Monday, February 4, 2013

Bee Keeping 101 (Part 2)

Did you catch Part 1? If not, read it here.

I must admit it is very hard for me to decide which information to give you in which order, and how much to put in each post (my notes totaled 7 pages typed!). So let's start off with the basics and learn about the different jobs bees have as well as some interesting facts before we dig into the actual keeping of the hive. (For me this is the best part anyway!)


Queen- The matriarch of the hive attracts the other bees with pheromones. The queen lays 2,000 eggs a day (mostly during the time when nectar and pollen are plenty). The queen is much smaller until her initial mating flight where she will leave the hive and mate with 4-6 other bees (in the air) and then return to the hive and will be much larger.

Nurse- They take care of the babies and feed them different enzymes to make the bees the hive needs.

Guard- Four to six bees stand guard at the landing board to ward off invading critters or people. They will often “bounce” off your head first before trying to sting as a “warning”. They avoid stinging since once they sting, the stinger gets stuck in the victim and rips their bodies, killing them shortly thereafter.

Attendants- They feed and clean the queen and drones.

Drones- They mate with the queen and then die. If there are any drones left once fall arrives they are kicked out of the hive for the winter.

Housecleaning Bees- Bees are very neat by nature. Housecleaning bees see to that anything not belonging in the hive leaves (such as dead bees).

Foragers- All worker bees become foragers during the last two weeks of their lives.

Interesting Bee Facts

The honey bee is not native to the United States but was brought here by European immigrants.

Bees have a lifespan of 30 days (unless they hatch in the fall and then they will survive about 4 months over the winter since they are not working as hard).

There will be about 60,000 bees in the hive at peak honey flow.

Bee wings can shred from being overworked. They literally work themselves to death!

Bees will not defecate in the hive.

During cold weather, bees will huddle in a volleyball-sized cluster. When days warm to 45 degrees or higher, they will exit to defecate and search for pollen and move to a location with food in the hive. Bees have starved in their own hive with plenty of food if the temperatures stay too cold for too long.

When bees take their first flight as a forager (or after the hive is moved) they will circle around the entrance to the hive to remember what it looks like and its location in order to safely return.

Bees gather most of their pollen and nectar within a 2-5 mile radius. In my area most comes from trees (maple, locust).

One bee gathers about 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.

The color of the honey depends on the pollen/nectar sources.

The type of bees (i.e. country of origin) depends solely on the queen’s status.

Bees do not fly in cold rain or windy weather nor at night. Night is the best time to move a hive.

Which  bee fact do you find the most fascinating?

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