Bee Smart Podcast Project: Advanced Bee Culture

The Bee Smart beekeeping project is all about bring useful, informative and entertaining (hopefully) content about all things bees, beekeepers and beekeeping.

In the spirit of all of the above, I am proud to announce the “audio” recording of the book “Advanced Bee Culture” by W.Z. Hutchinson.  This is the second edition published in 1911 and edited by E.R. Root of the A.I. Root Company.

Unlike traditional audio book recordings, each chapter will be recorded as one episode here until the book is completed.

I hope you enjoy hearing this book as you drive, or sit back and relax.  It happens to be one of my personal favorites containing a great deal of information still pertinent and relevant today.

Look for the posting of the Introduction and Chapter One Thursday, January 19 and hopefully every Thursday afterward the next chapters will be posted here on the Bee Smart website.

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Bringing The Bee Life To You

The Bee Smart beekeeping project is available to bring a special live and multimedia presentation to your school, organization or business in the Omaha/Metro area in Nebraska.

We have two options to offer depending on your needs.

Option 1:  Bee Educated

The Bee Smart beekeeping project will bring a combination of a live presentation with a video presentation to show participants about the incredible things bees and beekeepers do.  This presentation can last from 1 to 2 hours depending on group size.

We can bring a live portable bee display (bees cannot get out) only between May 1 and September 15th otherwise we have a photo and video display of a live bee hive and a selection of honey samples, beeswax item samples and plenty of useful, informative and useful information available to bring out all year long.

Cost for this interactive and entertaining presentation is based on number of participants.  Call Big Bear to schedule this exciting presentation at 402-370-8018 or email us at:

beesmart@bbe-tech.com

Option 2: Bee Adventurous

The Bee Adventurous presentation is designed to be a 4 to 8 hour presentation booth with a live observation hive of bees (bees cannot get out), a real professional beekeeper to talk with visitors to the booth and plenty of real honey and beeswax product samples.

Cost for this interactive and entertaining presentation is based on number of participants.  Call Big Bear to schedule this exciting presentation at 402-370-8018 or email us at:

beesmart@bbe-tech.com

Diapause, Do Honey Bees Do It?

One of the most common questions beekeepers are asked is what happens to the bees when it gets cold outside.  Usually sung to the tune of, “Do bees hibernate?”

When it comes to insects, like honey bees, IF they did any such thing, it would probably be “diapause” and not “hibernation”.  To be real loose and cavalier with explanations, “Hibernation” is like taking a very long nap and all the vitals become depressed and slow down.  Think of it kind of like being in a coma.

“Diapause” is more of a state in which development in something like an insect, say… a honey bee, seems to nearly stop cold while bad and ugly things in the environment around them happen.  Again, playing loosely with descriptions, think of it sort of like going into suspended animation when the weather gets too rough to find food or water, etc…

I have had more than one person ask if “diapause” was “The Change” for bees since they were all girls just getting older over the Winter.  No, bees have plenty of other reasons to be cranky, they don’t need another one.  Though in the Winter, they might actually appreciate hot flashes.

As for honey bees though, they do neither in the cold of Winter.    Honey bees are awake and active the whole time.  When temps hit somewhere around 57-ish degrees F or lower, the colony will cluster.

Honey bees survive Winter in their nest by “Clustering”.  That is, they group together in a ball style shape in and around the wax cells in the combs and as a group, shiver their wing muscles to generate heat.  By being clumped so closely together, they keep themselves and each other warm through the Winter.  The colder it gets, the tighter they cluster together.

Winter cluster image courtesy of Randy Oliver at scientificbeekeeping.com

How do they keep up the heat?  By eating honey.  The bees forage for, make and store honey primarily for times like Winter, so that they will have a full pantry and not have to go outside to get more food.  It’s already in the hive.  The more they generate heat, the more honey they have to consume to maintain the energy to do it.  The faster they go through the honey stores, the more likely it is that bees will starve out in the late Winter or early Spring because the food didn’t outlast the weather.

The closeness of their bodies and even the beeswax combs themselves also help to act as some bit of insulation so as to help keep some of the heat they generate hanging around and keeps them, in however little or greater effect, from using too much energy to soon.

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Rumpelstiltskins In Miniature

It is an old tale indeed that let us know about the little man who could spin straw into gold.  We have some interesting little creatures who are able to turn “liquid gold” (Honey) into wax.

As a matter of fact, through evolution, bees have actually been built to turn honey into beeswax.  Parts of their body designed seemingly for specifically that purpose.

Only worker bees have the ability and the parts necessary to accomplish this remarkable feat.  Even more interesting is that only bees in a certain age range are able to do it.  When honey bee workers are 12 days old until they are 18 days old, they are best able to convert excess honey in the Honey Stomach (also known as the “Crop”) into beeswax.  Of course, besides having excess honey or nectar in them, they must also have an active need for wax in the nest to either build the nest or to expand it.

Honey bees can also work minor miracles in regard to making wax.  They can turn back their biological clocks in certain instances such as starting a new nest after leaving the old hive with a Queen bee.)  Once in the new hive and with an immediate and emergency level need for new comb, the “old” workers bees that make up the majority of the swarm can make their bodies sort of go back to the physical condition at which the could make beeswax when they were younger in order to get the new nest started right away.

Anatomically, the honey and nectar bees gorge on to begin making wax is converted into a complex of substances like fatty acids, proteins and Hydrocarbons.  Once the “mixture” is ready, it is secreted from the wax glands in the bee’s  last four visible ventral abdominal segments which are covered by the “Wax Mirrors”, those being essentially little plate-like areas that the wax comes through in the form of little flat flake sort of shapes.

All in all, worker bees have eight (8) wax glands in four (4) pairs on the dorsal (bottom) side of the abdomen.

Flakes of wax on a wax builder. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey) University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Once the wax is secreted the bees can then put it to good use in building their nest.

For the scientifically inclined, a great, in-depth article on the physiology of beeswax by Clarence Collison is at Bee Culture Magazine.

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Are Bees Twice As Hungry?

So, some folks may not know that honey bees have two (2), count ’em, TWO stomachs.

There is the Honey Stomach, also known as the “Crop”, AND a “True” or digestive stomach.  The digestive stomach, located in the abdomen, is used to digest food used to fuel the bee.  The Honey Stomach, located in the anterior (frontal) part of the abdomen is really just an expandable little, transparent “bag” that the honey and everything else the bee takes in goes to, or through, first before heading to the digestive stomach, if indeed that’s the intended destination.

The “Crop” or Honey Stomach in the anterior part of the abdomen.

Bees can choose to let whatever they take in go all the way through or to store groceries in the Honey Stomach until they get home.  It’s the ultimate in grocery sack recycling really.

Nectar, water, honey (probably robbed from other hives) and other things destined for the nest get stopped and stored in the Honey Stomach until the bee gets home and disgorges said groceries to give to anther bee or deposit it into a cell, etc…

But, if Honey bees have two stomachs, would they get twice as hungry?

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Honey Bee Morse Code?

Can Honey bees “hear” sounds through the air?

Honey bees haven’t yet been found to have sound receptors or “ears” like we do. Instead, it seems that honey bees have sensory organs that detect air movement (like sound waves).  There are receptors in the legs of bees that pick up the vibrations detected from surfaces they are standing on or making contact with.

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