Thursday, December 7, 2017

Fun Fact: Honey Bee Waggle Dances

How bees talk to each other about flowers.
Fun Fact: A small percentage of older bees will act as scouts and search for new flowers. When she finds a good source of nectar or pollen she'll return to the hive and inform her hive mates where the source is by doing the Waggle Dance to recruit foragers to go and collect this food.
At the hive there will always be a reserve of forager bees that are waiting for this call to duty. Some people have said their bees are lazy because they're sitting around doing nothing but that's not the case. They're waiting for the scouts to come back and dance.
For food sources farther away, the scouts use the sun as a compass and they will do the Waggle Dance. The dance floor is actually chemically signposted by the bees.
She stands on the comb and shakes her body side to side at a rate of about 15 times a second. Then she does a Waggle Run in a circle back to the point where she started waggling, She repeats the waggle phase and again runs a full circle, but this time in the opposite direction to the starting point. The two paths together approximate a figure eight lying on it's side.
For feeding sites that are close by within 50 to 70 m the bees will perform a Round Dance. This dance reveals only some info--mostly about where to look and that it's close by.
Source: The Buzz about Bees and Dr Tom Seeley UTube videos
Note that the author Jurgen Tautz states that there are many more forms of communications that are unknown as yet.
Originally the waggle dancing was discovered by an Austrian biologist Karl Von Frisch in the 1940s.  Here is a video where they have recreated his experiment to learn how the bees communicate through the dances.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Fun Fact: Bees Have Pockets

Fun Fact: Bees have pockets.
Bees produce beeswax from their own bodies. On the underside of their abdomen are four pairs of wax glands. Under the wax glands are tiny pockets which hold the wax scales as they are being made.

When a wax scale is ready for use, the bee takes it out of the pocket by spiking it on the strong hairs of her back legs, and then passes it to the jaws.

There it is chewed, and other materials may be mixed with the wax. When it is soft, the worker puts it into place on the comb being built.

Source: Life of the Honey-bee - A Ladybird Natural History Book

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Fun Fact: How Bees "see" inside the hive

Fun Fact: When building combs in the darkness of the hive bees don't use visual sense.

They have cushions of sensory hairs at all their joints which are stimulated by gravity to move like a pendulum or lever relative to one another. This aids the bee to detect the in which direction the force of gravity acts.

(taken from Jurgen Tautz book The Buzz about Bees - this book has incredible macro photography of the bees).

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Fun Fact: Do you know about Filling Stations?

We looked at two types of chores bees do to heat up the wax and assist with keeping the brood temperature consistent.

When a bee dunks into a cell to warm up the adjacent cells, she burns off a tremendous amount of energy.

We look at how the bees will deliberately leave cells without brood in them and that these cells are used by heater bees.

The cells are also used as Filling Stations.  They're filled with nectar so that the heater bee, after exhausting all her resources to heat up the wax, can refuel herself.

See photo with the shine of nectar in the empty cells.

Next time you're inspecting the brood area, look to see if you can find a blank cell with nectar in it.  If you see one, that's a Filling Station.

This info has been taken from a fabulous book called The Buzz About Bees, Biology of a Superorganism.  It's expensive to buy but so worth it from what you can learn.  I haven't found this info in any other book.  The Buzz About Bees

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Fun Fact: More about Heater Bees

Fun Fact: Bees will leave about 10 to 15% of brood comb with no eggs.

This is deliberate. Heater bees who are hot from warming up will dunk their bodies into these empty cells and rapidly telescope their bodies for a period of time and then rest.

The pumping bee is heating up the wax and adjacent cells. Previously it was thought these empty cells were missed by the queen.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Fun Fact: Did you know about Heater Bees?

Fun Fact: Do you know what the largest organ in the hive is? It's the beeswax. Recent studies have shown that the bees communicate through the wax by vibrations that they make.

Wax also holds the warmth of bees' bodies and acts like an insulator. One chore for workers is to be a heater bee.

A bee may look like she's just standing on a capped cell doing nothing but if you looked at it with infrared you'll see she's pressing her thorax to the cell cap and she's contracting her flight muscles to transfer heat to the wax which will warm up the cell.

They can stay in this squatted position for as long as 30 minutes. The worker will have her antennae resting on the cell which is believed so she can check the temperature through the sensitive antennae.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Did you Know? Quick Facts

Did you know that bees deliberately build their honeycombs with a 15 degree slant?

This helps keep the honey from dripping out of the cells.

Did you know that when bees fly their bodies create static electricity?

This makes it much easier to collect pollen which attaches to their fur when they land on a flower.

Did you know that bees have four wings?

And that they have tiny teeth on the inner edges of their wings.

