HIVE: Re-Direct: http://bellowsbees.blogspot.com

26 June 2014

The Short Answer (TSA)

In a “swarm,” sometimes, as many as half of the bees in a honey bee colony will leave in one giant group (or “swarm”).  This departing swarm of bees will establish a new colony in a new location.

A colony of honey bees has many worker bees, a few drones, but only one reproductive queen. The queen is the only reproductive female in the hive and is, or will be, the mother of all of the hive’s worker bees and drones.

A honey bee colony may reach a certain size ideal for breeding and raising as many young bees as possible. But, with good weather and a lot of available food, the number of bees in a colony can grow until there are too many bees for a hive and its queen to handle.

When the number of bees becomes too large, the queen bee, together with a large group of worker bees, may leave the hive. This large group of departing bees is called a swarm.

Swarms are natural in the spring. Often the “old” queen will leave with half or more of the old colony’s population to form a new colony in a new location. The old colony will be the scene of, what is sometimes, a violent combat among newly hatched queen bees (called “virgin queens”).   Finally, the single surviving young queen will become the new queen of the colony.

Though rare, if the colony is large enough, there may be “afterswarms” later in the season. In an afterswarm, one or a small number of virgin queens will leave the hive with a large enough number of the colony’s bees to establish yet another colony in yet another location. If more than one virgin queen leaves with a single afterswarm, the young queens will “get along” until a new location is found.  But, after the new colony is started, the young queens will engage in a cut-throat competition until only one surviving queen bee is left. She will become the reproductive queen of the new colony.

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6 November 2014

The Short Answer (TSA)

The Kenyan Top-Bar Hive is a variation of the horizontal top-bar Hive. The Kenyan’s name is often abbreviated with the acronym, “KTBH.”

In nature, a colony of honeybees will build a structure, a shelter, called a beehive. When bees are “kept” by “beekeepers” for commercial purposes, special pre-built hives are provided for the bees. For many centuries, commercial beekeeping was devoted to honey production. But over the last 40 years, the market has changed.

Now, beekeepers rent the services of their honey bees as pollinators. That is, honey bees pollinate flowers so that the blossoms will produce seed. This seed, in turn, will produce the next year’s crop.

Seasonally, many beekeepers transport their hives over long distances to areas in which pollination services are needed. So, commercial beehives must be easy to move. The Langstroth hive is the most popular with commercial beekeepers because it offers convenience in honey production and mobility

The Kenyan Top Bar Hive isn’t mobile. So, this hive is of little interest to commercial beekeepers renting out their bees for pollination.  But, the KTBH is an extremely popular design among commercial beekeepers exclusively engaged in honey production as well as with amateur beekeepers interested in honey for their own personal use.

KTBH

KTBH

The KTBH is basically a long wooden box. But, unlike the typical commercial hive, which uses frames that slide in and out like drawers, the KTBH hive uses bars. Wooden bars are inserted so that they extend across the top of the box. Honeybees will use the bars to build honeycombs (and brood combs in which they raise their young).

The bees use the bars as a base from which they build downward. This produces honeycombs hanging from individual bars. When the bees have built a full comb and stocked it with honey, the bar holding that comb can be removed and the honey harvested. Then, the empty bar is replaced, and the bees will begin to build and restock another comb with honey.

The KTBH is quite different from the ancient Greek style of beehive, but many have compared the two because both use bars. Each of these hives, the Greek and KTBH, has an entirely different shape and dimensions requiring quite different maintenance practices. But each uses removable bars in a similar way placing them above the open container holding the bee colony. In both, bees are encouraged to build honeycomb’s hanging from the bars. And, the bars will, later, be removed to harvest the honey.

The history of the KTBH is a bit of a surprise. The prototype of the Kenyan hive was developed entirely in Canada. Dr’s Maurice Smith and Gordon Townsend of the Canadian University of Guelph developed what is now called the KTBH under the sponsorship of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

How did Kenya get into the act?

The actual hives were first used in a project in Kenya. Popular and successful, the “Kenyan” hives gained their reputation while they were exclusively used in that country. Kenyan fans of the new hive raved about it in the media. And . . . one can’t help wondering if this didn’t help the early marketing of the hive in North America and Europe. After all, who wants a hive developed down the street, when you can own a strange and exotic beehive from Africa?

The hive changed in a number of ways during its first use in Kenya. There are more than a few mean and aggressive animals in Africa who like honey every bit as much of as the American and European honey bear. So, the KTBH was designed to hang from trees or poles. This made it more difficult for the largest honey robbers to reach the hive and, also, protected the hive from invasion by a variety of large and aggressive ground-crawling insects.

But, you don’t have to hang this hive. Different versions use legs. Other versions change the shape and dimensions of the original KTBH. Custom designed and built hives are extremely popular particularly with first-time, amateur beekeepers.

