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Bees and science both fascinate me, but when the two are combined, my fascination turns into amazement. The above video shows how bees react in two different situations – first when both bees have their left antennae clipped off, and secondly when they have their right antennae clipped.

In the first part of the video (in the petri dish labelled “2”) the bees are shown embracing and swapping mouth-to-mouth fluids because they are from the same hive and recognize this by using their remaining right antennae. In the second part of the video (in the dish labelled “1”) bees who only have left antennae square off the same way that they would if they were from competing hives. This indicates that the right antennae is being used to determine if a stranger honeybee is friend or foe!

Check out this post on ScienceNews for more information on this study.

Queen Bee Closeup

Photo by Claire Woods used under Creative Commons

It may come as a surprise to most people – even experienced beekeepers – that when a queen bee mates with a drone bee from another colony, she is essentially having sex with another queen bee.

Well, perhaps this isn’t 100% accurate, but please let me explain…

To begin, it’s important to understand how drone bees are created. Drones are the male bees of a colony and their only purpose (as far as we know) is to mate with a queen from another colony. Drones hatch from unfertilized eggs. When the queen lays an egg in a cell, she dictates whether it will become a female (worker) bee by fertilizing the egg with sperm she collected on her mating flight. If she doesn’t fertilize the egg, it will become a drone.

Fast forward 24 days, and the unfertilized egg emerges from his cell as a drone bee. Since this drone was created without a “father”, its genetics are made up of 100% of it’s mother’s genes. The drone is a direct product of only the queen.

From this point, when a drone then mates with a queen from another colony on her mating flight, he is depositing sperm that contains the genes of his mother. It’s essentially as if the two queens were mating directly!

There’s probably a joke in here somewhere about women ruling the world, but us beekeepers already know that. 😉

What happens to bees in the winter?

During the winter months, honeybees cluster together to stay warm inside the hive. They do not hibernate like some animals. They still function (at a much slower pace) and move throughout the hive as a coordinated colony consuming the honey that they stored the previous summer.

Contrary to what you may think, cold is not the biggest threat to bees over the winter. In fact, it is moisture and condensation that can kill entire colonies of bees.

Bees are quite good at staying warm all winter long. Each honeybee can detach her flying muscles from her wings and use those same muscles to generate heat by vibrating. The bees then cluster tightly within the hive. It remains a balmy 35° Celcius at the centre of the cluster, all winter long.

Because of the warmth inside the hive, without adequate ventilation, condensation will form on the top of the hive and then drip down on top of the cluster. It’s this moisture that will kill bee colonies over the winter. Proper ventilation is crucial to the survival of honeybees when the weather is cold outside.

Adding ventilation

There are numerous ways to add ventilation to a hive. When adding ventilation to my hive, I wanted to add sufficient ventilation while still protecting my hive from robbing¹. After researching online and listening to others at my local beekeeping association, I came up with the idea of using a paint stir-stick on top of my inner cover in order to add a nice gap under the outer cover, sheltered from the elements and small enough to guard against robbing.

I simply cut up a paint stick into short lengths and then glued one small portion to the four corners of my inner cover. Since this portion of the inner cover is not considered “inside” the actual hive, it’s unlikely that the bees will fill the small gaps with propolis the way they would do if the gap was on the underside of the inner cover.

The whole process took only a few seconds to cut and glue the the paint stick and the cost was free, since you can pick up these sticks at just about any hardware store that sells paint.

Paint stick cut up
A honey bee on stir stick ventilation
Paint sticks glued to inner cover

¹ Robbing occurs when other wasps, honeybees or insects get into the hive through an unguarded entrance and steal valuable honey from within.

Man and woman in a moon

Honeymoons are commonly known as the time period following a wedding where a bride and groom spend time together. Often the newlyweds will travel together and spend anywhere from a few days to a few weeks enjoying each other’s company. But where does the term “honeymoon” come from?

According to my sources, the term Honeymoon originates in Europe and refers to the time after a marriage where the newlyweds are sent off for a full lunar month (one moon) with a large supply of mead given by the bride’s father. Mead is one of the earliest forms of alcohol and is made by fermenting honey and water; similar to wine.

The French term for “Honeymoon” is “Lune de miel” which is literally “Moon of honey”.

Now I wish that I had been given a month’s worth of mead for my honeymoon. Time to make a phone call to my father-in-law.

A stick of beeswax next to baking panA friend sent me an article from today about using beeswax instead of grease or butter on cookie sheets, baking pans, etc. when baking. I have never heard of this so just like the author of the original article, it was news to me.

The article also claims that over time, the bakeware will retain a natural coating of beeswax so that waxing won’t always be necessary.

I’m intrigued and interested in trying this or hearing other people’s experiences. We’re right in the middle of a heat wave in Ontario right now and I don’t have air conditioning, so there will be no indoor baking until the weather cools down. However once the temperatures are back in a sane range, I’ll be sure to try this trick.

Have you ever heard of baking with beeswax instead of a grease? Have you tried it yourself? Leave a comment below.