Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Pollen-Nation or The Bees Knees!

We truly are a Pollen Nation. Not because we’re mucus mongering eye- itchers. No! But because ALL of our major crops are pollinated by… BEES. The humble honey bee serves as the backbone of our veg food chain, and I am heartily glad to have them. Here are a few of the things that we eat that depend on honey bees: Okra, kiwi, onions, cashews, almonds, apples, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, apples, caraway, papaya, COFFEE, lemons, limes, persimmons, cotton, lupine, any tree nuts, and all grains except corn *rice is a seed, not a grain, smarty pants. Come to think of it, corn might be, too...hmmm...   (I know I said apples twice, but, really, who wouldn't??).
A complete list can be found, here.
Did you know that there are 20,000 known species of bees, but only 7 of them are honey bees? I don't know about you, but I'm pretty much only interested in that 7... and maybe Bumble Bees. Because, ... they Bumble!!
Here in Alaska, we have no native honey bees. So I import mine from Russia. Historically, as in Prehistorically, bees all came from Southeast Asia. Only one specimen of a honeybee native to the Americas has ever been found. What does that tell you about the foods that we eat here in the USA? They all come from far flung places! If you are in the UK or Eastern Europe, or Asia and are eating a potato, you're welcome. Otherwise, we thank you thank you thank you, because without the foods native to your regions, we wouldn't have cereal in our boxes in the mornings :)

 Pssst...! I am dying to go to an apiary where they gather the bees to send to me. What does it look like? How in the heck do they get my 15,000 bees into my box?? Is it just an enormous Indiana Jones warehouse buzzing with gadzillions of bees, and guys in bee keeping suits running around with nets trying vainly to capture them (probably not, he he!). Or enormous vacuums to suck them up and spit them back out into my little screened in box? Hmmm! I can tell you one thing, I'm gonna find out. And when I do, I'll tell you, too :)
But I digress;)

This post is about Honey Bees and Pollen and a celebration of Mid-Summer. So let's get to it!
My bees bring several different varieties of pollen and nectar home from their foragings. They use the pollen as a protein source when they're feeding up babies. And as anyone who has ever breastfed knows, babies take ALOT of feeding. Only baby bees don't have teeth. Which is nice.
My Alaskan-Russian bees have been bringing home a truly lovely assortment of pollens in the high light sweet yellow to the golden yellow and nutty brown range. I think I'm gonna have to make a pillow to go with the Bee-Inspired Quilt and Canvas Pillow, in celebration of the Gals and their work. Woohoo!
My worker Girls brought home Alder and Willow pollen in the early spring,

Alder Pollen
Willow Pollen
And Lots and Lots of Dandelion pollen and Nectar,

Dandelion Pollen
Woohoo! dig in, Grrrl!!

See those thigh bags??
She is stowing away pollen!
Now I don't know about you, but now that I find that honey bees stow their pollen in bags on their thighs, I feel ALOT better about those bags under my arms. I figure, they must be for stowing grapefruit when I go shopping and need someplace to put things while I search for my keys...right??!
My honey bees do not multi-task. Each girl has her job and she sticks right with it. I have been watching, and I have noticed that the more mature bees seem to be the ones who are collecting nectar, while the younger ones seem to be collecting pollen. How do I know how old they are? Well, I would never ask a lady her age, so I check out their posteriors!!!!! I'm admitting it right here. 
Can you see that some of the bees are darker than the others? They
are the more 'mature' ones. The new bees are all yellow :) how cool is that??!
And of course, the whole object of the beekeeping game is to gather HONEY, sweet honey, and here is what it's from,

This is Nectar. Sugary goodness and a lot of water! (water after nectar's broken down by... do you really want to know???)

I thought you might like a tour of the MidSomer hive :) So come along!

Here is the first layer, just for honey.  Hmmm. Looking suspicously
empty :(
But wait! Someone is starting to store nectar in there! Yahoo!
See the shiny parts? That's the nectar. :)
This is the Brood/bottom section of the hive. The picture where I showed
you the color of the bees is in between the honey and brood sections.
I have removed it now because I want the girls to stop goofing around
making all of the extra wax/brood/pollen chamber and get cracking at honey!!

And here is a frame removed from the hive so you can see that everyone
is hard at work. The shiny stuff is honey that they will cap when it is dry enough,
the yellow covered parts are baby bees, getting ready to hatch, 
and you can see a few larvae in the upper center in hexagons
 that are dark and uncapped.  They are being fed royal jelly by the new worker bees. 
Can you see that the honey comb is different colors? The yellow comb is for honey, 
and the brown is for brood. Any honey 
stored there later will be a darker color when I extract it!!

And Now, on to the pillows...
Do I add the blue for the MidSomer Sky??

Or not??
So lovely to see you again!!


  1. Loved this post. I'd love a hive ( or two) but our black lab Stan goes mad whenever he sees a bee. There was one in the house the other day and he spent all afternoon barking at it. I just have to be content watching the ones that come in my garden xxx

  2. Lucky you to have bees. I have wanted to get some hives for years. I'm more inspired to look into it now.

  3. I vote for adding in the blue, but it is a lovely fabric pull and would work either way, I think!

  4. Thanks for such a great post! I am constantly watching the bees around our house hoping that they help out my orchard, veggie, and flower gardens. I would love to find someone who wanted to keep hives on our property.

  5. How appropriate for a Let's BEE Social post, Lori! Love it! Our pastor has bees and shares his honey with the whole congregation. I am fascinated with your post and learned so much! Yes, I think you should include the blue sky tones in your BEE-utiful fabric pull. They provide some contrast for interest!

  6. I'm a huge bee fan, without them we would all starve!! I love all the pictures that you shared about your wonderful hive!!

  7. Great post. I've never kept bees but I've always been interested in them. When I was a little girl we had this book about bees - children's book but with lots of information and beautiful illustrations. I think it was translated into English as "the world of the bee" but the original Polish title was something more like Grand works of the small bee and I loved it.
    And I'm for adding the blue, too.

  8. This post is very well done and very interesting! I have worried about the bees and the virus that is killing them for a few years now. I hope the scientists figure it out soon! I am glad your bees are healthy. :) Watch out for bears coming for your honey. ;)