Posted by: Pam B. Newberry | March 12, 2012

Natural Qualities of a Honey Bee having a Corn Cob of a Time!


Saturday was a gorgeous day here on Hobbit’s Bend Farm. The Honey Bees were out in force foraging and most importantly, signaling that they are rearing brood.

Honey Bees gathering water in a bird bath.

Hobbit King and I think the queens in all four hives may have begun laying eggs the end of January or early February. From the time a queen lays  her eggs until a worker bee emerges, it takes about  21 Days. In contrast, queens take about 16 days while drones take about 24 days.

We think the bees we see flying out of the hives are the oldest winter hive bees and will be dying off in the next few weeks. The newly raised bees are working the interior of the hive doing a variety of house cleaning duties since they emerged in the past week or two.

This table shows the duties of the honey bee at different stages of development:

Time Since Emerging from Cell

Work activity

Days 1-3 Cleaning cells and incubation
Day 3-6 Feeding older larvae
Day 6-10 Feeding younger larvae
Day 8-16 Receiving honey and pollen from field bees
Day 12-18 Wax making and cell building
Day 14 onwards Entrance guards; nectar and pollen foraging

Source: The ABC & XYZ of Bee Culture, 41st ed.

We, as young beekeepers, are still learning how the bee colony evolves over the course of the year. We have read and learned in our bee classes that the bee colony follows an annual cycle of growth, which typically begins in spring with a rapid expansion of the brood nest, as soon as pollen is available for feeding larvae.

What we don’t know yet, as this is our first time with the bees at the beginning of their annual life cycle, is whether or not our hives began their production of brood as early as January. This year, we had a mild winter. We suspect that our bees began in earnest raising brood about two weeks ago when we first saw pollen being collected.

Whenever the bees begin their brood rearing cycle, it accelerates in the heart of spring. Most likely for us, the peak will be in late April or early May. The hive needs to build up in number in order to take advantage of the nectar flow. So far, it appears our bees are doing just that.

The skill Hobbit King and I must develop as beekeepers is the ability to predict when the nectar flow will occur in order to help the honey bees achieve a maximum population of harvesters at exactly the right time.

I know. I asked the very same question, “Just how are we supposed to do that?”

The key is the management, as skillfully as we can, of the swarming impulse. If a colony swarms unexpectedly and we aren’t ready, we will harvest significantly less honey from the hive because the number of workers will be cut in half in one swoop.

The part that is the hardest is learning how to manage the bees in order to use the swarming impulse to breed a new queen. The goal is to keep all the bees in the colony together. This increases our chances of getting a good harvest this year. If you remember, when we got our bees in May of last year (2011), our goal was to help them adapt and allow them to learn where the best eating ground is for our location. We did not harvest any honey from our bees their first year living on Hobbit’s Bend Farm.

Last week, Hobbit King and Hobbit Daughter added a shallow brood chamber to each hive. We managed to get through the winter with one deep brood chamber per hive. We knew going into Winter that having only one deep brood chamber with honey stores was a risk. We were fortunate we had a mild winter.

We went into the winter with four hives and it appears we are leaving the winter season with four hives. Now, we must wait and see how the bees do in building their hives in preparation for the nectar flow season.

When Hobbit King saw the bees on the corn cob, he snapped this picture.

Honey Bees gathering water from the empty seed pockets of a corn cob.

We aren’t sure, but we think we threw the corn cob out during the winter. It could be something stolen from our garden debris and dropped by a raccoon in the swamp near the bee hive. Look how the bees gathered on the corn drinking water from the empty pockets that once held the corn seed.

Honey Bees are marvelous creatures. Every time we see something fascinating or we marvel at their existence, we realize we have so much more to learn.

Honey Bees flying in and out of hive gathering pollen and water.

I personally love to watch them sitting on a flower after they have worked it so hard gathering pollen or nectar. Their little legs are so full of pollen, they can barely move. It looks as if they are contemplating sitting there to rest. It’s funny how we assign “human” qualities to animals.

This past year of watching our four hives makes me wish the world could live as they do. In harmony as best as they can. Going about their own way, taking care of their own. Never seeking to be more than they are. Happy in who they are, and doing the best job they can for their hive.

We need to assign “Honey Bee” qualities to ourselves. We just might be happier!

Have a glorious week!

Honey Cheers,
Hobbit Queen


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  1. […] Natural Qualities of a Honey Bee having a Corn Cob of a Time! (honeybeesandme.com) […]

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  2. […] Natural Qualities of a Honey Bee having a Corn Cob of a Time! (honeybeesandme.com) […]

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  3. […] Natural Qualities of a Honey Bee having a Corn Cob of a Time! (honeybeesandme.com) […]

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