Friday, January 1, 2021

What is a Swarm?

Have you ever seen a cartoon or show where a large cloud of bees chase someone, flying over their head and stinging them everywhere? That's a swarm, right? Thankfully, a real swarm is much more gentle and an interesting phenomenon!

In a normal hive taken care of by a beekeeper, a honeybee hive is made out of wood, and can be stacked to add more room for bees. One hive of bees has between 60,000 to 80,000 bees, with the majority of that number being workers. Sometimes, the honeybees may feel overcrowded in their home. After all, it is a large population for such a small home. If the hive isn't getting enough honey supers added for the bees to store their honey in, they prepare to fly away and make a new home somewhere else in the wild. Half of the bees will search for a perfect spot to create their new home, while others will stay at their current home and continue to live there.

In preparation for the swarm, the queen of the hive has to stop laying eggs about two weeks before they leave. She is too heavy to fly herself outside of the hive, so when she discontinues laying eggs, her body will shrink a little smaller, so she can carry her own weight and fly with the swarm. Before she stops laying eggs, she has to prepare new queen cups for the old half of the hive. She will then lay eggs in the queen cells, and the workers will feed them their royal jelly. Once the old queen and the half of the hive leaves or "swarms," the new queens will be born, and they will have to fight to the death for a new queen to take over.

When the swarm of bees look for a new area for their home, they like to find places high and away from living things, or in small and dark spaces, where they feel safe. During a swarm, honeybees are very docile. This is because they do not have anything to protect yet. They need to have the queen lay more eggs, and they need to start building their new home so they can store honey and pollen again. Sometimes bees will swarm in places that humans aren't very fond of, so they will call a beekeepers to safely remove the swarm, and rehome them back into a wooden hive. 

If you ever happen to see a swarm, it's best to stay a safe distance away, call an experienced beekeeper, and let them do the rest!

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

What do Bees Eat?

Did you know that honeybees eat more than just honey? They eat a couple different types of food to stay healthy and have energy to work!

Of course honeybees eat honey! They make it from nectar, the sugary substance flowers make to invite the bees to visit. The honeybees gather this nectar to make into honey. You can learn about how honeybees make honey in our past post called “How Do Honeybees Make Honey?” The honey they eat is the source of carbohydrates and gives them energy. Did you know that honey is a good energy source for humans too!
The pollen baskets are packed full!

Honeybees also eat pollen (a powdery substance flowers make) for their protein. They mix the pollen with nectar and pack it onto their back legs into their pollen baskets. They then carry the pollen home to feed to the brood (baby bees). This pollen keeps the honeybees healthy so they can fight off infection in the hive and help the baby bees grow big and strong.
The milky substance inside the cells is royal jelly.

Royal jelly is a milky, protein rich substance that the honeybees feed special eggs to make them become a queen bee. If the egg wasn’t fed royal jelly then it would become a worker bee, but when an egg is fed the special food it supercharges their development so that they are able to lay eggs and become a queen bee. Royal jelly is made from glands in the bees’ head. Some people like to eat royal jelly because it has so many healthy proteins in it. While it doesn’t turn you into a queen bee it can be a great way to keep yourself healthy.

Lastly, honeybees drink water. All living animals need water and honeybees are no different. They look for slow moving sources of water because honeybees can drown. Pollinating and collecting nectar is a hard job and the worker bees need somewhere safe to land to take a drink of water. We wrote back in February about how you can build your own bee water bath!

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Beekeeping Tools and Uniform

Beekeepers use many different tools and protection when they work with their honeybees. All items have an important role to play when beekeepers tend to their hives. 

Beekeepers wear a special uniform called a beekeeping suit. With that suit connects a face and head covering called a veil. This is worn so that honeybees can stay away from their face, making it easier for them to work, and have a less likely chance of being stung. They have an option to wear gloves over their sleeves, to prevent being stung on the hands. If beekeepers are comfortable enough, some do not enjoy wearing gloves, because they know that honeybees are gentle, and they find it easier to work in the hive without the extra fabric of the gloves covering their hands. The suit is designed to zip up across your abdomen and chest, and zip around your neck. The ankle and wrist parts of a suit are cinched, so no bees may get in through those areas.

Beekeepers use what's called a hive tool in the hive, to separate sticky frames, removing the top of the hive, and pulling frames up when they are stuck. A hive tool almost acts similar to a crowbar. Between honey and propolis, everything may stick together, and to separate everything in a calm, gentle way, it's difficult to do so with just your hands. Hive tools get the job done, and some beekeepers discover their own different ways they may use them other than prying sticky substances apart.

