Saturday, July 20, 2013

A day with bees

Our hosts have 3 colonies of bees. Yesterday we were allowed to come for inspection. It was really exciting, we were even promised to be received in audience with the queen. We were so nervous!
First we had a look around the entrances. Here you could watch the bees entering and exiting. There was heavy air traffic.
Such a colony always has a guard at the entrance; they're taking care that no predator like wasps or strange bees are coming in.
Many bees had yellow back legs, which is the pollen load (although the German name for that is much funnier, pollen trousers), the beekeeper told us. When looking for nectar the pollen get stuck to the back legs, are brought into the beehive and stored in the honeycomb. Pollen is the "bread" for the bees.
Then we watched the bees in a different hive, can you see the orange pollen load? In this hive they're rearing a new colony of bees. The beekeeper found a queen cell in a different colony. It's where the new queen is growing. This queen cell is put into a different hive together with bees, feeding combs and brood cells. That's how you have a new queen for the next year as they're getting older and don't lay as many eggs. So exciting!
Then we opened the first colony. So many bees! Right now you can find around 40.000 bees in a well developed colony. The bees like to build wildly in the hive when they find the space. Have a look, that's what it's like.
 We also looked closer at a brood comb. Here you can see freshly laid eggs, larvae and closed cells. The shiny bit in the honey comb on the photo are little bee larvae which are growing and looked after by the nursing bees. The little larvae are fed with a feeding juice, which is mainly pollen but also nectar.
 We were amazed at how busy the bees were, everybody seems to have a job around here. You can also see the male bees, they're bigger and can't sting.
And then the big moment came: the queen!!!
 This one is easily recognised as she has a marking on the back. This is a backfast queen, which is the name of the bee and both beekeepers were impressed. An amazing animal! During summertime she lays up to 2.000 eggs daily! Astonishing, isn't it? And so that she doesn't fly away the beekeeper looks for queen cells. They are removed or put into a different hive to create a new colony.
In the honey combs behind us you can see it shining yellow, that's the honey! Yummy! The queen had to leave quite soon, must be very busy!
Next week we're allowed to watch the honey separation and help with it, let's see how that's going to be! We'll be in touch!
See you then,
Hans and Paul.

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