Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Bee Hive Update...

Just a quickie update on the hives....we checked them last month and even tho one of them has enough honey to give us a little bit, we are going to let the bee's keep it for a food source for the winter.  We can still take a little dab out for say we have eaten our own honey.  :-)

Here is a quick honey making fact:  When the bees get back to the hive with the nectar, the worker bees help the field bees unload what they gathered.  Nectar at this point is about 80% water.  The honey is processed with enzymes...the conversion process is basically an evaporation process which works with warm temps and air movement.  The bees control the air movement by flapping their wings...they know exactly what they are doing!  The buzzing sound you hear coming from a hive, even at night, is the 'evaporation process' in action.  The end result is a thick honey with a 17% to 18% moisture content.  ONLY when the moisture content is low enough, will the bees put a waxy cap over the top.  There is now pure honey in each capped cell.
This is just the quick version of what happens....isn't it just amazing?

Now, a few pictures....Brian set up a couple new hives this Spring, and this is one of the traditional white boxes.  He tried something different and put a platform in the hive to hold the food bag.  We started feeding our bees raw honey instead of sugar water.  You know the old saying "You are what you eat?"  I can't get that out of my head, and in my opinion a bee that eats honey is going to make true blue honey.  In my opinion, feeding sugar water makes it harder for a bee to make honey, and when they do it isn't the real deal. F.Y.I. - I have talked to some people who do feed sugar water, but for only short periods of time IF there is a drought, not enough pollen and nectar sources, etc.  Like most things, I don't know that there is a right and is what we are choosing to do.  I had another guy tell me that feeding raw honey is if you are feeding them temporarily.  We don't want to feed them too much because then they will turn into lazy bees.  :-)

Anyways, when we checked on this new hive we saw that we should have checked it sooner.  The bees are all over some new comb that they built on their own....

And here is what it looked like after we smoked the bees (they don't like the smoke so headed back down into the hive)....isn't it just beautiful and pure?  Unfortunately we had to take it out.  Some of the cells had new honey in them, so we took the comb out and put it outside of the hive for the bees to feed on.

I am sad to say that we did lose this particular hive.  We were watching it and it just did not seem to be as strong as the other hives...not as many bees flying around, etc.  We were reading up and there are many reasons this could happen....Queen left (but usually the rest of the colony will follow her), Queen died so the other worker bees took over and some of the worker girls can even start laying unfertilized eggs.  Then there were things we could have tried to help the colony grow again, and that is to take a couple frames out of a strong hive and add it to this hive.  The only problem is finding the Queen.  If we accidentally take the Queen from the good hive, it won't stay a good hive and the new Queen and old one (if she is still in there) will fight to the death.  Another thing was to take all the frames far away from the hive, brush off all the bees, put the frames back in the hive and the worker bees who took over laying eggs would not find their way back.  Nope, too mean for me.  So we opted to let nature take its course and see what happened....when we checked a while back, the hive was done.  So we will save the boxes for next year.  We are hoping to capture a 'swarm' of bees to put in that box.

This picture shows the larvae in the cells.  One of the signs of the worker bees taking over is when more than one larvae is in a cell.  There were a lot of cells with two larvae, which means they were creating drones.  If you remember from a previous post, the drones are the boys who just sit around and do nothing except be fed by the girls.  They are the couch potatoes of the bee world.  :-)

The other hive is a different style.  All we do is put plain pieces of wood across the top of the opening and the bees build their comb from the top down.  They start out with the smaller comb like what is showing in the front, and gradually add to it.  Some of the pieces of comb are the whole size of the inside of the hive.  The bag at the bottom of the comb is raw honey...we put small slices into the bag and the bees feed off it.

 This is the same picture as the other, except this one was not done with the flash.  I could not tell which picture was better, so I decided to use both. They both show different things.

This comb has lots of babies in it, and a few capped honey cells.

So there you have it, the bee update.  It has been a long hot dry summer so we have set containers of water all over the place, and I put small sticks or pieces of wood in them just in case the bee accidentally slides into the water.  I also find I am not as anal about mowing the front driveway area as I used to be since I know the bees feed on the flowers....even the flowers of weeds.  We are hoping for a good Fall flower crop for them to feed off of, but we sure are not seeing it yet. 

That is all I know for now.....
Until later, Karen and Tripp who thinks we get a little too close to those bees for his liking! 

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