Inside A Colony: The Birth Of A Bee

Whoa! Is it dark in here! With this sealed roof over my head it’s no wonder I can’t see anything. If I could just scratch my way out . . .

I’ve been locked up in this cell for three weeks now and my legs are cramped and uncomfortable. At first I was lying in the bottom of a waxen vault, wrapped in a tiny egg. Then gradually, my protective coating just dissolved and there I was, sitting in my breakfast. All around me was hustle and bustle, nurses tending me night and day, and all I did was eat!

For a while, breakfast looked like egg whites and tasted of protein.  But then, after about three days, it began to change and acquired a sweetness and scent that was irresistible. LOL, I ate and ate and ate! I overheard a nurse say I would increase my weight 1500 times in just five-and-a-half days. Way to grow!

But just when I thought I was going to burst, the food stopped coming and they locked me inside with a roof over my head. No food, no water, no decent air. It was scary. Worse, my body started to change. I felt all tingly, and my svelte worm-like figure began to disappear as I grew legs and antennae and eyes and even wings. But all those parts will do me no good in this cramped cell. I have to get out!

Adjusting to colony life

So now the roof seems to be breaking through. I can get my antennae out, yes, and my mandibles. If I bite away a little more . . . But holy cow, what’s that smell? And why is it still dark? And where’s everyone with the food? Don’t they know I haven’t eaten in twelve days? Will someone please bring me something to eat? I tugged, and pulled, and ripped, and bit. Finally I was able to pull myself through the ceiling.  It appeared my exoskeleton had not yet hardened. I felt pale and fragile and I wanted to sleep.

Help finally arrived. “Oh dear! Oh thank you! That was delicious,” I said, pulling my proboscis back and swallowing the proffered food. “But you smell like everyone else around here. What’s with that?”

The sister who shared her food turned to go, but said. “That’s your queen, silly. Get used to it.”

And so I did. As my skeleton hardened over the next few days, I worked hard. I went back into my cell and cleaned up, polished the floor, and smoothed out the upper rim I had torn. When that was done, I collected debris and cleaned behind my messy brothers who tended not to do much in the way of, well, anything. With the cleaning out of the way, I went to help feed the young’uns.

Feeding the brood

I like feeding the young, but working with my sisters is irksome. I call them my sisters, but most are actually half-sisters. You see, we all have the same mother but, from what I can tell, we have ten or twelve different fathers. It’s hard to tell us apart, but some are more yellow, some more black, some a bit bigger, and there’s that one temperamental bunch, always trying to pick a fight. Morons. But we have to get along; in such cramped quarters we simply have no choice.

Feeding the young isn’t such bad duty because we get to eat constantly. It works like this. All of us of a certain age gorge ourselves on bee bread. Bee bread is a delicious combination of partially fermented pollen held together with sweet nectar. It tastes like spring flowers and a wee bit yeasty. All of the eating we do allows us to secrete brood food, that milky, eggy substance I remember from my youth. We feed it to our young sisters night and day. We calculated that altogether we feed each newly hatched larva 3000 times! No wonder they gain so much weight in such a short time.

When things go wrong

But there is more to life than just eating and feeding. Sometimes things go wrong. Just yesterday we spent hours removing larvae from their cells and dumping them on the ground. In spite of the heavy odor of queen, we can recognize when things are not quite right under the capped cells. Some larvae are deformed and need to go. Some are highly infected with parasites or diseases and need to go. And some drones have too many chromosomes—two sets instead of one—and they have to go too. So a young bee has a lot of responsibility, not only for feeding the young but for culling the weak.

I’m not sure what is in store for me in the future, but once I learn, I will tell you all about it. In the meantime, thousands of hungry larvae await. Cheers for now.

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Why Keep Honey Bees?

Most people begin keeping bees for the honey. After all, nothing compares to the sweet taste of the glistening liquid, warm and fragrant from the hive. But people stay in beekeeping year after year for other reasons. In fact, honey may drop lower and lower on the list while fascination with honey bees spirals forever upward.

Honey Bees Draw You Into The Natural World

A competent beekeeper must know about bees, but to truly understand them requires knowledge of their environment as well. Beginners who know very little about the natural world soon become interested in the weather, daily temperatures, rainfall, the biology of flowering plants, and the consequence of pesticides. Within months they are talking of nectar flows, dearths, humidity fluctuations, and pollen types. They are introduced to botany, entomology, and agriculture. If nothing else, beekeeping pulls you into the natural environment and makes you aware of things you never considered.