After all, a custom built hive can allow the owner a degree of personal expression. The ideal, individual design can accent the appearance of the owner’s home and landscaping. That is why so many ignore a piece of good advice: buy mass manufactured KTBH hives of a standard size with standardized parts.

A warning.

Custom built hives are wonderful, until a necessary part breaks in the middle of a season. Then, the original builder, or an artisan of equivalent skill, must be found to hand-make a replacement. Custom parts are expensive and, when they must be built very quickly, the buyer is put in a poor position to negotiate the best price.

In other words, those who can’t resist custom designs would be well advised to take up a second hobby after beekeeping – carpentry.

M Grossmann of Hazelwood, Missouri

& Belleville, Illinois

About the Author

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HIVE: What is a “Virgin Queen Bee”?

26 June 2014

The Short Answer (TSA)

            Only with reproduction is a honey bee of the “queen” type recognized by a colony’s bees as “their queen.” In one sense, the term “virgin queen bee” describes a queen honey bee before she, “formally,” becomes queen of the colony.

Because of diet, “queen” honey bees develop differently than most of the “brood” (young bees) in a hive. The key difference is that, normally, only queen bees are able reproduce. However, before mating and reproduction, a very active and “cut-throat” competition among the young queens of a colony ends with only one surviving “queen.”

But, until that surviving queen mates, she is not recognized by the colony’s bees as the “queen.” In fact, with reproduction, the young queen produces a special pheromone. That pheromone gives her an odor that causes the rest of the colony’s bees to “recognize” her as the one and only queen.

            A “queen bee” is the “queen” of a colony of honey bees. Honey bees live in colonies and build rather complex structures called hives. A queen is the mother of all of the hive’s population including the (female) “worker bees” and (male) “drone” bees. So, in each colony, there is only one reproductive female. That female is called the queen.

So, you have wonder. What does it take to become the queen? Surprisingly, the queens are selected by the worker bees themselves. The queen’s eggs are cared for by the worker bees. After the eggs have hatched, the young bee larvae continue to be raised by worker bees.

The members of the brood (young bees of the colony and hive) are raised in comb — not unlike a honeycomb. But the separate “brood comb” is used only to house the young bees — the members of the growing brood. As the worker bees nurture the brood, they select certain larvae and feed them a special diet of special food. The diet causes these larvae to develop into reproductive queen bees.

From there, the young queen’s life becomes an adventure. With the hatching of the new young queens, the old queen may depart the hive with a “swarm.” That is, the old queen will leave with some, but not all, of the workers in the hive. The swarm will find a new location. There, they will build a new hive and form a new colony. When you find out what happens next, you’ll understand why the old queen, sometimes, wants to “get out of town” as fast as possible.

The first young hatching “virgin” queens to emerge from their “cells” will hunt out any other young queens and try to kill them. Young queens don’t fight fair. Rivals will be stung to death as they are emerging from the cells of the brood comb. Sometimes, not content to wait for their potential rivals to actually emerge from their brood cells, young queens will burrow into existing cells and to sting the resident-rival to death.

Although the old queen may have left with a swarm of followers to form a new colony, the process may be repeated with yet another swarm leaving the colony with a group of (surviving) young queens. The group of young queens will get along until the new colony is established. But once the colony is formed, the virgin queens will have the same type of cut-throat power struggle as they did when they first emerged from their cells. They will fight to the death until there is only one left.

Then, the last virgin queen will mate. After mating, the queen bee releases a pheromone that causes the colony’s worker bees to recognize her as the only queen. And all will be well, until new queen becomes too old or ill to reproduce. With the queen’s illness or infertility, the worker bees (the queen’s former “loyal” subjects) will turn on her. The workers will patiently wait until a new young queen bee has hatched. Then, they will crowd around the old queen so densely that she cannot escape. Finally, the worker bees will sting the old queen to death.

All-hail the new queen!

 

 

 

 

 

HIVE: Re-Direct: http://bellowsbees.blogspot.com

June 2014

The Short Answer (TSA)

            In a honey bee colony, the brood is the population of young honey bees, in the egg, larva and pupa stages. Honey bees are all the offspring of a colony’s single queen. But the brood is raised by the worker bees. Worker bees cannot reproduce.

A honey bee colony lives in a structure called a beehive, which contains “combs.”  Made of beeswax, the comb, itself, is a structure made up of small six-sided cells.  Honey or pollen is stored in some combs.  While other combs, called brood combs, are used for the rearing of young honey bees.

The queen bee tends to lay eggs in a circular pattern in the brood comb. When the eggs hatch, the workers select a few of the larvae as potential queens.  These larvae are placed in special brood comb cells called queen cups. The workers continue to feed the potential queens royal jelly. And it is the diet of royal jelly that causes the larvae chosen to be queens to grow into fully reproductive female bees.

