Last week we posted about our two new beehives. Here’s what they’ve been up to!
Both colonies have taken to their new homes, building wax comb in every nook and cranny. Fresh wax is pure white and turns yellow then brownish black as it’s used. Bees use honeycomb both to lay eggs and to store food (like pollen and honey).
For the most part bees build their comb on top of the thin sheets of beeswax that we gave them as templates. You can see how the comb on the outer edges of the frame has yet to be “drawn out” (built) compared to the deeper wax on the center of the frame.
So where does wax come from? Worker bees secrete liquid wax from glands on the underside of their abdomens. The droplets harden into translucent scales about the size of a grain of salt, which other workers pass like a fire brigade to the part of the honeycomb that’s being built. When bees link together like this it’s called a “festoon,” because the bees hang together between frames like a decorative garland.
Each bee colony has one queen. The queen spends most of her time laying eggs – about one every eight seconds at the height of summer. Her abdomen is longer and more slender than the bodies of the other bees. Can you spot her?
Both of our queens are healthy and productive. How do we know? The oblong white specks at the backs of these cells are eggs, and our beekeepers observed the right number and arrangement of eggs in both hives. Assessing the laying pattern of the queen is one of the beekeeper’s most important jobs. An irregularity in the egg laying is a signal that something in the hive has gone awry.
Beehives can contain 12,000 to 80,000 individual bees, and for the bees to cooperate effectively they have evolved many means of communication. Here we see bees arching their backs and fanning their wings to broadcast the scent of the hive to any bees out foraging for food. Fanning also helps regulate the hive temperature, spreads pheromones, and helps with dehyrdrating nectar into honey.
If all goes well, when we next peek into the hives in a week or two we should see hatched eggs, more drawn comb, and greater pollen stores. Stay tuned! Keep an eye on the newsletter for the next public hive inspection date.