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Horticulture Crops - Bee keeping

Introduction the honeybee

The honeybee colony consists of a queen, who is mother to the rest, and worker honeybee’s number about 10,000 in the winter and rising to some 50,000 or more in summer. In the summer this will include some 200-1,000 drones, or males, which are killed off at the end of summer by the workers to that in the normal colony drones will be absent in winter. In addition to these adult bees the colony will contain a variable number oif the immature stages of the honey bee. These consist of eggs, larvae, pearly white legless maggots and pupae. The numbers of these young stages will vary with the time of year. All the immature bees are housed in the cells of the honeycomb, each individual in a separate cell, and are collectively spoken of as brood.

Packed into other cells of the honeycomb will be pollen and honey the food of the bees , forming a store which can be drawn upon or added to as the circumstance allow.

This whole unit comprises a colony which is regarded as normal only when all the different stages are present. If any are missing the colony is at risk, even though this may be the normal condition for the time of year. The reason for this will become more obvious as we delve further into the life of the colony.

The honeycomb is made of beeswax. This is secreted by the worker bees form eight small wax glands on the underside of the abdomen. When wax is required the workers fill themselves with homey, the heat produced by the metabolism of the homey in their muscles.  The increased temperature and the amount of honey in the bees cause the wax glands to secrete. The wax pouts into eight pockets beneath the glands, and here a chemical change occurs, which solidified it. The result is eight tiny translucent white cakes of wax. These are then removed from the wax pockets by the last pairs of legs and passed to the mouth where each is worked and manipulated in order to form it into comb, or passed on to other bees for use elsewhere. The wax is module into position by the mandibles of the workers and the comb is quite swiftly built up to the size they require.

  

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Honeycomb consists of hexagonal cells and is built up on both sides of a central vertical partition, the septum. The construction is shown is in Fig1. The base of a cell which are one side of the septum makes up part of the base of three cells on the other side. There are basically two sizes of hexagonal cell. Cells which are used to rear worker larvae measure about five to the linear inch and are called worker cells. Drone cells are larger, measuring approximately four to the inch. These are used, as their name indicates, to hold developing drone brood. Both kinds of cell are used for the storage for honey. The walls of the cells are extremely thin (about 0.006 inch) and are strengthened o the top by coming, or thickening. When first fashioned the comb is opaque white with a rough, rather granular surface. It rapidly becomes creamy or yellow in color as it is varnished and strengthened with Propolis the bee’s glue obtained from plants buds and brought to a high polish by the worker bees. When comb has contained brood, these areas become brown in color due to the remain of cocoons and faeces left behind by passing generations. Comb gradually turns dark brown as time goes by , and old comb, though good, is almost black.

 Honeycombs hand vertically and are arranged side by sided. The umber will vary in the wild colony, but in a normal hive there will be ten or eleven per horizontal compartment or box , spaced at 13/8 or 11/2 inch between septa. The space between the surface of the combs in the brood area that occupied by eggs, larvae and pugae is sufficient for two bees to work back to back. In the part of the comb where honey the save is sufficient for only one layer of bees to work in it easily. The lower picture on page 52. Honey is always at the top of the comb and, if the brood area is small and honey plentiful, it may extend down the sides. The brood is below the honey, and pollen is usually stored in workers cells in a band between the brood and the honey, but may also be interspersed among the brood by some strains of bees.

Adult bees will cover the whole surface of the comb which is in use, clustering densely in the brood area and more sparsely in the honey store. These workers will be going about their various duties and will at the same time be generating heat which will keep the temperature of the colony up to the required level. This is about 17 C(62 F) when there is no brood and about 43 C (93 F) when brood is present. This heat is produced during the metabolism of honey to produce energy for normal activities.

Having thus briefly described the honeybee colony we must look in greater detail at the individuals. First of all I would like to look at the adults, and the difference between the three types. Let us first examine the worker honeybee, and then look at the way in which it differs from the queen and the drone.

The body of the bee, like all insects, is divided into three main parts. The head, the thorax and the abdomen, as shown on page 13 the head 





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