The Magic of Bees

Did you know that the honeycomb – or just “comb” –  found in hives is the work of thousands of worker bees? They build this comb using secretions from wax glands in their abdomens. When the wax deposits from the glands it comes out as a thin, clear sheet of wax that the worker bees then chew and mold into the hexagonal comb we see. 

Young bees are best for secreting wax but will only do so when the nectar flow is on. This is because the nectar flow triggers them to secrete wax so that they can build a place to store honey within the hive. In the colder months, the bees can still build comb but significantly less so than when the flow is on in springtime. Besides storing honey and pollen, the bees also use the comb to build cells for the queen to lay her eggs. 

Let’s take a look at some more of the magic of bees specifically for backyard beekeepers.

Waggle Dance

Using intricate movements in a certain shape that other bees can understand, forager bees relay the exact location of food they’ve found in relation to the position of the Sun. The dancing bee translates both the location and distance by vibrating her abdomen while flying (also called walking) in a specific shape.

Scientists have found that the angle at which the bees dance in relation to the top of the hive is also the exact angle at which the food will be found in relation to the sun traveling across the horizon. Essentially, the top of the hive represents the sun outside the hive. The time spent waggling gives the distance.  1 second of waggle equals approximately 1 KM.

Drone Congregation Areas

One of the more widely misunderstood behaviors of honeybees is their ability to coordinate and return to the same mating grounds year after year. These grounds are referred to as “Drone Congregation Areas” (DCAs) as they are the areas in the sky where drones (aka male bees) collect and wait to compete for incoming virgin queens to mate with. DCAs appear in the form of a circle with a diameter of up to 200 meters wide. 

Drones are able to find these areas using landmarks, following tree lines, or pheromones produced by other drones in the area. Being that the average distance a drone must travel to one of these locations is around one kilometer, it’s still not fully understood how the drones can figure this out all by themselves. It’s not memory-based as the drone bees that find the DCA  one year will not be around the next year since their lifespans are so short.

Winter Bees

Winterbees are special bees that somehow are developed with larger fat bodies, which increase their life span and immune systems. 

These fat bodies are crucial for feeding the bees when there is little to no food to be spared in the hive. They also produce vitellogenin which is a special egg yolk that gives the nurse bees the ability to synthesize a protein supplement for baby bees in the absence of pollen. Pollen is essential for the colony’s survival as it is the main food source for young bees. The health and development of winter bees are crucial if a colony is to survive winter. If winter bees start their life with a virus or lack of food stores due to varroa mites, the colony might not survive the season. 

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The Bee Store has everything you need to start or grow your beekeeping operations in Northern Virginia. Contact us today for more information about our products or stop by our store in Lake Ridge, Virginia today.