Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Simple Glossary

Ziva Jane spent the night laying on my foot, helping me nurse the bee sting or stings I got the other day. The power of pets and a tincture of time . . . I woke up this morning with less swelling and less redness but the itching is making me crazy. I am already feeling more productive and instead of stalking facebook walls and scouring the internet for the perfect Baltic cruise I am going to make good use of the few hours I have before picking up Tina from the airport and heading to my brothers cabin for the 4th of July. It is hotter than hell here, just like everywhere else in the US and I am hoping my bees behave and weather the weather. Even if they have ample space the heat can provoke swarming and I don't want another one of those. We didn't get back down on Monday, my foot was just too swollen and wouldn't even fit into a shoe and it was too painful to stand and walk, hence the indulgent day on the internet.

So just what is a Queen excluder anyway and what is the difference between a drone and a worker? For those of you reading who are not beekeepers I thought it would be helpful to define some simple beekeeping vocabulary, words I throw out there without context or definition. I would imagine you might be wondering what some of really means.

So a Queen excluder is just that, something to "exclude the Queen" or prevent her from moving from one box to another. It is usually placed between the brood nest and the honey supers so that she does not move into the honey supers and start laying eggs. We used them religiously our first year, sporadically last year and this year we have nearly band them! I don't like them unless they are serving a very specific purpose like locating the Queen. I would call them a bee excluder. Whenever we have placed them between our brood nest and our honey supers we find that the workers don't move up into the honey super which is completely counter productive! Having had so much trouble getting the bees to pass the excluder we decided to remove them and see what happened. So far our queens have never moved up, we have never had brood in our supers. Even if that happened it really isn't a big deal. We could use a queen excluder at the end of the season to isolate her and hatch out any brood in the honey supers. So we are done with anything other than season use to isolate her for some reason. You can see an excluder in the photo above, it is just a metal frame of sorts. The slots are narrow enough for a worker to pass through but too narrow for the Queen to pass through.

Brood box: Also know as brood chamber or brood nest. These are the bottom boxes of a hive that are used for brood rearing. They are generally larger than super boxes and hold between 8 and 10 frames. The Queen hangs out in the brood boxes laying eggs all day long. Worker bees tend to the brood, feeding the brood, tending to the Queen and cleaning out the cells after a hatch. In the photo above you can see the box and a frame.

Brood: a term used to refer to the embryo, egg, larva and pupa stages of life of a bee or other insect. In the photo above you can see various stages of development. When I report that we have eggs on a frame I am referring to a very early stage of development and when I say we have brood I am referring to the capped cells you see above. It is important for beekeepers to be able to see eggs and identify various stages of development of brood as it gives them a good indication of the health and existence of an elusive Queen that can't be found. As the population in a hive grows it becomes more difficult to locate the Queen. If you can't find her but you can see eggs in an early stage of development you know she is there and she is healthy.

Queen-right: a term used to suggest the Queen is in the hive and is laying well.

Brood pattern: a term used to describe the pattern of brood on a frame. A good brood pattern like the one in the photo above  is one in which the Queen is laying in every single cell, not missing a cell in a concentric circular pattern on the frame with nectar and capped honey around the rim of the frame. You can see capped honey on the rim of the frame in the photo above and a fairly nice brood pattern. This is how most of our frames look in our brood boxes.

Spotty brood: A pattern in which the queen is missing cells and laying helter skelter. It is usually an indication that the Queen is not healthy or that there is a disease in the hive. This is what we are seeing in Mr. Abbott's Little Bee right now. Since dividing the Turquoise bee and taking half the bees from her to this new hive with a new Queen we have had nothing but poor performance. The brood pattern has been spotty at best, the population is low and we have had some questions about our Queen. Originally we put in a new marked Queen, Yellow to be exact. After a few weeks of spotty laying she disappeared. I could not find her to save my sole and yet it should have been easy since the population was so low. Worker bees will often make a new Queen if they think the one they have is sick or not laying well and while I was gone Paula is sure she saw an unmarked queen in there. While I never saw any queen cells it would have been possible for them to have replaced her. However this weekend when Colleen and I checked the hive she was there. So who knows what happened, maybe they made a new Queen and killed her. Regardless we have nothing to show but spotty brood in this hive. We won't make any effort to overwinter these bees and if the bees don't take care of the Queen themselves we will be forced to.

Drone Brood: Brood that develops from unfertilized eggs that is slightly larger than the worker brood seen in the brood pattern photo. In a healthy hive about 10% of the population is drone. In a hive that goes queen-less worker bees, the females will start to lay unfertilized eggs and the hive will go to drone which simply means over about a 6 week period of time you will end up with only drones and no reproductive capability in the hive and the hive will parish.

Worker, Queen, Drone: The workers are the female bees, the workforce of the hive. About 90% of the hive is made up of worker bees. In the course of their life they will assume multiple roles in the hive. Initially they are nurse bees and assist in the brood rearing and cleaning of cells. The may graduate to guard bee and help guard the hive from unwanted predators and on occasion medaling beekeepers. Eventually they become foragers and bring pollen and nectar back to the hive where other workers help convert all of this to honey and cap it off. Drones are the male bottom dwellers who do precious little other than leave the hive to meet a Queen on a mating flight. The Queen of course is the reproductive mama. She goes on one mating flight in her life heading out to a Drone Congregating Area and mates with multiple drones and the returns to the hive and lays eggs for the rest of her life. Workers and Drones live about 6-8 weeks but a healthy Queen can live for years.

Honey Super: A box, usually smaller than the brood box with frames on which the bees pack pollen and nectar converted to honey and capped off. In the photo above you can see nice comb packed with capped honey.

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