Beekeepers Friend

Peaches’ Beekeeping Blog

March 4, 2015

Life Cycle of the Honey Bee

The honey bee is the most versatile insect in the world. It pollinates, makes medicinal products, food, and shows us how the insect world works (in a way). This is a post on how they operate from conception to death, (my own opinion).

First of all, the virgin queen goes on a maiden flight to the Drone Congregation area to get impregnated by 3-4 up to 20-28 drones. Then she goes back to the hive and starts laying eggs in the center of the cells. One egg to a cell. The egg is standing up on end. By day 3 the egg has laid down in a bed of royal jelly.

Day 4 the egg has hatched into a larva. From that day through day 6 all the larvae are fed royal jelly then on day 8, all male and female larvae, except the female larvae that have been designated to be the new queens, are fed beebread which is a form of baby food. It is made of pollen and nectar (honey). At this point in life, the baby larvae eat 90% pollen and 10% honey. Later, the adult bees will eat 10% pollen and 90% nector.

The worker bee will be in the larval stage for 6 days. On day 10 through day 21, she will be in the pupal stage metamorphosing into a full adult. On days 10 and 11 the nurse/house bees will top the worker cell with a flat cap or roof on her cell. On the 21-22 day she will eat her way out of the cell as a full grown adult and will then slurp up some honey and then get to work on cleaning up her cell so it will be ready for the next egg. Thus begins the workers work life until she dies which is about 40-45 days in the spring and summer. For those bees that live in the northern part of the U.S. and southern Canada, the workers have a shorter spring period in which to work with a longer winter period in which they can rest so the bees can live for a much longer period of time.

The drone will be in the larva stage for 7 days, and on the 11th day will elongate and start his transference into an adult. On days 11 and 12, the workers will build a dome-like cap on the cells that will look like a rack of bullets standing up ready to be boxed or loaded in a gun. The reason for the high roof on the cell is because the drones are so much longer than the worker bees. On the 24th day the drone will start chewing his way out of the cell and will then start begging the workers to feed him as he cannot feed himself.

The drones are the only bees that can go to any bee hive with impunity and get something to eat. If a worker goes to another hive, she will either needs to be bringing food (nectar or pollen) to be able to enter, or she will be treated as a robber and either killed or driven away.

Now the drones will live until they mate with the new queen at which time they die from an explosive ejuclation and fall to the ground dead, or the workers will kick them out during the winter so the food will last longer. Side note: The drones don’t like the idea that they will either freeze or starve to death, so they try to get back into a hive. This is when the workers decide to gang up on the drones and drag them back outside (kicking and screaming???), rips their wings off, pulls their legs off, throws them on the ground and says,”Now, you will stay put!”

The queen cells are also a special type of cell. The queens are so much longer than the workers and even longer than the drones, that the cells will be drawn out and folded down atop of comb some cells to the extent that it looks like some peanuts hanging down the side of the comb. On day 10, the larva will start elongating and will fill up the longer cell as she turns into a pupa. Day 11-12, the bees will close the end of the cell for the remainder of the pupa stage.

Just about an hour before starting to chew her way out of the cell, the new virgin queen will start singing or “piping” as some of the older beekeepers would say. This lets the workers know that she may need help chewing the end off the cell. Also, it lets the other potential queens know that the fight to the death is imminent.

When the queen emerges, she goes around to the other queen cells and enlisting help from the workers in the area, to start chewing the side of the queen cell so she can stick her stinger into the side of the trapped queen before she can get her stinger out to sting in self defense. If a queen gets out of her cell before she is stung to death, then may the best, quickest, luckiest queen win. Sometimes they will sting each other and both will die. That is another story.

The location of the queen cells is important to the bees and beekeeper. If the cells are at the bottom of the frame or comb, then this signifies to all that the bees are getting ready to swarm. This means that the old queen is getting ready to leave the parent hive and take approximately 50-60% of the population with her. When they hear the first piping, then all heck breaks loose and the exodus begins.

