Architecture of Honey Comb

Here’s a quick video of the drone comb I pulled one of my hives yesterday with some commentary about the architecture of the comb. I point out the drone eggs too.

I call this post “Architecture of Honey Comb” even though it’s drone comb because, as far as I know, there’s no difference between the two. Both drone comb and honey comb have large cells, and drone comb is supposedly backfilled with honey once the drones emerge, anyway, so they’re virtually the same.

Natural Drone Comb

I decided to pull this natural drone comb today because the frame doesn’t have any support wire, which would have made the comb a prime candidate for snapping off the frame someday.

2019 Postscript: I don’t put wire in my foundationless frames anymore. Wires might prevent the combs from flying to pieces in an extractor, but I don’t extract foundationless frames, so that’s not a problem. The bees usually do a good job of securing the comb to the frame on their own.

Why Honey Bees Drink Dirty Water

February 2019 Introduction: This post generated a lot of discussion in the comments, even comments from fairly well-known American beekeepers, Michael Bush and Rusty Burlew. It’s from a time when this blog was actually being read by thousands of people, with lively comments and discussions happening every day. Anyway, the comments are worth reading more than the original post.

I’ve put out water for the honey bees living in my backyard, but they seem to prefer dirty water from puddles around the yard. They specifically seem to favour the moist dark compost soil in my raised garden beds.

Does the soil give off some sort of fake pheromone that attracts the bees? I didn’t know, so I looked up “water” in my excellent 1947 edition of The ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture (the only edition of the book I could afford) and I learned that the bees bring in more water in the spring during brood-rearing and less water as the honey flow peaks. But more to the point, the bees drink from compost piles (and composted soil) because the water there is warmer than water left in a dish. The bees are able to absorb warm water faster than cold water. So it’s not the stink of the compost that attracts them. It’s the warmth.

I think it’s fair to conclude, from this instance and everything else I’ve observed, that whatever honey bees do, they do it with the utmost efficiency.

UPDATE (a few hours later): The warm water theory doesn’t hold much water. Here’s a shot of the bees drinking freezing cold water leaking from my garden hose all day.

Hunting for Honey Bees

February 2019 Introduction: I look at this video and I sort of half wish I still lived in St. John’s because I actually had more land to keep my bees on in the city than I do where I live now in a rural-like location outside of the city. Just look at the video and check out the field I had behind my house. That was my property. Pretty sweet, eh?

Unfortunately, the field was also used as a local hangout for high school kids who lit the whole thing on fire at least once a year and regularly used it as a drinking spot. My hives would have been an easy target for vandalism like everything else back there. My next door neighbours were also extraordinarily unpleasant people with vicious tempers and a mean junkyard dog that barked and foamed at the mouth half the time I did anything in my backyard. I loved the house I lived in, and I loved that back field, but within months starting up my hives, I realized I was in the worst neighbourhood for keeping bees.

The moral of the story is: Urban beekeeping in a crowded neighbourhood and a tiny backyard is entirely doable, but it’s not much fun if you’re not surrounded by good neighbours. You gotta have good neighbours.

There’s not much to see here but I’ll show it to you anyway. It’s a raw video of me walking through the field behind my shed looking for honey bees on dandelions. The field fills with a variety of wild flowers during the summer and fall. I might explore it again later on in the season when there’s more to see. (Note: The video contains some brief G-rated profanity.)

The video demonstrates how difficult it is to get a precise focus on the bee. It’s been cold for the past week and the bees have been stuck in their hives. Sunnier skies and warmer temperatures are supposedly on the way. I hope so. We only have four months of the year that aren’t cold, wet and windy (that is, they’re not as cold, wet and windy as the other eight months). I’m ready to make the most of it. I think the bees are too. Come on summer, let’s get on with it!

2019 Postscript: Here’s the Google Street View of my old house at 43 Golf Ave in St. John’s. That’s my black Honda Fit in the driveway and my mean neighbour’s Jeep in the adjacent driveway. Flip the camera around and you can see the corner store directly across the street. (Personal advice: Don’t ever live anywhere near a corner store. Trust me, you won’t like what you see.) I like to think the neighbourhood has improved since I lived there, but I can’t say I miss it one bit. Once you move the country and love it as much as I do, you can never go back.

Dandelion Will Make You Wise

It’s May 17th in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and the spring season is on the cusp of becoming. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines “becoming” as to come into existence and to undergo change and development. Exhibit A: The first dandelion of 2011.

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Not the most astonishing video of honey bees on a flower, I know, but if you look closely, you might notice a few bees dragging their back legs over the pollen or even pushing the pollen down into their pollen baskets on said back legs. I recommend picking up a dandelion with bees on it to any new beekeeper. You’ll see things you haven’t seen before. I know I did.

The title of this post refers to the Rolling Stones songs, Dandelion.

Rainbow of Pollen

I took several photos of bees with pollen today, but I like this one the most because the bee’s wings are in the forward position, and I’m not sure where that pollen is coming from, but it’s got that psychedelic thing going on.

February 2019 Postscript: Due to a technical glitch, all the other photos for this post got lost. The above photo is the best one anyway. Here’s a quick video of clip that shows how much I had to crop in on the original photo.