Bee Basics


There are many different species of bees but the are split in to 2 different categories - Social Insects and Semi-Social Insects

Social Insects

The Colony is there all year round.

Honey Bees

Body shape is like the Wasp but the colour is different.

The body is brown or black with lighter coloured bands encircling it.

The Colony is the collective name for all the bees in the nest or hive. Its size varies depending on the time of year. It is at its smallest from November to February and at its largest between June and August. Each colony is divided into three Castes, Queen,Worker, and Drone.

Queen

queenbeesmThe queen is the mother of the colony. She is about 25mm in length and has a long tapered abdomen. Each colony has only one queenThe cell from which she is born is different from the other cells. It is cone-shape and hangs down on the face of the honeycomb. It is called a Queen Cell.

Queens can live for five or six years but they are at their best during the first two or three years of life.een. She lays eggs from which queens, workers and drones are born. She is fed and tended by her court of workers and spends all her time laying eggs, one in each cell.

Worker

The worker is a female bee. She is shorter than the queen, about 20mm in length. Her ovaries are not developed therefore in normal circumstances she cannot lay eggs. Workers do all the work in the nest or hive.

Their stage of development determines what area of work they do e.g. very young bees feed the older grubs, then as their food glands develop they feed very young larvae.

The next stage is beeswax making and so on. They spend about three weeks working in the hive before becoming foragers, gathering nectar from which honey is made and pollen.

Workers live for only six weeks during the active season but those born in late September and October live for six months because there is no foraging at that time of year and little brood to rear.

Drone

The drone is the male bee. He is bigger and stouter than his sisters. He is not quite as long as the queen but looks bigger because of his shape. His function in life is to mate with the young queen.

Drones are born each year from about mid-April to the end of July and in August when the supply of nectar starts to diminish they are driven from the colony by the workers and killed.

Because of their size they serve to provide heat in the brood nest but they do not perform any work in the colony. Therefore when the end of the foraging season comes they are no longer tolerated.

The drone's life span is an average of twenty one to thirty two days during Spring to mid-Summer. However during late Summer and Autumn they can survive up to ninety days

Hive

A square or rectangular box generally made from wood. No top or bottom is attached but a separate floor is placed underneath the box and a ceiling (called a crown board) on top. A shallow box covered with rainproof material is inverted over the top to form a roof. The Hive contains Bar Frames.

Honeybees in the wild live in trees, roofs, walls or any other place that provides shelter.

Bar Frames

These are wooden frames on which the bees build honeycomb. There are two sizes Deep and Shallow. Eleven deep frames are used in the bottom box of the hive called a Brood Chamber. The shallow frames are used for storing honey in the supers.

Honeycomb

Honey combsmIs a sheet of six-sided tubes called cells made from Beeswax. The bees use these cells to store food and rear young bees. The beekeeper fixes a sheet of beeswax embossed on each side with the shapes of the cells. The frames are placed into the brood chamber and the bees build each cell up from this base.

Brood Chamber

This is the box that holds the nest area of the honeybee colony. Here the bees store food and rear young bees on the frames of beeswax. Brood is the collective name for the developing stage of the bee from the time the egg is laid until the adult bee emerges from the cell.

Supers

Are boxes similar to the brood chamber but only about half the depth. They also hold eleven frames but generally only ten are put in and the space between each frame is increased a little. They are put on over the brood chamber to provide storage space for the honey and are removed at the end of the season so that the honey can be drawn off.

Honeybees collect nectar, pollen and water. They eat honey and pollen. They also need clean water especially when rearing young bees.

Honey is a sweet liquid made by honeybees from nectar gathered from plants. Honeybees have a special sac for carrying the nectar. It is found in the upper part of the abdomen. As the nectar passes through the pharynx, or mouth of the bee, an enzyme is added which starts the process of converting nectar to honey.

When the bees arrive back in the hive the nectar is passed to three or four house bees who ripen the nectar, reducing the water level to 18% and turn the nectar into honey. Then they pack it into the honeycomb and seal it over with beeswax to keep out the air.

