Sunday, March 7, 2010

Lesson 71: Amazing Legs of Bees & What To Expect To See In Your Overwintered Hives (Revised)

Hello from David & Sheri Burns from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms. We saw that some may have had trouble seeing this lesson if it was posted via your Email, so we are attempting a duplicate resending, hopefully working this time. Thanks for your patience.
We’ve had some hints that spring is getting closer. Bees are out flying a bit more, and warmer weather! Finally, as it has been another long winter.
In today’s lesson I want to once again teach on the biology of the honey bees as we take a look at the fascinating leg of a bee. Before our lesson, let me ramble on a bit.
Let me tell you that I have some neat videos I’ve taken of our hives this winter. So, be sure and read through all my ramblings so you can see what one of our queens can do taking her gang through a terrible Illinois winter. And if you have trouble viewing the videos because you received this via your Email, go directly to where these lessons are posted:
Many (and I do mean many) people desire to visit our honey bee operation. In fact, already people are showing up to tour our place. Some have asked to go out and work the bees with us. Please understand that we certainly welcome tours, but it is seasonal. Hives cannot be opened and regularly inspected until it is around 60 degrees on a regular basis.
During the spring our operation is buzzing! Grass is green, trees are leafed out, and we are in full operation. Until May 1st, however, our place is not tour friendly. The grass is brown, trees are bare, everything is wet and muddy, bees are tightly clustered, sticks are in the yard…winter has left its mark.
So Sheri and I sat down and discussed how we could better prepare for those who wish to walk around (take a tour) and ask a bunch of bee questions. After all, that’s our goal, to help more people get into beekeeping. Please understand that we offer an array of various beekeeping courses and classes. This is how we educate those who want hands on experience learning to work bees. But if you MUST take a tour read on...
We have 3 levels of tours we offer from May 1 through Sept. 1
Friendly Farmer Tour
This tour is available Monday – Saturday any time between 1pm – 4pm. The Friendly Farmer means you can talk to us while we work, and you’ll get to see what we do. It might be grafting queens, painting or building hives, packaging hives from shipment, working hives or mowing grass. In other words, feel free to come, but we must keep working and we’ll talk while we work. We cannot stop what we are doing to show you something else. For that, see our other tours below. Wear your work clothes and bring a hat and veil. If you come unannouced, we might be speaking in a different state and you'll not be able to tour our place, so call first. COST: FREE
David and Sheri’s Vacation Money Tour
This tour is available by appointment only on Saturday. Cost $100 whether it is one person or 100. In other words, a group of 30 people still only pay a total of of $100. The reason for the name is because money paid for this tour goes to our vacation fund. On this tour David or Sheri will take you around the operation and show you how everything works. It is a one hour tour and questions are answered during the tour. If you’d like to see a particular aspect of our operation, we just ask that you let us know when you schedule your tour. COST: $100
Call 217-427-2678 to arrange your appointment.
David’s Brain Picking Tour
This tour is available by appointment only on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. COST $200  This is a 2 hour tour where David will show you all aspects of beekeeping, raising queens, harvesting honey and more. For 2 hours you can pick David’s brain and he will rattle off whatever comes into his mind at the moment. The cost covers 1-5 people.
Again, all tours do not start until May 1. If you wish to purchase beekeeping equipment, packages, nucs or supplies while you are here, be sure to let us know in advance so we can have everything ready when you arrive. Call 217-427-2678 to arrange your appointment
LESSON 71: Amazing Leg of the Bee & What to Expect from Your Overwintered Hive
Lesson71a The honey bee has 6 legs, three on each side. Bees use their legs like we do, to walk and run. However, there is more to the bee’s leg than just movement. On the very end of the leg is what we might call a foot. The foot is made up of three claws. This enables the bee to cling and grip on to things.
It gets more interesting. On the front leg, called forelegs there are antennae cleaners. All three caste of honey bees (workers, queens and drones) have this special cleaner device. Since the antennae serves an important role in communication it must be kept clean. You can look at bees up-close and usually see them cleaning their antenna.
The front legs also have stiff hairs which the bee uses to clean their head, eyes and mouth and to gather and transfer pollen to the back legs which have the pollen baskets.
The middle legs have hairs or brushes which are used to clean the middle of the bee, her thorax. The bee’s middle legs are also used to continue transferring the pollen to the back legs. The middle leg also has a spur for to pick the wax that is produced on the abdomen. The middle legs are also used by the bees to clean the wings and to dislodge the pollen from the baskets on the back legs.
