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Three Bees
Worker, Queen, and Drone

This is the third installment about the Clean Slate Farm Apiary. Read more here.

In beekeeping the “beek” or beekeeper needs to monitor the activity in the hive to see if the queen is producing new bees. The beek is also on the look out for the queen. A bee hive is more than just a bunch of bees in a box. The three types of bees that live in the hive are: the queen, the worker, and the drone, each with specific duties.  Bee colonies work as complete units and without the proper number of each type of bee it will not survive. It is the female bee, or workers, who keep the whole thing going.

Take a look at the photo above and note the differences. The worker (on top) is smaller with smaller eyes. Note the size of the queen (in the middle), the slender body and how small her wings are in relationship to the body. That’s because they really don’t need them except to do a mating flight. The drone (on the bottom), or male bee, is larger, with larger eyes.

Queens are the leader of the colony and lay the eggs to keep the colony alive. A queen can live up to three to five years and will lay up to 2,000 eggs per day. Eggs develop for three days then turn into tiny larvae at which point worker bees begin feeding them. Workers will make thousands of trips to each egg daily to feed and care for them. The food is called royal jelly and for two to three days it is the same for worker and queen larvae. Its made from pollen and enzymes produced by the workers. If a larvae is going to be a queen bee it is continued to be fed on royal jelly. Workers will see a change in diet with the protein and enzyme content changing. Without the continuous feeding of royal jelly the bee will not develop reproductive and pheromone organs. Queens will be fully developed in about 16 days time.

Worker bees, all female by the way, are the ones responsible for feeding the larvae, foraging, and attending to the queen, making sure she is fed and healthy. Not only do they care for larvae, make the comb for honey and egg laying, clean the house, and care for the queen, they also guard the entrance to the hive and cluster in the cold weather to keep the queen and hive warm. As worker bees age their duties change and do pretty much everything to keep the hive living and prospering. There are roughly 100 female bees to one male bee.

The drones are all males and their responsibility is to mate with a queen and, well not much else. The can’t forage, can’t sting, and can’t even feed themselves.  Now lest you fellows out there start thinking, “Awesome. Mate and do nothing much useful sounds like a plan for me.” Once the drone mates his innards and…ahem…privates get ripped out and he falls to the ground to die. Yup, it’s a one shot deal boys. Wham, bam, thank you Sam. And come cold weather the girls start thinking the boys are taking up too much of the resources they get kicked out to starve or freeze. I’m sure there’s more than one woman out there who just got an idea.

Some fun facts:

  • In the summer a hive will  consist of 60,000 to 80,000 bees and 20,000 to 30,000 in winter.
  • A colony of bees will collect about 66 pounds of pollen in a year.
  • Worker bees live about 6 weeks during the summer but as long as nine months in the winter.
  • In the winter the worker bees cluster and “vibrate” to create heat in the hive, which will be maintained at about 93 degrees F.
  • A hive body full of comb and honey can weigh up to 60 pounds.
  • Bees will travel up to five miles to gather nectar and pollen.

(Thanks to Backyard Beekeepers for some of the facts.)

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John Deere 2520
John Deere
The New John Deere 2520 Tractor

There’s nothing like a boy and his toys. Mine happens to be a John Deere 2520 tractor with a 62″ mowing deck (10″ wider than the old tractor had) and a bucket loader.

When we moved to Clean Slate Farm we knew we needed more than a push mower to hack away at the vast expanse of lawn we have. A trip to the John Deere dealer gave us too many options to consider. Adam, our local dealer, suggested he stop by and take a look at the area and discuss our needs. Normally I don’t trust recommendations as the result can be more than is bargained for. Adam was great though.

A zero turn mower option was out, too much uphill area and not enough power. A standard lawn tractor might be usable but we have Tess the wonder horse who creates lots of compostable material. Adam suggested a tractor with a bucket to help with the clean up. So we settled in on a JD 1025 and it was great. The best part was 0% financing for 5 years. We took delivery and never looked back. The only issue with the 1025 was we couldn’t drive it around the front of the house in snow to clear the driveway in winter. It’s a hill thing again.

Last fall Adam called and asked if we were interested in a new tractor. (Being a gullible guy I said, “Maybe, what do you have?”) He had a brand new 2012 model 2520 he wanted off the lot and would make us a great deal. It was a great deal but we still had reservations. Our first thought was it would be overkill. The 1025 was doing almost all we needed and we really didn’t want to have another bill to pay. After a lot of soul searching we decided to go ahead and buy the new tractor.

