A challenging start to Spring

By | May 27, 2013

Spring has started a month late this year.
It wouldn’t be fair, or true, to blame the weather on my challenging start to the 2013 beekeeping season. But it’s tempting none the less..

The good news…

Honey is in the house!

The bees have been enjoying the warming weather, collecting pollen and nectar.

The excess nectar is dehydrated, the sugar is chemically converted and capped with a wax lid = honey!

The excess nectar is dehydrated, the sugar is chemically converted and capped with a wax lid = honey!

Roughly, honey production occurs like this. Nectar is a sugary substance that bees collect from flowers. The sugar in the nectar (sucrose)¬†is chemically converted in the bee’s honey stomach using the enzyme ‘invertase’, converting into fructose and glucose. The water in this liquid sugar solution is reduced, or dehydrated to below 20%, making the liquid much less runny.

Once converted and dehydrated, the cell is capped with a wax lid to ensure it doesn’t rehydrate, et voila, this is honey! You can see to the left the bees are capping some honey, which is a great sign.

Pollen is in the house!

The bees also collect pollen from the flowers and trees, this is a protein source for the colony, particularly for developing larvae and young bees. The different colours of pollen shows the different flowers they have been collecting from.

The pollen chart at Bristol Beekepeers web site indicates the bees are visiting willow, apple trees, and snowdrops at least. There are a lot of horse chestnut trees around Chiswick, so there’s bound to be some in there too.

The different colours of pollen indicate the different flowers they've been visiting

The different colours of pollen indicate the different flowers they’ve been visiting- ¬†likely to be apple, willow, horse chestnut, snow drops, amongst others..

 

…but there’s no queen in the house..

While this is all very good news, the queen is gone.
She may have been rejected when I united the split colonies back together.
No queen = no eggs = no new bees = slow population reduction = colony death = sad beekeeper.

The queen did manage to lay some eggs during her short reign thankfully, and the bees are developing queens from those eggs. Queens raised in this manner are known as ‘emergency queens’ because, well, is an emergency! Some cells containing eggs are chosen by the bees, and they build up larger cell walls around the egg. These eggs are fed ‘royal jelly’, a nutrient rich substance which can change a regular egg into a queen bee.

Queen bees are larger than regular bees, so they need a larger cell than usual within which to pupate. You can see these developing queen cells on the left hand side, looking like peanuts. They are alongside ‘regular’ workers pupating in usual size capped cells, seen to the right.

sshhhh-  baby queens sleeping - and pupating

sshhhh- baby queens sleeping – and pupating

These developing queens will emerge in around a week’s time. In the meantime, the presence of the queen cells should keep the colony calm, as they know a new monarch is soon on its way. The bees also won’t swarm at the moment, as they’ve got no queen to take with them to establish a new colony. So there’s that at least. Until she appears, I’d like them to keep calm, stay put, and carry on collecting honey!

SR_KeepCalmCollectHoney


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