When they want to fly they attach the zipper-like teeth together so that they have two large wings for flying.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Blue Halo on non blue flowers attracts bees

Image: A “bat signal” for bees? Scientists have discovered that common garden flowers have an “invisible blue halo” for attracting beesA really good article on a new discovery about how flowers attract bees.  I've pasted it below and the link to the story is at Discovery of blue halo on flowers

A “bat signal” for bees? Scientists have discovered that common garden flowers have an “invisible blue halo” for attracting bees    Monday, November 13, 2017 by: 
(((Natural News) What was thought to be a disorder in petal surfaces of certain flowers turned out to be an ingenious adaptation to attract bumblebees which are usually found hanging around flowers with more blue and purple hues, scientists discovered.
The discovery came as a shock to the scientists when they found out, after some tests, that certain flowers have developed a way to attract bumblebees to their nectar by displaying a special glow that escapes the naked eye: an “invisible blue halo” caused by light being reflected on irregular petal surfaces. These nanostructures consist of microscopic ridges and grooves of varying sizes in height, width, and spacing.
Bees have a much broader range of color vision that enable them to see ultraviolet light. This draws them into flowers with blue pigment. Bumblebees have been known to favor flowers such as hydrangeas and delphiniums because of their blue and purple colors, but this set of bee-friendly plants are changing the pollination game.
Lead author Dr Edwige Moyroud, said: “We can’t distinguish between a yellow flower with a blue halo and one without – but our study found that bumblebees can.”
The scientists replicated the “invisible blue halo” through artificial surfaces, and surely enough, the light-manipulating surfaces attracted bumblebees foraging for nectar.
According to Professor Beverley Glover, director of Cambridge University’s botanic garden, “We had always assumed that the disorder we saw in our petal surfaces was just an accidental byproduct of life – that flowers couldn’t do any better.
“It came as a real surprise to discover that the disorder itself is what generates the important optical signal that allows bees to find the flowers more effectively. The disorder we see in petal nanostructures appears to have been harnessed by evolution and ends up aiding floral communication with bees.”
There has been no previous evidence of halo-producing petal ridges in the fossils of early angiosperms (flowering plants) but some examples of aura-generating petals were discovered among two major flowering groups that emerged around 100 million years ago during the age of the dinosaurs, which coincided with the evolution of bees. Some flower species today that can generate aura from their petals include Oenothera stricta (evening primrose), Ursinia speciosa (daisy), “Queen of the Night” (black tulip) and Hibiscus trionum (Venice Mallow or “Flower-of-an-Hour”).
“Our findings suggest the petal ridges that produce ‘blue halos’ evolved many times across different flower lineages, all converging on this optical signal for pollinators,” said Professor Glover.
The bees used the halos as a signal to distinguish which flowers contained nectar. With common flowering plants evolving to adapt to the bees’ ultraviolet-sensitive eyes, they ensure that the bees pollinate their flowers.
Bumblebees are one of the countless insects that are essential in the pollination of many flowering plants. Bees are considered as a  keystone species, meaning that their decline or absence in an ecosystem will bring about its collapse. (Related: More than 25,000 bumblebees fall from Oregon sky due to insecticide poisoning.)

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Beekeeper's Best Friend - A Tool Belt

I love this handmade leather tool belt.

It's made specifically for beekeepers and they are sold by a friend of mine who has been keeping bees for close to 30 years and also teaches beekeeping.

How many times have you had your hands full of bees and needed your hive tool and couldn't find it?

This belt eliminates losing the hive tool and keeps it close at hand.

What is on the belt?  There is a magnetized clip that you slap you hive tool onto.

The best part is you'll always know where the tool is and won't have to go looking for it.

I had my belt customized after a few years to have two magnetized clips because I often work with two hive tools at the same time when prying open hive bodies.

There's a small loop to hold a lighter, a queen cage and a pocket to add a queen marker, scissors, pliers or any other tool that comes in handy.

If anyone is interested in purchasing these hive tools, you can get them shipped internationally from either of these two bee suppliers in Ontario.

(the belt is shown in their PDF catalog that's online)

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Washboarding - Cleaning the hive

It's late August and the bees on all the hives are washboarding,

They move almost in synchronization back and forth.  It looks like a dance.

I find this a good sign of a healthy hive because they are doing well enough to spend time cleaning the outside of the hive.

This particular hive had the bees lined up in rows.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Lazy Bees ...Not

Have you ever seen your bees all standing around on the front porch and thought, are those bees lazy?

Well guess what - they're not..

Foragers will hang out on the front porch ready for duty. What they're waiting for is a forager to return and dance about a great location. Then all these workers will leave and take advantage of it.

