Bee Keeping 105

Lesson 5 – The Honey Bee

After learning about the woodenware that the bees live in, now we are ready to learn about the actual bees themselves. Honeybee can be spelt as one word or two. Both are correct.  In this online class you will learn some basic stuff.  However there is always more to learn.  Our motto is start simple.

There are three types of bees in a honeybee hive: The queen, drones, and the workers.  A honeybee hive has only one queen per hive. The hive must have a queen in order to grow and survive. Without the queen they will perish. The queen is the only bee in the hive that lays  fertilized eggs producing the next generation of bees. She lays between 1,000-3,000 eggs per day…yes, per day!  The queen is noticeably different in size and shape. She is longer than the worker bee and has longer legs, so she can back into a cell and lay an egg on the bottom. Once you become familiar with her appearance,

A marked queen

she is more easily spotted when examining the hive. It is good to examine your hives.  Some people say  every two weeks or so is reasonable.  But at least once a month is a good idea when the weather permitting.  You want to be sure the queen is alive and healthy. You may not always spot the queen, but you will spot the signs of a queen right hive.  So one way you can be sure she is in good health is to look for newly laid eggs. These are tiny white specks at the bottom of the cells.  Some people may refer to these eggs as rice, although the eggs are much much smaller than rice.  This tells you that she is alive and laying. The queen usually lives significantly longer than workers and drones, sometimes up to 2-3 years older.  The queen does have a stinger, but it does not have a barb like on a fish hook.  She rarely uses her stinger, and usually only in fighting other queens that may hatch in her hive. It is very rare for the beekeeper to be stung by a queen. You can often pick up queens and manipulate

Italian Queen

them.  They will unlikely sting you. Here is a picture of a Italian marked queen. The white dot on her back helps you easily identify her.  Not all queens are marked.  The other bees will attempt to clean off these dots so sometimes they do wear off.  The queen stays on the move and the other bees get our of her way. Sometimes it’s easy to spot the fast moving bee across the comb, this is likely the queen.  Watch carefully, and you can find her.  The cycle of a queen is the same as the worker and drone bee except she emerges on day 16. This is important, because if a hive is queenless, they will perish within one month without a queen laying eggs. So she must emerge quickly to save the hive.  Each hive must have only one queen. Without a queen the hive will perish unless they replace her quickly. The hive can raise their own queen by making a queen cell on the side or bottom of the comb. The cell resembles a peanut. To raise their own queen, a hive must have eggs less than three days old. By feeding very large amounts of royal jelly to an egg within the queen cell, they are able to raise a new queen.  When the queen emerges, she will pursue, fight and destroy any other queen in the hive and immediately begin giving orders to her new hive. Within a few days, she will take her mating flight, mate with several drones, return to her hive and begin laying eggs for the rest of her life.

Next, we have the drones which are the male bees. Their only objective is to mate with a virgin queen. They differ in size and shape from the worker bee in that they are stockier and have fuzzy butts,

Drone Honey Bee

have larger eyes that connect at the top of the head, usually appear slightly darker in color and do not have stingers. They CANNOT sting you. They eat and wander around looking for a virgin queen during early spring and summer. They are the only bee allowed to travel from hive to hive but typically stick to the hive in which they were born in. They are important to have so that queens can mate and begin laying eggs. Once the queen has mated with several drones during her mating flight, she will be able to lay eggs the rest of her life and will never mate again.  Drones live around 90 days. In the fall, in colder climates, the worker bees will begin to kill out the drones. They are no longer needed for winter, and they simply become a costly liability to the wintering hive. So, they are not allowed to winter in the hive, and die outside. In the fall, some beekeepers become concerned about the increased numbers of dead bees outside the hive entrance. A closer examination reveals these are the perishing drones who are no longer wanted.  All drones who successfully mate with a queen expire in doing so.The queen determines when she wants to lay an unfertilized egg which becomes a drone. The cycle of the drone is the same as the worker bee except that drones emerge from their cell on day 24, 3 days later than worker bees. The drone has no responsibility in the hive or in gathering nectar. Instead, they simply wait to mate with a virgin queen.

Worker Bees

Finally, the worker bee. Worker bees are classified as females and they do not lay eggs.  If a hive becomes queenless for a long period of time, a worker bee might begin laying unfertilized eggs as a result of the absence of the queen’s pheromone. However, this only produces more drones and will not help a dying hive. It is believed that this is one of the last things a dying hive can do, produce drones to mate with other queens. It is easy to spot eggs laid by a worker. There is usually more than one egg per cell, and they are seldom at the bottom of the cell since the worker bee is shorter than the queen and cannot drop the egg on the bottom.  Once your hive creates or has a laying worker it is nearly impossible to correct.  The worker bee will work in the hive until she is around 21 days old. Then, she is rewarded her wings and begins foraging for nectar, water, pollen and propolis. In the summer, she will work herself to death, usually only living 30 days during the peak of summer.  If your worker bee is born in October it may live much longer as it will not be a forager but winter bee that will focus on keeping the colony warm.  As a new beekeeper, become familiar with the difference between the queen, the worker and the drone honeybee. The growth cycle of the queen, drone and worker bee are all on different time lines. Let’s begin with the worker bees.  The queen lays an egg in the bottom of each cell within the brood chamber. When first laid, the egg appears like a piece of rice, only much, much smaller. The egg stands up in the bottom of the cell immedately after it is laid,

Worker,Queen, Drone

and will hatch, lie on the bottom of the cell after 3 days. From day 4 to day 9 it is known as a larvae and feeds upon royal jelly. Around day 10 the top of the cell is capped off and between day 10- 20, the larvae spins a cocoon in the cell and begins to transform into a bee, finally emerging from the cell in 19-22 days.  Many people believe that once a bee emerges from its cell, it flies out of the hive and begins to gather netcar. However, the new bee will not begin visiting flowers until 22 days after hatching as a new bee. Here’s what the worker bee will do first.  After she is born she will clean her cell and other cells and keep the brood warm for the first 2 days of her life. Then, from day 3-5 she is trusted with the task of feeding older larvae. From day 6-11 she is then assigned the task of feeding younger larvae. From day 12-17 she then begins to produce wax, build comb and transport food within the hive. From day 18-21 she is commissioned to guard the hive entrance from unwanted intruders. Finally, from day 22 through day 35 she flies out to gather pollen, nectar, propolis and water for the hive.

Honey bee larvae (rice)

 

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