Then too, there are other creatures that inhabit the hive, not ones you want but ones you have to handle. There are predators, parasites, pests, and pathogens, all of which must be managed along with the bees themselves. You will learn about the lifestyles of these living things and how they integrate into the life of your honey bees. It may seem intimidating at first, but their complex association with your colony is as amazing as the bees themselves.

Great Minds Think Alike

Beekeeping is not a craft you can master in a season, ten seasons, or a lifetime. Talk to life-long beekeepers and they will tell you what they just discovered, what they witnessed for the first time, or what new device they just invented. The learning part of beekeeping never ends. Many famous minds have been intrigued by honey bees, spending decades trying to unravel the secrets of the hive. Aristotle, Mendel, Pythagoras, Hippocrites, and Jefferson were all enchanted by these mysterious creatures, and remained so for their entire lives.

It has been said that honey bees are the second most studied creature on the planet, right after human beings. This estimate, based on the sheer number of papers, articles, and books published about the honey bee, is a testament to mankind’s enchantment with this amazing creature. If you become a beekeeper, you will never run out of things to read, learn, discuss, or argue. One thing I can promise is that beekeeping is never boring.

More Than Honey

Even though honey is the most obvious product of the hive, beekeepers soon discover the many amazing materials collected and manufactured by the honey bee. Pollen, propolis, beeswax, royal jelly, and venom are all products that can be collected, used or sold by the beekeeper, or given away as gifts. Honey can be fermented into mead, and your colonies can be used to pollinate crops and gardens, orchards and meadows.

Whether you enjoy home crafts, woodworking, architecture, or code writing, your passion can find a home in beekeeping. Modern beekeepers use skills honed by the pharaohs, the latest Bluetooth technology, and everything in between. You can decide for yourself if you want to employ old ways or modern ones, or some combination unique to you.

Let’s Get Physical

beekeepers plant for their beesMany people find that beekeeping helps them stay active and in good physical health. Some beekeepers make the rounds of their hives daily, climbing hills, walking across fields, or meandering wherever their bees take them. In fact, physical activity is required for many aspects of beekeeping, including inspections, handling of supers, extracting, and winter preparation. If you like to build your own equipment, you can spend even more time hauling, lifting, sawing, and hammering.

And it’s not just the bees that provide exercise. Many beekeepers plant for their bees, anything from entire fields to flower pots. All of it gets you outside and into the heart of nature. Those moments away from the desk and the computer screen become welcome respites from the digital world.

The Zen Of Bees

As strange as it sounds, none of the above comes close to the joy beekeepers get from simply watching their bees. Every beekeeper talks about the peace, tranquility, and calm they experience as they sit by their hives watching nature in action, and admiring the busy-ness and industry of their bees as they prepare for the winter ahead. Others like to watch bees in the garden as they travel from flower to flower loading up on pollen and nectar with a singleness of purpose we treasure.

Regardless of the reason for your first hive, it you stay with it, I can guarantee the admiration you develop for your bees will eclipse all other motivations. A love for bees is the only reason you need to stay with it for a lifetime.

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Not All Beeswax Is The Same

Not all beeswax is the same, as beeswax can vary significantly depending on country, forage, bee species and cleaning processes. Also each country also grades beeswax differently.

However there are mainly four basic types of beeswax are traded: pharmaceutical / cosmetic grade and a general use/industrial grade, organic (cosmetic or general use) and raw (Strahl and Pitch, wax refiners USA).

Nearly all commercial wax produced is by Apis mellifera (Western/European honey bee). Beeswax should be GRAS listed and approved for end use under regulation 21CFR184, (1973).

Beeswax is considered safe for human consumption and has been approved as an ingredient in human food in the USA (USA, 1978). Pharmaceutical/cosmetic grade in used extensively on food and beauty products. It is inert, i.e. it does not interact with the human digestive system at all and passes through the body unaltered. However, substances dissolved or encapsulated in wax are slowly released.

General use beeswax will contain some impurities such pollen, oils or proplis. Is short, Cosmetic grade has less impurities than industrial general use grade.

What is important to know before use is the; Melting Point, Acid Value, Saponification, Ester Value and colour.

Melting Point: This should be around 62-65C, however, values within this range are not a guarantee of purity.

Acid Value: Acid value is the measure of hydrolytic rancidity. In general, it gives an indication about edibility. As the rancidity increases, the oil achieves a foul smell along with a sour taste. Typical Cosmetic Grade Acid values range from 16.8 to 24. General use beeswax Acid values are much lower.

Ester Value: Pharmacopoeia list ester values from 66 to 82 but most beeswaxes range between 72 and 80. Tulloch (1980) suggests, for cosmetic grade values of 70 to 80 are most typical. This value is calculated by subtracting the acid value of oil from the saponification value. Typical Cosmetic Grade these values from 66 to 82 but most beeswaxes range between 72 and 80 and less for general use.

