In my first post on Bees, on 11th May, I mentioned our neighbour had begun to keep bees. In fact, his daughter has taken over that responsibility and now has about 30 hives! So today, we’re going to look at apiculture from a more personal perspective.
Below we see our neighbor and his wife opening up the hive to check that all is well. You will notice they are wearing protective suits and gloves in white. When I joined them to take pictures, they advised me not to wear anything black. Bees are said to associate dark colours with predators – bears and badgers – and can go on the defensive. Current thinking indicates it may be smells that are more disturbing than colour – but why take chances!? They are also wearing netting on part of their helmets. Bees are attracted to one’s breath and a sting on the face can be very painful.
Ioannis has removed the frame from the hanging container and is inspecting it. The close-up below shows the bees still hard at work, despite the intrusion.
The orange-colored sealed inner
cells contain the larvae, while the darker cells on the outside of the frame
contain honey. So the frame serves as both nursery and pantry!
Above we can see the beekeeper tools of the trade. He has a smoker to lull the bees. The smoke can mask the pheromones released by the guard bees once the hive is breached. It also encourages the bees to eat, a response to the possibility of their having to leave the hive because of fire. Essentially the smoke reduces the likelihood of the bees attacking.
He will feed the bees to ensure they survive
the winter. He has both pollen patties and syrup which you can see him adding
in the picture below.
And now for my final section:
Interesting information on bees
- Soldier bees perform security guard duties all their lives.
- Regular worker bees will change duties according to their age and the needs of the colony. Before undertaking a new duty, their brain chemistry changes!
- After a bee stings, it dies. On stinging, it leaves behind some muscle and nerves and part of its digestive tract. It is this abdominal rupture that kills the bee.
- Bees fly at about 20 miles per hour.
- Bees have five eyes: 2 large side compound eyes with lots of tiny lenses as well as three ocelli which are simple insect eyes with light-sensitive cells.
- They communicate via pheromones as well as by ‘dancing’ to convey the location of food sources.
- Bees are experts at geometry: the honeycomb cell is the most efficient structure in nature as it uses the least amount of wax in its construction.
- Bees are expert mathematicians. On receiving information, say of six separate food locations, they can calculate the shortest possible route to reach all the flowers. So that’s why we talk of making a bee-line somewhere!
I think the information that really made me think was the fact that it takes the lifetimes of 12 working bees to make one teaspoon of honey. That’s an awful lot of effort- so bear that in mind next time you sample some great Greek yoghurt and slather it with delicious honey.
And finally a little sketch of mine
in homage to the honeybee - respect!