Monday, May 25, 2015

Reader Mail

Loyal Reader Will B asked me to explain a few terms, which I am happy to do. It reinforces the material for me, and I always like bringing others along.

Question 1: What Is Brood?
In a hive we can find a variety of things. There are bees (a queen, worker bees, and drones). There are varroa mites. There is wax comb (which the bees can build free-hand or on wax foundation provided by the beekeeper). The wax is composed of cells that the  worker bees put things in and may then cap (cover) such as pollen, nectar, and honey (which is nectar in cells that has been capped and dried a bit). The queen bee puts eggs in cells. The eggs and resulting larvae/pupae/bees are referred to as the brood.

A beekeeper can tell by looking whether a cell holds a future worker bee, a drone, or a queen based on the size and shape of the cell. While the queen is the one who determines the sex of the bees, there are those that say the real power to determine the makeup of the hive belongs to the worker bees, as they are the ones who create the cells into which the queen lays her eggs.

Question 2: What Is a Honey Super?
There are many different hive systems. I happen to use a Deutsche Normal (DN) system, but there are as many ways to house bees as there are beekeepers. Typically, beekeepers use the same system as their mentor or teacher, but that doesn't mean people don't experiment or create their own methods. Beekeeping is equal parts apprenticeship and trial-and-error.

This is a long way to say that the boxes that make up a hive can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. There are some rather funky ones--for example, something referred to as a top-bar hive. There's a good explanation of top-bar and a couple other hive systems here. Of the three systems described in that link, the DN is closest to the Langstroth hive.

But basically all hives have a few boxes full of brood (where the queen is laying her eggs) and at least one box above all that where the bees are storing honey. Those boxes of honey are called supers. Many beekeepers (including me) put a screen called a queen excluder between the brood boxes and the honey supers to keep the queen from laying eggs there.

In some hive systems the honey supers are half the depth of a brood box. The advantage to that it is easier for the beekeeper to move those smaller supers. Honey is surprisingly heavy. DN hives have honey supers that are identical in size to the brood boxes. The advantage is that you can use a box for either brood or honey. The disadvantage is that you might want a helper when it comes time to move your honey supers around. Beekeepers seem to cultivate back problems.

This does not mean that there is not honey in a brood box. There is. The bees eat it. But out of a brood box with ten frames, maybe two have some honey on them (and these will be the outermost frames). Moving towards the center of the box you will find pollen, and then the brood, with the queen likely hanging out in the middle portion of the brood box.

Question 3: Why a Water Source?
Simply put, bees need water same as we do. Beekeepers like to provide a water source for their bees as this keeps the bees from visiting the neighbor's pool or bird bath. And this is one of those small things anyone can do to help bees and other pollinators. Look on the internet for water sources for bees or here to find ways to provide bees with drinking water. The key is to prevent drowning. Take a saucer from under a potted plant, and fill it with rocks or marbles to give the bees a way to access the water, but not get trapped in it (they aren't swimmers). At my hive, I have a small catch basin under a downspout. I put wine corks and pine cones and sticks in there. No Drink-N-Drown at Honey Bunny Hives, please!

1 comment:

  1. I was thinking about putting out a tray on our balcony, but I wasn't sure if it would be worth it. Any opinions?