Sunday, July 25, 2010

Bees - post swarming check

I had a terrible night of anxiety the other night. I could not sleep thinking that my hive, which swarmed, was not OK and was lacking a queen. Although I had see queen cells, queens some times are eaten on their mating flight. This is the only time queens leave the hive, precisely for their safety. Lately I've seen a lot of birds hanging out by the hive catching the bees in flight and eating them. There are also spiders under the hive that jump on the bees before they can fly. My poor bees, the chances of survival for the queen are slim.
 On their mating flight, queens fly really high, up to 100 feet or more, and mate in air with up to 8 to 20 drones that can keep up the flight with her; she keep that sperm through her entire life and lays eggs with different DNA to maintain the genetic diversity in the hive.

Later that day, I found out that it was not my bees who were in danger but the bees at Hayes Valley Farm. Two of their hives were completely killed and a third hive was heavily damage by someone who sprayed insecticide in them. It was truly devastating to see so many dead bees, and I can not understand why would anyone do such a thing. Bees are essential to our survival. One third of all of our food is pollinated by bees, they are an incredible species that feed us, and we have so much to learn from them and their social structure.
We will be having a ceremony for the lost bees today at 4:30 at Hayes Valley Farm.

Back to my bees, I still had to do an examination on the hive to see if there was a queen. When a hive swarms it means that half the population of the hive leave with the queen in search of a new spot. So the old hive is left queen-less. The bees left behind make a new queen by feeding one of the fertile eggs with royal jelly, they also build a special longer cell for the queen to grow. I looks like this image below.  

It takes about 4 to 5 weeks for the queen to develop, emerge from her cell, go out into her mating flight and start  to lay eggs. It had been about 6 weeks since the swarm happened so it was time to look for the queen.

Since I had not opened the hive in those 6 weeks there was a lot of wax build up between boxes

I had to do some maintenance clean up which the bees never like. I had to smoke them so they would go hide and I could remove the wax without hurting any of them.

As usual I was not able to find the queen, but on the first brood frame that I pulled out I saw eggs and larva, this is a clear sign that there is a fertile laying queen, so it's all good.

Look at those beautiful cells full of eggs

and larva

OK, I realize this might be hard to see for the untrained eye, so here's a close up so you can see what I'm looking at, see the white dot in the center of the cell, that's a bee egg.

This close up is of a hatched egg turning into a larva. The egg hatches three days after it is laid and the larva feeds for around nine days before the cell is capped and the larva pupates. 
Total development time is 16 days for a queen, 21 days for a worker, and 24 days for a drone

A very successful hive exploration and queen presence makes a happy bee tender.
Amazing fact: a queen bee lays about 1500 eggs every day over a 3 to 5 year life after her one mating flight.

Here's the latest addition for our bees, a small drinking basin with circulating water, they seem to be enjoying it.

Big thanks to my beautiful, amazing and wonderful friend and photographer of this bee session Karina BorgoƱo

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