“Bee Math – How Bee Biology Can Enhance Your Operation” with Trevor Qualls
Biology of the honeybee — three main structures: head, thorax, abdomen.
“Pollen press” — a muscle that packs pollen into the “bags”
Drones: It takes 38 days to sexual maturity. Will mate with virgin queens in DCAs (Drone Congregation Areas) in flight and then die.
Workers: female, do not reproduce, 20,000-60,000 workers in a colony, live 4-6 weeks in the summer and 406 months in the winter. If the bees are white and/or fuzzy, they are not hardened, are new hatches.
Queens: One queen per hive usually, lays 1,500-2,000 eggs per day, lives 2-5 years (lives much longer if there are no chemicals present, natural hives = longer-lived queens), brood season is kicked off by the nectar flow.
He then presented a chart of the honeybees’ life cycles but I’ll just refer you to a similar chart here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honey_bee_life_cycle with one additional note: Once queen cells are capped on the 8th day, the colony will split/swarm. Also, the warmer it is, the quicker the progression and, the cooler it is, the slower the progression.
Eggs – larvae: Fresh = standing up, older = lays over, C-shaped = larvae, C-shaped with segmented rings = older larvae.
Pupae: Lighter body, lighter eyes = not capped. Darker body, darker eyes = capped. Darker cappings = older pupae.
Adult bees – workers – duties: 1-3 days old: clean, generate heat. 3-10 days: nurse. 11-18 days: nectar ripening and packing pollen. Day 15: starts secreting wax. 19-21 days: guarding, ventilation, trash removal.
On Day 15, the bees will start secreting wax and really want to use it. If you checkerboard at this time, you can help prevent swarming because you are giving the newly-secreting workers space to get their comb-building urges out.
Field bees: Forage for protein (pollen) and carbs (nectar). Much of the propolis (used for “caulking”) has been bred out of bees. This is helping to cause more disease as propolis has many healthy qualities for the hive. It takes 850 bees, 50 trips each, to bring back enough water to cool the hive in the heat of summer. Place fresh water near the hives to make it quicker/easier on the bees so they can spend more time on nectar/pollen missions.
Differentiation of Sexes: Workers — get royal jelly x 3 days, fertilized, light feeding of brood food, honey, & pollen. Drones — get royal jelly x 3 days, unfertilized, heavy feeding of brood food, honey, & pollen. Queens — get royal jelly x 3 days, fertilized, heavy feeding of royal jelly until capped.
Where do bees live, homes made of what, in nature? Wood (plastic bodies and plasticell foundation is not natural, bees don’t like it — they have approximately 150 smell receptors), 1/4 to 3/8″ bee space in nature. Combs have the rainbow pattern of brood in the middle, layer of pollen arched over that, and another layer of honey arched over the pollen.
Watch the layout of the frames/combs as you inspect your hives. Be certain to replace them exactly the same way, facing the same way.
Know how to identify cells: worker brood vs drone brood vs honey. Once honey is capped, it’s ready for harvest. If you have a high number of drone cells, that makes for a crowded hive & more mites. Pull those out and replace with empties.
Drone cells are an early indicator of a new queen & swarm. Take it as a sign to checkerboard the hive, use no foundation or just starter strips.
Don’t needlessly requeen, especially if you are chemical free.
2:1 sugar syrup does not stimulate laying. In nature, 1:1.25 is what is found in nature so, in order to stimulate the queen to being laying, provide 1:1 syrup.
The queen has limited pheromone quantities. That limits the size of the population as it can only go so far/long. Once her pheromones begin “wearing out”, the workers will replace her.
In nature, bees prefer keeping 6-8 combs. So what happens when we raise bees in 10-frame hives? Frames 1 and 10 are usually left empty or rarely used. Hive beetles, then lay their eggs in those areas undisturbed. Keep bees in 8-frame hives and the bees will better protect against hive beetles and other pests.
Position of queen cells: Swarm cells are made on the bottoms of the frames. Supersedure cells are made in the upper half of the frame, when the queen is failing or has failed. A hole in the side means she was destroyed. A hole/flap in the bottom tells the workers to heavily feed royal jelly.
Bees have a three-day memory, then it “resets”. Use this to your advantage when moving hives. Screen the hive at night and move. Be sure to feed (in the hive) & cool/vent them. On the evening of the fourth day, unscreen the hive/let them go.
Comb is hexagonal. Cells are built at 4-5 degree angle. There are left and right sides to the combs. Housel Position: Each cell has a “Y” — either upside down or right side up. The right-side-up Ys should face to the outsides of the hive. The upside-down Ys should face to the middle of the hive. The center frames will have upside-down Ys facing each other.
When inspecting your hives, be very careful to not roll the queen. If you roll her, her ovaries can easily be damaged enough to no longer lay eggs, yet her pheromone levels are still high enough that the workers don’t always sense the need to replace her.
When brushing bees off of frames, hold the frame upside down and brush. If you brush them with the frames as they are in the hives, you will be breaking bee backs against the upward angle of the cells. Work with that natural angle, not against it, and you’ll lose far less bees.
Communication: Bees have two dances — round and waggle. The waggle communicates distance & direction — the longer the waggle, the farther the distance. Pheromones are spread by touching. Also, the Nasanov pheromone, used by exposing the gland and fanning, which is visible when installing packages and swarms.