Back in January, our friend Taylor invited us to "park" some of our beehive frames inside of her beehive. The idea was that her bees would build comb on our frames, and start raising baby bees in those cells.
Taylor loves her bees, and wanted to share them with us. We were delighted by her generosity.
On Sunday morning, Robb and I went over to Alameda where Taylor keeps her bees. The hive was booming. Her colony, which had started as a swarm a year ago, was teeming with life. Taylor set about methodically going through her hive boxes, and it was clear that the bees had lived up to their reputation. These ladies had been busy!
Bees build in a tidy, predictable manner, and Taylor's bee's hive was a textbook example of how things should look. On the outer edges were frames of capped honey. The bees collect nectar from flowers, and process it with enzymes from their bodies. They deposit the nectar in wax cells, and when it has evaporated to the perfect viscosity for storage, the bees cap the honey with their wax. This frame is just about perfect. The comb got a little thick on the bottom edge, and was slightly damaged when Taylor lifted it out of the hive box. (Watching Taylor work with the bees is mesmerizing. She's calm, careful, and confident.)
In the center of a beehive is where the bees raise their young. Bees go through several developmental stages before they become adult bees.
The colony surrounds the "brood" with stores of pollen, nectar and capped honey, so that the newborn bees and the bees working in the brood chamber have plenty to eat. The capped honey is the arc shape on the upper edge of this frame.
The queen lays eggs in the wax cells, which hatch as larva.
I'll be the first to admit that I wasn't sure that I would be comfortable around larvae. I'm more than a little squeamish about maggoty-creatures. Thankfully, bee larvae stay put and don't squirm around.
Do you see the white c-shaped grubs inside of the open honey comb? Those are the larvae. You can actually see evidence of their growth. Some are quite small, while older larvae are larger and plumper.
The larvae then have to go through a pupal stage, where they transform into actual bees. At this point, the are sealed up inside their cells. You can see the dome-like wax, covering the pupae. When the bees are mature, they will chew their way out of their cells.
I find this fascinating, and not a little bit freaky.
I'll write more about the process of moving bees from Taylor's hive over to our house in the next installment.