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Brood Combs

Brood-combs Very few beekeepers ever give a thought to the age of a brood-comb, and they are of ten heard to say “that they like the tough old combs.” Yes, possibly they do, but does the queen? It must be remembered that at least five bees hatch and mature in each cell every year, each one leaving behind its cast pupa skin, which during the busy season the bees have not time to remove entirely before the cell becomes the recipient of another egg. In course of time the cells must consequently become smaller, with the result that the bees reared in them must be affected in the same way, and eventually a miserable, stunted strain of bee fills the hive. Four years at the most should constitute the life of a brood-comb, for during that period there have been no fewer than twenty bees that have made use of every cell in it. By marking the brood-combs when they are first put in the hive, it is an easy matter to detect the age of every one in the apiary. For instance, in the first year they should have one notch cut in the end, the next year the new combs can have two, and so on till the fourth year is reached. When autumn comes with its examination of the colonies and the arrangement of the brood-chamber for the winter, the oldest combs should be placed on the outside of the chamber and the best and newest in the centre; then if any combs should become mouldy during the winter it would be the oldest, as those on the outside are usually the first to be affected. They can easily be dispensed with when spring comes, without the expense that would be incurred had the newest ones been the victims. As proof that the queen does not care about old combs it will be noticed that she will always prefer to lay in the new ones, and often when a new one is added in the centre of the brood-chamber she will make use of it before the bees have completely drawn out the entire comb.

Choice of Hive

For those proposing to keep bees for the first time there is a choice of several hives. Those most widely used in Britain are British National Hive, Smith Hive, Modified Commercial Hive, Langstroth and Modified Dadant Hives. The basic feature common to all these hives is that they use rectangular wooden boxes, open top and bottom, which can be tiered one upon another, the first resting on a floorboard incorporating an entrance and the top one covered with a roof.

The frames enclosing the combs hang in the boxes. The combs in the lower part of the hive form the brood nest in which the eggs are laid by the queen and in which the resulting larvae are reared by the nurse bees. Above the box, or boxes, containing the brood nest are placed .boxes of combs for the storage of honey, as required during the season. Between the brood nest and the upper boxes (usually known as honey ‘supers’) may be placed a perforated horizontal screen (queen excluder) through which worker bees can pass but not the larger-bodied queen. The use of a queen excluder prevents the queen from laying eggs in the boxes provided for honey storage and facilitates removal of the honey at the end of the season. Whereas deep boxes with correspondingly deep combs are used for the brood nest, shallower boxes (supers) with shallower combs are usually used for honey storage. Sometimes, in order to give more room for brood rearing, a shallow box or a second deep box is added to the brood nest.

The hives described above take frames of different sizes. The frames most in demand from British manufacturers are, at present, the Standard British 14 x 81/2 in. deep and 14 X 51/2 in. shallow frames. With 1 ½ in. long lugs these frames fit the British National hive; if the hugs are shortened to 3/4 in. they are suitable for the Smith hive. These hives, like the others described, are single walled and suitable for large or small scale beekeeping. There are other hives, namely The WBC (double skinned) that look more decorative in a small garden apiary but with single walled hives management is simpler, the labour involved is less and the movement of whole apiaries for pollination or to heather moors becomes a much more practicable

To start with, a hive consisting of a floor, deep box and two or three shallow super boxes, inner cover (or crownboard) and roof should be obtained, together with a queen excluder. This will usually suffice for the first season, but it is useful to have a spare hive of the same pattern, with one deep box, in reserve in case it becomes necessary to house a swarm.

Frames can be bought completely assembled and fitted with foundation ready for use, but a cheaper alternative is to buy flat pack or self assembly along with sheets of wired foundation for assembly and nailing together at home.

Bee Space

The “Bee-Space” is the gap which bees will leave clear as a passageway between the frames and the hive walls, and it is most important because without it we could not remove and replace frames as we do. The bee-space is 1/4 -3/8 in (6-9mm); a smaller gap would be filled by the bees with propolis (bee-glue) and they would build extra comb in a larger one. Basic Hive components allow variation in the dimensions of different hives and in the provision of top or bottom bee-space. A bee-space must also exist between brood boxes and supers; otherwise they would be difficult to separate. Traditionally the British elected to have bottom bee-space, so that the tops of the frames were flush with the top edges of the box but the bottom bars were in (9mm) short of the lower edges.

