Posted by: Pam B. Newberry | February 27, 2011

Buzz-wiser: Three Things I Learned This Week – Okay!

  1. Honey, Pure Food, and Drug Laws
  2. How Heavy Honey Can Be
  3. February & March Hive Duties


Honey, Pure Food, and Drug Laws

Sitting in our lounge chairs with a warm fire glowing in the fireplace, Hobbit King began to share a tidbit he was reading from the ABC Book1 of beekeeping regarding honey, pure food, and drug laws.

I was captivated to learn that honey is one of the most regulated foods. In 1880, in the United States, an effort was made to get a law on the books that would protect people from getting “fake” honey or un-pure honey. People were selling sugar water as honey.  It wasn’t until 1906 before the Drug Food Act was accepted and a law that states that honey must be pure and unadulterated. You’ll find many different variations of “real” honey out there. Raw honey is considered to be the most nutritious, while pasteurized honey (i.e., honey heated up to 145° F for at least 30 minutes to kill potential bacteria and reduce crystallization of the liquid) is the most common found in many grocery stores.

Today, if you take the time to read small packets of honey that are sometimes sold with fast foods, such as chicken, you’ll find the package ingredients leads with variations of sugar water. On the front of packages of food, the use of the words “honey flavored” is found. Yet, when you read the ingredient lists, there is very little “honey” in the food; again it is a variation of sugar water.

The honey bee spends its life making honey only to have someone or group of “some ones” come along and create a substitute (some would call fake) all in the name of money. I’ve often said that you get what you pay for. And, as I age, I find that adage is more and more true. I find I get disgusted with people who want to cut corners or avoid honest labor.

During class this week, we learned that honey bees have a division of labor within the honey bee colony and it is based on age. When bees first emerge, they spend the first two or three hours of life  cleaning out the cell from which they were born. Imagine, if as a baby, we were able to know the value and need of keeping our environment clean. I wonder how our world would be different.

The next job of the honey bee, beekeepers refer to as “Nurse Bees.” The Queen is busy laying eggs and that is all she does. She is fed, groomed, and kept by the Nurse Bees. I was amazed to learn that the Nurse Bees will even block the Queen bee from laying eggs to tell her it is time to take a break and eat. I’d love that kind of pampering. Hmmmm…I think I need to consider setting up such a deal up with Hobbit King. Do you think he’d consider it? 🙂

The Nurse Bees are young, worker bees of about 3 hours of age to about 10 days old. In addition to caring for the Queen, they feed the larva and take care of the brood chamber. As new bees emerge, the older Nurse bees move to the next job in their life cycle. These are the “House Bees.” They form the heart of the hive. Their duties are varied and the bee seems to know when to switch from one job to another as the hive requires. Reminds me of the Borg from Star Trek, “Freedom is irrelevant, self-determination is irrelevant, you must comply.” Some how hearing a machine-like voice say it is not the same has thinking that bees work as a collective.

Keeping in mind that during the summer, a bee’s life is about 30 days, the house bee works hard for about 10 to 20 days at doing household hive duties, such as comb building, keeping the hive clean, undertakers (moving out the dead), guarding the hive, and receiving and storing pollen, nectar, and making honey from the stores. These bees are also responsible for climate control of the hive.

Near the last days of a bee’s life (i.e., 20 days to 30 or 45 days), she becomes a forager. She goes out and gather’s pollen, nectar, and water, and brings the golden food back to the hive (See Pollen on my Knee – I’m so happy to be a bee blog that goes into more detail regarding this important work). To make one pound of honey, forager bees must visit 2,000,000 flowers, bring in 8 to 10 pounds of nectar, which results in flying over 55,000 miles. Amazing! Remember, the life work of one bee is equal to 1/12 teaspoon of honey. A small drop in the jar of honey you buy at the store.

As I said, a hard day’s work for a hard day’s pay. The honey bee is a good example of “paying it forward.”

1From The ABC & XYZ of Bee Culture, 41st edition, edited by Shimanuki, H., Flottum, K., & Harman, A. pg 444.

How Heavy Can Honey Be

This week in bee class I learned just how heavy a frame of honey can be.

