Monday, June 20, 2016

Blueberries and Bees

It has been hot here in Missouri, and summer has not even started!  We also found out, to our chagrin, that in Florida where our daughter and her family has been residing it has been about ten degrees cooler.  It does seem that quite frequently John and I have traveled to the wrong place at the wrong time.  Fortunately Missouri has benefited from some good spring rains, and the hot sun has not scorched and burned everything.  We drove to Farmington this past weekend where there is a good crop of blueberries at Liberty Farms.  Our niece Miriam and I picked about a total of 12 pounds of blueberries.  The day after we picked I returned to the farms accompanied by John and his sister Carolyn for the Liberty Farm's Blueberry Festival.  A blueberry dessert contest was held for the festivities and an impressive array of those goodies were on display.
There were blueberry cakes, doughnuts, muffins, cobblers and  turnovers which had been baked for the competition.  A bundt cake won first prize. We were at the farm about mid- morning when the sun was as yet not too intense.  A cool breeze was blowing over the nearby hills and we enjoyed a concert of bluegrass music played by a local band before leaving the farm.
That afternoon we visited Miriam and Kraig at their home outside of Farmington.  John had the wonderful opportunity of assisting Kraig with his bee hives.  Of course, he had to first gear up.
In the picture above John is holding a bee smoker.  That is necessary to have on hand when disturbing the hive.  Kraig informed us, however, that it needs to be used very sparingly.  Too much smoke may agitate the bees more and cause them not to eat.  Speaking of eating, the bees need to have all the honey they make for themselves during the first year that they they are building up the supply.  And to assist them in that endeavor Kraig has to supply them with sugar water ( which he places in mason jars outside of the hives).  One reason he needed to open one hive on Friday was to replace a queen bee.  He had not been able to find her in one of his two hives (she is marked with a large white dot), and so it was necessary to purchase another one.  The queen came in a small plastic container accompanied be one helper (a worker bee).  They can escape out of the container once they eat their way out of the exit door (the door is blocked by a piece of sugar).
In the picture above Kraig and John are searching the frames of the hives for the queen cells.  Worker bees feed the cells with royal jelly, which is a nutritional food for the larvae.  If a queen bee is needed, worker bees place small larvae in a specially constructed cell and feed that cell copious amount of royal jelly to produce a female bee which has fully developed reproductive organs.  Kraig wants to remove some of those queen cells because he does not needto have that many queens. He had saved one cell, it is pictured below.
There is so much to be learned about the small honey bee. a very industrious little creature.  During the 6 weeks it lives the bee travels about 500 miles gathering nectar, pollen and water.  It also works inside the hive cleaning the queen, feeding the larvae, and making beeswax to build all the hive's cells.  One article I read noted that she literally dies from exhaustion.  Drones are male bees which impregnate the queen.  They die after that feat, those that do not die are killed by the worker bees.  The queen gets impregnated once, sperm stays inside her for her lifetime.  What I have written here is just a small part of everything there is to learn regarding how a hive produces honey.  In the past I certainly never gave much thought about what is involved in making the honey which I so readily consume!

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