Warre Hive Description

The Warré hive was invented by Abbé Émil Warré, and is also called “ruche populaire” or “The People’s Hive” . The Warré hive is a modular and storied design similar to a Langstroth hive. The hive body is made of boxes stacked vertically, however it uses Top Bars for comb support instead of full frames. Popularity of this hive is growing among sustainable practice beekeepers. The Warre hive differs from other stacked hive systems in one fundamental aspect: when the bees need more space as the colony expands, the new box is “nadired”. i.e. positioned underneath the existing box(es). This serves the purpose of warmth retention within the brood nest of the hive, considered vital to colony health.

Worker Bee Rolls

Cell Cleaning (Day 1-2)Brood cells must be cleaned before the next use – cells will be inspected by the queen and if unsatisfactory will not be used. Worker bees in the cleaning phase will perform this cleaning. If the cells are not clean, the worker bee must do it again.Nurse bee (Day 3-11) Nurse bees feed the worker larvae worker jelly which is secreted from glands that produce royal jelly. Advanced Nurse Bees (Day 6-11) Feed royal jelly to the queen larva and drones receive worker jelly for 1 to 3 days at which time they are started on a diet of honey and pollen. Wax production (Day 12-17) Wax Bees – build cells from wax, repair old cells, and store nectar and pollen brought in by other workers. Early in the worker’s career she will exude wax from the space between several of her abdominal segments. Four sets of wax glands, situated inside the last four ventral segments of the abdomen, produce wax for comb construction. Worker activities d Honey sealing (Day18 – 22 ) Mature honey, sufficiently dried, is sealed tightly with wax to prevent absorption of moisture from the air by workers deputized to do same. Drone feeding Drones do not feed themselves; they are fed by workers. Queen attendants The attendants groom and feed the queen. They also collect QMP (Queen Mandibular Pheromone) from the queen and share it with the bees around them who also share it spreading its effects through the hive. Honeycomb building Workers will take wax from wax producing workers and build the comb with it. Pollen packing Pollen brought into the hive for feeding the brood is also stored. It must be packed firmly into comb cells and mixed with a small amount of honey so that it will not spoil. Unlike honey, which does not support bacterial life, stored pollen will become rancid without proper care. It has to be kept in honey cells. Propolizing The walls of the hive are covered with a thin coating of propolis, a resinous substance obtained from plants. In combination with enzymes added by the worker this has antibacterial and antifungal properties. Propolis is used to aide with ventilation and at the entrances of hives. Mortuary bees Dead bees and failed larvae must be removed from the hive to prevent disease and allow cells to be reused. They will be carried some distance from the hive by mortuary bees. Guard Bees (Days 18 – 21) protect the entrance of the hive from enemies Soldiers hang around near the entrance and attack invaders. They work in concert with entrance guards. Entrance guard bees inspect incoming bees to ensure that they are bringing in food and have the correct hive odor. Other bees will be rejected or attacked with soldier bees. Outside guard bees may take short flights around the outside of the hive in response to disturbances. Fanning bees Worker bees fan the hive, cooling it with evaporated water brought by water carriers. They direct airflow into the hive or out of the hive depending on need. Water carriers When the hive is in danger of overheating, these bees will obtain water, usually from within a short distance from the hive and bring it back to spread on the backs of fanning bees. The worker bee has a crop separate from the nectar crop for this purpose. Foraging bees (Days 22 – 42) The forager and scout bees travel (up to 1.5 miles) to a nectar source, pollen source or to collect propolis.

Uniting Bees

Uniting bees is just about joining more than one colony of bees together to form a stronger one for a special purpose. Uniting bees is a very simple concept but one that is rarely used or necessary in the development beekeeping context. However, occasionally a beekeeper may find that by uniting several stocks of bees they can have a good honey producing colony instead of two small ones that may abscond or die out because they are small.

Why should the beekeeper unite bees?