The back legs are most well known for their pollen baskets. These “baskets” aren’t actually baskets, but hairs that surround bare spots on the leg. So the hairs hold the collected pollen which is placed on the back leg. Often, nectar is added to the pollen to make it stay tightly together. Only the work is equipped with these rear leg pollen baskets. Propolis is a stick substance which the bees gather from tree sap and sticky plants and the bees also carry the propolis back to the hive in their pollen baskets.
As expected the honey bees is magnificently made and every part has many purposes.
What to Expect from Your Overwintered Hive
Many beekeepers are finding that as it warms up, they are peaking into their hives to see if there are still bees alive.
Newer beekeepers are sometimes alarmed by what they find, things like dead bees…lots of dead bees. Even hives that survived the winter and are alive still may be filled with dead bees, certainly on the bottom board but sometimes even between frames.
Often time in the winter the bees break cluster to gather honey from frames that are beyond reach of the cluster. But when the temperature drops, they sometimes fail to regroup as one cluster, and instead form two or more smaller clusters. These smaller clusters cannot generate the heat needed to stay alive, so the smaller clusters die and usually freeze within the hive.
If your bees died with their heads stuck in the bottom of cells, this usually means they starved to death. They died licking the last drop of food from the bottom of cells.
It is very common for the bottom board to be full of dead bees. They either died of old age or winter kill. Left alone, the bees will eventually clean out the dead. However, I like to remove the bottom board and shake out all the dead bees. This keeps a cleaner hive and makes life easier for the bees.
Mold and dampness. It is common for beekeepers to find dead and moldy bees in frames too. This means that your hive had too much moisture over the winter and that you needed better ventilation. Every winter, in our yards, the hives that do best are the ones with opened screen bottom boards, drafty holes and propped lids.
What to do about moldy dead bees in a hive. Shake them out or rub them out, at least as many as you can. You can’t get them all out. They are dead, they won’t sting you. Be careful not to break the comb if you try knocking out the dead bees. Typically, we don’t worry about the mold unless it is really thick. A slight glaze of green or white mold doesn’t worry us. We reuse the frame and let the next package clean it up. Dead bees stink bad! Sometimes beekeepers ask me if they have American Foul Brood since there is such a stink in the hive. But I remind them that there is little to no brood in the winter to smell. The smell is the dead bees.
If you forgot to seal off your entrance to keep mice out, you may find some fury friends in the hive, and even a sizable mouse nest with little baby mice. If so, serve the eviction papers and throw all the mice overboard.
You might also notice bee poop all over the top and sides of your hives. It’s a light to dark brown and thick almost waxy substance. Do not panic and conclude you have Nosema. What you are seeing is that the bees have finally had a chance to defecate outside the hive and they didn’t bother to fly away very far. You wouldn’t either if you’ve spent  4 weeks waiting for a bathroom break. Excessive spotting might happen on some of your hives and not others. Don’t worry, it will clear up with additional warm days. In the slow motion video below you can see my bees have messed on the front of their hive. This was taken on March 4, 2010. If you have trouble watching the videos in your Email, go to our website at: and you can watch the video there.
Now, if all went well with your bees over winter, then this is what you’ll see in the video below. Lots of bees, and a queen and lots of stored honey still available. This is an example of the queens that we produce. We graft from hives with strong winter hardiness and good honey producers and very gentle bees. They also show hygienic behavior which means they are more mite resistant. Again, if you have trouble watching the videos in your Email, go to our website at: and you can watch the video there. Notice how gentle our bees are even at 40 (f) degrees! No gloves. These hives are as strong coming out of winter as most beekeeper’s hives are in the summer. Our candy boards that we sell also help absorb winter moisture.
Let’s have even more fun. Here’s a video I’ve made into slow motion of bees flying into their hive.
Beekeeping techniques that we teach at our beekeeping classes will help beekeepers have the success in overwinter hives like we do as well. And of course, having the right queen helps, like our Pioneer Queens. In fact, here’s another video of our Pioneer Queen and her overwinter gang. Notice how many bees there are and how much honey they’ve stored for the winter and the key is…how little they have eaten to survive the winter. Watch this…
Before I finish today I do want to let everyone know that we have set aside a large number of packages for customers who also purchase hives from us. In other words, if you want a hive and bees, we have that combination available. Other wise, if you need just bees, we are all sold out. But you can get bees from us if you wish to also purchase a hive.
Here’s the info on our upcoming beekeeping classes:
e limited.Until next time, remember to behave yourself!
David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
14556 N 1020 E. Rd
Fairmount, IL 61841
Phone: 217-427-2678