Smokers are a very helpful tool for beekeepers. Smokers have two different parts, the chamber and the bellows. The chamber is where a beekeeper will start a fire using anything dry and flammable, such as leafs, rope, boxes, egg cartons, etc. After fire is going and a good smoke is produces, beekeepers will cover the chamber with the spout lid. The bellows is squeezed to push smoke out of the chamber. Beekeepers use the smoker in the front of the hive, and at the top, after the hive top is removed to check bees. What the smoker does is it tricks the honeybees into thinking there is a fire. They then will eat honey and become tired, and go to the bottom of the hive and calm down. This helps the beekeeper look at frames and make sure everything is going smoothly, without having all of the honeybees at the top of the hive or piled on the frames. 

Just like any career, beekeepers always come prepared in a uniform and have special tools they use to get the job done!
Bee Bucks – The Cost of Beekeeping - Backyard Beekeeping

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Honey Pecan Pie with video

Try 2020 American Honey Queen, Mary Reisinger's favorite fall recipe - Honey Pecan Pie! Here's a video showing you how to make it.

Here's the recipe so you can try it yourself!

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Make Your Favorite Recipes with Honey!

Cooking with honey is fun! You can use your favorite type of honey and end up with a completely different taste in the end. If you make these simple changes to your favorite recipe, it will come out with the same texture you love, and even tastier!
  1. Reduce your oven temperature by 25°F if baking – You don’t want your dish to burn or get overly brown!
  2. Use honey for half the measurement of sugar – Honey naturally tastes sweeter than sugar, so you don’t need to use as much to get the right sweetness.
  3. Reduce liquids by ¼ cup for each cup of honey used – Honey is a liquid while sugar is a solid. Taking out some of the liquid makes your dish come out with the right consistency.
  4. Add ½ tsp baking soda for each cup of honey – This is important because honey is slightly more acidic than sugar. The baking soda balances the pH difference.
There are so many different colors of honey!
Did you know that there are over 300 different varietals of honey in the United States and over 3,000 in the whole world? We get the different colors and flavors depending on where the honeybees gathered the nectar from. Some nectars are lighter and some are darker, but they all taste delicious!  

Try experimenting with the different varietals of honey in your recipe. I like to use dark honey such as buckwheat when cooking meats and light honey when making smoothies.

Did you know that honey is a preservative? That means if you make your recipe with honey it won’t go bad as quickly! I especially love to make cookies or bread with honey because it will stay moist and fresh longer.

If you want to walk through a recipe with me while I make the conversions, you can watch it on our YouTube channel here! I made a Honey Banana Bread, and recommend you try converting your favorite recipe to use honey!

Sunday, September 6, 2020

National Honey Month

September is National Honey Month! It is a time to celebrate and offer our thanks to honeybees and beekeepers across the United States. Typically, honey collection season ends in September and many are enjoying a freshly extracted crop of honey. Yum!

Honeybees are responsible for pollinating 1/3 of our food, their contribution valued at $20 billion! In her 6-week lifetime, a single worker bee produces approximately 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey by visiting around 2,600 flowers. Amazing! Honey comes in a variety of colors and flavors based on the nectar source. During this pandemic time, we have started a new YouTube video series teaching about different honey varieties from all over the Unites States. We invite you to follow along!

Monday, August 31, 2020

The wings of a Honeybee

Honeybees use their wings to fly, right? Honeybees have multiple important uses for their wings, including controlling the temperature, and communication. They can flap their wings up to 200 times in just a second!

Honeybees release what  are called pheromones, which humans also have. Pheromones are excreted through the glands of a honeybee. Pheromones have a smell that the other bees need to be aware of, because different smells mean different situations. During an emergency, a honeybee will use their wings to fan around a banana smelling pheromone to alert the other honeybees what is happening. The queen uses her pheromones to let the other honeybees know that she is their queen, and the hive she is in is their hive too. When the queen is ready to pass away or is getting old, she releases less pheromones, or different smelling ones, and that let's the other honeybees know that they need to prepare for a new queen soon. 

The honeybees use their wings to control the temperature in their hive. When it needs to be warmed up for colder climates, honeybees will ball up together and fan their wings to generate a nice, toasty heat for themselves. In hot climates, honeybees will bring droplets of water to their hive, and fan those out to evaporate the cool sensation of the water. Without their wings, honeybees would freeze in the winter, or overheat in the summer. 

Honeybees use their wings to create honey! When nectar is brought back to the hive from floral sources, a honeybee will put that nectar in a cell of the honeycomb, and she will then use her wings to fan the nectar, so it draws water out and becomes thicker. This is needed, so that the water content is down to at least 18%, and the honey will then not spoil.

With all the different uses of a honeybee's wings, they sure are buzz-y bees!
Training To Be A Beekeeper | Bee keeping, Bee, Bee garden