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Friday

Iridescent Sweat Bee

Iridescent Sweat Bee

These bees belong to the Hymenoptera family of insects. They are from the family of 'Halictidae', and are found all over the world except Southeast Asia and Australia. 

They are called sweat bees as they are attracted to human perspiration for the moisture and salts they get from it. They are tiny (4 mm - 8 mm) solitary pollinators who live underground. They usually create vertical tunnels in the soil with side passages leading to the egg chamber. 

The Green Sweat Bees (Genus: Agapostemon) are among the most noticeable of  native bee species with their metallic shimmery green or blue-green sheen and hairy back legs. Like many bees they eat pollen and nectar. They are excellent pollinators of many small flowers of native plants. 

Thursday

Foundationless Frames

natural bee comb
 The Natural Bee Farm


There was a time when bees actually made their own comb from scratch. No really – they actually did. Honeybees really do know how to make their own comb! Unfortunately, their comb making often does not mesh with our desire for order. If left on their own, the combs will often have curves, which is not conducive to movable frame management. There are a few areas in even natural beekeeping where for the sake of managing the hive and extracting a harvest without destroying said hive, we must depart to a degree from the purely natural and give the bees more motivation to make straight combs. In this case, the use of comb guides has proven beneficial.
Comb guides can be a variety of things but their common attribute is that they’re attached to the top-bar either in a frame or a top-bar style hive. There are many options for comb guides – chamfer-trim or similar, Popsicle-sticks glued into a grooved top-bar, a piece of foundation similarly attached, or in some cases just a big of wax poured into the groove of the grooved top-bar.
When the bees make comb, they form little curtains of bees, hanging to gravity. These curtains are what determines the comb’s dimension. With the comb-guides in place, they’ll often grab onto the guide as the lowest point and use that as the base of their comb-making. While they are not guaranteed to stick to the guide, in most cases they do so long as other conditions are adequate – such as top-bar spacing and condition of neighboring combs. If the spacing is too far apart, they’ll begin to disregard the comb guides after a comb or three. And if a neighboring comb has a big bulge at the top – as can happen when they start filling out for honey, the next comb will be likewise off-center from the comb-guides. So the guides are at best recommendations, and it still takes a bit of management to ensure the bees properly utilize them.

 foundationless Langstroth frame with drawn comb
Here's a foundationless Langstroth frame with drawn comb.
Very straight and true to the comb-guide.
I use chamfer trim attached to my frame’s top-bars for comb-guides. It worked GREAT in the top-bar hives so I simply kept using them on my frames when I migrated to Langstroth last year. The bees appear to have taken to them just as well. Chamfer trim can often be found in the trim department of most hardware stores and I use the 3/4″ chamfer trim, which is all the store here carries. It fits the grooved top-bars perfectly. They come in 8′ lengths and I cut them into 16 3/4″ sections, with five sections per stick plus a little “waste” that can be cut to size to pair with another to fit in a frame. It takes two 8′ sticks per hive-box. With the TBH’s hives, I used to glue and nail the trim to the top-bars – which was rather tedious. My latest batch of top-bars that go on the frames I’m glued and used 1/2″ staples instead of nails and that’s worked pretty well. I purchased an electric stapler to make it easier.

