Sunday, April 18, 2010

Our Taylor Made Hive, part one.

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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.

18 comments:

Anne Marie Jenner said...

the bee saga has been fascinating reading. this will give you your third colony, if my count is correct?

Romana

Anonymous said...

Yay for bees! hey, what ever happened to the counter you had on your site before?

Annalisa

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

Anne Marie: It's still two. We combined these frames and bees with our existing colonies.

Annalisa: Thanks for spotting that. The counter got shuffled around at some point. It's now in a little yellow box on the very bottom of the page. Almost a quarter million hits!

Debbie said...

Lisa, this has been facinating reading. It almost makes me want my very own bee hive. Almost!

Anne Marie Jenner said...

oh! I thought the bees would have a problem with that, since they didn't originate in the same hive. I was under the impression they were highly territorial about their hives.

I learn so much from you!

Romana

Curbstone Valley Farm said...

I agree, Taylor's comb looks perfect! If you ever are shopping for bee-friendly plants, I can HIGHLY recommend planting native Ceanothus. Ours are blooming like crazy right now, and the bees here at least seem to love it...even more than our rosemary and lavender!

Bush Chick said...

Great work on the bee saga. Giving me inspiration to set one up as it is on the job list. Can't wait to hear how the move goes.\
Bush Chick.

Town Mouse said...

Oh, very cool! I think I'll link to those posts.

Rachel said...

I love it! Thanks for taking so many photos and sharing with us.

Sylvana said...

I've never seen bee larva before. If you look close, you can see little baby bee-heads on them!

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

Sylvana -- I've seen photos of bee pupae, and *that's* really freaky. They're ghost-white, squishy, and the first color that develops is the eye. Uncanny.

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

CVF -- you have no idea how much I stare at ceanothus plants!

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

Town Mouse -- thanks for the link!

LunaSea said...

I want to personally thank you for being bee-people. Colony collapse has had my family deeply troubled for years now, and I firmly believe (hope) that people like you and Robb will help bee populations thrive. You two are VERY special.

TaylorM said...

Look at those bees! Thanks for all the nice writing - and I'm so happy you got pictures of the larvae in the comb cells. Very happy to share my bees with you. Can't wait to read more about it! :)

Anonymous said...

I just mailed out a long delayed magazine to you about beekeeping in the ancient world- I dont have your new address so I sent it to your work address.

Annalisa

debsgarden said...

We had a huge colony of honey bees in an old oak tree behind our house. They were too high to get a good look, but we could see better from a nearby hillside. It's good to get a close-up of what they were doing! For some reason, they are not there this year. Do bees move to a new location each year?

MommaWriter said...

I love this! I'm totally fascinated by your whole beekeeping adventure to date. It's just so...cool!

Stacey

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