Another side note: At this time the bees will either die for lack of finding a shelter, or they will either find a suitable location or they will start an open air hive. Again, another story.

If they make the right decisions and live, then usually, the bees will make some supersedure queen cells in the center of the beeswax sheet or frame and the same formula as above applies with the exception that the bees are not going anywhere. They are simply replacing a queen that has been injured, got sick and is dying, or has stopped being proliferate by not being able to lay fertile eggs.

These are some of the things you need to know if you are going to breed queens for sale or raise them for your own use.

Check your supers and add as necessary. Until the next time, keep your veil handy, your smoker lit, and your hive tool sharp.


March 1, 2015

Getting Ready to Pull Honey

Now that the bees are set and making increases of the workforce and the splits are working to build comb, it is time to get some more supers ready to put on the hives and maybe to replace the honey supers that you will need to pull soon.

Make sure that all the corners are in good repair and the new foundation is in the frames. You won’t have much time to do that when you need to place the supers on the hives to give the bees more room to store honey.

Last of April, you need to get ready to pull your honey and get some replacement supers, if you are going to get a speciality honey, such as Tupelo, Gallberry, or Privet. You have to keep the wildflower honey separated from the speciality honey so you can sell it as a one-nectar source honey. This also means that you must clean your extractor, pump, and lines so that only the  speciality honey is in the extraction equipment.

Use to in the old days, 20 years ago, we could store the honey in the supers and wait until we had all the honey ready to extract, then start with the most expensive (Tupelo) honey and clean the equipment, then go to the next Gallberry, clean, then Privet and then without cleaning, on to Wildflower because Wildflower is a mixture all all the different honey anyway. Still it was work to be a specialist in honeys. Now we have to extract in 1-3 days of pulling the honey before the Small Hive Beetle larvae hatches and slimes the honey.When we strain the honey, that separates the SMB eggs from the honey and when we melt the wax (if it is in one or 2 days) the heat will kill the eggs and larvae.

In the meantime, we need to strain the honey through a paint strainer to clean all the non honey elements, then you have to have the containers to pour the honey into for retail. At this point, I would make sure the jars, bottles, and pails are clean and have lids ready to put on the tops as soon as the containers are full.

I usually have 2-6 different sizes of each of the honeys for the customers to choose from. [12 oz., 1 lb., 1 1/2 lb. (pint), 2 lb., 3 lb. (quart), 12 lbs. (1 gallon)]. Sometimes I even have a 6 lb. (1/2 gallon) container. It gives the customers control of the amount they purchase.

February 18, 2015

Bee Spring Is Here Again

I have no excuse at this time for my years’ absence since my last post. So I’ll just jump right into my new post….: I have had my two swarms from last Spring over-winter and now I am looking to do some splits from my survivors. I have made some improvements on some of my wooden-ware as some have started to break down. Wood putty is great for some and the fire pit for the others.

Now is the time to get to planning how to do the splits. Do I uses nuc boxes to make small colonies to start? Or do I put the splits in large brood boxes the let the bees bees fill out at a slower rate? How many splits do I make and what am I going to do with them. Do I try to keep all the bees in my back yard until they get larger or do I move them to an out-apiary? These are the same questions you should be thinking about. Same scenario…just different beekeepers.

Personally, I will probably use nucs to split one of the colonies into, and just divide the other colony into two large brood boxes and let them fill them out. I will take the original queens and their splits to an out-apiary and and leave the new splits with eggs in the same place of the original colonies. The reason is: when the bees swarm, the old queen will leave and take half the population with her with an equal amount of nurse (young) bees, Middle aged (guard and house) bees, as well as older field bees. the bees in the split will then take several 1-3 day old larva and make some more queens to replace the one that left.

This way the swarm will have young bees to produce wax flakes, older house bees use those flakes to build the comb cells and have some guard bees to help fight off incidental intruders, and the field bees to start foraging for food. This will be anywhere from about 20,000 to 60,000 bees. The move will be about 3 miles or more so the field bees will not be in the area they worked before the split. If they recognize the area, then they will go back to the original site. If they are outside of their original work area, then they will be forced to get acquainted with the area back to the new homestead.

