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The Queen Cage

This is the Queen cage.

DSC_0192

The queen goes in a Queen Cage either when you buy a bee package or when you buy a queen to requeen your hive.

The queen goes in it and is safe from any outside dangers.

If it were in a bee package, the bees would want to kill her because that queen isn’t from their hive.

There will be some attendant bees with the queen to help her while shipping.

 

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Queen Cells

queen cell for blog

 

Queen cells are peanut-shaped cells made by honey bees only for a queen bee to emerge out of. These cells do not end up sealed in a hexagonal fashion like that of workers and drones.

Instead, a queen lays an ordinary worker egg in a queen cup if intentionally breeding a queen or an ordinary worker cell. Then, workers will continually feed large amounts of royal jelly – this is what makes the queen develop reproductive organs and a larger abdomen than workers.

Three days after this egg has been laid, it goes into the larvae stage. After five days of feeding, the workers seal the cell and the larvae spins a cocoon around its body. In the cocoon, it turns into a pupae. It will stay in this stage for eight days, during which it develops hair, eyes, wings, and legs.

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Encaustic painting

Flight of the Condor
Flight of the Condor

The word “Encaustic” means “to burn in” and the technique consists in painting with beeswax mixed with pigments and fixed with heat after its application.

This technique is one of the world’s oldest art forms and was first practiced by Greeks 500 years B.C.

I started painting with beeswax in 2010 and from the first day on, I could not stop making all kind of greeting cards and paintings of different sizes.

Below are some examples of my encaustic paintings. If you like to have more information, please click here.

Purple land
Purple land
Curtain of light
Curtain of light
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How to mark a queen

WHY ?

There are basically two reasons for which you would like to mark your queens:

  1. Sometimes it’s really hard to see the queen in your hive if she is not marked. Marking her will help you to see her faster and you will be sure that she is in the frame and not “walking in the garden”
  2. Each year the color of the mark changes, so you know exactly how old your queen is.

The queen is marked with a dot of paint on her thorax (the part of the body between the head and the abdomen), and to be able to mark the queen, you will need to use a device that will help you in this task.

There are different varieties of queen marking paints in the market. We bought some time ago a pack of 5 pen type markers and these are the ones we use every year.

Below is the International Color Code you can follow to mark your queens

White For year ending in  1 or 6
White
For year ending in
1 or 6
Yellow For year ending in 2 or 7
Yellow
For year ending in
2 or 7
Red For year ending in 3 or 8
Red
For year ending in
3 or 8

 

 

Green For year ending in 4 or 9
Green
For year ending in
4 or 9
Blue For year ending in 5 or 0
Blue
For year ending in
5 or 0

The mark should be small, in this way will not cover any other part of the queen body.

Many times, the queen that comes in a package comes already marked. But this is not always in this way. If you are a new beekeeper and bought an unmarked queen we can    help you a little by showing the way we do this task.

We hope the images are helpful for you 🙂

HOW ?

First step is to “catch the queen”. For that, you can use a helpful tool called “queen catcher”, it’s a

small plastic tool that opens when you squeeze the handle. Once the catcher is totally open put it over the queen and very carefully close it.

1 Queen catcher

Second step is to introduce the queen in another tool called “tube marking”. It is a clear tube with a plastic mesh in the end. The tube is were you will literally (and again, carefully) drop the queen in.

2 Tube queen marking tool

Once you have the queen inside the tube, is time to use the “plunger” which is a little stick with a sponge in the end. Slowly you will start “pushing” the queen with the sponge until she is barely touching the plastic mesh. Be careful in this step and don’t squeeze so hard.

3 plunger tool

Now you have the queen in the correct position. You have her thorax on the top and she can’t move at all, but don’t worry, these tools are specially design for this task, so, if you work with care, the queen will not be hurt at all.

5 against the mesh

It’s time now to finally mark the queen. For this just need to use the pen with the correct color for the present year, and make a dot in her thorax.

6 marking

Wait a few seconds to allow the ink to dry completely and then you can release the queen in the hive again. While you wait for the ink to dry, you can take a look and verifying that she is doing OK.

7 verifying

To release the queen inside the hive, we just open the tube and lye it on top of the hive, you will see the queen walking to the end of the tube and quickly she will go inside her hive.

