Thursday, July 10, 2014

Busy Bees

Pacific Science Center bees are building a wild comb in their observation beehive.

What does this mean? Well, every spring beekeepers install new bees with frames in our hive. The frames are filled with foundation, a flat wax with marked hexagonal patterns and come in deep (9-1/8” long) and shallow (5-3/4” long) sizes. The bees use these frames as templates to build their combs, store their honey, and raise their brood.

When our apiarist, Corky Luster, installed this year’s hive, he put four deep frames, complete with brood, on the side nearer the window and 4 shallow frames of honey on the other side. This arrangement left gaps between each of the shallow frames.

At first we weren’t sure just what the bees would do with the extra space in the hive. But before long, they were filling the spaces between the frames with wild comb – comb that doesn’t use a frame or foundation. What they do is form a big cluster of bees in the space they want to build in. Then some bees hang from the top of the gap while others pile up on the bottom. In the middle, bees are secreting wax and forming it into new comb while other bees are filling the wild comb with honey. This keeps the bees busy, gives them a great place to store resources, and creates enough space for a new brood. Hopefully, the wild comb will prevent our bees from wanting to swarm.

This is very exciting to watch! Stop by our observation beehive soon and watch bees making their wild hive. And don’t forget to look for the queen. She’s the one with the turquoise spot on her thorax.

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