Acid and ester ratios can change after excessive heating and can exceed 4.2 with heating to 100 degrees Celsius for only 24 hours, while the ester and acid values might remain within set limits. Ester and acid values in waxes from other Apis species may be significantly different (Ikuta, 1931 and Phadke et al., 1969).

Saponification: The cloud point measures the amount of hydrocarbons, which saponify (turn into soap). If the solution becomes clear at or below 65 degrees Celsius, the wax is probably unadulterated with paraffin saponification value of beeswax is 85-100. This is officially accepted, sensitive method for determining adulteration. High value of saponification value are considered to make better quality soaps than those with low saponification value.

Colour: Beeswax is naturally produced as an off white colour. When the bee comes back from foraging, it brings nectar and pollen into the hive thus staining the wax to a golden hue. The beeswax can be filtered back to almost white. Pure white beeswax has been bleach with chemicals.

When you buy beeswax it should have its characteristic yellow colour and sweet aroma when bought as rendered beeswax.

If this information is not available, you can check for impurity’s yourself by dropping some beeswax into a pot of very hot water. The wax will float to the top and the impurities will settle to the bottom. If you find impurities don’t use the beeswax for cosmetic use.  

Our beeswax has been certified by CERES (Certification of Environmental Standards) and USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and are produced in a GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) production workshop, to eliminate any risk involved in any pharmaceutical production that cannot be eliminated through testing the final product.

From sampling & testing our competitors' products, we can safely say that our General Use beeswax is cleaner than most of our competitors Cosmetic Grade beeswax.

  1. N.a. Select Committee on GRAS (Generaly Recognized as Safe) Substances Opinion: Beeswax (yellow or white). U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 18 April 2013. Web. 22 September 2015.
  2. N.a. “Beeswax (E 901) As A Glazing Agent ad As A Carrier For Flavours.” Scientific Opinion Of The Panel On Food Additives, Flavourings, Processing Aids and Materials In Contact With Food (AFC). European Food Safety Authority Journal. 27 November 2007. Pages 1-28. Web. 24 September 2015.
  3. Kuznesof, P., Whitehouse, B. “Beeswax: Chemical and Technical Assessment.” Chemical and Technical Assessment 65th JECFA. Web. 25 September 2015
  4. DiNovi, M., Knaap, A., Kuznesof, P., Munro, C. “Beeswax.” 22 September 2015.
  5. Strahl and Pitch, wax refiners USA (http://www.spwax.com). 25 September 2015.
  6. North Carolina State University. “Beeswax.” https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/Beeswax. 24 September 2015.
  7. US Pharmacopeil Convention “Fats & Fixed Oils” https://hmc.usp.org/sites/default/files/documents/HMC/GCs-Pdfs/c401.pd. 28 September 2015.
  8. Dr. Dileesh S “Determination of Saponification, Acid and Ester Values;Percentage of Free Fatty Acids and Glycerol in someSelected edible Oils: Calculation of concentration of Lye Needed to Prepare soap from These Oils” www.academia.edu . 28 September 2015.

 

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Where Will You Put Your Hive?

You’ve painted your hive and ordered your bees. You are eager to get started with your new hobby, but you still haven’t decided where to put your hive. Should it go near the house? Next to the fence? Behind the garage?

The best hive placement will be a compromise based on the needs of the bees, the beekeeper, and the public. Of the three entities, the bees are the most flexible. The public, including your immediate neighbors and passersby, are the hardest to please, and you—the beekeeper—fall somewhere in between.

The Bees

First, let’s look at the bees. You can find many rules and suggestions for the best hive placement and most of them make good sense. Most sources will tell you that your hive should:

  • Face southeast or east

  • Have direct morning sun and light afternoon shade

  • Be protected from high winds

  • Should sit on level, firm, dry ground

  • Should have a nearby water source

When followed, most of these suggestions will increase the productivity of your hive. For example, east-facing bees start to work earlier in the day, which increases the number of hours they can forage. Afternoon shade keeps the colony cooler so it needs to do less fanning. But in most cases, breaking a placement rule won’t jeopardize your colony.

Honey bees are extremely adaptable and can handle many situations. Because I live in the forest, my bees have morning shade, an hour of mid-day sun, and then deep afternoon shade. In spite of that, my bees thrive year after year and produce loads of honey.

The Beekeeper

Often new beekeepers don’t consider themselves when deciding on hive placement, but it turns out that we humans are less adaptable than the bees. For examples of bad hive placement, I need only recall things I’ve done in the past.

