Mark from ABS came and visited us on the Wednesday morning of March 4. To start the morning, we suited up into bee keeping gear. Mark pulled out a hive that was empty to show us how they help the bees to build the structure of the hive, using a hexagonal shape to help encourage the bees to build off of into the shape. Hexagons allow bees to make the most efficient use of space while using the least amount of wax possible. Because the hexagons fit tight and side by side together in a compact form, they store the most amounts of honey without wasting space and are very strong.
A beeline to the hive
After some information sharing, he told us if we start to feel uncomfortable with all the bees buzzing around us just to move away from the group and not to make quick movements.
As a group we walked over to the hive and stood around it waiting for Mark to remove the lid off the hive. Mark explained that he had to use the smoker first to calm the hive. Beekeepers employ smoke to keep the bees calm and to reduce the chances of attack. The reason the bees relax when the smoker is used is because its similar to the smell of a bush fire so the bees will retreat to the hive and eat as much honey as they can. This then makes the bees abdomen swollen and the bees aren’t able to bend the abdomen around to sting if they feel as if they need to.
Honey comb inspection
Once the bees relaxed, we inspected the frames with all of the honey combs. Mark pulled out a frame and passed it around with caution as each of the frames can weight up to 6kg if not more!
We all looked closely and got to see the different types of caps that are on top of the combs as the frames inside the hive that are closer to the centre are usually honey and the frames closer to the centre of the hive are mostly baby bees.
What do you call a bee without a stinger?
Some of us built up the courage to pick some of the bees up and take a closer look as they crawled around on our hands. As a group we noticed that some of the bees didn’t have a stinger and questioned Mark. It turns out that they are the drones, male bees.
Drone bees don’t work, don’t create honey, and can’t sting; their sole purpose is to mate with the queen. Because a queen only has to mate once, most drones will never get the chance to play their part. However, the worker bees keep them around in case a new queen has to be mated.
Once we were done we headed inside shaking bees from our suits. Back in the classroom, we removed our bee suits and Mark told us how the honey comb hangs down from the top of the hive and makes some sort of oval shape similar to a rugby ball cut in half.
Honey comb time!
Mark then asked us if we would like to try some of the honey comb. For someone that has never had homey comb straight from the hive, it was amazing. Sweet but not overwhelmingly sweet. It was just perfection.
Overall, it was an amazing experience to work with bees and learn more about them and the structure of the hive.