(Editor’s note: The beekeepers for the Carp Ridge hive are looking for apprentices to possibly take over the hive at Carp. If you’re interested please contact Bob — his email is at end of post — or Monique Leger at mmleger@sympatico.ca

by Bob Boisvert, amateur thief

Our bee colonies at Carp Ridge are doing very well this summer, and are a great source of pleasure for our friend Monique, my wife Lynne and I.  The three of us work together to keep the hives happy and productive.  As I write, bees are in the middle of producing the honey flow.  There are successions of flowers everywhere, and our winged friends waste no time in making the best of it.  We have already harvested a bit of honey from one hive, a promising summer indeed.

Our colonies are matriarchal societies, wholly dependent on the queen.  No queen, no brood, no hive… no honey.  Mind you, she cannot work in isolation.  She does depend on the female worker bees for the bulk of the work.  If you break it down, the roles in the hive are as follows:

HMQB (Her Majesty the Queen Bee)

  • lay eggs; about 2,500 every single day
  • communicate general direction to the hive via pheromones
  • she lives on average about five years or so
  • there can be only one queen in a hive; more than one, and there is a fight to the finish!
  • beekeepers often paint a coloured dot on the back of the queen to be able to find her easily, and to tell what year she was born
  • queens do not sting humans

Drones (aka, the guys)

  • be on standby for the (rare) nuptial flight.
  • there are a few hundred drones in a hive
  • lucky drones die after mating; unlucky ones go back to the hive for the rest of summer, to remain on standby
  • drones also cannot sting humans
  • drones will share their successful night out with up to 15 other drones
  • The queen comes back to the hive with all the sperm she needs for her entire life’s production

Sterile female worker bees

  • there are up to 80,000 of these in a hive, in the summer.  Summer bees live for about 35 days only!
  • they produce wax from their bodies; make combs to hold pollen, honey, babies
  • they collect nectar, and deposit into the combs
  • make propolis to patch any small cracks in the hive
  • young bees fan the honey to dry it to 18% humidity before capping it
  • keep the hive clean
  • direct the queen to lay eggs
  • feed royal jelly to the brood, a little more to future queens
  • guard the hive with their lives (we can attest to that); female worker bees do sting humans
  • forcibly remove and kill drones in September
  • female bees born in the fall will live for five months, to keep the queen warm and happy until spring

I have included a picture showing all three types.  The queen is visibly the largest one (bottom right of picture); the drones are the second largest type (top in picture), but you can really tell them apart from the extremely large eyes that touch each other.  And the female worker bees are the smallest, with small separate eyes. http://www.pbase.com/boisvert/image/136213886

And all of that leaves the thieves… us.  Bees produce honey as winter food, certainly not for us.

Our role in all of this is to provide the bees with optimal conditions to do what they do best.   So, we steal some sweet gold, and we make sure to leave them more than enough for next winter.

If you see people wandering Carp Ridge in white hooded suits, make sure to stop by and say hello.

We might be able to steal a small taste for you.

You can contact Bob at boisveb@rogers.com