Frame of Capped Honey (Size: 17 3/4" x 9 1/4")

One of our MEBA member’s brought a honey comb from one of her hives to class to show us “newbees” what to expect when a hive is up and going.

Notice the size of the comb cells. Each comb cell has been tended to by a honey bee. The pollen, nectar, and water are turned into honey and it is inserted into the cell and capped. The capped cells store the honey and hold it in place. The bees are then able to get the their precious food during the cold winter months or when needed. This frame is 17 3/4″ x 9 1/4″ and when empty weighs approximately 3 to 4 oz. When fully laden (See the pictures above and below), it weights approximately 8 lbs.

Closeup of Frame with Capped Honey

 A typical hive will hold 10 frames this size.  That’s 80 lbs. or so of honey!!! Heavy indeed!

We’ve decided to use only 9 frames in each of our hives because of the weight. We will be using a smaller size “Super” frame (See info on a Super frame below). The reason is we are old and our backs don’t need to be lifting such weight. So, our frames from the Supers will weigh more along the lines of 40 or 50 lbs. per hive. This doesn’t seem like much difference, but when you have to lift 9 frames from four different hives, it can add up to a huge difference.

February and March Hive Duties

February has been a mixed bag of duties for us. We continued to build the hives and the many parts (See earlier posts – Hive Management 101) and we managed to get the hives painted. I hope to get my fingers going on putting some fancy touches on the outer hive bodies later today. Yeah, I know, I said I’d do it last week, but what can I say. Life got in the way.

Hobbit King finalized putting the inner frames together. Here you see the frame for the Hive Body (See pic of a couple of stacks of different size frames below). This frame is the same size as the one shown above that is full of capped honey that we got to see up close and personal during our bee class.

Frame with Foundation in Hive Body

This frame (See above) in the hive body box has foundation comb inserted and held in place. The bees will come into he hive and will build on this foundation, which will eventually look like the capped honey comb frame above.

The next two pictures show a Super frame  (Size: 17 3/4″ x 5 3/8″) without foundation inserted that is being placed inside a Super of the hive. Remember the Super is where the bees will store their honey for their own use. We will have a Super that we will separate from the main body of the hive by using a divider (more on that later). This separated Super will be used for us to get “our” honey. This way, the bees will have their honey and we can have some, too, without messing in theirs.

Super frame (Size: 17 3/4" x 5 3/8") being placed into Super

Super Frame (no foundation) inside Super

Here’s a picture of a Frame Gripper tool that is used to help pull a frame out of a hive. I’ll share more on tools next time.

Frame Gripper tool being used to lift a frame


Stacks of two different sized frames ready for placement into the hives.

March will prove to be a very busy time for us. We’ve placed the hive stands (see pic) in our field and now we must prepare them for receiving the full hive bodies. Plans are for us to receive our nucs (Shorthand for nucleus honey bee colony, which is five frames or about 20,000 honey bees) in late April. We will receive four nucs from our Bee Mentor. Each nuc will have a queen, some brood started, and some honey comb.

Hive Stands placed in field waiting for the Bee Hives

As the weather warms, bees will be out foraging, building their brood, and beginning what is really their busiest time of the year. Today is proving to be a glorious day, so I’ll be out in the garden, prepping the soil, gathering debris, and cleaning my world…just like my bee friends! 

Here’s hoping your March will be as productive!

Honey Cheers,
Hobbit Queen


  1. Oh, I’m glad I didn’t miss this blog – what a wealth of great information. 55,000 miles! And these are the seniors who do this!! I am just amazed at the bees and how everything functions so beautifully. Thank you for all this wonderful info, Hobbit Queen. I am trying to get caught up in my posts, which is why this is a little late. As I said, I’m glad I didn’t just delete it because it was 3 weeks ago. How are you guys doing now?


    • Hello Sandra…

      We are doing well. We just finished preparing our new greenhouse for an onslaught of horrible winds and rain coming our way this evening. I’m so glad you liked the post regarding the work of the bees. They sure are wonderful as you learn about them. Thanks also for passing along the post for the Partical Dilettante. I’ll definitely follow-up and check it out.

      Take care and here’s to spring coming and no more winter…
      Honey Cheers,
      Hobbit Queen


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: