Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Flying Alchemist

You are looking at some very focused, happy bees. See their little “grocery sacks” of pollen on their back legs? They are bringing home pollen, a main ingredient to make bee bread, also know as ambrosia. The workers bees forage the pollen of the male parts of flowers, (anthers). They comb the pollen off their hairy little bodies, and pack it in special pollen sacks on their back legs. Seeing this lets me know that the queen is alive and laying eggs! I was doing a jig today when I saw this! We went from snow to a sunny, albeit very windy, 60 degree day. I tentatively went outside to check the bees this morning when the temperature rose. It had been too cold for the bees to fly and I hadn’t seen them in a couple weeks. A nail biting time for beekeepers as you just never know for sure if the bees survived the winter until you see this! These bees were so focused on bringing in the pollen, they didn’t even care that I had brought them out a treat of a whole frame of capped honey! I never process all the honey I remove, instead, saving back several frames in case the bees have depleted their winter stores and need fed before the nectar flows start. They must still have a good larder as they completely ignored the frame! They were so focused on bringing in the pollen I sat within inches of the hive, unprotected, taking these pictures, and they could have cared less as they bumped against me and flew around me in their determinedness to get the pollen in the hive to pass off to the house worker bees. The house bees will use their head to pack the pollen into cleaned cells, that are lined with propolis , where they will mix it with honey/nectar,secreted enzymes, saliva and then seal it with more propolis, ensuring it stays free from contaminates and the development of bacteria and fungi. The sweet little nurse bees, who are only 5-15 days old themselves, will then eat the bee bread which will be converted to royal jelly, which they secrete from their head and feed to the young larvae for three days. If they feed the royal jelly any longer, the larvae will develop into a queen. So there is the difference between a queen bee who can live several years, and a worker bee, who usually lives about 6 weeks…the diet they are fed as a larvae!
I am one happy lady today. My little flying alchemists have survived another winter!
Big hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xxx


Lemon Verbena Lady said...

Remember when you started this adventure, Leslie! Great job getting them through another winter! Weather was on your side, but a couple of bad days and it might have been different! xxoo Nancy

Comfrey Cottages said...

It's all in Mother Natures hand, Nancy! lol! Big hugs and thanks for visiting my friend xxxooo

Unknown said...

Lovely to read about the bees, can completely relate to the excitement!

Pen at the Little Herb Farm said...

What a lovely way to start your day. No bees in my Scottish garden yet but the ladybirds are hatching in my polytunnel (grow-house).

Anke said...

I am so glad your hives made it through the winter. I know you must have been doing a little happy dance when you saw all that activity. :-)

Comfrey Cottages said...

I can too Eveline! xx
Oh that is nice the little ones are hatching, Pen xx
I sure was Anke! xxx lol!

Jo-Ann said...

beautiful bees - they look like they are wearing leg warmers.

Brigitte said...

What a lovely post!
Thank you for the many infos of your busy alchemists.
Now I sure will look in an other way at these beautiful little creatures.
Never thought how much impact Royal jelly can have on the little bees!
Do you know what pollen they have been collecting?
Love and hugs

Comfrey Cottages said...

The do Jo-Ann, now that you mentionit! lol!! xx
Hello Brigitte! I believe they are harvesting pollen from our tulip poplar tree right now:) I watched them fly up in its direction. I wish its limbs weren't so high from the ground so I could get some pictures of .the bees in the anthers:)Yes, royal jelly feeding times is what differentiates whether the larvae will be a worker or a queen:)thanks for stopping by xxxx love and many hugs to you!

Rita M said...

Lovely to see the bees are out Leslie. I didn't know they are flying out so early in Spring.
Very interesting post Leslie :)
Big hugs XXXX

Comfrey Cottages said...

Whenever the temperature is near 50 degrees fahreheit outside, the bees will fly, Rita. It does not matter if there is snow on the ground! If the temperature is 50 degrees, they will come out! lol! They might not stay out long during the deep winter months, but they will at least fly out to go to the bathroom, called cleansing flights. They will not dirty the hive by using the bathroom inside! Amazing isn't it?!! love you my dear sis!! xxx

Hedgefaery Herbals said...

What a great post and I am so glad that the bees made it through the winter! I just love visiting your beautiful blog! Have a lovely day,

Comfrey Cottages said...

Thank you Joanna! I am pretty thrilled they are still alive also:) big hugs xxx

Rowan said...

I'm so glad that your bees have made it safely through the winter. I've seen a few flying - mainly bumble bees - but mostly it's too cold for them at the moment.

Ms.Chief loves wigwams! said...

Aaaaaw I'm dancing with you!! How exciting, I'm always amazed at how far bees will fly from their hives to get just the right pollen!! Up to 20 miles Ive heard .. another said as far as they have to. Wonderful & fascinating little alchemists indeed. Here's to sunshine filled days .

Anonymous said...

I can see why your excited! That's amazing Leslie, why you might really be Mother Nature!!! :)
Have a great weekend,
Hugs Rosemary..xx

Anonymous said...

Hi Leslie
I dont know your whole bee journey but I can hear the excitement in your voice and gussing that your newish to bee keeping? I am thinking of getting one hive in a few months-probably in Spring around September/October time. How have you found extracting teh honey? Do you ever freak if they swarm around/on you? I have helped a friend with his bees (only once) and coped OK but felt a little panicky when one of the hives was an angry hive and the bees became defensive.
Ruth in Western Australia x

Anonymous said...

oops sorry about bad spelling I must do in word next time!!!

Comfrey Cottages said...

Thanks Rowan for visiting. I haven't seen any bumbles out yet. But I did see my first Robin today:) Spring is almost here! xxx
Indeed, to sunshiney days Paules xxx
Awww hugs Rosemary! Thanks for visiting xx
Ruth, I will be quite honest, and a testy hive is no fun at all! I generally will wait and try another time if the hive is really riled up! lol! I feel better now that I have a brand spanking new beesuit, I got for xmas! Before, I was keeping bees using an ancient suit that some 6 foot , 200 pound man must have owned. I just swam in it, and the helmet, well if I moved wrong, the bees could get in it! This is my 6 th year of keeping bees. I am always just so grateful to find them alive after winter:) Thank you so much for visiting:) xxx

Lisa said...

Woo Hoo for you and your alchemist, Leslie! Happy Spring. :)

Comfrey Cottages said...

Happy spring to you Lisa! xxx