7 releasing

8 introducing

And now the queen is “on duty” again ! Now you will always (or almost always) see you queen while she is working in the frames and…….bad for her…….you will know exactly how old she is 🙂

9 in the hive

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Inside the hive

There are three different “castes” inside a bee hive:

  • The “queen”: she is the only reproductive female in the hive, which means that all the bees in the hive are sisters. The queen’s body is larger than the rest of the bees in the hive and her primary function is to lay eggs……a lot of eggs!  A strong healthy queen can lay around 2,000 eggs per day!
  • The “workers”: they are all female but they are not reproductive females. Sometimes a worker bee can lay eggs, but these are not fertile eggs.
  • The “drones”: they are all males and their only function in the hive is to mate with the queen.

If you look close in your hive, you will notice that the queen is almost always surrounded by workers, this is because the queen is totally incapable of take care of herself, so these “royal attendants” are surrounding the queen, feeding her and defending her .

 

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Package Day

It’s the time of year again, when you check your hives after winter and you realize that you may be need some new packages for your bee yard or……. if you are a new beekeeper you will need a bee package to start your first beehive.

If the latter is your case, maybe you are wondering what a “package day” is all about.

Well, we can help you here showing a few pictures of our experience in this matter. By clicking in each image, it will enlarge.

We hope that they illustrate well and give you an idea of how to start.

Enjoy!

Package day is always a fun day full of excitement since you finally get your own bees
And this is the way the bees arrive. There are about 10,000 bees in a package plus a can full of syrup and the queen cage. This will be the “starter kit” for your hive.
To open the package what you need to do is remove the syrup can. Keep it aside since you will use it later.

 

Since the queen that comes in the package is not the mother of the bees that come with her, she needs to be protected from them. This is why the queen comes in what is called “queen cage” and you will need to keep her inside that cage until the bees accept her in the hive.
The queen cage comes with a little piece of cork, which is keeping an opening on the queen cage closed, you will need to remove it very carefully so the queen doesn’t escape from the cage, and switch it with a little piece of marshmallow. The bees will start removing the marshmallow, this will take a couple of days and by the time they finish and the cage is open; they already accept the queen as “their own queen”.
Set aside the queen cage for a few minutes and then drop the whole package inside the deep. Since the bees were inside the box for several days, they will be very happy to be free and they will be all over the place, so even if they are nice at this time since they don’t recognize the new hive as their home yet, always is a good idea to wear your beekeeping suit.
Once the bees are in their new hive, you can add some more frames in the deep but not all of them, because you will need space to place the queen cage on place.
Now is time to introduce the queen in the hive. You will notice in the queen cage a metal part that will help you to hang the cage in one of the frames.

 

Once the queen cage is on place, you can finish loading the deep with the frames
The bees will need some syrup to start building comb in the empty frames, and now is the time when you add to the hive the syrup can that come with the package. For this, you can add for a few days an extra empty box on top of the hive so the syrup can stay inside the hive. After a couple of days the bees will finished the syrup and you can remove the can definitely.
To finish the whole process, close the hive with the inner cover and the top cover and since some bees will stay in the package box for a while, is a good idea to leave it near the entrance of the hive for a few days, so all the bees that came in the package go inside the new hive

 

 

 

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Bee my valentine

I love to take pictures of our bees and I’m always playing around with my camera trying to “catch” what they are doing….any time….anywhere.

But what a surprise was for me when one day I downloaded my pictures in the computer and then I just realized that the pollen this bee was bringing to the hive had a “heart shape” and even better, it was red!

So I recorded it in our gallery just to say Happy Valentine! to our fellas beekeepers and friends!Bee my valentine

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The Importance of Honeybees

The sign in the picture below says:…..” Please do not disturb the honeybees. Their pollinating work ensures your food supply”. 

That’s truth. Honeybees are a inestimable value as agents of cross-pollination, and so many plants are dependent of honeybees for their reproduction.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, workers honeybees pollinate 80 percent of our flowering crops which constitute 1/3 of everything we eat. Losing them will affect the  production of strawberries, almonds, apples and many other plants like alfalfa, which will develop in threaten our beef and dairy industries.

Did you know that……?

  • There are three types of bees in each colony: the queen bee, the worker bee and the drone.
  • There is only one queen per hive?
  • The queen and the worker bees are all female.
  • The drones are all male.
  • The practice of beekeeping dates back to the stone-age. There are several cave paintings that shows this activity.
  • A queen bee can live for 3 to 5 years.