The worker bees feed the rest of the larvae royal jelly for only first three days of life.   Then, those larvae, not chosen to be queens, are switched to a diet of nectar or diluted honey and pollen. This diet assures that the rest of the young larvae will develop into worker bees and will not grow into reproductive adults.  Male, “drone,” bees develop from unfertilized eggs and are placed in slightly larger cells of the brood comb.  Young drones are fed the same diet as the worker bees.

The growing worker bees will stretch out in a cell and spin a cocoon for themselves. When this happens, the nurturing worker bees “cap” the cell. The young bees in their cocoons inside the capped cells enter the pupa stage of their development. During this time, the group is called a “capped brood.” The young worker bees emerge from their cells in about two weeks.

Immediately after a young queen comes out of her cell, she will seek out and try to kill her sister queens. The queens that come out of their cells first will sometimes go so far as to find and burrow into the cells of their sister queens stinging them to death before they have emerged from their cells. There can be several such contests leading up to the “selection” of the colony’s next queen.

Commercial beekeeping hives have removable drawers containing different combs. Certain drawers are positioned to support brood combs. Others are placed to encourage their use as honeycombs. These drawers make harvesting the hive’s honey much easier for the beekeeper and much less disruptive for the bees.

Mark Grossmann of Hazelwood, Missouri

HIVE: Re-Direct: http://bellowsbees.blogspot.com

12 June 2014

The Short Answer (TSA)

An apiary is a small area in which the hives of domesticated honey bees are kept by beekeepers.  “Bee yard” is another word of an apiary.  And the size of the front or back yard of an average home is about the size of a traditional apiary.

Still as late as the 1960’s, farmers would rent (for honey) a small area of land to a beekeeper as an apiary. In those distant days, beekeepers would ask a farmer’s permission to move their hives, temporarily, near the farmer’s blooming crops to allow the bees to gather honey and pollen.   Then, beekeeping was about honey production.

Everything has changed.

Now apiaries are a home base where beekeepers keep their moveable hives when it isn’t pollination season. During that season, when the crops bloom, beekeepers engage in what can be an almost frenzied flurry of activity as they transport their hives, sometimes over hundreds of miles, to “pollination sites.”

Why? Because, today, beekeepers make most of their money (and they “do well”) providing pollination services. Honey production has become almost a sideline.

What happened?

Giant farms with a “giant” amount of crops.  And a shortage of bees. In the first half of the 20th Century, bees were plentiful. No farmer had to go out searching for bees to pollinate. Bees were so numerous, they were sometimes a nuisance. Now, fortunes (fortunes!) ride on the successful pollination of crops — a pollination that must happen in a very narrow window of time.  Beekeeping, although not a popular profession, in modern times, is certainly a profitable one.

The main challenge to keeping a modern apiary is location. During the off-season (that is all seasons other than pollination season), honey bees must eat and raise their brood (young bees). Locating an apiary requires that there be sufficient sources of pollen and honey within a radius that is comfortable for the type of bees kept.

Sometimes, a beekeeper can’t choose the location of the apiary. Then, the bee population and the number of hives must be adjusted to match the food supply within a comfortable distance.

HIVE: Re-Direct: http://bellowsbees.blogspot.com

20 November 2014

The Short Answer (TSA)      

A Poppleton Hive is a type of long box hive designed and used by O. O. Poppleton of Florida in the first half of the 20th century. A “Long Box Hive” is a single story hive that is arranged horizontally instead of vertically like most modern commercial hives.

You can think of the long box hive as just that — a long box. The top of the box opens or has vertical drawers that may be removed from above. The drawers/frames are arranged sort of like books in a bookcase laying on it back. Each drawer contains a frame to accommodate one comb. The frames are arranged and hive designed to group brood combs toward the center and honeycombs toward either end.

This allows drawers with honeycombs (and, therefore, honey) to be removed, examined or the honey harvested with the least disturbance to the rest of the hive. The broodcombs, in which the queen lays her eggs and the young honeybees are nurtured to maturity, are “doubly undisturbed” by not only being in separate drawers, but in a relatively “distant” and distinct location from the honeycombs.

Poppleton Hive

Poppleton Hive

The Poppleton, like most long box hives, is a deeper hive than the modern vertically stacked commercial hive. So, sometimes, a long box uses proportionally larger frames than the standard commercial hive, but still incorporates the Langstroth dimensions into its frames and drawers to assure one, separate comb to a frame.

A particular advantage was provided by the concentration of the broodcombs in the middle of the long box. During the winter season of honeybee inactivity, the two extreme ends of these hives could be stuffed with insulation materials reducing the total area of hive. This smaller area, limited to the broodcombs, made keeping the hive warm in winter a much easier job for the inactive honeybees.

