Anatomy of a Honeybee Frame | Pictures | Food Newsie

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Anatomy of a Honeybee Frame

Anatomy of a Honeybee Frame

The first Instagram of a domestic hive is from some five eight thousand years ago. Cave art depicts a Mesolithic woman atop a ladder gathering honey from one of several active hives. Indeed, there are few societies on Earth as adept at thriving, growing and balancing sustenance as the mighty honeybee’s. That we learned to tap in is a great gift. Today, a little peek at a young hive Russian Honey Bees that’s just getting started.

There are two popular methods for starting a domestic hive. A Package is nothing less than a collection of bees from different hives all shaken into a screened package/box with a little food. A Queen bee is given her own smaller box and a few workers to keep her clean. They’re all introduced at the beekeeper’s hive with the hope that they’ll agree to agree and in good times, only half of them die as the hive gets situated. A more expensive method is called a “nuke,” as in nucleus and so spelled NUC. Bees of this nucleus hive have all come along together with a single Queen but their numbers have been kept small. The nuc is introduced to the beekeeper’s hive and within 36 hours, the workers are already bringing in food. The Brood Frame pictured here is from a two week old nuc of Russian Bees we’re helping to maintain. Thusfar, about nine of them have died. It’s worth the extra money.

Anatomy of a Honeybee Frame

Apologies for the lens distortion at right. The peculiar pattern above the capped brood already in the comb might be specific to this breed of honey bee, Russian. Their cold-weather hardiness and moderate temper give hope that they'll thrive even in the unsteady weather that's become the norm.

All great societies have two primary concerns amid the constant defense against intruders: Babies and food. In a domestic hive, babies, brood, are started immediately. The Queen, typically just fertilized once, can lay a thousand eggs a day. A beekeeper’s hive is meant to simulate something like a fallen log. The outer rectangle (the “hive foundation”) supports wooden frames that literally hang into the box. To get the nuc moving along, initial frames have machined comb which is pictured. Not having to use their own wax to construct the comb means the honey bees can get right to foraging for food and water and the Queen can get to laying eggs. Perhaps peculiar to the Russian variety is the strange wax pattern that caps these year-old honey cells that show dark brown and wrinkled.

Anatomy of a Honeybee Frame

When you watch a bee hive, you can see bees in the lower frames dip their heads into empty cells. They're little butts sticking out means they're busy cleaning the cells out in preparation for the Queen's arrival. She'll lay an egg in each as a thank you, and the drones will love her all the more.

Pertaining to brood, or babies, before the Queen arrives, workers clean the cell to meet high standards! Once an egg is laid, workers will continue to tend to that cell and cap it with wax. In 21 days, a new bee will emerge already set for work. Some will spend seven days being Nurse Bees helping new brood and some “switch” will flip and they’ll become drones and workers overnight. In the Summer, a bee will live a complete life in just six weeks; in the Winter months, a bee will stretch its complete life over the span of six months.

Anatomy of a Honeybee Frame

Opening a bee hive gets some bees climbing over their peers to get to the top edge. They're not angry, but they're ready. They look out and guard against anything that might injure the workers or the already capped brood. Provided they know their Queen is ok, they generally just remain vigilant and don't fly off to attack.

Once a beekeeper removes the lid from a hive, there’s new room at the top of the frames which is perfect for ‘look out.’ Some bees march right up to the top of the frame and look out at angles over their busy buddies. These guards are reacting to the dramatic change in environment. There hasn’t been an attack, but the big change of light entering and the frame being shifted around is reason enough for extra caution. Though our Queen is marked with a dot of red, we didn’t see her. The apparent comfort of the bees, however, was proof enough that she was fine somewhere in the hive.

Anatomy of a Honeybee Frame

Even when it looks like bees are just milling about, they aren't. The bees that seem to be standing on their buddies are in fact, standing on their buddies. Their jobs are no less crucial - to regulate the temperature, these bees are fanning their wings to both ventilate and pass pheromone messages to the others.

While they work, we found that the Russians, known to be a little more aggressive in general, were very easily handled in this case. The nuc arrived with five frames and the hive added three more so the nuc could expand sideways. Only two weeks later, the honey bees were still filling their five original frames. Nucs are regulated through inspection by the State in which they’re sold. With over 2.4 million colonies in the United States, we’re proud to add to that number, two, which have really opened our eyes to the nature of hives. Even with over 10,000 residents, a bee keeper’s mind is constantly on the health of any given hive – it’s true that bees are often very gentle little creatures.

Five five-second bee facts

About 40 million years ago, all but Indo-European honey bees went extinct from cooler temperatures.
A pound of honey takes roughly 2 million flowers; a full hive collects 65 pounds of pollen annually.
100% of all Almonds are pollinated by Honeybees – as are 90% of Apples and Blueberries worldwide.
Royal Jelly is the only food a new Queen Bee gets. Every animal that eats it out-performs systemically.
Drones have no stinger. They fertilize the queen and in Winter, the 300 to 3,000 of them are killed and ejected from the hive.

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