Now I understand that not everyone will have the advantage of multiple apiary sites, so there are several ways to split inside of the same area. When you make splits with the knowledge that you will have to use the same apiary, then when you move the frames with open and closed brood, then you must take care to not shake the adhering bees off the frames. These are nurse bees and if you need to shake more bees into the split, then use bees on other brood frames.

The nurse bees have not been out of the hive except to use the bathroom and will not have made any foraging flights to be able to memorize the surrounding area. Now it is possible to move the bees to the furthest point in your yard. Maybe they cannot smell the pheromone of the honey that would be familiar to them from the other hive.

When the bees realize that they have no foragers, then some of the nurse bees will take on that job. The colony will equalize the workload to resemble the correct percentages that a colony needs to survive. Bees are very resilient and very forgiving when you do something to upset the balance.

Now, from now to June, you should be ready to work as the bees will be swarming and you will be catching your own bees and you will have calls telling you of someone else’s bees aswarmin’. You will have your hands and boxes full if you don’t have all your woodenware in use.

Just remember, if you split, then the bees will have only half of a normal colony and they may have trouble keeping the new box warm and according to all the indications, there will be at least one more cold snap before Easter. Take that into consideration when you start splitting.

All these suggestions are my own and not proven in a scientific manor. Keep your veil handy, your smoker lit, and your hive tool sharp.

June 17, 2014

Better Late Than Never

Two things come to mind, referring to the title of this blog. One is that I have bees again, and two, I am posting a blog after a long delay.

My phone rang not too long ago and a man said that he had a swarm of bees out by his mailbox next to the driveway. He couldn’t get into his front door and he had to park in the back yard. His kids could’t go outside to play even in the back yard because of the bees. I asked how big the swarm ball was and he said about a basketball size.

Well, I thinks that that is a good size to start my beekeeping again, so I gets me equipment together and goes to his house. No one is there. so I look around near the mailbox and find a swarm of bees in the bush next to the road. I see that it is only about the size of a softball. Where is the basketball cluster? I call the man’s cell phone and he says that the one I found (softball) was the one he was referring to. Rats! I wouldn’t have come if I knew it’s real size.

Since I was prepared for a large swarm and only brought a 10 frame brood box, and I was already there, I shook the pint sized cluster into the big-g-g box. It was a great day in the big outdoors so the bees were sending out scouts to look for a better place to set up housekeeping and to maybe see about some grocery stores in the area. I decided to leave my box and return later in the evening around dusk or later, as it turned out to be. 

I got home and left the bees in the back of my truck till morning. I did get up before the bees and moved them to the back yard (I use my back yard for a first aid station). At that time, I opened to see how many bees I had. There was enough to barely cover two sides of a frame. I would let them rest for a day and then feed them, hoping that they would decide that the big brood box was too big and leave.

Two days later, I got a call to get a swarm and I took a five frame nuc to hive a basketball size swarm. It turned out to be closer to a soccer ball  size. I retrieved it after dark and decided to take it to the back yard once I got home so it wouldn’t decide to leave because of all the moving around. I had already made some sugar syrup so the next morning, I traded the 10 frame box for a 5 frame nuc ( the weak colony was happy and contented so needless to say they didn’t move), and placed an empty nuc on top of the strong colony and proceeded to feed both colonies.

It took the strong colony 2 days to empty the quart jar of sugar water and took the weak colony four or five days to empty their quart jar.

Now for the”Rest of the story” as Paul Harvey used to say. The little colony has one frame of babies, open and capped brood. Since I did not give them any pollen substitute, they had to find some in the neighborhood enough to feed the larvae. I checked only because they are the weakest. I have not bothered the other hive except to open the top long enough to see that the bees were covering all the frames in the second story. I will be checking more thoroughly this next week. That is when I will clip and mark the queens. This year the color is RED.