  • More than once I have put hives against a building. In each case I decided the building would provide some rain and wind protection, but completely forgot how nice it is to approach the hive from the rear. Not only is it difficult to work from the side, but you can’t slide Varroa drawers or pollen trays in and out the back.

  • After carefully digging out a flat spot, I have often put hives on a hill. But if the bees face the uphill slope (putting me on the downhill side) the hive quickly becomes too tall for me to work comfortably. Working a hive that’s over your head is no fun.

  • It’s also nice to be able to drive fairly close to your hives. Carrying an empty hive across a field is nothing, but when it’s full of honey, it can be a backbreaking chore.

  • If you put a hive too near a door, you may not be able to use that door in summer without letting bees into your house.

  • If you put the bees too near a sandbox or swing set, your kids may not use it.

  • If the hive is too near the lawn furniture or picnic table, you may find them covered in droppings.

The Public

If you are close to public places, there are obvious rules to follow:

  • Hives should be kept away from sidewalks, crosswalks, playgrounds, trails, parking lots, schools, businesses, and parks. Not only is a poorly placed hive inconsiderate, but it could lead to the wrong end of a lawsuit.

  • Hives should not be kept in areas where it is prohibited by CCRs or city ordinances.

When it comes to immediate neighbors, beekeepers fall into two groups, those who tell and those who don’t. Each philosophy has its pros and cons, but the method you choose will have a lot to do with your individual property.

If there is no way to hide the hive, you may as well tell them in advance because neighbors are inherently curious and will soon figure it out. If you are thinking about putting your bees next to a property line, check the set-back requirements for your area.

Honey, the prefect gift

The hives may have to be five feet from the line or ten. In a situation like that, ask your neighbor if it’s okay. Even though you may have the right to put your hive six feet from his veggie garden, it’s best not to be rude about it. By conferring beforehand, you are more likely to get lasting cooperation. And be sure to give honey as a thank-you gift.

If you can hide your hives easily, you may want to remain silent. Once bees are away from their hive, they disperse quickly and disappear into the environment. Several beekeepers have told me it wasn’t their bees that got noticed by neighbors, but their bee suit.

So if you paint your hives to match the foliage and wear a dark or camouflage bee suit, you may never get noticed by the neighbors. To me, that is the ideal situation.

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We've Been Beekeeping For At Least 9,000 Years

Photo credit: A hollow log hive of the Cévennes (France) reveals the details of circular comb architecture in Apis mellifera. Eric Tourneret

Stone Age rock art, as well as ancient Egyptian iconography dating back to 2400 BCE, has hinted at our millennia-long partnership with honeybees, Apis mellifera. And now, researchers studying thousands of pottery fragments have discovered that Neolithic Old World farmers were harvesting bee products 9,000 years ago. The findings, published in Nature, suggest our close association goes back to the beginnings of agriculture.

When the glaciers retreated at the end of the last ice age, European honeybee populations were finally able to expand northwards. Yet in the fossil record, honeybees have been ecologically invisible for most of the last 10,000 years. In that time, Neolithic agriculture emerged and spread out of southeastern Anatolia and the Levant (modern day eastern Mediterranean), and humans moved into areas that were well suited for honeybees too. Also, clearing up woodlands would have brought in light-demanding herbs and fruit trees, which may have offered an added positive effect. And where there’s honeybees, there’s honey and beeswax. The latter has many technological, ritual, cosmetic, and medicinal purposes.

Since beeswax consists of a complex suite of lipids with a composition that stays highly constant, it acts as a chemical fingerprint on archaeological artifacts. Beeswax residue on pottery could be the result of cooking with honey or from processing wax combs. It’s also been used as.... read more: http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/weve-been-beekeeping-least-9000-years

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Amazing Time-Lapse: Bees Hatch Before Your Eyes

Witness the eerily beautiful growth of larvae into bees in this mesmerizing time-lapse video from photographer Anand Varma. Varma said the six-month project, for which he built a beehive in his workshop, gave him a new respect for the meticulous job of beekeeping.

 

Source: National Geographic

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The Crime We Commit Against Ourselves – Stop Bee Killing Pesticides

Toxic chemical companies are trying to get their banned pesticides back on UK fields.

Sign the petition to keep the ban on bee-killing pesticides. The Environmental Justice Foundation is asking people to contact Liz Truss, the UK Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to ask her to ensure that the European vote to ban certain neonicotinoids is fully implemented and monitored by the UK Government. Source: https://speakout.38degrees.org.uk Source: http://ejfoundation.org/bees

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