Beekeeping and Honey!
Cast in 'The Hive' - Part 2 - 'The Drone' August 21 2013, 1 Comment
What does a Drone do in the hive? Nothing! Well, not alot. The Drone is named for the Old English meaning - 'loafer'. Which he is.
The Drone is a boomba of a bee. Plumper than a worker, with thick heavy wings to support the frisky business in the air, and big bulbous eyes all the better to see a Queen on-the-wing with. He spends his time at a 'Drone meeting area' hanging with his bro's, waiting to smell out a Queen who wants some nip-nip wiggy wiggy! Each day, he saunters home where the workers feed and clean him. Should the Drone actually manage to get his end in, he comes to a nasty end. Should the poor unfortunate male get to copulate with a Queen, his penis spurs will engage with the Queen's inside wall and will be ripped out of the Drone. He then falls to the ground and take about 4-6 hours to die from his blissful injury. The Drone's appendage will continue to pump inside the Queen until she engages with another male (allowing her to collect ALOT of sperm!) What a fate?!
Alternatively, he can chill with his bros all spring and summer and never see a Queen. This means that come winter, the workers get pretty fed up with his loafing ways and reckon that over winter they shouldn't have to feed and clean up after some guy over winter when they are busy keeping baby bees alive. So, after the temperature drops for more than a couple of weeks, you can see the ladies dragging the again, unfortunate Drone out of the hive...to starve to death with the smell of honey and the promise of warmth and protection just a foot away!
It is kinda like watching 3 or 4 women dragging out of their share house that bloke, you know the one, The Drummer... The Drummer who 'is in a band', who smokes dope all day with his mates and doesn't flush the toilet OR take out the garbage! And as he's been dragged out he's yelling 'no, no, I promise, I'll change... I'll start paying rent, I'll put down the lid...I'll stop drinking from the carton...noooooooo...'
Poor Drones! Drones make up about 10-15% of the hive population. Interestingly, studies have been done on hives where Drones are totally removed the hive becomes less productive, more fractious and generally unpleasant. Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em!
Cast of 'The Hive' - Part 1- 'The Queen' August 15 2013, 0 Comments
Out and about in the community running our honey stall at markets, I often get asked about who does what in the hive. Questions like 'is the Queen the Boss?', 'what do the boy bees do?', 'how do they produce different flavoured honeys?'...This post is about trying to sum up some of these questions.
The Queen of the Hive is about half as big again as the worker bees. She has a sleek, shiny abdomen that has paired ovarioles numbering about 150 within her large ovary. Some say she is waspish in appearance, as her wings are smaller than a workers', as is her head. However, she does not have any of the waspish tendencies such as twitching and edgy movements.
Once the Queen has hatched from her cell and has done a small orientation flight, she will go on her 'mating flight'. This entails flying around and emitting a 'come hither boys' pheromone. Once the boys do 'hither' along, she has copious amounts of...copulation with as many males as she can (usually about 8-20!). She then heads back to the hive to start her life of Queenly state.
After her day of passion, the Queen becomes pretty much like the Queen of England. She produces a pheromone called the Queen Substance. This is spread around the hive, and basically tells the workers that 'everything is fine, go about your business'. This is very much like the Queen waving at the people from the Balcony- Yes, dears, everything is fine, go back to your lives! [insert calm wave here]. And now she starts laying eggs. Lots of them. Up to 1500 a day in the peak of spring! She doesn't clean herself, or feed herself. The Queen has a retinue of worker bees who attend her, and spread the Queen Substance around the hive, and direct the Queen to comb they want her to lay eggs in. She remains in total darkness (except during an inspection from a beekeeper ;-) and lays eggs for the next 2-4years! When she is judged by the hive (or beekeeper) to be too old, she is deposed, in fact, laying the egg that will be the new Queen... and her own doom!
(Photo Source: http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/324761/Diamond-Jubilee-Queen-s-heartfelt-Jubilee-message)