You are in for a treat. In my last blog post I shared with you some of my boyfriend Drew’s awesome photos from Saturday, but I didn’t show many of the macro shots.
Now you get the macro shots. Plus, if you can keep going to the end of the post, some exciting (for me anyway) queen news…
If you look closely at this worker’s mandibles I think she has some propolis in them. We’re often looking down on bees – seeing their eyes and upper bodies – so I like this shot because it reminds me how practical their mandibles are, just like little pliers. Very handy for manipulating propolis and wax.
Please show the above photos to anyone who tries to tell you honeybees have yellow and black stripes. Up close they are a gorgeous mix of shimmering, subtle, browns, oranges and blacks. And very hairy.
This larvae’s sealed cell was accidentally damaged whilst removing brace comb. You can see its legs have the same form as an adult bee, but are a translucent white colour, whilst its eyes are pink. Kinda creepy looking!
Ah the many colours of pollen. Beautiful. Some of these bees will be young workers eating it so that their glands can produce brood food, whilst others will be returning foragers head-butting it in for storage.
I got very excited when I saw this one. It’s trophallaxis! (A fancy word for bee food sharing). You can see their tongues meeting.
Workers will constantly pass nectar around, so the aroma of their shared food ends up giving bees in a colony a shared scent. One of the ways a guard bee patrolling the hive entrance recognises fellow colony members is this common smell. If several colonies are close by and sharing large areas of a single crop such as oil-seed rape, they will often become irritable because lots of drifting occurs and they cannot tell each other apart.
Trophallaxis more often takes place by an older worker giving to a younger worker rather than vice versa. One bee will beg from another by pushing its tongue towards their mouth parts. The giver bee will respond by opening her mandibles, regurgitating a drop of nectar and pushing it forward on her tongue. During trophallaxis the antennae of the two bees will touch (as you can see happening here), allowing them to pass on scent messages such as queen substance. It’s all about communication as well as getting a snack.
This plump larvae had been accidentally damaged as we inspected. I removed it from the hive but this worker continued to tend to it, licking it with her proboscis. I imagine it would have been giving off distress pheromones as it became exposed to colder air, in the same way as I squeal if the duvet gets pulled off me on a cold winter’s morning. You can see its segments – one of the signs of a healthy larvae.
On Monday our local bee inspector, Caroline Washington, visited our apiary for her routine annual inspection. On Monday evening Emma and I received this e-mail from Andy:
“when Caroline checked the hive, we found an emerged queen cell in the bottom corner of one frame. Caroline then spotted a queen. very dark coloured. the frame that we put in had not got q cells pulled out on it, indeed the section that was prepared for q cells were being repaired!
no sign of new eggs (the eggs we transferred had not developed, probably too cold and they’ve perished, but it will be very interesting to see what happens next!! maybe the new q. will fly, mate and be OK or you may prefer to buy one in so as to be sure and get them going again asap.”
So we have a new queen in there already! Sadly, she couldn’t have emerged into worse weather. After a winter so dry a hosepipe ban got put into place, it now won’t stop raining. Wet, windy, miserable…classic British April weather. And utterly useless for queen mating. And the forecast is…more rain. It seems relentless. Poor new queen.