After emerging from their capped cell they get some pollen to eat then get to work cleaning their room, I mean cell. They also work to keep the brood warm. You can see lots of capped brood almost ready to emerge.
These young bees are called Nurse Bees, because they take care of feeding the larva. Days 3-5 they feed the older larva and days 6-11 they feed the youngest larva.
On day 10 bees develop wax producing glands on their abdomen. Researchers still don't know exactly how it works, but I think it is a little like ear wax. At this age the bees are eating lots of honey to convert to wax. For every 6 pounds of honey they eat (as a group), they produce 1 pound of wax. They use this wax to build the comb. The comb wax is cream colored when it is new or freshly built. During days 10-16, bees are best at producing wax as they get older they produce less wax. So during days 12-17 they are making wax and building comb. They also carry food to store in the cells and perform undertaker duties. An undertaker is someone who takes care of the dead. As a bee they take any dead bees out of the hive.
During this time, a bees stinger is at maximum potency. That means it has some really strong venom. Since they have the strongest stingers they work as guard bees. A guard bee inspects every bee that enters the hive. They can smell the bee and tell if they are from this hive or another. If a bee from another hive comes to the door with pollen or nectar the guards won't stop them. It's like they are bringing gifts. If a honey bee from another hive comes with nothing the guards won't let them enter. If a wasp, bumble bee, or yellow jacket tries to enter the guard bees will not let them in either. They will release a pheromone or a smell to warn the others. It works a lot like a fire alarm warning people there may be a fire. Other bees will come out and attack. If they are trying to rob the hive, by stealing their honey, the bees will attack.
Days 22-death (40-45)
This is when the worker bee begins to forage. They start searching and collecting water, pollen, and nectar. The single bee will travel to many different flowers of the same kind collecting pollen and nectar. They pollinate these flowers when pollen sticks to the hairs on their body and then rubs off onto another flower.
The other day, My classmates and I were invited to see how honey is harvested. Another mentor, Bob, had some neat tools to help get the honey out of the hive. Here is a look at the process of harvesting honey. You can click on the small photos to make them larger.
Tools of the Harvest
Bob, knew what to expect so he put a large tarp down so that we wouldn't make such a sticky mess. Here are some photos of the tools we used. We had a large plastic tub with a grate in it to uncap the honey. All of the cappings would fall into the tub and any honey would fall through the grate. After uncapping honey we could put the frame in the buckets or use an extractor to get the honey out. The buckets have a nylon strainer so that only honey will pass through it.
Taking off the Caps
The first part of honey harvest is bringing in the frames that are capped and filled with honey. To avoid bringing the bees in with the super box, you can brush them off with your bee brush, use a smelly fume board, or even use a leaf blower. If you are gentle, you can use any of these methods to get the bees out of the supers.
Once you have your frames of honey, you will uncap the honey. When bees make honey the right consistency (not too watery) they will put a wax cap on it to preserve the honey. We used a hot knife to slice off the caps. It actually melted the wax so it was really easy to slice through the wax caps., but If that doesn't uncap all the honey comb, then you can use a capping scratcher or a fork to open the rest of the comb caps. As, you can see in the photo's the knife doesn't really look sharp, but it was hot. The scratcher is the teal tool in the middle.
Extracting the Honey
Now for the really fun part. After taking the caps off you put the frames into an extractor. The extractor will spin the honey out of the frame. If you took a wet towel and spun it around as fast as you could some of the water would fling out of the towel. The extractor works the same way. While you spin out the honey you can see it fling up against the walls of the machine. It oozes down and then comes out the bottom. Then you have honey. We strained it as it dripped into the bucket and then we had a taste test. Lots of sticky goodness.
Tasting the Harvest
Today I met with Cathy, another new beekeeper, to help remove a colony of bees from a house. Our mentor Sonny taught us what to do when moving bees from a naturally built hive to your own hive. Cathy had heard about these bees from a friend and offered to remove them for free. She got to keep the bees, and the owner paid for any repairs needed to the home when we were finished. Click on any of the photos to make them larger.
The first step is to find the bees. They were coming out of the door frame with lots of pollen. The more pollen bees bring in the more babies there are. We went down to the basement to see if we could find them there. Cathy and Sonny decided to cut through the ceiling to find them.
The next step is getting them out. We cut out the comb with a small knife and sucked up some bees with a special vacuum. In the photo below, Cathy and Sonny are setting up the vacuum. The hose is attached to a box for the bees. There is a smaller screened box inside the one with the three small holes. To get the right amount of suction we can cover one of the holes up to change the pressure. This is important so we don't harm the bees.
When we have cut off a portion of the comb we must tie it to a frame. Beekeepers use frames to hold honeycomb so it is easier to check, maintain, and extract the honey. After the comb is tied in we put it in the first box of our Langstroth hive. Sonny and Cathy decided to split the hive so Cathy took the comb and frames and Sonny took the bees that were vacuumed up. Cathy left the Langstroth hive, with the frames of comb, near the entrance of the old hive spot so that the worker bees would find their new home when they came back from foraging. A day or so later Cathy came back to take her hive home. Sonny was able to take his bees home the same day in the special screened vacuum box.
Pollen comes from many different sources and comes in many different colors. Bees travel to different flowers to gather nectar an pollen. They store what they bring home in the comb. In this frame you can see a variety of colors in the comb. You can use a chart to figure out where these bees foraged or gathered this pollen.
It only takes a week to start seeing that the queen is doing her job. Here is a photo of larva and other worker bees taking good care of them. Young bees that take care of larva are called nurse bees. You may have to look closely to see the larva in the comb. Can you find them?
It is not time to start harvesting honey yet, but It is still pretty interesting. My friend Evan sent me a message by using the ask a beekeeper part of this website. If anyone has a question let me know and I'll do my best to answer it. Evan wrote:
"I would like to know how you get honey out of a hive"
I'll post photos and explain more about how it works when its time to harvest the honey, but here is a short answer:
Here is a short video of a beekeeper harvesting honey:
Film by Tiger in a Jar
Staring at the dancing bees in an observation hive, it hits me. I love how these tiny creatures communicate. It looks like they're having fun dancing around while telling their sisters where to find some nectar.
Amanda's Sting Count
2013- 6 stings