Thursday, March 05, 2009

Bee Lining

Before bees came packaged via USPS from beekeeping supply houses, beekeepers had to find 'natural' hives. Natural is in quotes because the bee was originally an import from Europe.

The process by which hives were found is very intriguing and sometimes requires one piece of equipment that was difficult to obtain; the bee box. Years ago, I found a book that described the process of lining bees in great detail and gave a great description of the bee box. So I built one. What follows is a description of the bee box and its use.

The bee box is a two chambered box. The main chamber has a flip top door with a large window. The window of the main chamber is covered by a thin piece of wood. The secondary chamber has a window in the end of the box also covered by a thin piece of wood. Access to the second chamber is controlled by a sliding door.

Use of the box is as follows: a bee is caught by sneaking up while it is on the flower. The box is snapped shut and the bee trapped in the first chamber. The thin piece of wood covering the first chamber's window is slide back to verify that a bee has been trapped. Once a bee is trapped then the sliding door to chamber two is opened, the window covered in chamber one and the window exposed in chamber two. Since bees are attracted to light, the opening of the window in chamber two draws the bee through the sliding door where the bee is then closed into chamber two. As many as 10 bees are captured by the same method.

Once all bees are trapped in chamber two, chamber one is opened and a small piece of honey comb filled with sugar syrup is placed inside. Sometimes a small amount of anise flavoring is rubbed on the honeycomb. The main door is closed and the sliding door separating the two chambers is opened.

The bees then collect the sugar water and head back to inform the rest of the hive. Once a steady stream of bees is established between the hive and box, one bee can be marked and timed. Marking the bee is done by scrapping a small amount of blue chalk dust into a small container of water. Then a bit of this water is dabbed onto a bee with a paintbrush. When the water dries the bee will be stained blue. When the bee is timed this will reveal the approximate distance to the hive. The direction to the hive can be determined by watching the line that the bees form as they fly toward the hive. They will fly in almost a straight line pointing to the hive.

Beekeeping is essential to modern life as we know it. Without bees to pollinate our food crops it would be difficult to enjoy many of them. Please support your local beekeeper. They provide more than you may realize.