Saturday, May 9, 2009

In-Sights into Beekeeping

My father-in-law kept bees when he lived 'out on the farm' in Spencer, Iowa. Here are his in-sights into beekeeping.

Robert Madsen -

One of the fun things I did years ago was to keep bees. Now, one of my kids, David, and his wife are giving it a shot.

He just sent me these pictures...they are the best pictures I have seen of what goes on inside a beehive.

Inside that regalia is son Dave. He and Shirley decided that they would like to include bees as a hobby. He has taken the lid off the box (called a 'super') and he is checking over things. You see a jar of sugar water have to feed a new colony until the bees build up their numbers and are able to support themselves from the area's flower nectar and pollen. There are ten 'frames' with a sheet of foundation (wax with imprinted 'cells' that the bees "build out" to make full cells).

The legs of the beehive are immersed in oil to prevent ants from climbing into the hive.

That other 'box' is also a brooder box that will have ten frames set. It will sit atop the one Dave is working in. There is no partition between the boxes so the bees can move into it as their numbers increase.

Since this is a new brooder box it is nice and clean. After a few weeks, the bees deposit propolis which they produce as the 'glue' that sticks everything together...a dark yellow color.

A good close up. Here the bees are putting the nectar into the cells. The bees 'build out' the cells from what was just a little ridge on the wax foundation into what you see here. All are six sided.

Dave has lifted out a couple of frames so he can see inside the hive. Long ago bee keepers (apiarists) learned that bees always build their natural hives with spacing that is a specific distance (3/8" or 7.5mm +/- 1.5mm for you metric people) so the manufacturers' of hives use these same tolerances. It seems to be just the distance a bee requires when carrying a load of nectar or pollen.

Dave has removed two frames to show how things look inside the hive. At this time you will find most of the bees located in the center of the hive. Actually, the bees form a 'ball' that sits right in the center of the box...with the greatest density being between the fifth and sixth frames and lessening in numbers as you move to the sides of the box. The central part of the hive is the first part that the bees develop. In the winter, the bees bunch to maintain their body heat.

Can you spot the queen in the upper right-hand section? She is about twice the size of the worker bees. She deposits fertilized eggs into the empty cells. The cells that appear "shiny" inside have developing larva. The queen flies on a mating flight and is chased by a number of drones...of which only one will mate with the queen (he, the drone, is rewarded by immediately dying - giving us guys something to think about, huh?). This one sexual encounter provides the sperm to fertilize the hundreds of thousands of eggs she will lay during her lifetime. These bees are of Italian stock, the most common variety used for pollination and honey production in the U.S.

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