What they're waiting for is a good enough patch to be worth their while so they're not just waiting for any dancing bee. They want a large grouping of the same flowers for their call to duty.

So, if you see bees waiting around that's what they're doing. Waiting for that sweet dance.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Chart of bee growth for all castes

This chart shows the daily progression of honey bee growth and cell building for workers, drones and queens.

It comes in very handy for queen breeders who refer to the chart when looking for young eggs that are between 1 to 3 days old to use for grafting.  The age of the egg is revealed by it's position in the cell (upright, slanted downward, etc)
I have my chart laminated and keep it with me in the bee van.  It's hard to remember all the details of when cells are capped and when they hatch so referring to the chart while at the bee yard is really helpful.

Note that queen cells always point downwards on the frame so the queen comes out from underneath, as picture.

The scan is a bit cut off on Day 24 where it shows the drone hatching.

I did a review of the book The Biology of the Honey Bee written by Mark L Winston.  It's a really good book and has a ton of information which you will find useful.  It's well worth the purchase.

Book Review: The Biology of the Honey Bee - this link is to my review on this blog.  It's worth a look because it mentions some bee glands and such which you may not know about...

Friday, August 18, 2017

Bees Hanging out on the front porch: Bearding

New beekeepers can get a little worried on hot summer days when they see a thick mass of bees that resembles a swarm hanging off the edge of the hive or hive platform.

That's not a swarm because when swarming the bees fly out away from the hive and land somewhere else close by and then gather together with the queen in a mass.

On hot days when the fanning bees are busy cooling the hive, the other bees that are home and not doing chores stay out of the hive.  Sometimes they hang out on the front porch.  Other times they gather in a mass.

Bees create air conditioning by bringing water into the hive.  They coat the water on the combs and then fan it.  You can try this at home by spraying water on concrete and then setting a fan on it at a safe distance.

Having the extra bees out of the way gives more room so ventilation is greatly improved.

And who doesn't enjoy sitting on the front porch on a nice day?

The bees will go back inside when they're ready.  Sometimes they'll stay out all night.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Something Really Simple to have on hand: Water

I keep any large water bottles and refill them with tap water.  I keep a couple in the bee vehicle and also in each beeyard.  Here's why:

  • in case of a spark or fire from the smoker
  • to poor on myself to cool off
  • to wash hands
  • to wash the bee brush which gets stuck up with honey as I sweep the bees off the combs
  • to rinse off a bee that's covered in too much honey
  • to refill any water dishes set out for the bees
  • to drink in case I don't have anything else with me

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Maybe we need to rethink how we keep bees

Here's a really interesting article on how beekeepers in Slovenia keep their bees:  Slovenian Beekeeping

The article lists the advantages and disadvantages of keeping bees this way.  Major advantages are that there's no lifting of boxes.  It's designed so that the frames slide out from the back.  That alone makes my knees want to swoon!

You work inside the hut and from the backs of the hives.  There's ventilation, bottom screen boards, etc.  And there's no wind or rain inside so you can work any time.

A disadvantage could be that the frames aren't Langstroth size... but if you build an outfit like this yourself you could build it to Langstroth size.

I'm an older beekeeper with really bad knees and a sometimes bad back.  I must admit that this set up is super appealing.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

We Wear Socks in the Bee Yard for a Reason

One thing I know for certain: Bees will never go up your pant legs when your hands are empty.

It'll always happen when you're holding a super so flowing over with bees that you can't set anything down quickly to deal with the little runner going angrily up your leg.You won't even have a hand free to (God forbid) squish her.

When Dad was new to the bee yard he wore the bee gear to use the whipper-snipper to clear grass from in front of the hives. But he forgot one minor detail. To put the socks over the pant legs.

The bits of grass where like shrapnel on the fronts of the hives (I got him to stop and to only use the lawn mower out front) but it was too late for him. Angry bees had gone up his pant legs. He ran to the car and the next minute his pants were around his ankles while he shooed no more than five bees out of his pants.

For me, it happens frequently when I'm shaking bees off something over the hive. There's always a few that hit the ground and often they end up my pant legs. I try stamping my feet really hard which can often knock them down. Then I raise my leg and shake. But more often than not they're still there.

This frustration is easily avoided by pulling your socks up over your paint legs.

One time I had bare feet in my work boots and I ended up later in the day going up a ladder to collect a swarm. This kind of unexpected activity is where you get caught. I had no socks to pull up over my pants. So put an extra pair of socks in your bee vehicle.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Washboarding - Housework for Bees

If you've taken up beekeeping then it won't be long until you see a chore bees do outside the hive.  It's called washboarding.