The most important reasons are:
  • The colonies are very small or weak
  • One of the colonies has lost its queen
  • There have been lots of swarms and the swarms are very small so may not be productive for this harvest
  • The beekeeper wants to try rearing queens and wants to build up strong colonies
  • The colonies need feeding or treating and it is cheaper to do this with a smaller number of colonies that can be divided when they are strong enough.
  • The beekeeper might want to make nucleus hives from more than one colony to reduce the weakening effect this has on each colony
Colonies will not normally join together without fighting because each colony has a distinct colony odour that ensures the worker bees know which is their home and when intruders are trying to invade it. This causes them to fight which can cause many worker bees to be killed. To successfully unite colonies this odour has to be mixed in the two colonies in a way that prevents the bees form fighting. This can be done in a number of ways. The easiest method is used in frame hives which is to put the two brood boxes, one on top of the other, with a sheet of newspaper in between the two. The hive that is being moved is put on top of the other hive so the bees are trapped in the top until they have eaten their way through the newspaper. This ensures they do not fly back to their original site but learn their new place. Both sets of bees eat the newspaper gradually and in a few days their colony odours will have mixed and the two colonies will peacefully become one colony – but a much stronger colony. If there was queen present in each part, the two queens will have fought and the strongest on taken over the colony. In other hive types, top bar hives for instance, it is not possible to use this method of uniting. In this case other methods can be used. The simplest is to spray all the combs bees with a liquid mixture of syrup (sugar and water) as they are mixed together. The bees will them have to clean each other up and by the time they have done this they will have mixed up the smells and become one colony. If this is tried and the second colony has not moved far, then the entrance will need to be blocked with some grass for a few days until the bees that have moved their position have worked out the position of their new home. Otherwise they will all fly back to the original hive position and the situation will be worse than before. In any colony if worker bees are joined up from three or more colonies they will unite easily. This is because there will be so much pheromone smell that the bees are entirely confused and accept each other by the time the colony has settled down. Consequently, three or more small swarms can be put into one hive and, if they don’t abscond first, they will join into one large colony. It is important to know why the bees are small and if it because they are diseased they should not be united. If a diseased colony is joined with a healthy one -the healthy colony will become infected too

The Worker Bee ( More…)

Worker Bee

Worker Bee

She is the other Female , but the smallest bee in the colony – only about half the size of the drone or the Queen. The worker Bee is produced from a fertilised egg – unlike her brother the drone who is produced from an unfertilised egg. The honeyBee egg will hatch in about three days and emerge as a small white larva. At this stage one of the worker Bees who is acting as a nurse will fill the cell in which the larva is resting with a substance called Bee milk. On the eighth day the cell will be capped with wax. The worker Bee will emerge from her cell 21 days later. She is then ready to her duties in the hive. In the summer time a worker Bee will live for just over a month – about 36 days. During the winter she will live for about 6 months. When the worker Bee emerges from her cell she still has a little more maturing to do – during these few days she will be doing cleaning duties around the hive. After a few days she will take her first flight around the hive. There are various roles within the colony that the worker Bee will perform – usually they will all progress from one role to the next but are able to perform any job at any time. The roles include nursing & cleaning, as mentioned earlier, also wax production, honey processing and guard duties. These roles are all ‘in-door’ duties and after about 20 days she will become a forager. When the worker Bee is in this stage of her life her role is to find and collect pollen, nectar, water and propolis. These substances are required by the hive to live. The pollen is used by the Bees as a source of protein and vitamins. It is collected from flowers and carried back to the hive on the Bees hind legs. Nectar is stored in the honey comb, transported back to the hive is a specially designed honey stomach. Nectar, gathered from flowers is primarily sugar and water. Polpolis is a sticky substance gathered from plant buds, again carried to the hive on the Bees legs and is used for maintaining the hive. A small number of the foragers will become what are known as scouts. The scouts explore the area around the hive for the best flowers from which to gather nectar. When they find a particular flower with a high sugar content they will return to the hive and ‘dance’ for the other Bees. The dance is a way of communicating to the other Bees the best forage available and the direction to go in order to find it. A worker Bee has a life span of about 36 days. When a colony is at full strength in the peak summer months there may be as many as 50 – 60 thousand adult Bees and approaching 40 thousand Bees developing in the brood frames.   A Worker bee is any female eusocial bee that lacks the full reproductive capacity of the colony’s queen bee; under most circumstances, this is correlated to an increase in certain non-reproductive activities relative to a queen, as well. Worker bees occur in many bee species other than honey bees, but this is by far the most familiar colloquial use of the term. Honey bee workers keep the hive temperature uniform in the critical brood area (where new bees are raised). Workers gather pollen into the pollen baskets on their back legs, to carry back to the hive where it is used as food for the developing brood. Pollen carried on their bodies may be carried to another flower where a small portion can rub off onto the pistil, resulting in cross pollination. Almost all of civilization’s food supply (maize is a noteworthy exception) depends greatly on crop pollination by honey bees, whether directly eaten or used as forage crops for animals that produce milk and meat. Nectar is sucked up through the proboscis, mixed with enzymes in the stomach, and carried back to the hive, where it is stored in wax cells and evaporated into honey. Workers must maintain the hive’s brood chamber at 34.4 degrees C to incubate the eggs. If it is too hot, they collect water and deposit it around the hive, then fan air through with their wings causing cooling by evaporation. If it is too cold, they cluster together to generate body heat. The life of all honey bees starts as an egg, which is laid by the queen in the bottom of a wax cell in the brood area of a hive. A worker egg hatches after three days into a larva. Nurse bees feed it royal jelly at first, then pollen and honey for six days. It then becomes an inactive pupa. Honeycombs have hexagonal cells on both sides of a vertical central wall. As shown in the photo, these cells are inclined upward, primarily to retain liquid nectar and honey. During its 14 days as a pupa, sealed in a capped cell, it grows into a worker (female) bee, emerging on the 20th day. In most species of honey bees, workers do everything but lay eggs and mate, though Cape honey bee workers can lay eggs. They build the comb from wax extruded from glands under their abdomen. They clean, defend, and repair the hive. They feed the larva, the queen, and the drones. They gather nectar, pollen, water, and propolis. They ventilate, cool and heat the hive. When a colony absconds (all bees leave the colony) or divides and so creates a swarm and then establishes a new colony, the bees must regress in their behavior in order to establish the first generation in the new home. The most urgent task will be the creation of new beeswax for comb. Beekeepers take advantage of this by introducing swarms into new or existing colonies where they will draw comb. Comb is much more difficult to come by than honey and requires about six times the energy to create. A newly hived swarm on bar bars (top bar hive) or empty foundation (Langstroth box hive) will often be fed sugar water, which they can then rapidly consume to create wax for new comb (Mature hives cannot be so fed as they will store it in place of nectar, although a wintering hive may have to be fed if insufficient honey was left by the beekeeper.)  