If you want to know the International Color Code, then here it is: Years that end with 1 or 6 = Green; 2 or 7 = Blue; 3 or 8 = Black; 4 or 9 = Red; 5 or 0 = Yellow. This way when you want to know the age of you queens, then the color will tell you. If you don’t find the marked queen and you do find an unmarked queen then you know she just hatched this year.

About 12 days later, I didn’t get around to clipping and marking the queens, but I did add a nuc to the weak colony and took the strong colony out of the double stacked nuc boxes and placed them into the 10 frame brood box. They have grown to a strong 10 frame hive. I an going to fix some medium supers and place some frames with foundation in the supers to give the bees something to work on.

I know—you are going to tell me that the bees will not draw out foundation unless a nectar flow is on and we are now at the end of the nectar flow. However, you remember that in the Spring, we feed 1:1 sugar water to jumpstart the egg laying. Well, I am going to feed them so they will think a flow is on and start the queen to laying eggs. In order for her to have place to lay, the bees will have to build wax cells. They can use the sugar water to manufacture building wax. Then when the Fall flow arrives, I will stop the sugar water and let the workers continue on as they would normally. By the time Spring gets here, they will have used and/or eaten all their stored sugar water and will be ready to put real nectar in the pantry.

On a side note,  man called me to get a large swarm of bees from in front of his house. He was having repair work on his house and he didn’t want the workers stung. Since I have had no good descriptions of the swarms in the past, I only took a nuc and my wife and proceeded to go to his home. When we got there, My wife looked for the bees while I knocked on the door to keep the repairmen from calling the cops thinking I was stealing from them.

The man said that a girl had already come and collected the bees and just left minutes before I showed up. He said that the bees were hanging down from a branch of the short tree and nearly touched the ground. He spread his arms and the distance was about 1 1/2 ft by alittle over 2 ft. I am glad that They were picked up as I only had a nuc and all I would have done would have been to drive them off to somewhere else.

If you have any questions about honeybees, honey, equipment, or books, make a comment at the bottom and I will try to answer your inquiries.

February 20, 2014

Spring is Here!

Spring is almost here and it is time to get into gear. The bees will start swarming soon and you need to be ready to either split your hives or to catch the swarms.

I would like to be prepared to do both. Some of the colonies will be in the swarming mode. Even if you split them, they will still swarm. You cannot stop them if they are in that mindset. But you can prevent some from swarming if you split them early enough.

Now this is a good way to increase your numbers if you want more colonies. But on the other hand, if you have all you want, then you have to figure ways to get rid of the unwanted bees. 1) You can let them swarm and not catch them; 2) You can catch them and give to someone who needs or wants them; or 3) you can sell your excess.

If you let them swarm, then you either will have let them die because only kept bees survive, or they become nusance bees and someone else will kill them. If you give the bees away, you don’t get paid for your time and effort.

If you sell them, then you have to figure how much to sell for as you don’t want to sell at a low price and help bring the value of the bees down. Here is where you have to research and find how much is the average price in your area.Then you have to decide how many bees to sell at a time and do you want to make a business out of selling bees. WOW! lots of decisions to make isn’t it?

Some state bee organizations take bees and boxes in lieu of dues so that is another avenue to look at. I believe some of the local associations are starting apiaries for their groups and that is another way to get rid of your excess bees.

I am getting my new bees this Spring and will be making my apiary start up and will let you know how things are going.

Starting a brand new year with high hopes. Get your smoker ready and cleaned out. Stockpile your smoker material, and sharpen your hive tool. And don’t forget your veil. It should not have any holes in it, or at least have them patched up.

Have a very profitable Spring.


February 5, 2014

Burr—It’s Cold

Put your feet up in front of the fireplace and get a good book to read and relax. Also, I would think this is a good time to think what you need to be doing to get ready for the upcoming Spring Flow. Some things come to mind is do you have the amount of colonies that you want to start off the 2014 year? If not, then have you decided how many nucs you need and where you will be ordering them from? Do you have enough wooden-ware ready for the beginning of the season? Have you gotten the amount of frames and foundation you need? 

This is a good time to check the honey and pollen stores in your hives. The bees will be feeding much during this time getting ready for the honey flow and this is the time that most bees will run out of food.

