I was working with my bees last week when I felt a pain in my thumb. I thought to myself, That hurt. Ouch! That still hurts really bad. It took a few seconds for me to realize I had been stung. I quickly scraped the stinger out of my thumb and sat down for a while to give myself and my bees a break.
If your going to be a beekeeper you're going to get stung. It happens. If you are not careful and hurt one of your bees they may attack to protect their hive. They think you might be robbing the hive of it's honey. That worker bee wasn't trying to be mean, she was trying to protect her sisters and her hive. She sacrificed her life to protect her home and family. I am not mad at my bees because I was stung, but I am sorry I wasn't careful enough and gentle enough with my bees.
Today I got to check out my bees and show them to my niece and nephews. My niece was a little scared ad first, but she was courageous and brave and got real close to see the bees working in the hive. She felt safe, wearing the veil. We saw brood in the larva and pupa stages, some pollen, and lots of honey. We even got to taste a little honey. Here is a letter my nephew wrote me after seeing all the bees. He wanted me to fill in the blanks like a worksheet.
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.
When I am teaching kids about being a scientist, I always focus on observations. Scientists make discoveries by using all five of their senses. As a beekeeper I have made many discoveries just by watching the bees, listening to their buzzing, tasting honey, and feeling the hive. I have learned a lot from other beekeepers, but I try to take time each week to learn from the bees. Every week when I check on my bees, I look at the frames to see what their building or storing up. Sometimes I get a chance to taste the honey and I'm always listening to make sure my bees are happily buzzing around. I can tell when my bees are upset when they start buzzing loudly. I can feel the warmth of the busy hive. When you want to learn about something, and really figure it out, you have to make observations. I have a little log book I carry with me so I can write down my observations. If I know how long it took the bees to build something I can estimate when I need to add another box to give them more room to grow. There is a lot to remember so it's nice to have my log book. Here is a photo of my last
For starters, what is brood? Brood is a word to describe the egg, larva, and pupa stages of an insects life. In these stages the insect doesn't really look like an insect with 6 legs and 3 body segments (head, thorax, and abdomen). In this photo below, you can see two stages of brood. Near the bottom right you can see small white specks. They may look like rice, but they are really eggs. As they grow they start to turn and curl. That is when they become larva. Larva look like small white or cream colored worms. You can see some larva to the left in the photo.
When the larva grows large enough to fill the cell it is ready for the pupa stage. The cell is capped and the brood begins to develop into the shape and eventually the color of a bee. In the Pupa stage the brood develops 6 legs, the head, thorax, and abdomen. In this photo you can see the larva growing to fill the cell and you can all see the capped cells. Both photos were taken by David Solovey. Thanks for the great shots.
Elijah, who is 5 1/2 sent me a message by using the ask a beekeeper part of this website. I think I have an interesting answer.
"Do bees sting each other on the back or something? I was wondering. I know what bees make -- they make honey!"
First a few facts:
There are a few bees, called guard bees that stay near the entrance to protect their hive from intruders. They inspect every bee that enters. 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. Here a a photo of a the entrance on a busy sunny day. As the hive population grows, I may make the entrance larger, but that will mean they will need more guard bees.
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. These insects may have been trying to rob the hive, by stealing their honey, the bees will attack. One day I found a dead Bumble bee in front of my hive. I wonder if he was trying to steal some honey.
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.
The queen bee likes the darkness of the hive, so sometimes it is hard to find her. I have looked every time that I checked on my bees and hadn't seen her yet. Today was my lucky day. I pulled out frame after frame searching for pollen, nectar, brood, and of course, Miss Royalty. I knew she would be deep in the hive. She was probably laying eggs. I found a few frames full of brood (baby bees). I knew I was getting closer. Then I spotted her. I yelled for T.J. to come and look and a few other beekeepers came to see her too. T.J. snapped a photo and her she is. Can you find which one is the Queen? She has a long abdomen.
If you look at the photo of the hive you will see a small ledge just outside the entrance. This is the landing area. The entrance is small so the bees need a place to slow down so they don't fly into a wall when they enter. About five feet in front of each hive is a very busy flight and landing area just like an airport. As a beekeeper I can use this information to stay out of their way. When I am checking my bees I enter from the back of the hive so the bees don't have to fly around me to get back inside. The first time I checked on them I didn't know this. I stood in front of the hive with hundreds of bees buzzing all around me. They had to fly around my legs just to get home. Now, I do my best to not drive them crazy or get in their way. After all, they are doing all the hard work.
Here is a funny clip that shows just how busy the landing area can be.
VideoGeeks: Shot on Red Epic at 300fps.
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