Friday, June 18, 2010

Getting "Laid"

Sorry to get your hopes us, but the only thing risqué about this post is the title. Bee keeping is sexy, right? Anyways, this post is about a laying worker, which is a death sentence for the hive.

While checking the White County apiary, Greg noticed that the activity at the entrance of the hive was not right. An experienced bee keeper knows that you don't even have to look in a hive sometimes to know something is wrong. Often times you can tell as much about a hive from watching the entrance as you can from a full hive inspection. After a look inside, a laying worker seemed to be the culprit of this misbehaving hive. Perhaps the queen died, or swarmed and didn't take everyone with her, but she was gone and a worker bee had taken her place. Only a queen bee is able to lay fertilized eggs (which will make worker bees) so a laying worker means that all the baby bees are male or drones (which means they just lay around sitting on bean bag chairs, eating cheetos all day) :).

Just an aside, if you are wondering what makes a queen different than a regular worker bee is how long the bees feed her royal jelly. All bees begin the same and the amount of days they are fed royal jelly (which is a substance secreted from the head of the bees, akin to nursing) decides their role in the hive.

To remedy this situation, a frame with eggs and young brood was placed inside the hive. With any luck, the bees will decide to make a queen from one of these cells. Sometimes this solution works and sometimes it doesn't. Generally nature has a better way to fix things, so it is just a bee keeper's job to nurture the bees and give them resources to make them successful (like with having kids!). Often the best thing we can do is get out of way and let mother nature work.

We will follow up with this hive soon. Our historic losses on this problem are pretty high, so we will see if the "less is better" option works out for us. So in this case, we are really more concerned about who is doing the laying rather than who is getting "laid". They don't call it the "birds and the bees" for nothin'.

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