Other things you should be planning for are there are a couple of workshops that are in the making for the first quarter of the year:

1) North Escambia Bee Association Workshop, 10370 Ashton Brosnaham Rd, Pensacola, FL

3) University of Florida Bee College at The Whitney Laboratory for Marine Biscience, 9505 Ocean Shore Blvd. St. Augustine, FL 32080-8610 904-461-4000

These are a good source of information for beginners and experienced beekeepers.

I have to go now and put the up graded rules of the honey show  on this site. Have a great day and enjoy your bees.

December 21, 2013

Tis the Season to be…..

What a wonderful time of the year. Most everyone you meet on the street, in restaurants, malls, stores in general, are mild mannered. However, sometimes you will meet or hear about someone who doesn’t meet those expectations. I saw an email, which I deleted before I really got the location information, that said someone took some hives with the colonies of bees from an extension office garden in the past month. They were even marked with all the information to show who they belonged to. The agent said that the perpetrators could have been new beekeepers or some one who has lost their bees and wanted to replace them.

Either way, this is not what the season is all about. This is about a promise that God made to his people. The savior of the world was born and is free to all people. Just like the bees when they swarm are free to all the people that wants to keep and care for them.

I guess what I am trying to say is have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

September 20, 2013

More Melting of Wax

The last post started the process of melting wax. I told you some of the ways to accomplish this. Now I will proceed to tell you some of the other ways to melt wax and clean it for other uses.

There is an electric wax melter with a water jacket that you heat up and the hot water will melt the wax in the tub and the hot wax will run out a port into a bucket or catch pan. It is thermostat controlled and since the melting point for wax is 144° – 147° F, I would not let the water get over 150° F.

You can put the wax in a Solar Wax Melter and let the sun melt the wax. Be careful though, this can get up into the 200° + range and can ruin your wax or burn you if you get some of the wax on you.

Now here is the meat of the wax subject. The reasons and uses for wax. Up until recently 20 years or so ago, the Roman Catholic Church used only bees wax for their candles.  Candles are a large part of the ceremonies of the  Church. They have kept many beekeepers busy just producing wax for the candles.

The uses of wax candles are many, aside from the many shapes of candles, there are ornamental candles, wax for key impressions, wax for seals, wax for machinists to use to keep their dies and tools sharp and cool when in use, seamstresses dip their hand needles in wax to make them slide through cloth easier.

Then there is wax used to waterproof boots and rain gear,  wax is incorporated into waterproofing for tents and outside fabric structures, and finally beeswax is made into car wax and cosmetics (lipstick, lip balm, lotions and hand creams).

Some beekeepers gain a lot of their income from sale of wax, so save the wax and melt it into blocks. Again, it depends on what it is to be used for as to how you melt and package the wax.

The last bit of advice I can give is that if the wax is not looking the way you want it to, then put it in a solar wax melter again and again until it is clean and the sun has bleached to to the color you want.

Now, if you don’t mind, I need to get my wax melter heated up and start melting some of the seven 5 gal buckets of wax that I have accumulated. See you next time.

August 20, 2013

Melting Bees Wax

When working or, for that matter, storing bees wax, you must remember that wax is very flammable. It has a very low melting point 62 to 64 °C (144 to 147 °F). The flash point is 204.4 °C (399.9 °F). Keep the wax away from heaters, flames, or electrical wiring and sockets. When melting wax to clean and get it ready to pour into blocks, you need to be very careful of where and how you proceed.

1. If you use open flame, you need to be sure that the wax will not bubble over so the flames can get to it.

2. Either use a double boiler, or use water in the pan with the wax to keep the wax off the bottom of the container so it will not be in direct contact with the hottest point.

3. Make sure you are in a ventilated area to reduce the chance of breathing an overload of vapors.

4. Have a plan in case you have an emergency, like a FIRE, HOT SPILL, etc.

5. Use common sense.

There are several ways to melt wax. It really depends on how much wax you have to work with. If you have just a little wax, then you can use a double boiler usually a quart pan. Sometimes you can use a gallon pot with about an inch or two of water. Do not get the wax hot enough to come to a rolling boil. That is too hot and you will run the risk of ruining the wax. Put your wax on top of the water to melt. Keep adding wax until you either use up the wax you have on hand or until the container is about 2″ from the top. Remove from the heating source or turn off the heat.

At this point, you can let it cool to the solid state. Wax is lighter then most trash so the trash and debris sill sink to the bottom side of the wax. After it cools,  turn the pan over and dump out a solid block of wax. At this time you can scrape and wash the crud off the block. If it seems to still have some undesirable stuff adhered to the block then you can remelt it again using the same technique and clean the bottom again.

Another way is to strain the wax through terry cloth or screen wire while still in the liquid state. This is a better way of getting the wax cleaner, however it is a little messier. It really depends on what you are going to do with the wax as to how you clean it or how much to clean it in preparation of the end product.

One beekeeper I know uses a number 12 hardware cloth. This is 12 squares to a square inch screen. He uses a rectangle deep pan with about 4″-6″ of water and has the screen mounted to a rebar frame. The weight of the rebar will keep the screen and debris on the bottom of the pan away from the wax. When it cools all he has to do is turn it over and the, now top of the cake, is clear of debris. All he has to do is clean the screen for the next pan of wax.

Usually each cake of wax is about 25 Lbs to be shipped to the Bee supply companies to be banked (accredited) to his account and when he wants some supplies, they will subtract that amount from the banked credit and no money has to be exchanged.

You ask where this wax comes from—-Wellll, let me tell you. When you have frames of wax, sometimes you have to cut the wax out of the frames for various reasons.  Wax moths web the wax sorta like spider webs. Sometimes the bees will eat the foundation up for various reasons. Sometimes when you are extracting honey, the comb separates from the frames. Sometimes the foundation gets dry when you have it stored and it somehow gets bumped and out comes chunks of comb.

Then there is the main reason, when you use a knife and cut the caps and part of the wax cells, you have an abundance of wax cutoffs. Your wax will start piling up. I have about seven 5 gallon buckets of wax cappings that I accumulated when I used a scratcher to decap my honey for extraction.

I have more information on wax processing for various reasons. That will come at a later date, soon, I hope.  Until then, watch your honey and pollen and feed when needed. You are in a dearth along a parallel line level with the panhandle of Florida from east to west. Save your bees. I will personally have to start over this next Spring as I have no bees at this time.

Talk to you soon.

June 20, 2013

When is a Beekeeper not a Beekeeper?

I have had some medical problems lately and with the help of Drs., Surgeons, and Hospital rooms, I am on the way to recovery. However, I have not been physically able to manhandle the boxes so, I have to depend on other beekeepers. I finally had one to be able to break off of his routine and come over.

Unfortunately, by the time I had help, the bees were driven out by the Small Hive Beetles. When the top board was removed on my only surviving hive, the top bars on the frames were covered head to tail, shoulder to shoulder with beetle larvae and no bees were in attendance.

All my bees are gone! Does this make me not a beekeeper any more? I personally don’t think so, however, since I am still considered a student of the Master Beekeepers program at the University of Florida and one of the requirements is that I have to have bees continuously without a break, what does that say? I would believe that I now have a break in my beekeeping and that will disqualify me for the program. I still have one level to go, Master Craftsman Beekeeper, and the prerequisite for this level is to have bees for two continuous years at the time of testing this coming November.

Now is not the time to get bees unless I intend to feed them through till Spring. I don’t know what I will do at this point. I need time to heal and get my strength back before I tackle more bees. I also need to contact the head of the program, Dr. Jamie Ellis and get a ruling.

I will let all ya’ll know as soon as I get an answer. If it stops my education, then I will probably not start up again next Spring. I will still have the rank of Master Beekeeper.

Until next time, get ready for the last honey pull and extraction. All the honey after that, the bees should keep for their winter stores.  Remember to keep your veil close, you smoker lit, and keep your hive tool sharp.