Friday, March 29, 2013

Hive for Rent: Parts of a Beehive

When most people think of beekeeping, the first things they think of are white boxes sitting in a big green field. Would you believe that those hives actually have 8 or more different parts to them? Just like your house, bees have different “rooms” and entrances to their home. Let’s take a look at some of those parts and how they are used! 

Hive Stand: The hive stand is on the very bottom of the hive. It is a short wooden box that is used to keep the hive off the ground. Some of them even have an angled landing ramp for the bees to land on to get into the hive.

Hive stands can help the bees stay warm in the winter by
Keeping warm air trapped under the hive!

 Bottom Board: There are a few types of bottom boards, but the most common is a solid bottom board. It is used as a tray to catch any dead bees or leaf litter that comes into a beehive. It also helps keep the hive warm in the winter by sealing off the bottom of the hive from the ground. 

Some bottom boards have screens on the bottom so they stay cooler in the summer,
and also to keep any dead bees away from the other bees!

Entrance Reducer: A small piece of wood, plastic, or metal is called an entrance reducer. Beekeepers use it to keep robbers out in the springtime when a colony is weak and to keep mice out in the winter.
The entrance reducer has several different size openings it can be set to!

Deeps (Hive Bodies) and Supers: The white boxes where beekeepers keep their bees are called hive bodies. They are kind of like the outside walls of your house. Deeps are the larger boxes that the bees fill up first. The deeps are where all the new baby bees are born and also where the bees will store honey for the winter. Supers are where bees store the extra honey that beekeepers harvest from the hive. Supers are smaller than deeps because honey is very heavy, and smaller boxes are easier to lift. Still, a small super with frames full of honey can weigh 30-40 pounds!
Hives can be a large variety of colors, no just white!

Queen Excluder: This is a very special screen beekeepers put in between the deeps and supers to prevent the queen from traveling into the supers to lay eggs. The screen is a special width so only worker bees can fit through. The queen excluder ensures there is only honey in the supers.

Queen excluders can be made from metal or plastic!
The foundations can also be black
which makes the eggs easier to see
when a beekeeper is looking a the frame.
Frames: Frames are what beekeepers put inside of the deeps and supers where the bees build out their comb. Each frame is like a little room in the bees’ house. There are 8-10 frames in each box, and each one has foundation on it. The foundation is a thin sheet of plastic or beeswax with a hexagon pattern for the bees to start building out their comb. Did you know that bees naturally build their comb in a hexagon-shaped pattern? They are very smart and never waste space!

Beekeepers can put bucket feeders full of syrup on top
of the hole in the center of the inner cover!
Inner Cover: The inner cover goes on the top of the highest box. It has a hole in the center so bees can climb through. Sometimes, beekeepers put a feeder full of sugar syrup over the hole during late fall or early spring to serve as a food supplement.

There can be very fancy outer covers too!
Some look like roofs on a house. They
are very popular among gardeners!
Outer Cover: Similar to a roof, the outer cover telescopes over the inner cover and the top box. They are usually covered with metal to make sure rain and snow don't get into the hive. 

There are many other pieces of equipment that advanced beekeepers use, but these are the really important things that most beekeepers use. Can you relate each part of the hive to a part of your house?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Creative Communication!

Communication is important in all relationships. Humans communicate with one another on a regular basis to share information and thoughts. This communication is important in helping people bond with one another. Some forms of communication include speech, sign language, body language, and facial expressions. Did you know that honey bees communicate with each other as well? Honey bees live in large colonies, with an average of 40,000 to 60,000 bees in each hive – you can imagine how important communication is in such a large family!

The Path of a Waggle Dance
Honey bees use several different means of communication, with the most popular being dancing. Honey bees perform a specific dance in order to share the location of a food supply with the other bees in colony so that they, too, can gather food from that area. To perform the dance, a bee will walk forward, waggling her body from side to side. Then, she walks normally in a half circle and starts on the path again, waggling her body. The distance forward that the bee walks, the speed of her waggling, and the direction she is facing provide incredibly accurate directions to the other bees, who then go and collect the food. The directions are based off of the location of the sun, which the bees can sense even inside the dark hive.

Bees release pheromones to communicate important information, such as
if the queen is present in the hive or if there are intruders in the hive. The
other bees respond appropriately to the messages from these pheromones.
Another form of communication is the release of pheromones. Pheromones are distinct smells that the bees release to convey messages. The queen releases a special pheromone that helps the bees sense that she is in the hive and healthy. Worker bees also release pheromones. Guard bees, who protect the beehive from intruders, release a special alarm pheromone whenever there is an invader. This pheromone smells like ripe bananas!

Just as people communicate in different ways, so do honey bees. Communication allows the members of the colony to bond and to help one another, making the entire hive stronger. Communication - whether through speech, sign language, dancing, or pheromones – plays an important role in daily life. How do you communicate?

To see a bee perform a waggle dance, visit: