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Royal portrait

New queen bee

Today I took my camera to the hive to see if the new queen would pose for her royal portrait.  She wouldn’t stay still for long, so I had to photograph her as she quickly traveled across the comb, looking for just the right cells in which to lay her eggs.  I finally located her and she is a beauty!  Can you find her?  I’ll give you a hint…. her body is longer than the worker and definitely more slender than the big drones. Scroll down a bit to see where she is.  All is good!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New queen bee #2

A Royal Success!

Bee larvae from new queen.

Bee larvae from new queen.

It has been two weeks since the new queen emerged and today I not only got to see her ( so young and beautiful) but I saw all the new larvae she has produced.  That means her mating flight was successful and she is now mistress of her domain.  If you look carefully in the center cells, you will be able to see the very young larvae swimming in royal jelly. They are fed this for only about 3 days and then they are given only pollen and honey. The royal jelly gets them off to a good start, but they don’t get enough of it to develop their reproductive organs so they will be sterile when they emerge. ( Larvae destined to be queens will be fed royal jelly throughout their entire larvae stage and therefore have fully developed ovaries ) Now the hive is busy producing comb, honey and of course more bees.  Hail to the Queen!

Here’s the story. Earlier this year I ordered a new queen to be delivered in June( from BeeWeaver in Texas) thinking that my old queen, now in her third year,  would  be replaced by her worker bees, sensing that her time was coming to an end. The colony wasn’t large enough to swarm so the “mail order  bride” was to be a backup if the colony wasn’t successful in making a new queen by itself.  Well, in May, the old queen kicked into high gear and began laying up a storm and the colony went in to full production mode…. lots of new brood, comb and honey.  Then the new queen arrived . USPS.  So…. I took the old queen and 5 combs of brood and honey and transferred them to an empty hive.  I then lowered the newly arrived queen into the old hive in her transport cage.  It takes about 2-3 days for the workers to release her from her quarters, and by then her odor has permeated the hive and they will accept her as their queen.  Three days later I opened the hive but could not find the queen. Nowhere. Not only that, I did not see any evidence of newly laid eggs.  I waited another three days and went in to look. Still no queen.  But I did see a number of queen cells and when I looked into them each one had a small larva swimming around in royal jelly; evidence that the colony was creating a new queen by itself.  For one reason or another, the workers were not satisfied with their Texan Queen so they took her eggs, placed them into queen cells and began to raise one by themselves.  And the queen?  She either died or was killed off by the workers. (probably the latter)  After a week I saw that they had successfully reared the larva and capped it off.  ( You can see the queen cell in the photo below…. it looks like a large peanut. )  There were actually three of these on the comb in various places.  A couple days ago I checked in on them and the queens had hatched as evidenced by the fact that they cells were empty.  The first queen to emerge went around and killed off the others that were still in their cells.  After a couple days she will be escorted out of her hive by a group of workers for her “nuptial flight”, taken to a tree or area where lots of male drones hang out for the day, mate with 6 – 12 different males and then return to the hive.  If all goes well, in about a couple weeks I should notice newly laid eggs and tiny larva once again.

Stay tuned for the next installment!

 

Queen Cell

Queen Cell

A Hint of Spring

Hive

Late winter flight

Today the temperature got up to 57 degrees, the snow and ice began melting faster and faster, the ground got all mushy and the bees took flight! This is the first time I had seen any activity in the hive all winter. Honeybees will not venture out if the temperature is below 50 degrees, so they were very happy today!  I could tell they were cleaning up the hive, pushing out dead bees and other detritus.  It’s still too early to open up the hive, but just seeing so many of them buzzing about made me feel good.  Hopefully there is still plenty of honey stored in the combs, as we have a lot more cold weather to go.  Just the same, it’s nice to see them. Think Spring!

 

Crystallized Honey

2 Honey

 

My friend Jannine brought me a jar of her crystallized honey for the holidays. It is so good!  It got me to do a bit of research on why some honey crystallizes and some doesn’t.  First of all, it does not mean that it has “gone bad”. Honey has a very low moisture content which deters bacteria and yeast, so it rarely if ever spoils. It turns out that the main reason honey will crystallize is due to the proportion of fructose and glucose, the two main sugars in honey. And this comes from the source of the honey. Honey that is high in glucose  ( and lower in fructose ) will have a tendency to crystallize sooner than the honey that is lower in glucose ( and higher in fructose).  Honey that comes from nectar from apple, goldenrod, sunflower, alfalfa, dandelion, mesquite and chamisa is high in glucose and will crystallize more than honey derived from the nectar of locust, sage milkweed, poplar, borage and buckwheat, which has a high fructose concentration.  Many people like the crystallized honey as it is easier to spread on toast and seems to have a milder flavor.  If your honey has crystallized, it’s perfectly safe to eat.  And if you’d like to turn it back into liquid form, just put it in a pan of hot ( not boiling ) water for a few minutes.    Enjoy!

If you want to learn even more about crystallization of honey, here is a good link:  http://www.montcobeekeepers.org/Documents/Honey_Crystallization.pdf

Happy New Year!

Yes….. 2015 sure went by quickly. My one colony did quite well and went in to winter quite strong.  It’s a large colony so I will have be on the lookout for it to swarm come spring and make a split. I have two empty hives waiting for such an event.  Meanwhile, the bees are hunkered down for the winter and we are having a doozy!  Winter hive #1El Nino is living up to it’s name, dropping a lot of snow on us and bringing in frigid temperatures at night. So what do the bees do? They cluster around the queen and vibrate.  This produces heat, much the same way as rubbing your hands together.  This keeps the queen warm and the bees circulate outward bringing in the colder, outermost bees into the center where they warm up.  All this vibrating requires energy, and that’s why they store the honey.  Bees are one of the few insects that can live through the winter as adults, and that’s how they do it. But even all this preparation may not help if the winter is particularly cold and long.  I just have to wait and hope they will make it. Winter hives#2Did you know that they will not poop in their hive?  That’s right. They hold it in when it’s cold outside, and when the temperature outside warms up to 45-50 degrees, they will fly out, defecate, and quickly hurry back into the hive!

Fall honey harvest

My single hive this year was very productive. The colony has expanded greatly and I know I will have to split it next Spring.  I inspected the hive and determined that I could safely remove 4 full bars of comb.

Comb in hive

Comb in hive

I removed the oldest combs ( the ones that were the darkest).  Each time a bee larva forms a pupa within the cell, it leaves behind a very thin cocoon shell in the cell.  The worker bees clean out the cell for the next larva but don’t remove the cocoon.  After a while, the combs get darker and darker as the shells build up and it’s good practice to remove them as not only do they make the cell smaller, they can contain small amounts of toxins and harmful organisms that the bees have brought into the hive and can create problems.

Comb and sieve

Comb and sieve

I then cut the comb off the bar and crushed the comb into a sieve. Leaving the comb overnight allowed the honey to drip through, leaving the wax and debris behind.  The next day I poured the honey into the jars.  I then melted the wax in a separate pot and poured it through a fine sieve lined with cheesecloth. The result was a clean block of wax.

Crushing the comb

Crushing the comb

From all of this I collected over 9 pounds of honey and ¾ pound of wax.  Success!  Thanks to the hard working honeybees I have a nice supply of honey to eat and share with friends and family and the bees have plenty of honey to last them through the winter.

Honey jars & wax

Honey jars & wax

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