Day 5: Eyes

The Twelve Days of Honey Bees, Day 5. A honey bee has five eyes.

Yes, indeed, a honey bee has five eyes. Two compound eyes as in most insects, and three ocelli that act as photoreceptors to detect the intensity and direction of light. The ocelli (plural of ocellus, of course) help honey bees navigate during flight. They likely aid foragers when following waggle dance instructions received from other bees.

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Day 4: Wings

The Twelve Days of Honey Bees, Day 4. A honey bee has four wings.

While we often think that flying animals have a pair of wings, as in birds, most insects have four wings that work together during flight. Bees, in particular, have a forewing and a hind wing that fold up separately against their body while at rest. During flight, a row of hamulus, or small hooks, link the two wings together so they operate in concert.

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Day 3: Body Parts

The Twelve Days of Honey Bees: Day 3. A honey bee has a three-part body.

Like all insects and all bees, honey bees have three body parts called the head, the thorax, and the abdomen. The head is where the bee’s eyes, mandibles, tongue (proboscis), and antenna are found, while the thorax is where the legs and wings attach. The abdomen holds the bulk of the bee’s internal organs and, of course, the stinger.

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Day 2: Antennae

Welcome to the Twelve Days of Honey Bees: Day 2. A honey bee has two antennae.

The antennae is the primary sensory organ for a bee, providing touch, smell, hearing, and taste all in two slender stalks. Each antenna is attached to the head in a bowl-like socket, followed by three main parts called the scape, the pedicel, and the flagellum.

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Day 1: Stinger

Welcome to Day 1 of the Twelve Days of Honey Bees, conveniently aligned with the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Honey bees, at least if they are female, have one stinger. The stinger in Hymenoptera insects, including bees, is a modification of the ovipositor gland, and as such only appears in females. Drones, or males, have hairy butts in place of a stinger. and you can distinguish a drone from a worker by looking at their rears. It’s not a common approach, since there are other more obvious differences, but next time you look at a drone’s butt you can think of me.

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O Honey Bee

It has been a couple years since I’ve done a Christmas post. I was inspired this year by a reader comment and my own thoughts of the season, so I’m introducing a new tune. This adds to my previous classics such as The mites before Christmas, O Little Hive in My Backyard, and my most recent Silent Hives. This will be my seventh post of a bit of Christmas poetry, based on the song O Christmas Tree. See the most recent post for the full list of songs.

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Book: Swarm Essentials

Winter is the time for reading in beekeeping. The colonies are clustered in their hive,s and we have time to think about and plan for the coming year. I recently finished the book Swarm Essentials by Stephen J. Repasky. I picked it up at the Virginia Beekeepers Fall meeting in November. I always struggle to prevent swarms, so this seems like a good book for me.

Repasky is a long-term member of the Eastern Apicultural Society (EAS) and was Director of the EAS Master Beekeeper Program for many years. So even though this was published in 2013 I was interested to see what the Repasky had to say.

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Honey bees use propolis to cover and protect their hive. It is a special concoction of resin and bee enzymes, and has been found to be have antibacterial and other properties that help a colony stay healthy and well. Small openings in a hive tend to be filled with the stuff, including the spaces between boxes, covers, and other aspects of the modern hive. This is one reason beekeepers love their hive tool, as it is often the only way to pry apart boxes or covers to gain access to the hive.

Propolis is also used in the winter to reduce the size of an entrance to keep wind and other insects out of the hive.

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Insulated Hives

Note: I have decided to drop the date from my post titles. It seems unnecessary and in the spirit of keeping this simple, I don’t have to remember what day it is anymore. I hope my readers don’t mind.

New beekeepers often ask whether they should insulate their hives or not. I mentioned previously that I use an insulated cover on my hives to help prevent water from collecting above the bees. Virginia does not normally have cold winters, so whether or not to insulate hives in Virginia is really up to the beekeeper. I generally don’t insulate my normal hives (other than the tops), although I do try to insulate the few nucleus colonies (nucs) I overwinter.

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