Worker Bee Rolls

Listed Below are the believed rolls for the worker Bees’

Cell Cleaning (Day 1-2) Brood cells must be cleaned before the next use – cells will be inspected by the queen and if unsatisfactory will not be used. Worker bees in the cleaning phase will perform this cleaning. If the cells are not clean, the worker bee must do it again. Nurse bee (Day 3-11) Nurse bees feed the worker larvae worker jelly which is secreted from glands that produce royal jelly. Advanced Nurse Bees (Day 6-11) Feed royal jelly to the queen larva and drones receive worker jelly for 1 to 3 days at which time they are started on a diet of honey and pollen. Wax production (Day 12-17) Wax Bees – build cells from wax, repair old cells, and store nectar and pollen brought in by other workers. Early in the worker’s career she will exude wax from the space between several of her abdominal segments. Four sets of wax glands, situated inside the last four ventral segments of the abdomen, produce wax for comb construction. Worker activities Honey sealing (Day18 – 22 ) Mature honey, sufficiently dried, is sealed tightly with wax to prevent absorption of moisture from the air by workers deputized to do same. Drone feeding Drones do not feed themselves; they are fed by workers. Queen attendants The attendants groom and feed the queen. They also collect QMP (Queen Mandibular Pheromone) from the queen and share it with the bees around them who also share it spreading its effects through the hive. Honeycomb building Workers will take wax from wax producing workers and build the comb with it. Pollen packing Pollen brought into the hive for feeding the brood is also stored. It must be packed firmly into comb cells and mixed with a small amount of honey so that it will not spoil. Unlike honey, which does not support bacterial life, stored pollen will become rancid without proper care. It has to be kept in honey cells. Propolizing The walls of the hive are covered with a thin coating of propolis, a resinous substance obtained from plants. In combination with enzymes added by the worker this has antibacterial and antifungal properties. Propolis is used to aide with ventilation and at the entrances of hives. Mortuary bees Dead bees and failed larvae must be removed from the hive to prevent disease and allow cells to be reused. They will be carried some distance from the hive by mortuary bees. Guard Bees (Days 18 – 21) protect the entrance of the hive from enemies Soldiers hang around near the entrance and attack invaders. They work in concert with entrance guards. Entrance guard bees inspect incoming bees to ensure that they are bringing in food and have the correct hive odor. Other bees will be rejected or attacked with soldier bees. Outside guard bees may take short flights around the outside of the hive in response to disturbances. Fanning bees Worker bees fan the hive, cooling it with evaporated water brought by water carriers. They direct airflow into the hive or out of the hive depending on need. Water carriers When the hive is in danger of overheating, these bees will obtain water, usually from within a short distance from the hive and bring it back to spread on the backs of fanning bees. The worker bee has a crop separate from the nectar crop for this purpose. Foraging bees (Days 22 – 42) The forager and scout bees travel (up to 1.5 miles) to a nectar source, pollen source or to collect propolis.

