Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bees flying

The second picture shows the empty packages, and the little block of wood in the forground is a queen cage.  The bees freed her last night and I removed the empty cage so that they wouldn't build it into the hive.   I'll police up the packages and so on tommorow.  I leave them near the hives so that straggler bees can fly out. 

The bees were exploring their new home today, huge clouds of them flying in all directions.  The basic housekeeping that bees do is to clean out the hive; you can see bits of old wax and so on that they're extracting, and as the bees work, some of them die, so the bodies of the spent worker bees have to be moved out. 
  Bees usually live about 3 months.  They live longest in winter -- most of the time is spent in the hive, which is safer than foraging.  They'll spend the first few days or weeks of their life caring for the brood, then move to foraging, finally ending their tour as hive guards and mortuary bees, removing other dead bees from the hives.  They've got special hooks on their legs that allow them to grab the dead bee and drag it to the hive entrance, and then fly a short distance, usually a few feet, to dump the body. 
   A scientist found the compound that signals "dead bee" to the hive, and tested it by dabbing it on live, healthy bees, who were immediately hustled outside and dumped, only to return to the hive as the bee version of a zombie.  This went on until the smell wore off, and left a very puzzled bee. 

The majority of what the bees are collecting right now is pollen, a very high protein food that they feed to their young, in preparation for the population boom that is about to happen in each hive.  They'll go from 10,000 bees to around 50,000 bees each over the next 2 months.  That's a busy queen bee.

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