Saturday, February 23, 2013

Electric Bees?

Here are two facts that almost everybody knows: Flowers need bees for pollination, and bees need flowers for pollen and nectar.  The question then is- How do they find each other?

I have read from more than one source that flowers of some colors do a better job of attracting bees than flowers of other colors.  But here is what I have noticed in my unscientific observations: in my own yard yellow blossoms such as dandelions, squash, and broccoli blossoms do an excellent job of attracting bees.  The pink apple blossoms also get covered in bees.  White dutch clover doesn't have any trouble attracting the bees to their blossoms either.  And of course the blue and purple alfalfa blossoms just outside of town provide the most important nectar flow of the year in my area.  So does one color do a better job of attracting bees than the others?  I'm not really sure.

I am also aware that fragrance can attract bees as well.  Several years ago I read an article about how a pitcher for some major league baseball team (I don't remember who it was or what team he pitched for.  I want to say he pitched for the Diamondbacks, but it could have been that they were just in Arizona for spring training.) had to leave the game early because the honeybees would not leave him alone.  They were not stinging him, just constantly swarming around his head.  It turned out that he had used a coconut flavored hair gel that was attracting the bees to him.

It seems to me that honey bees must use a combination of sight and smell to find the most productive flowers.  But as it turns out there is a little more to the story.  I heard a story on the radio the other day about a third way that bees find flowers- by detecting electrical signals!  Apparently flowers give a weak electrical field which bees are able to detect.  The more I learn about bees the more amazed I become!

Here is a link to the article on NPR if you would like to check it out for yourself. 
Honey, It's Electric: Bees Sense Charge On Flowers

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Happy Birthday To Me

My birthday doesn't actually come around until April, but I was talking about a piece of beekeeping equipment I would like to own so my wife ordered it and a few other items as an early birthday present.  Here is a short video showcasing what she got me.  You will even catch a glimpse of my youngest son.  You can click in the lower right corner of the videos to view them in full screen.

This next video is not bee related.  It is a video of one of my favorite places on earth, and I felt the urge to share it with the rest of you.  I recorded the video with my phone as my daughter and I were backpacking last summer.  As beautiful as it is in the video, it is even more spectacular in real life.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Mid Winter

Here we are in the middle of winter.  There is not much going on with the bees this time of year.  They stay snug in their hives in a tight cluster feeding on honey while they endure the cold days of February.  They do stay warm enough though- they are able to generate heat by shivering their wing muscles or abdomen muscles (I have heard both) and can keep the inside of the cluster 90 degrees Fahrenheit (that's 32 degrees Celsius) even in the bitter cold.  Amazing!  Isn't it?
We have had a few snow storms blow through in the last couple of weeks.  Here is what the hives look like right now.
I cleared the now away form the hive entrances after I took the picture.

You may be wondering about the hive on the far right and asking why I lefter her to over winter with just one deep hive body.  Well, that requires some explanation....

 Last spring I started that hive with a three pound package of Russian hybrid bees.  I had heard that they can produce more honey than other varieties because they are able to work in cooler temperatures.  That should translate into working earlier in the morning and later into the evening.  I found that this was not the case.  I did find however, that Russian hybrids tend to more aggressive than our other bees have been.  Not that they bothered us in the garden or near the hive, but there was no way I could ever enter the hive without my veil and gloves.  I would have been stung to death.  They were not at all like the other two hives which have been so calm I could get through the entire hive without being bothered.

This fall I decided to take all the honey I could from the Russian hybrids, not feed them, and let the hive die out over the winter.  The plan is now to buy a new Italian queen this spring and split one of the existing hives into the Russian hybrid hive.  I ended up leaving only four deep frames in one box- I didn't extract those frames because they were partially full of brood.

As I knocked on the side of each hive today I heard the buzzing of bees in all three- including the Russians!  They certainly do seem to be hardy.

I suppose I ought to make some bee candy to make sure that Ida and Georgia (the too desirable hives) will have enough to make it through the next few months until the dandelions start blooming.  Can't wait! 

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