 top-bar hive chamfer trim comb guides  in place
Here are the top-bar hive chamfer trim comb guides
in place and ready for bees.
The basic technique is to run a couple of beads of glue like Titebond III on the chamfer trim section and position it on the top-bar then staple it. It needs to be held firmly to make sure it doesn’t shift while being stapled. Not all the staples go in all the way – sometimes I have to re-staple if the previous staple didn’t go deep enough to hammer in, but in most cases I can just tap it the rest of the way in with a hammer. I prefer the staples with the flat edges rather than the pointed staples. The points are usually angled in a way that when the staple goes into the wood, one part goes in one direction and the other part goes in the other direction, and I want it to pretty much go straight in.
While it may seem more work than Popsicle sticks or paint stirring sticks, I prefer the chamfer trim because the angle promotes the bees to go down to the lowest edge before they start making comb, then they build it up either side of the comb guide as they draw the comb down, cementing the new comb to the top-bar securely. Eventually you won’t even see the comb-guide as the bees will exhaustively cover it with comb.
Foundationless takes a bit more work than foundation, but it allows bees to build the comb as they deem necessary – seeing as most of the time they know what they need better than we do. And it allows bees to size their cells according to their needs and not what we think their needs are. Their cell sizes will generally be smaller than the oversized foundations commonly sold, but honey production will still be high and the difference is often indistinguishable. 
And finally, the advantage of foundationless over foundationed is money. A dollar a frame for wax foundation adds up, especially if you’re growing your hives up to five or six deeps tall and have multiple hives. While it takes a bit of management to develop straight combs, once they’re built you’ll get several years of use out of them and basically for free. Time to draw isn’t any different from foundationless or foundationed – some report one is faster and others report the other is faster. But the bees can fill a deep frame with comb in less than a week, foundation or no. So give it some consideration. With their own comb, you will always know where it came from.In any case, the bees hardly notice the wires when drawing down their comb and the wires quickly disappears under the comb as the bees start filling it with brood and nectar. This makes the comb much stronger, especially if it’s rather young, and simplifies inspection and extraction. It is a bit of work to wire them, but in the end I think they save more of a headache than they cause. Once the bees have fully drawn out a frame, it is nearly indistinguishable from a frame that used foundation. Save for more spaces on the sides and bottom of the frame, the frame is fully filled in and if managed correctly, pretty flat. As the comb is rotated up and used for extraction, the uncapping knife will help level out any bumps and irregularities too.

Michael Vanecek

I've been keeping bees with no treatments whatsoever for several years. I've followed a basic philosophy of if the bees don't bring it into the hive then it doesn't get put into the hive with good success. After a life-time of naturalism, this was simply the logical course to take with honeybee husbrandry and proof is out there buzzing and making honey right now.

Saturday

17 facts about beeswax

facts about beeswax

 beeswax

  • Beeswax is used by honey bees in the construction of combs.
  • A kilogram of wax is produced for every 60kg of honey extracted from hives.
  • Worker bees cannot produce beeswax unless there is an adequate store of honey in the colony.
  • Beeswax is secreted by worker bees from a wax gland  on their abdomen. 
  • Beeswax is made up of wax esters, fatty acids and hydrocarbons.
  • Prior to the 19th century, a “wax” candle typically referred to a beeswax candle.
  • Beeswax is naturally scented by the honey and nectar of flowers and gives off a subtle fragrance as it burns.
  • Beeswax is hydrophobic, which means that it is repelled by water.
  • Beeswax has always been valued as it burns slowly, brightly and without smoke.
  • Beeswax has a melting point of 65 Celsius 
  • Beeswax is used in cosmetics as it contains Vitamin A, which improves skin hydration.
  • Beeswax is used in some lip balm as it helps seal moisture into the skin.
  • Beeswax can be added to soap recipes to make the finished soap harder and longer lasting.
  • Diodorus wrote the myth of icarus between 60 and 30 B.C.E. Icarus wears wings of wax and flies too close to the sun, melting his wings and causing the fall to his death.
  • Virgil, the great Roman Poet (70 BC ) wrote of a flute made by Pan where reeds held together by beeswax.
  • When the Romans conquered the city of Trebizond in the first century AD. they demanded beeswax as a tribute.
  • In the 1300’s farmers in France paid an annual tax of 2 pounds of beeswax each.


Bee quote of the month - December



“The bee's life is like a magic well: 
the more you draw from it, 
the more it fills with water.” 
~ Karl Von Frisch, Bees: 
Their Vision, Chemical Senses and Language.

Sunday

New research reveals how climate change and bee declines could be linked


Bumblebee

SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN has published an article this month - October 2017 - with the headline 'Longer Springs Might Hurt Bees, Not Help Them.'

This article is based on a study that was conducted using climate and floral data from over 40 years. 
a long-term project of David Inouye, a professor emeritus at the University of Maryland, College Park—and eight years of bumblebee monitoring, focused on three common bee species.
The long-term data suggest that the mountain snow may be melting slightly earlier than it used to, meaning the spring season is starting sooner and the flower season is lengthening. On the other hand, the abundance of flowers available in the meadows can fluctuate through the season, and the data also suggest there’s been an increase in the total number of days with low numbers of flowers available. 
“Years that have a lot of days with low floral abundance seem to be years that have really low snowfall and early snowmelt,” said study co-author Rebecca Irwin of North Carolina State University. And there could be several reasons for this phenomenon, she added. 
All of these factors can lead to temporary troughs or dips in flower resources throughout the springtime—and these fluctuations can have consequences for bee populations. 
Colorado’s Rocky Mountains
The research was conducted in the flower meadows of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains

Read the rest of Chelsea Harvey's indepth article here at Scientific American 
Chelsea is a climate science reporter who you can follow on twitter @chelseaeharvey



Bee facts - appearance


Bees have:

  • 6 legs 
  • 3 body parts: head, thorax, and abdomen
  • 4 wings - 2 forewings and 2 hindwings
  • 2 compound eyes made up of thousands of tiny lenses
  • 3 simple eyes on the top of the head
  • 2 antenna
  • The mandibles or jaws that are used for chewing. 
  • The proboscis: a straw-like tongue used for sucking liquids and for tasting
  • 1 stinger
honey bee diagram

Honey Bee diagram click on it to see enlarged versionby crazyhobo



Monday

Bee Quote of the Month - August

bee quote

Veiled in this fragile filigree of wax is the essence of sunshine, golden and limpid, tasting of grassy meadows, mountain wildflowers, lavishly blooming orange trees, or scrubby desert weeds. Honey, even more than wine, is a reflection of place. If the process of grape to glass is alchemy, then the trail from blossom to bottle is one of reflection. The nectar collected by the bee is the spirit and sap of the plant, its sweetest juice. Honey is the flower transmuted, its scent and beauty transformed into aroma and taste.  

Stephanie Rosenbaum

Bee Quotes

Get more bee quotes

Thursday

Solitary bees need places to nest. Here's how to make them a home

Click on this image to get an enlarged version you can read more easily
Solitary bees, as the name implies, nest by themselves and not in a hive with thousands of other bees. Solitary bees are gentle and very good pollinators. There is often a shortage of suitable "housing" for these bees and they happily move into the hotels that people have created for them.

SOME TIPS FOR YOUR BEE HOTEL:
  • place your bee house in a position to catch the morning sun as solitary bees love the sun to get them active in the mornings 
  • bees prefer a stable house - not a swinging house
  • bees prefer one entrance so provide a backing to your hotel - look at how most of the example pictures below place their hotel against a wall which creates a backing

BEE HOTEL INSPIRATION
Bamboo bee house from Infinity Gardening

house for solitary bee
IMAGE: Storage Geek 
DIY bee hotel
Giant Bee Hotel found on Green Bean Connection
DIY bee hotel


how to make an insect home DIY

Tuesday

One of the best plants for attracting bees according to scientific study

You can attract bees and other pollinators to your garden by planting certain flowering plants.  This can help save the bees by providing the nectar and pollen that they need.

best plants for attracting bees
Bombus Lucorum, White tailed bumble bee. A queen on Marjoram.
PHOTO: Honey-oak blog
One of the best plants I have found for attracting bees is the common herb wild marjoram which is better known as oregano or by the scientific name origanum vulgare. The added bonus for you is that oregano is a herb that's leaves can be used in the kitchen in Italian, Turkish and Greek cuisines.

best plant for attracting bees
Honey Bee on Marjoram.
PHOTO: Honey-oak blog
Wild marjoram, comes from the mint family and is a perennial plant growing from 20–80 cm high. It's flowers are ranging from white to pink to purple in hue. It is a great bee atrracting plant to grow in a sunny and dry position.

In the scientific study, described in this video, below, Wild Majoram/ Origanum was the most attractive plant to honey bees, bumble bees, other bees, butterflies and hover flies.


This video describes the research project "Quantifying variation among garden plants in attractiveness to bees and other flower-visiting insects" carried out by Mihail Garbuzov and Francis Ratnieks at the Laboratory of Apiculture; Social Insects in the School of Life Sciences, University of Sussex, UK in 2011 and 2012, and published in the scientific journal Functional Ecology in 2013. 

The project, which is part of the Sussex Plan for Honey Bee Health & Well Being, aimed at helping bees and other pollinating insects by putting the process of recommending "bee friendly" flowers onto a firmer scientific footing. 

The project counted and identified insects visiting 32 varieties of summer-flowering garden plants in an experimental garden at the University of Sussex. The results show that the best plants attracted 100 times as many insects. This shows that, by selecting plants carefully, gardeners and park managers can be much more helpful to bees, which were 87% of the insects seen. 

Flowers that attract bees and other insects such as butterflies and hover flies are just as pretty to look at, and no more expensive or difficult to grow.

Origanum attractied 100 times more insects than some of the other plants tested.

Find out more about Origanum at KewScience: Plants of the World online