Beekeeping. Peter Miles. 10th December 2018

The Honey Bee Show                 Peter Miles

 

Peter has been a bee-keeper for over 45 years and is still find­ing out how bees do what they do.

 

Imagine a com­puter that can fly, can nav­ig­ate to the inch over a dis­tance of ~7 miles and also con­tains a chem­ical fact­ory inside it.  This is a worker honey bee.

 

Honey bee work­ers col­lect nectar, pollen, water and propilis (a sticky resin).

Honey bees are dif­fer­ent from bumble bees.  Honey bees make honey to feed them over the winter, but bumble bees dont — they all die except the queen.

 

There is only one queen in the honey bee hive.  She is fed by the worker bees as she cannot feed her­self.  Her role is to pro­duce eggs to stock the hive with more bees.  A queen can lay up to 2000 eggs in a day so she needs a lot of food

 

There are many male bees, called drones.  Their role is simply to mate with the queen.

This mating takes place during a flight!  Several drones will mate with the queen on this flight. The drones gen­italia are ripped off during this mating and the drones die.  How lucky are the drones, who fol­lowed the queen in this flight, but never man­aged to mate!

 

Honey bee work­ers make the hexagonal cells in the hon­ey­combs from wax that is made by the bees them­selves. The bees must con­sume 8oz. of honey to make 1oz. of wax. 

The cells are used to store honey.  Honey is made from nectar, which is con­cen­trated by remov­ing water.  It is then filled into cells which are capped by wax made by the bel­lies of the work­ers from honey and chem­ic­als from inside the bees.  The caps are stuck on using propilis. 

Some cells are used as a breed­ing area where the eggs laid by the queen become larvae, then pupae, and then new bees. 

Pollen is also stored in the cells to feed the larvae.

The work­ers col­lect nectar and pollen to make larvae bread, which is absorbed by the larvae so they grow and pupate and emerge and are then fed by the work­ers.  After 12 days they get their wings and go out col­lect­ing in their turn.  Some of the work­ers stay at the exit to the hive and fan their wings to provide vent­il­a­tion to the hive.

Some work­ers act as guards to pro­tect the hive from pred­at­ors and other dangers.

 

On these col­lec­tion flights the bees are very import­ant pol­lin­at­ors of plants.  They also col­lect water to take back to the hive to reg­u­late the humid­ity and to dilute the food for the larvae.  A worker that has found a good source of nectar and pollen goes back to the hive and per­forms a wiggle dance to inform the rest of the work­ers of the dir­ec­tion and dis­tance to this new source.  The bees com­mu­nic­ate is this way because there is no light in the hive.  The other work­ers take on enough fuel to reach the source and follow the dir­ec­tions, 40 degrees to the Sun and 1.2 miles know­ing there will be enough fuel there for the return jour­ney. 

 

A bee can pro­tect itself by using its sting.  It will usu­ally attack the eyes and the ankles.

The sting is a sharp prong with a barbed tip.  The sting base is in a mus­cu­lar poison sac but when the bee stings the barbed tip causes the sac to be pulled out and the bee dies.

 

When the hive gets full and becomes crowded the queen will lay some queen eggs.  These egg larvae are fed with royal jelly until one pupates and  is ready to emerge.

When the new queen is born it kills the other queen cells by sting­ing them.

 

The old queen then vacates the hive, taking with her about half the hive pop­u­la­tion in a swarm.  They dont go far and often can be found hanging in a mass on a tree branch with the queen in the middle sur­roun­ded by her swarm.  They never go back to the ori­ginal hive, as if they have for­got­ten the pass­word or it has been changed.

 

Bees see flowers by ultra violet light  and also follow odours given out by flowers.

Good plants for bees are willow herbs, brambles, thistles, dan­deli­ons and clovers, but most nectar is col­lec­ted from trees like hawthorn and syca­more.  Many other flower­ing plants are useful to bees and they will travel up to 4 miles to col­lect nectar.

 

Each worker bee in her life­time col­lects only enough nectar to pro­duce one tea­spoon­ful of honey, but that would fuel her to make a flight around the world.

A 12 oz. jar of honey con­tains 72 tea­spoon­ful of honey and to fill that jar would need 26,705 bee visits, an approx­im­ate flying dis­tance of 25.000 miles.

 

The female bees are given the name work­ers because they are:

Cleaners and hygien­ists, keep­ing the hive and combs as clean as oper­at­ing theatres
Heaters, using body heat to main­tain hive tem­per­at­ure
Feeders, of larvae, pupae and emer­ging new work­ers, and feed­ers of drones
Feeders and attend­ants of the queen
Wax pro­du­cers 
Comb build­ers
Nectar pro­cessors
Guards
Undertakers
Ventilators
Hydrators
Collectors of nectar, pollen water and propilis

 

The expres­sion, As busy as a bee now takes on extra mean­ing for me!

A fas­cin­at­ing talk even though I am not keen on honey.