The bees will be next to each other with a bit of space between then and they will appear to be moving in a rhythmic movement back and forth.

They don't always move in sync but they can often appear to be.

What are they doing?  They're using their tongues to clean the outside of the hive.

They'll mostly do this outside the entrances of the hive.

This is a task that I often see bees do once the population is built up so in a lot of ways it's an indicator of a strong hive.

See the video of the bees washboarding below.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Best Homemade Protein Patty Recipe for Honey Bees

A couple years ago our bee club had a presentation by one of the Tech Team members of the Ontario Bee Association.

The team had done an extensive study  to find out what is the best protein supplement to feed bees.

They used all of the well known brands available on the market and also visited the USA to find out what the commercial beekeepers were using as a supplement.

They tried them all and studied the results on the hives tested.

The winning recipe came from commercial beekeepers in the USA.  They've posted the easy homemade recipe on the Ontario Bee Association's website (Ontario Bee Assocation) and you can view it at:

Homemade Protein Supplement Recipe for Honey Bees

Friday, June 30, 2017

Visual Cues for Bees

I'd read about visual cues for bees and I started to put different stickers on the fronts on my hives to help bees get back to the right hive.

Ever since I lost a queen who I found dead from a sting outside a hive I've added visual cues for the bees.  She had been on a mating flight and even still had drone parts in her rear.  I believe when she returned from her mating flight she went into the wrong hive.  At that time I had both hives identically painted and sitting side by side.

[photo - stung dead queen after returning from mating flight]

Now if the hives are side by side I change the orientation of the front, even if it's only by 10 degrees because the differences aid the bees in returning.

A few weeks ago I collected a small swarm from Home Depot.  They had landed on patio furniture at the front door.  As I swept the bees into the box I could tell these were young and inexperienced bees with a virgin queen because the swarm was small and that they were home scenting in multiple locations and took longer to figure everything out.

[photo - original first two hives with identical painting sitting side by side]

I wanted this hive placed in my yard with lots of drones so the queen could get mating done safely and get to the business of laying eggs.  I put a piece of black gorilla tape about 1 1/2" to the left of their top entrance as a visual cue.  I especially wanted their new queen to get back into the right hive after her mating flights.

Black tape on green super to the left of the entrance & new purple super on top[Photo - green super was the top box with tape marker to the left of entrance.  New purple super added and tape moved up to the new entrance]

A few weeks later I checked and the queen was busy laying and they had capped and opened brood.  I went to add a super and I removed the tape from the lower box and moved it up to the same position on the new super.

What was really cool was to watch how the returning foragers focused on that black tape.  They flew to it, hovered for barely a second and then glided 1 1/2" to the right and went right into the hive.  They had instantly found the new adjusted entry without confusion because of the tape marker.
[Video - original marker near entrance on top green super]

[Video - After new purple super added and tape marker moved up as a visual cue for the entrance]

That day was a really busy foraging day so the bees were returning in large numbers.  So, sorry I didn't video that day but on another swarm hive I videoed the same thing so I hope you can see how they use the tape as a locator for their entrance.

Each piece of tape on the front of each hive is placed differently so avoid confusion.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Kelly Kettle a Beekeeper's Friend

While camping on an overseas trip my friend got out this metal thing that looked like a canister and in less than five minutes we all had hot coffees in our hands.  Wow.  Very nice to have a warm up on a cold afternoon.

It's called a Kelly Kettle and is an Irish design that's been used for many years   The kettle sits on a base where a small fire is created.  The intense heat rises up like a chimney through the hollow center of the kettle and rapidly heats the water.

It takes almost no fuel (leaves, twigs) to create the small fire.  There are also accessories that sit in the bottom fire bowl to cook food or a pot rest that sits on the top of the kettle.

This is great for camping and hiking as well.  Sold by it comes in a lighter weight aluminum or a heavier steel that lasts longer.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Bee Culture E-Newsletter

If you didn't know already, there's an excellent and free bee newsletter that you can sign up for to receive an email each day.

Bee Culture is a magazine and the author Kim Flottum wrote the much acclaimed Backyard Beekeeper's book, among others.

They have search robots that troll through the internet looking for bee related news and then they send out articles.

Today's article is about a recent discovery that bees can see far better than scientists realized.

You can view it and also sign up on their website:

Bee Culture - Bees See Better

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Wax Moth Caterpillars saving us from plastic

This short video is very interesting.  A beekeeper and scientist happened to notice how wax moths chew plastic very effectively and now they're exploring the possibility of using them to solve our plastic problems.  More info at the link below

Wax Moth Caterpillars

I have seen how these caterpillars not only chew the wax but also the wood of the frames.  They've got quite the strong mouth parts to be able to do that.