The Poppleton was particularly popular in the southeastern U.S. in the early part of the 20th century. Then, as now, weight seemed to a primary consideration and the Poppleton was designed with the “older” beekeeper in mind. While a standard commercial Langstroth hive was stacked in vertical modules that could, with combs, reach weights up to 50 pounds per module, the horizontal Poppleton required the beekeeper only to remove individual (and relatively light-weight) drawers from above.

Paradoxically, the light weight and easy access to the drawers did nothing to reduce the weight of the entire long box. As a matter of fact, the greater total volume of the long box made the “whole hive” much heavier and more difficult to move. It was primarily this weight and mobility issue that caused most all long box hives to fall from popularity.

Today, the long box is making a comeback with amateur, if not commercial, beekeepers. Although it remains to be seen whether today’s young amateurs, with the passing of years, will find the weight of the long box an issue, the concern with weight and the (now, the word is) “mature” beekeeper is no less central with light-weight components being a central design feature of both the Dartington modular hive and its manufactured sibling, the partially plastic Beehaus.

Mark Grossmann of Hazelwood, Missouri & Belleville, Illinois

About the Author

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HIVE: Re-Direct: http://bellowsbees.blogspot.com

12 June 2014

The Short Answer (TSA)

            A “queen bee” is the “queen” of a colony of honey bees. Honey bees live in colonies and build rather complex structures called hives. A queen is the mother of all of the hive’s population including the (female) “worker bees” and (male) “drone” bees. So, in each colony, there is only one reproductive female. That female is called the queen.

So, you have wonder. What does it take to become the queen? Surprisingly, the queens are selected by the worker bees themselves. The queen’s eggs are cared for by the worker bees. After the eggs have hatched, the young bee larvae continue to be raised by worker bees.

Together, the eggs and the larvae are called the colony’s “brood.” The members of the brood are raised in comb — not unlike a honeycomb. But the separate “brood comb” is used only to house the young bees — the members of the growing brood. As the worker bees nurture the brood, they select certain larvae and feed them a special diet of special food called royal jelly.  The diet causes these larvae to develop into reproductive queen bees.

From there, the young queen’s life becomes an adventure. With the hatching of the new young queens, the old queen may depart the hive with a “swarm.” That is, the old queen will leave with some, but not all, of the workers in the hive. The swarm will find a new location. There, they will build a new hive and form a new colony. When you find out what happens next, you’ll understand why the old queen, sometimes, wants to “get out of town” as fast as possible.

The young hatching queens are called “virgin queens.” The first young queen to emerge from her “cell” will hunt out any other young queens and try to kill them. Young queens don’t fight fair. Rivals will be stung to death as they are emerging from the cells of the brood comb. Sometimes, not content to wait for their potential rivals to actually emerge from their brood cells, young queens will burrow into existing cells and to sting the resident-rival to death.

Although the old queen may have left with a swarm of followers to form a new colony, the process may be repeated with yet another swarm leaving the colony with a group of (surviving) young queens. The group of young queens will get along until the new colony is established. But once things settle down, the virgin queens will have the same type of cut-throat power struggle as they did when they first emerged from their cells. They will fight to the death until there is only one left.

Then, the last virgin queen will mate. After mating, the queen bee releases a pheromone that causes the colony’s worker bees to recognize her as the only queen. And all will be well, until new queen becomes too old or ill to reproduce. With the queen’s illness or infertility, the worker bees (the queen’s former “loyal” subjects) will turn on her. The workers will patiently wait until a new young queen bee has hatched. Then, they will crowd around the old queen so densely that she cannot escape. Finally, the worker bees will sting the old queen to death.

All-hail the new queen!

 

Mark Grossmann of Hazelwood, Missouri

HIVE: Re-Direct: http://bellowsbees.blogspot.com

12 June 2014

The Short Answer (TSA)

Royal Jelly is food or nutrition rich substance fed to honey bee larvae and adult queen bees. Royal Jelly is also harvested and sold as a human dietary supplement.

Royal Jelly is secreted from the glands of worker honey bees and fed to all young bee larvae during the first three days of life.  But after the third day, royal jelly feedings stop except for a small group of larvae chosen by the worker bees to become queens.

Because this small group is continually fed a diet of nothing but royal jelly, they grow into reproductive female adults – queens. So, how and when royal jelly is fed to each member of the growing brood will determine which bees become workers and which become reproductive queens.

A protein, sometimes called royalactin, is believed to be active ingredient in royal jelly that causes larvae to develop into reproductive queens. The worker bees produce so much royal jelly that the developing queens are literally bathed in it. This excessive production is fortunate because it allows excess amounts to be harvested.

So, royal jelly isn’t just for queens. This nutrition rich substance is harvested and processed into dietary supplements for human beings. While many disputed claims are made about the health benefits of royal jelly, this substance is really and actually extremely rich in vitamins, minerals, proteins and fatty acids required in human nutrition.