Rua tekau – tumeke!

By | May 7, 2012

The Rua Tekau hive at East Surrey Bees have been inside their new home for a week now, locked in due to the poor weather. Its a 50,000 strong colony which has been placed onto new foundation comb, so there are no hexagonal cells for them to store eggs or larvae, nectar or pollen, or honey. There are also very many hungry mouths to feed!

We left them a good dose of sugar syrup so they could get over their starvation.
The sugar syrup will also give them enough food and energy to start furnishing the hive with new honeycomb. Our tutor checked the hive after 4 days and found they had finished off all of the syrup. They’d been busy though and completed building new wax honey comb right through the base brood box! The queen had also started laying eggs in these new honeycomb cells.

Time for some more food and another brood box then – one of the causes of swarming is restricted space, so its necessary to ensure the colony has enough room to grow, and remain in the hive.

By Thursday when we had our class, they had drawn out comb over 50% of the additional second brood box, with eggs fully laid right through the bottom brood box. The eggs hatch after 3 days, so we would expect around Saturday there to be an increasing amount of pearly white c-shaped larvae to be present (the next developmental stage after an egg).
And all these larvae also need feeding…

The larvae remain in this form and grow for around 6 days until they are capped by a waxy cover. Inside a covered cell they pupate, turning from slug like larvae into their more familiar flying insect bee form. The pupae stage lasts around 13 days – a total of 21 days development  from laid egg to emerging insect. there is some variation, this is for the majority worker bee who make up 99% of the hive.)

I suspect by the time we have our next class (Thursday) we will see BIAS, or Brood In All Stages. Newly laid eggs, larvae (or uncapped brood), pupae (or capped brood), and potentially newly emerging bees.

Considering there is a full hive of adult bees now and a very full nursery about to emerge, I think we are going to have quite a colony on our hands! We will need to keep a close eye on our artificial feeding to make sure they get enough to eat, if this rainy weather continues preventing them from getting out and foraging.

For the sake of completion, the other 1% of the hive is made up of:

Drone bees who are male, and unable to sting (but they do have a prick fnarr).
Drones generally laze about the hive doing very little, and fly around from time to time looking for new princesses to mate with. Mating, much like stinging, kills them drone bee quickly.They are larger and stockier than the female worker bees, and so take 24 days to develop from laid egg to emerging insect. So called drones because of the lower buzzing sound when flying than the smaller and higher pitched worker.

There is only one queen in a colony.
New queens are ‘generated’ under different circumstances, and often a batch will hatch at the same time…. there can be only one….
A bees barbed sting doesn’t get stuck into other insects (the barb only remains in tougher mammalian skin), so new queens fight to the death to determine who is the new ruler of the hive.
Dramatic stuff.

Leaving you on a happier note, new unmated queens are sometimes called princesses, and are quicker to develop at around only 16 days.


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