Saturday, May 9, 2009

Checking in on the Bees

Because it probably is not that much fun to be hard at work and have a Giant come and remove your work station, examine everything with clumsy Giant hands, coo at you in a Giant babytalk voice and then replace your workstation nearly crushing some of your co-workers, I try not to check on my hives too frequently. Saturdays are my days to check in with them just to satisfy my curiosity--they have no need for my scrutiny.

In the last month, the hive that I call Washington has built comb in 8 of its frames, the newly-built comb is now filled with eggs, larvae, honey and pollen. The hive that I call Madison is slightly more productive, it has one entire super (10 frames) heavy with bee produce and the bees have started working on the second super. The supers are piled one atop another so the bees work their way up.

The bees in the hive at mid-day are probably the younger bees, newly emerged themselves they become the nurse bees to the eggs and the larvae--they care for the brood around the clock for roughly the first two weeks of their adult life. During this period the nurse bees do not display any circadian rhythm. An interesting article on this subject appeared in the New York Times last week. At about two weeks of age, the bees become foragers and at that time their circadian rhythm kicks into gear and they learn to make their flights for nectar at the time when the flower is releasing it in highest quantities. The foraging is hard work and the worker bees usually die by the time they are four weeks old, but by then the brood they had been tending as nurse bees are ready to take over their jobs.

I stopped feeding them sugar water last week as there are violets and dandelions blooming in the grass and forsythia, wild strawberries and azaleas showing color in the flower beds. Within a week or two my mother's yard will be a feasting bonanza for the bees as the lilac, apples and grapes blossom.


KGMom said...

Beth--this is really interesting. By the way, how do you feed bees sugar water.
How long until you can extract honey?

Ruth said...

WOW! I had no idea about the life cycle of a bee. I will eat my honey with greater respect. Hi Giant, lol! I am sure you are a very friendly and gentle giant.

beckie said...

Beth, I love that you have named your hives. Was there a reason behind the names? Lots of bees! Are they multiplying and how fast?

I do wish they lived longer, poor things have a very short time to do their work and enjoy the products of their labor.

Have a great Mother's Day!

Kallen305 said...

So fascinating to read. It looks as if the bees are taking advantage of your early flowering flowers. Can't wait to see the results! I hope you have a lot of recipies for things that require honey. ;o)

BTW: Do you have any lavender planted? I hear they really like it and the bees spend a lot of time on mine.

Beth said...

KGMom, to feed them I use a jar or a bucket with small holes in the top upside down in the hive--it creates a vacuum and the bees just sip the honey from the holes. I'm happier to have them do it the way nature intended, though, it seems much more natural.

Ruth, isn't it interesting? such a short little life--the queen however can live up to 4 years! I'll write about the queen another time when I have a good picture of her.

Beckie, I named the hives after the 4000 foot mountains that I climb in the order that I climbed them. Just a way for me to combine my hobbies, I guess. They are multiplying, I don't know how fast but it seems like there are plenty of bees!

Kallen, I didn't know that about lavendar. I will get some--I like it and if the bees do too, that's a win win!

Happy Mothers Day.

The Texican said...

What bees in their right minds wouldn't like to spend Spring at your folks place? Pappy

Jayne said...

It's all just so fascinating to me Beth. I love reading about your bees and their keeper. :c)

Kathiesbirds said...

Wow, what an amazing and informative post this is. I didn't know that worker bees only live 4 weeks! I am trying to imagine you talking sweet babytalk to bees! :)