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August 3, 2020

Pittman Center Has Become A Bee City!

Our community of Pittman Center has joined communities across the country to call attention to an important issue.  Affiliates of Bee City USA  are working to protect pollinators.  So far 111  cities have signed up to raise awareness, establish and enhance habitats, and celebrate the efforts of volunteer leaders.

Pittman Center leaders are working to support our pollinators.

Honey bees are busy at work in Buckhorn Inn flower and vegetable gardens.

Honey bees and other pollinators are facing threats at increasing rates.  According to Bee City USA http://www.beecityusa.org one of every three bites of food that we eat is thanks to insect pollination.  In fact, 90% of all plants and trees rely on pollinators for the survival of their species.  That is why we must be concerned with bees disappearing because of loss of habitat, diseases and parasites, and inappropriate pesticide use.  Some experts estimate that U.S. honey bee populations are declining at an annual rate of as much as 44%.  

Pittman Center Approves Resolution

In May 2020 the town of Pittman Center approved a resolution naming the town an affiliate of Bee City USA.  The town’s Tree Board will oversee the Bee City USA program.  The town will host at least one educational event or pollinator habitat planting each year to showcase the community’s commitment.  There also are plans to create or expand a pollinator-friendly habitat on public and private land.  The Tree Board also will create and adopt an integrated pest management plan.  This plan will be designed to prevent pest problems, reduce pesticide use, and expand the use of non-chemical pest management methods.  

At the Buckhorn Inn, we are delighted with this new program.  This is the second summer for our honey bee hives.  We report that Queens Violet and Catherine and their minions are healthy and happy.  You can watch them at work in our vegetable and flower gardens.  When the nectar is flowing they are especially busy in St. Cordelia’s garden.  We hope you have a chance to watch them at work.

July 20, 2020

Bees Beard to Beat the Heat

Honey bees often beard in warm weather.

Our honey bees beard on the outside of their hive.

One of our guests pointed to our honeybees clustered on the outside of the hive and said it looked like a “beard”.  They wondered why the bees would do this.  We have an answer!

“Bearding” is the term which refers to bees accumulating at the front of the hive.  They appear calm and fan their wings in unison.  They are likely to do this on hot and humid days.  By clustering outside they provide more space inside the hive to keep the temperature and humidity within acceptable ranges.  Raising brood requires temperatures between 90 and 97 degrees F.  They remove their own body heat from the hive to lower the temperature.  They also use their wings to push cooler air into the entrance, lowering the temperature even more.    The proper humidity is necessary for nectar to evaporate and become honey.

Bee keepers sometimes confuse bearding bees with those getting ready to swarm.  But if it is a hot and humid day, chances are good that they are merely bearding.  Bearding bees also face the same direction as they fan.  This helps cool down the temperature of the hive. 

Healthy Bees Beard

According to Kelley Bees http://www.kelleybees.com/blog   Bearding is a sign of a strong bee colony that is in good health.  It is an indication that the hive contains a good number of bees and that they are preparing for winter by keeping the honey at the correct temperature.  

Bees may beard for weeks during the hottest part of the summer.  The workers are very skilled at temperature control.  Worker bees may also spread water on the rims of cells to set up cooling by evaporation.  They can create air currents by fanning their wings.  And they adjust the temperature by expanding and contracting the size of the cluster.  

We help the bees by providing a source of fresh, clean water.  A hive of bees can use as much as a liter of water in a day!  We also have painted the hives white so that the sunlight will be reflected, not absorbed.  

We are fascinated by our honey bees and are glad that our guests are interested as well!

January 21, 2020

How Do Honey Bees Spend the Winter?

Our guests have been asking how our honey bees are spending the winter.  We thought that you might be curious as well.

They don’t fly south and they don’t hibernate–they have developed their own means for coping with the cold weather.  In order to stay warm the bees gather in a central area of the hive and form what is known as a winter cluster.  The worker bees gather around the queen.  The queen is at the center of the cluster.  Worker bees flutter their wings and shiver.  This constant motion generates heat and keeps the inside of the hive warm.  The worker bees shift from the outside of the cluster to the inside so they all have a chance to warm up.  The temperature may range from 46 degrees at the outside of the cluster to 80 degrees at the inside.  The cluster becomes more compact as the weather turns colder.

It takes a lot of honey to provide the energy for all of this fluttering and shivering.  A hive of bees may consume 40 pounds of stored honey over the winter.  On warm days, the bees may briefly fly out of the hive in order to eliminate body waste.

Honey bees worked all summer to build honey stores.

Hives can consume 40 pounds of honey over the winter.

Beekeepers Help Honey Bees Overwinter

The beekeepers’ role is to provide the best environment to help the bees succeed in overwintering.  Jack and Sharon prepped the hives for winter this fall.  The hives were robust with lots of stored honey for the winter.  They cleared away weeds from the hives so that predators would not have a place to hide.  They reduced the hive entrances so that mice and other small creatures cannot get into the hive during cold weather.  To supplement the honey the bees stored, they made “candy boards” out of sugar and pollen substitute.  The candy boards are placed in the top of the hive where it can easily be accessed by the bees.

They made sure the hives are adequately ventilated.  Ventilation is important to keep the inside of the hive dry.  The respiration of a hive full of bees contains quite a bit of moisture!   Bees can weather dry cold, but wet cold can be deadly to them.  Strong winds are common here, so they weighted down the outer covers of the hives.

We are hopeful that Queens Catherine and Sophia and their minions will overwinter in fine style.  We hope to be able to offer you a taste of Tudor Mountain Honey in 2020!