Monday 3 August 2015

Gatsbees B-Log: June 2015

This has been one of the busiest years for beekeepers who offer to deal with swarms reported by the public, and it’s unusual for many of us to have ‘too many bees’; a welcome situation brought on by an excellent summer, and financially a bonus as bees are expensive to buy.

To prepare for swarming, the bees begin to build small cups of wax – the start of a cell in which a new queen will develop and when the majority of workers agree, the queen lays an egg in it, or they place one into it.

All eggs take 3 days to hatch and a queen larva is fed for 5 days with ‘royal jelly,’  which is a rich food made in the hypopharyngeal gland in the worker’s head.

The cell is lengthened as the larva develops...

...and we’re back to last month’s swarming B Log; the moment a queen cell is capped after 8 days so that the new queen can pupate.

And the resident egg-laying queen (in this case, Eve)...

...leaves the hive with around half of the colony in a joyous, roaring, swirling swarm. One of nature’s wonders.

They land nearby to check the queen is still with them

and if a beekeepers are called, they will box them up and take them away as a new colony.

Meanwhile, back at the half empty hive and 7 days later, the new queen cuts her way out of the cell with her mandibles and a hinged flap is a tell tale sign that a queen has emerged.

I should mention drones (the boys) at this stage, which are stockier than workers and whose job is to mate with virgin queens in a series of flights which she makes over several days.

The cells in which drones develop (left) are larger than those of the worker bees (right) and are only built from around April to July, after which the workers begin to chase them out of the nest, if the colony has a laying queen.

This is Geronimo, a virgin queen, fully developed, but needing a few days to mature. She is a similar size to the worker at the moment, but after she has mated...

she looks like this - spermatheca full, making her visibly larger than a worker...

...and with a life of egg laying ahead.

Honey Bee eggs look like tiny grains of rice

The worker larvae are fed royal jelly for the first few days, but as they grow they are now fed ‘brood food’ by the nurse bees...

made of honey...

and pollen. Back on the bread and honey. Quite remarkable that two eggs with the same DNA could become a worker or a queen by the quality of food they are fed.

They are still collecting water in their honey sacs, but are now using it to cool the hive by unloading it onto the frames and walls and evaporating it by fanning their wings. Cool dudes!

Cotoneaster horizontalis - A flower which has the bees searching each tiny bud for nectar.

Not an obvious choice for flowers in June, but Laurel (Prunus laurosarusus) provides food from nectaries on the back of the leaf.

Geraniums, not Pelargoniums, and Chives, Allium schoenoprasum.

Scabiosa caucasica - Enough of honeybees. Get the buzzzzzzzzz………

Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris)

Gillybee x

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