June 20, 2005

Cool Bees: What It's Like on the Inside

corner of perfect frame drone and worker

Propolis is the yellow stuff you can see on the edges of this frame. It's also called "bee glue," and the girls use it to nail down everything that is too close together to allow comb building. It's made out of tree sap and so on, and— like everything else in the hive — it smells kind of good. This is a corner of a classically perfect frame from Colony 2: the middle has dark cells that contain their third or fourth round of eggs, the rows of pale empty cells contained honey that got eaten during the recent hot spell when no one could do any work, and the beautiful white capped cells contain home town honey. The bee with its butt sticking out is probably a drone doing what they are best at: eating food they did not earn.

The right picture illustrates some of how you tell a (slacker) drone from a worker. The drone is the bigger bee toward the lower left. He is wider, and his eyes are two fat ovals that are right next to each other and cover the top of his head. The theory is that he needs to extra vision in case he ever gets to actually DO something and flies off to try to mate with a virgin queen. The bee toward the upper right is a worker. She is maybe 3/4 the size of the drone, and her eyes are two little circles that kinda form a nice figure eight. SHE is busy looking after newly laid eggs (the small white lines you see inside the cells).

transfer wavy frame

Bees who come in from the field can carry a bunch of stuff: water, nectar, pollen, propolis. When they come in, however, they usually find a nurse bee (or otherwise "inside" bee) and transfer their nectar, etc., before flying off again. The bees at left are doing that. The top bee has her tongue sticking out, and the other bee has taken it (I think in her own mouth). The field bee is older, and probably received nectar from another bee only a couple of weeks ago, before beginning the last phase of her life.

Finally, both colonies seem to feature a kind of wacko form of comb building. It might look like the bees only worked a little on this frame before giving up, but the part that is empty was left that way because it was facing a frame with a great huge lump of honeycomb in exactly that place. As a matter of fact, the capped honey on this one (the white stuff) sticks out into the OTHER frame's space. I need to look this up to see if there is something I am doing wrong...

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