Pollen

A powder-like substance produced by flowers. It is the male part of the reproductive system of plants. It also provides the protein in the bee's diet. It is an essential ingredient of the food given to the young bee grubs.

Nectar

This is a sweet liquid secreted by plants. It provides the carbo-hydrate in the bee's diet.

Water

This is used to dilute the honey before bees eat it or are able to feed it to young larvae. Like pollen it is essential for bees to have ample water when rearing larvae.

Beeswax

beeswaxsmHoneybees make beeswax. They produce it from glands found on the underside of the abdomens of the workers. Each tiny wax flake is pushed out and moulded by the bee with her mandibles into whatever shape she requires

In the course of the honeybees' visits to the flowers of many plants and trees to gather nectar and pollen the latter clings to the hairs on their bodies and is transferred from one flower to the female part of the next flower.

This is called pollination, which is followed by fertilization after which the seed or fruit of the plant begins to form. These are essential processes in the plant's reproduction. Honeybees are therefore very important in nature as pollinators. They will only visit flowers of the same species e.g. if they are working apple blossom they will not visit dandelion even though it may be growing nearby.

Semi-social Insects

The colony is there only during the summer season.

Bumble Bees

Plump, furry, with black and yellow bands around the body.

Wasps

Slender insect with yellow body with black bands around it.

These insects have similar life histories. During August many queens are reared mated and then each one finds a warm corner where she hibernates for the winter.

In February or March each queen seeks out a suitable place to build a nest and from a tiny beginning the nest builds up as the young wasps and bumblebees are born.

The queen is a builder, a forager and a nurse until the first lot of young are reared. Then she confines herself to laying eggs and the workers take over all the other duties.

 

Social

News

Co. Waterford beginners course

Co. Waterford BKA will be holding their classes for beginners starting Tuesday 21st February at Coláiste Cathal Naofa. For more information and outline of course, click here


South Tipp Beginners' Course

South Tipp BKA are holding a beginners course in beekeeping starting Saturday 8th April. For more for information on registration and what will be covered, click here


Trees for bees

**ALL TREES ARE NOW ALLOCATED** Those of you who ordered tree saplings should have already received a confirmation email by now, if not, contact Eamon at his email address


Well Done Ryan!

A Junior member of the Lake County BKA, Ryan Nea, has made it to the All Ireland Science competition and came 2nd in his college with a device which alerts beekeepers when a hive is about to swarm.......Story and picture of the young chap is the LCBKA facebook page


Gorey BKA Beginners Course

Gorey BKA Beginners Course, run by Ben Harden NBD, starts on Tuesday 4th April and continues for 4 more Tuesdays, followed by practicals in the association apiary. Venue: The Teagasc Centre, Fort Road, Gorey. Time: 8pm. Duration: approx 1hr. Bee suits are available for the practicals if required. For further details contact the secretary Aine Roche at secretary.goreybeekeepers@gmail.com


Connemara BKA Beginners Course

The Connemara Beekeepers Association are holding their beginners course in beekeeping. The course will be run in the GRETB (VEC) building in Oughterard. It start on Tuesday, 21st Feb, at 7:30pm. for more info, or bookings, please contact Ken Figgis, our education officer. Email kfiggis@hotmail.com or phone 095 41092


Bee Research Project!

FIBKA are co operating with CIT to run a beehealth project to improve the genetic diversity of Irish honey bee stocks, funding needed either corporate or individual. Click here for more info!


Kilkenny Beginners Course!

It will run for the 4 Wednesday nights (15 Feb, 22 Feb, 1st March, 8 March) from 7.30 to 9.00 covering topics such as
Beekeeping Equipment, The occupants of the hive, The beekeeping year, honey harvesting and planting for bees and pollinators.

This will be followed a number of practical sessions during the rest of the year at our own Apiary and at other Apiaries where you will get first hand experience with colonies of Bees

Contact Jer Keohane jkeohane@iece.ie for further details