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Friday, August 10, 2012

Beekeeping 101

Posted by on Fri, Aug 10, 2012 at 12:28 PM

Check out my piece on how hard bees are working to make honey for you and me in this week's Sweets feature.

In the latest news from our hives, our frames are full of honey and ready for harvest:

  • GA

Here is a photo I took this morning of one of my bees collecting in my neighborhood:

  • GA

On a sad note: One of our queens died/left/stopped laying. We looked in the hive and there was no brood (eggs or babies) for several weeks, so we had to give up on her. We ordered a new queen, which came in the mail(!). Hopefully she will be happy and productive in her new hive.


Comments (15) RSS

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care bear 1
I'm curious how bees get sent in the mail. That seems so crazy to me.
Posted by care bear on August 10, 2012 at 12:41 PM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 2
@1 They put a little stamp on their heads and give the mailman a kiss.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on August 10, 2012 at 12:43 PM · Report this
She arrived with a few attendants in a small plastic cage in a post office express-mail cardboard envelope. I thought she would at least be in some sort of box, but no.
Posted by Gillian Anderson on August 10, 2012 at 1:38 PM · Report this
@3: at least they had some sort of caging around her. I was picturing an envelope with a little bee-shaped lump in it.
Posted by suddenlyorcas on August 10, 2012 at 1:43 PM · Report this
ingopixel 5
Every beekeper I know (so, like, 3 people) have had a queen die and have to order a new one this year. Sad time for queens I guess. That or it's just really common.
Posted by ingopixel on August 10, 2012 at 2:13 PM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 6
Clearly the bees are rising up and preparing to overthrow the monarchy! Buzzzz Bzzzzz Liberty for Honey!!!
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on August 10, 2012 at 2:29 PM · Report this
TVDinner 7
My mom used to order baby chicks and ducks through the mail. She once got a phone call from the post office at six am, demanding that she come and pick them up as soon as possible. The cheeping was apparently driving everyone crazy.
Posted by TVDinner http:// on August 10, 2012 at 3:40 PM · Report this
Zebes 8
What do worker bees do in the absence of a Queen? Do they just keep on for a bit and adapt if a new one shoes up, or does the new queen have to clean house when she moves in?
Posted by Zebes on August 10, 2012 at 3:41 PM · Report this
Zebes 9

I meant "shows up," but now I'm imagining little bee coronation ceremonies involving the donning of royal high-tops.
Posted by Zebes on August 10, 2012 at 4:18 PM · Report this
Sandiai 10
I was wondering that too. I assume she starts laying eggs soon enough that will be her progeny, but what about the "foreign" workers that already live there? They don't attack newcomers who smell different?

(looking up the answer...)
OK, here we go:

"A virgin queen in her first few hours after emergence can be placed into the entrance of any queenless hive or nuc and acceptance is usually very good, whereas a mated queen is usually recognized as a stranger and runs a high risk of being killed by the older workers."
Posted by Sandiai on August 10, 2012 at 4:42 PM · Report this
Zebes: I wondered the same thing about a queenless hive. The workers kept going, putting up honey for the winter. But they can't go on too long like that, with no new bees being born.

The new queen is introduced to the hive inside a cage for a few days so the bees can get used to her. The cage is capped with a piece of candy, and they eat their way in to her! True fact.
Posted by Gillian Anderson on August 10, 2012 at 5:09 PM · Report this
freesandbags 12
Yeah bees!! Neat story Gillian.
Posted by freesandbags on August 10, 2012 at 9:19 PM · Report this
venomlash 13
Worker bees can get up to some very bad trouble in a queenless hive.
Workers are female, like queens, but develop differently because they are only fed royal jelly for the first 3 days of larval life rather than for their entire time. They don't have functional genitalia, but there are some remnants.
Normally, pheromones emitted by a queen keep those remnants vestigial. However, in the absence of a queen, a worker's ovaries may begin developing to the point where she begins to lay. When this happens, she starts behaving like a queen, giving off some queen pheromones and attracting her own cadre of followers. A queenless hive may have several rival worker-queens.
Of course, a worker doesn't have a spermatheca, and she certainly doesn't have the instinct to mate, and so she can only lay unfertilized eggs, which develop into drones. Drones are dead weight on a hive, existing only to mate with queens from other hives.

Why would this bizarre system evolve? In nature, a queenless hive has no way of getting another queen unless the workers give a freshly-laid egg (laid within the last few days) the royal jelly treatment. By the time workers start laying, all hope is gone and the hive is giving up its last gasp. By expending its remaining resources in producing drones, the hive makes one last attempt to pass on its genes; if a virgin queen from another hive is going on her nuptial flight nearby, the drones from the moribund hive have a good chance at mating with her and perpetuating the hive's line.
Posted by venomlash on August 12, 2012 at 9:50 AM · Report this
Hey Dan, if you need to get rid of some of those extra drones, here's a good way:…
Posted by Danima on August 12, 2012 at 9:44 PM · Report this
Sorry, *Gillian*.
Posted by Danima on August 12, 2012 at 11:12 PM · Report this

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