Opening The Hive

Before approaching the hive, make sure your smoker will not go out just when you need it. Move quietly: any bumping or jarring (dropping a hive-tool or smoker on the roof, perhaps) is communicated to the bees as vibrations through their feet, causing instant alarm. Puff a little smoke in the entrance, wait a minute, then standing behind or beside the hive, carefully lift off the roof. The roof is usually placed upside down nearby to act as a container for parts removed later. Loosen the inner cover with your hive-tool, lift one corner or slew it a little and puff some smoke in the gaps. The smoke causes bees to run into the open cells and start gorging themselves with honey, making them less aggressive. You must gain control of the bees straightaway and maintain it with a gentle reminder from time to time. Once a cloud of bees has roared into the air, it is too late. Knowing when and where to smoke is learnt by experience and by watching an experienced beekeeper or perhaps painful mistakes The cover / crown board / inner roof is removed and stood askew on the upside down roof, which avoids hurting bees on its underside. If there is a super on the hive, it and the inner cover could be removed together. Make a gap between it and the queen excluder, puff in some smoke, and lift off. Puff smoke across the excluder to drive the bees down, lever it off, shake off the bees over the brood box, and put it aside. To shake off the bees, hold the excluder firmly with one hand and bit that wrist a sharp blow with the other hand. There is always a little spare space in a brood box, so the next step, if you have the Hoffman frames, is to lever the whole block of frames to the far side of the box with the hive-tool, so allowing as much room as possible for withdrawing the first frame. Loosen the ends of the first frame in turn, put the hive-tool somewhere handy (later you will be able to hold it as well), grasp the frame lugs with thumb and forefinger and lift it slowly up, trying to avoid rolling bees against the next comb or the hive-wall. Once it is clear, adjust your grip with your palms against the side bars. You can now study the side of the comb nearest you. Brood combs must never be held flat; when they are warm and heavy with brood and stores the whole comb could drop out of the frame, and honey drips everywhere. To turn the frame round, a series of movements is used which keeps the comb vertical at all times. See Frame examination Outside combs seldom contain brood. This being so, you can shake all the bees off the first frame and prop it against the side or front of the hive where you will not kick it. This gives much more room for removing and replacing other frames without damage to the bees. Each frame is examined in turn and replaced in its former position so that the exact formation of the brood nest is maintained. The frame being handled should always be held over the brood box. A laying queen is heavy and unwieldy, and if she fell from the frame into the grass she would seldom regain her hive. Also, workers will clear up any honey which drips on to the frame tops, but any dripped outside the hive attracts wasps and robbing bees. A queen is particularly liable to damage if she is on the wooden frame, rather than the comb, when it is being replaced, so check this. A beginner examines the combs to familiarise himself with the normal appearance and development of brood, and to learn to recognise the different castes of bee, pollen, and honey. t may seem impossible to pick out a queen among so many bees but, once you have seen one, a queen is unmistakable, and facility in spotting her comes with experience. She is most easily found when the colony is small in spring, and usually on the central combs. If there is a laying queen there will be eggs, looking like tiny white dashes in the bottom of the cells. Light reflection can mislead, so tilt the comb a little each way as you search for them. Learn to distinguish capped brood and capped honey: brood will occupy the centers of the combs, honey the top outside corners. Between the two will be a ring of cells filled with pollen which may be green, yellow, orange, brick red, and even black, according to source. Drone cells with distinctive domed cappings tend to be in the lower corners of the outermost combs. Later, when the novice has a full-sized stock, this will be examined comb by comb in the same way for signs of swarming. Even a nucleus may have to raise a new queen if its own is injured. Queen cells are not always as obvious as might be thought, because workers often cluster thickly over them and they are often cunningly sited just inside the frame bars. At a certain stage in swarm control, when every cell must be found, the bees must be shaken from each comb in turn to allow a thorough search to be made. When all combs have been examined, replace the first frame if it was left out, the same way round as before, lever the whole block to one side to push them close together, and then centre it to leave an equal space each end. Puff smoke over the top, and replace the excluder, checking that it is the right way up if there is a difference. Put back the super and inner cover, and the roof, checking that they are exactly straight to avoid gaps. Collect the smoker, hive-tool and so on before leaving. It is worth making a box to carry your tools, including the smoker after it is cool, also spare fuel, a notebook and pencil, and later on such things as drawing pins and queen cages. Beginners can usefully make more comprehensive notes of anything seen during examination, rather than the word or two an experienced beekeeper puts on his record card. Something not understood at the time often becomes clear later, in the light of other developments. One can work out at leisure what has happened or will happen and look for the confirmation next time.