Tuesday, May 22, 2012
If we think our lives are hard, believe me -- it is a party compared to the life of a honey bee. If you happen to be a bee, there are three areas you could fall into. QUEEN bee is of course the most important, she rules the hive, basically lays eggs all her life, and her life span is anywhere from two to three years. WORKER bees are next, always female, and they do exactly what their name implies -- WORK! During their short life span they are constantly working. In a new bee hive it is their job to manufacture the honeycomb, so the Queen can begin to lay eggs in each little cell. It is also their job to go out into the world (up to 3 miles) and gather nectar, pollen and sometimes water. They bring these items back to the hive and put them where they are needed. Other worker bees act as guards. They guard the entrance to the hive and make sure no "outside" bees enter. They can determine their own group of bees by their smell. The Queen bee gives off a pheromone that is recognized by her particular group of worker bees. They love this smell and rub against her for the smell. There are also worker bees who go out into the world, away from the hive and look for areas that contain nectar. The life span of a worker bee is approximately only six weeks. Finally there are the DRONE bees. Naturally they are male, and they spend their time buzzing around, just waiting for a Queen bee who is in "heat." When this happens, the Queen flies to a height of about 500 feet, probably mating with approximately 50 of a swarm of 300 or so drones who are buzzing about seeking the chance to mate. Unfortunately the drone bee gives his life for the opportunity of mating. I won't go into the finer details of this act, but it literally pulls the insides out of the drone bee and he dies. Most of the time, in bees that are purchased for the sole purpose of raising honey, the Queen bee is artificially inseminated, one of her wings are clipped so she cannot fly away, and she is marked on her back with a small dot of brightly colored paint. When you order a shipment of bees, the Queen bee with perhaps four or five worker bees come in a separate little box. This is for the safety of the Queen during travel. Upon arrival at their destination, the bees are placed in a hive, and the Queen bee is placed between two of the frames, still in her box. A plug is removed, leaving her still secured in the box by solidified honey. The bees want to get next to the Queen, so they proceed to eat the honey to release her, usually taking four or five hours to complete the task.
We have pictures to show you step by step how this entire procedure is done. I will have them ready for publication in a few days.
During the first week or so the bees need to be fed a very rich mixture of sugar and water, which is made in a 1:1 ratio. To show you how rich this mixture is, compare it to what you mix for hummingbirds, their ratio is 1:4. They need this sugar water to live on until the honeycombs are complete and they are able to go out and forage for food.