Sunday, February 7, 2010

Lesson 70: Basic Bee Biology – The Bee’s Mouth & Late Winter Feeding

wood Before I teach our next lesson today, I want to tell you about the wood we use for our beehives that we make here at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms. Our wood is manufactured by Wynndel who claims to have the finest board finishing line in the world. They say, “We started with installation of the SuperThunder Mac (by LeaderMac) the largest production moulder of its kind. Running at a production speed of over 1000fpm, it can produce an eased edge board (1x4 to 1x12), with near-sanded appearance. With its incredible control and delicate handling of the raw material, we are able to maximize quality and grade, minimize trim loss, and create our new line of high end 2&BTR WynnWood Premier Plus”. They are right. We love their wood. It has taken us 3 years to finally find this awesome grade of wood. If you want to watch a video of how they make their wood, CLICK HERE but I don’t like the music on the video, but the video is cool to watch. We feel the quality of the board makes a huge difference in the overall longevity of the hives you purchase.
LESSON 70: Basic Honey Bee Honey Bee Biology – Bee Mouth
Everyone knows that honey bees have stingers, but we don’t think of them as having a mouth. But they do. They have several different parts to their mouth that enable them to chew and to suck. With their mandibles they can chew, manipulate wax and even crush mites. Another mouth pieces is their proboscis. Their proboscis is their way of suck up all the delicious nectar from flowers. They also suck up water. They even use their proboscis to exchange food between bees. This is known as trophallaxis.
When bees gather nectar they draw it out of the flower with their proboscis into their honey stomach which is different than their main stomach. They fly back to the hive with the nectar in their honey stomachs. When they arrive, they transfer it to several other house bees. These house bees take the droplets of nectar and roll it around in their mouth pieces and add enzymes to change it into unripe honey. The house bees work these transferred droplets of honey like this for about 20 minutes and then they deposit the droplets into a honey cell. At this point, it is still honey that is not ripe. It now takes several days for the bees to dry the unripe honey and then they seal off the cell.
Among the different races of the honey bee, the Caucasian has the longest proboscis which might seem to make it a candidate to draw nectar out of deeper and harder to reach flowers.
One of the most unusual behaviors of the honey bees is when the bees will move back and forth on the bottom board ledge or the front of the hive, using their mouth in which they appear to be scrubbing the wood. This has sometimes been called, “scrubbing the deck”. Just what are those bees doing? Some say they are trying to scrap off the paint. Others say there are too many bees in the hive, so some have been told to go hang out front and scrub something to look busy.
We have found that when bees do this, it is usually when there is high humidity or moisture on the surface. The bees are using their tongue to lap up moisture from the hive. It is done after foraging hours. It is amazing to watch. If you’ve never observed this yet, it will surprise you and you’ll know what’s going on.
Now that the days are getting a little longer, the bees will be expanding their brood area, placing a heavy demand on pollen and honey requirements. The next 6 weeks will be extremely hard on hives, especially in the north. Feed you bees! Pollen patties are great! Place them on the top of the cluster, on the frames. Also, if you can place 2:1 sugar water above the cluster this would be a big help too! Some use bucket feeders, but the easiest way is to place your entrance feeder on the top of the frames above the cluster and then place an empty deep body around it and then the lid on top. Feed your bees!!

David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
14556 N 1020 E. Rd
Fairmount, IL 61841

Phone: 217-427-2678