The first thing we did with our new hive was to feed them with a steady source of food in the form of a sugar water mixture (in this case 2 to 1 sugar water mixture).
It Takes Energy to Build a HiveThe main source of food for a honey bee is nectar and pollen from a flower. There is a specific time during the spring that there is an abundance of these two food sources, called “the nector flow”. When we started our new hive, we were not yet into the “honey flow” (sometime between March and May depending on weather). There are some food sources available, but not the quantity and abundance as during 'nectar flow". If we did not feed them, the bees would eventually find enough nectar and pollen to do their job of building the comb, but the beekeeper can help the bees by supplying a steady source of food in the form of a sugar water mixture and a quality supplement found at most beekeeping supply stores.
How Bees Build or ‘Draw Out’ Comb
The Queen needs the cells of the comb to lay her eggs. The comb is built upon frames that we installed in the hive. We used only wax foundation in the frames, one flat piece of wax that fits perfectly in a frame. The hive consists of nine of these frames in a wooden hive box.
Raising the Brood: Food, Workers, Drones and Queens
Both nectar and pollen are food sources necessary to raise the brood (egg to larvae – larve to adult stage of a baby bee). There are many stages a beekeeper notices in raising a hive. A great resources to learn more is http://pubs.cas.psu.edu/FreePubs/pdfs/agrs93.pdf
At the time of year that we acquired our bees, there were plenty of pollen sources available in nature for our bees. Just like nectar, if there is not enough naturally occurring pollen, a beekeeper can purchase and feed their bees a pollen source. From the nectar and pollen from flowers, bees make the foods that are necessary to raise their young and feed the Queen. Bees also make a sticky resin called “Propolis”. Bee collect sticky saps and resins from tree bark, leaf and flower to make Propolis. It is used to seal cracks in the hive.
About Our Queen
A hive only has one Queen. She is the life blood of the hive. Without her there is no new life. She lays up to 1500 eggs a day. A virgin Queen will leave the hive to mate and then she does not leave the hive again, (only to swarm: explained in a future blog). Because our Queen was already mated, she was ready to lay once the comb was drawn out.
Adult Female Worker Bee Emerge
On the twenty-first day after the laying of the egg, the adult bee bites its way out of the capping of its cell and emerges. After she is born, she will clean her cell and other cells. The newly hatched bee remains in the hive for about 21 days.
When a female bee is around 22 days old, she becomes a forager (field bee) and will leave the hive to visit flowers. It will forage for nectar, pollen and water. A female worker bee lives approximately 30-40 days after it emerges from its cell. She can live longer during the winter months when she is not foraging. A female worker bee literally flies until it dies. The wings of an older bee are tattered and worn out.
The Drone (male bees)
Drones are the male bees within a colony. The role of the drones is to mate with and fertilize virgin queens. Unlike workers (sterile females), drones can’t fly well, don’t gather food for the colony, don’t clean, don’t secrete wax, and do not care for young. Because mating only takes place in warm weather, there is no need for Drones during the winter months, and because the drone does nothing for the advancement of the hive in the winter months, they are put out of the hive to die when the weather turns cold.
The process of building up our first hive took about 2 months. The bees usually store the food source of honey and pollen on the side frames and raise their brood in the inner frames of the hive.
We did not harvest any honey that first year. All the nectar and pollen that they collect the first year is left in the hive for the bees so that they have enough food to sustain them for the winter to come.
Next year we will harvest the honey.