In the apiary
This week Master Beekeeper Erin McGregor-Forbes invited me to her home to confer on the plans and details of the mobile observation hive. The original intent had been to build the structure on the back of a small tow-a-long trailer, however, after our conversation it seems the better approach will be to construct the hive inside a larger, covered trailer. This trailer can be outfitted as not only a place to view the bees, but also a place to sit, relax and read about them…more like a little room. A bee room.
Honeybees, much like many social insects (ants and termites for instance) operate as a super-organism. A super-organism is a group of individual organisms who not only could not survive without the colony but also have a complex social hierarchy with highly specialized divisions of labor working in concert for the health of the whole. This basic recognition is an extremely important concept in understanding the workings of the colony and fits nicely in parallel with their necessity to pollinating the flora of their surrounding landscape.
Erin also has a few queen-rearing colonies; colonies that produce queens that can be used to re-queen queen-less colonies. Finding the queen can be a chore being that there can be 20,000 to 100,000 bees in a mature colony depending on the season.
To make things easier, beekeepers will mark the queen with a small dot of paint. To do this, once the queen is found, she is placed in a small plastic container with a small wooden plunger. The plunger has a soft end and is used to push the queen gently against the screened end. Here the queen is stuck and can be easily painted with a paint pen.