks. Thanks for inviting us for a tiny apiary tour. Lovely to meet you!
The effect of the drought is very apparent when walking around the neighborhood; several homes had replaced their lawns with native plants and their lush, low-water habitats were brimming with lizards, bugs, and birds. Other yards have not fared as well, and it was sad to see the dead trees and brown lawns (though I would rather see brown lawns than green). Lots of yards in transition.
I realize that because I have an affinity for backyard bugs, it is easy for me to recognize the difference between a bumblebee and honeybee. It is a combination of repeated experience and keen interest. (FYI, I am quite useless when it comes to identifying sports teams, cars, or types of deep sea mollusks :^)
I have had this handy Bee Basics: An Introduction to our Native Bees booklet available on my Biodiversity page, and I thought I would highlight it here as a free download (or, you can take yourself over to Amazon and pay $27 for it. Seriously!)
This 48-page gem is full of lovely drawings and jam-packed with interesting tidbits. A gift to you from Pollinator Partnership, the USDA, and the US Forest Service. Make friends with your backyard bees.
The tiny goldenrod blossoms are favorites of our honeybees as they prepare for winter (top).
Below, the lovely buckwheat blossoms offer another autumn feast for the bees,
and the buckwheat fruit seeds will make a nice addition to our porridge.
Herbal honey packed with pollen=extra good for you and SO delicious.
Bee pollen contains nearly all nutrients required by humans with 40% proteins, vitamins, folic acid, and free amino acids. It is both an antioxidant and relieves inflammation. Bee pollen can help reduce stress, speed healing, and strengthen your immune system. What's not to love?
August check-in: the bees in our Flow Hive have been busy building cut-comb deeps and are slowly filling up the Flow frames. Hmmmm. Yesterday I decided to dig a little deeper and I ended up harvesting one full cut-comb deep, the second of the summer. In the medium below the Flow, the bees had lovely brood, a full frame of pollen, and honey (along with some crazy-cross comb). I harvested one medium of honey, tidied up the cross-comb, added a queen excluder, and modified the Flow box by reducing it by half. We are hoping to harvest honey from two of the Flow frames in September along with the two remaining cut-comb deeps. One cut-comb deep = 9 pounds of honey!
Photos: taking the lid off the Flow, cut-comb deep, partially filled-up Flow frames, lovely worker brood, many flavors of pollen, harvesting the honey, five honey flavors from one comb
How the EPA's pesticide self-reporting policy works
Good news for bees this week:
EcoWatch: California to Officially List Key Ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup as Cancer-Causing
UK Bug Life: Wild Bee Declines and Neonics Case Closed-What Next?
Beyond Pesticides: Did Dow Chemical Influence the EPA Decision to Reverse the Chlorpyrifos Ban?
and Consumers Sue Monsanto for Misleading Label of Round-up Herbicide
Meanwhile, Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, BASF, Dupont, Croplife America (the biotech giants who own the world's seed, pesticide, and biotech industries) are once again attempting to use slick PR tactics to muddy the waters concerning the dangers of neonicotinoid pesticides. They are just a few of the members of the "Honey Bee Health Coalition" who want you to understand the real reasons why bees are dying and how they are working-together with farmers and beekeepers-to remedy the situation. Don't fall for it, this is a continuation of Bayer's slimy high-production Follow the Honey strategy for spinning the bee crisis to protect their profits.
Girl Next Door Honey has written an excellent post about Why the Bees Are Dying. Thank you Hillary, for your erudite thoughts.
related BeePeeking posts
Who Cares? (Hint: not Bee Care)
The Insidious Pesticide Glyphosate
Pesticides & Children
Xerces Society How Neonicotinoids Can Kill Bees summary
I would like to introduce you to two of my favorite honey bee entrepreneurs: both of these women are not only beekeepers, but are also mentors, educators, and stewards of the environment.
Hillary Kearney of San Diego, California says, Girl Next Door Honey isn’t your typical honey business; we want to reach out to the community on every level. We offer raw, natural, uber local honey, beekeeping classes and workshops, one-on-one consulting, a host-a-hive program, kid’s bee presentations and we perform live bee removals. So whether you’re a foodie, aspiring beekeeper, concerned bee supporter or just wanting to have a beehive in your yard we’ve got you covered...Our goal is to raise San Diego’s bee population throughout the city and at the same time spread awareness among the community. Our hope is that these backyard hives will facilitate a dialogue among neighbors, friends, family and the community at large about the importance of bees. We like to think of it as pollinating hearts and minds." Hillary also hosts the Beekeeping Like a Girl blog.
The above images are from Girl Next Door Honey website
The Bee Girl Organization "is a nonprofit with a mission to inspire and empower communities to conserve bees, their flowers, and our food system."
"The Bee Girl, founded by Sarah Red-Laird, aims to conserve our bees by educating the public on their importance through our programs focused on community classes and events, public lectures, our Kids and Bees program. The Bee Girl organization also facilitates the Farming for Bees initiative, empowering and recognizing land managers who provide habitat for our bees. Bee Girl engages with communities across the nation, and the globe, spreading knowledge and bringing a sense of wonder from the hive to the people" (Bee Girl Mission statement).
Sarah says, “If you can capture the heart and imagination of a child, and release the sweetness and light of the honeybee in them- they will never forget it. By saving the bee, they will save our world.”
The Bee Girl is based in Ashland, Oregon, but travels widely to spread the buzz.
The above images are from The Bee Girl website
Bombus mixtus enjoying the sage blossoms and snowberry in our front yard
Honeybee collecting nectar=Sage Honey this fall
©Tracey Byrne 2017
Did you know that almost 90% of all flowering plants rely on animals, rather than the wind, for pollination? Over 200,000 species of animals act as pollinators. The vast majority of animal pollinators are insects such as beetles, bees, ants, wasps, butterflies and moths; of these, bees pollinate the largest number of plant species. About 1,000 species of pollinators are hummingbirds, bats and other small mammals (Pollinator Partnership, 2017).
Visit Pollinator Partnership and bee inspired with ways to support all our pollinators