It was a great deal and after a winter of use it turned out to be the right choice. We were able to get around the front of the house in up to 18 inches of snow to plow the driveway and so far this spring it’s been a boon to moving compost to the garden. The bucket will lift about 350+ pounds of material at a whack. The garden will easily take eight buckets of compost, a little over 1.5 tons, which still leaves us with about 8 to 10 tons to find a home for. The extra power this tractor has cuts our work load about 25% when turning the compost pile. Hopefully we’ll see a similar time savings in other chores. Now let’s see how that 62″ mower deck works out!

Do you have a favorite piece of equipment you use around the yard or house? Let us know!

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Honey Chocolate Chip Cookie
What Sweet Tooth?

Honey Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you’ve read Clean Slate Farm at all you will no doubt recognize my love of baking…cookies in particular. Just check out the Recipe Box and you’ll see baking is a favorite past time around here.

I’ve written we will be keeping bees at Clean Slate Farm this year and while wandering around beekeeping sites I found a recipe for chocolate chip cookies made with honey. Sucker that I am for cookies, and with bee hives and honey harvests in our future I reckoned I just may have to make these seeing as we’ll have a lot of honey around here in the future.

This cookie is completely different from the Toll House Cookie we’ve made before in this one is soft, light, and chewy. The batch I just made, which is being enjoyed with a fresh latte as I write, was made with a local honey lighter in flavor. A heavier honey, buckwheat for instance, would change the taste accordingly. Why? Read on cookie lover, read on…

Beekeeping 101.1

Back to beekeeping. Let’s discuss honey and variety of color and taste it can have. Honey can range in color from dark to light, depending on the floral source of the nectar and the mineral content of the honey. Generally speaking lighter colored honey is lighter flavored, darker honey is usually more pronounced in flavor. Buckwheat honey is a great example of this being quite dark and having a malty, deep flavor. An exception to this would be basswood honey, which is light in color but heavier in flavor, so I’m told. This would be an example of the mineral content in the honey.

Color is graded by the USDA into seven categories:

    1. Water white
    2. Extra white
    3. White
    4. Extra light amber
    5. Light amber
    6. Amber
    7. Dark amber

The way honey is graded is by the Pfund scale. Google it and you’ll see that the Pfund scale is a measurement of mm on a gradated scale. When the honey matches the color on the scale it is graded with the the number it matches. Therefore honey with a rating of 35-5o is considered extra light amber, 51-85 is light amber, and so on.

So how do you choose what honey you like? Simply try different honeys and see what your preference is. Honey is very subject to terroir much like wine. Many would say, and I agree, the taste of local honey changes from year to year due to the changes in blossoming plants each year. At Clean Slate Farm the apple and cherry blossoms were incredibly lush in 2010 and 2013, while not so in 2011 and 2012. This would have an effect on the color and taste of the honey in this area.

There’s another reason for different tastes. Foraging bees will travel up to five miles to gather pollen and nectar. So unless the forage area is predominantly one plant the honey will not have a single specific flavor. Honey from these apiaries should be labeled wildflower honey as the beekeeper has little control of what the bees are foraging on.  Some beekeepers will label honey as “Strawberry Fields” or a similar name if the predominant forage source is strawberries for instance. Buyer beware is all I’ll say. The bees will eat what the bees have available and what humans want is of no concern to them.

Is there such a thing as organic honey? Sadly, no. Due to pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and GMO crops organic honey is impossible. Why? See the paragraph above. The beekeeper does not control what the bee forages. The best we can hope for is locally produced honey kept in a sustainable manner where the beekeeper uses natural pest control and  locally adapted bees to encourage good genetics for strong colonies. You would have to be living under a rock not to have heard about Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), which is (mysteriously?) killing tens of thousands of bee colonies worldwide. Some reliable European and well regarded North American studies have linked CCD to monoculture farming and pesticide/herbicides containing neonicotinoids, a neuro-active toxin used in monoculture pest control. Big Ag and agro-pharmaceuticals are arguing differently but the studies are becoming more persuasive. Just don’t use Round-Up on your lawn or let your neighbor use it either. It’s killing the bees.

In a future post I’ll talk about honey bee pests and problems the beekeeper must deal with. As we at Clean Slate Farm get deeper into the bee thing we’ll bring you a first hand perspective.

Now back to the recipe. Enjoy!

Local Honey Chocolate Chip Cookie - Beekeeping 101, A Diversion
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Found on the Rochester Beekeepers Blog http://www.rochesterbeekeepers.com/blog.html
Author:
Cuisine: American
Serves: 28-28
Ingredients
  • ½ cup local honey
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 egg
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • 1½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1½ tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • ½ cup walnuts, ground
Instructions
  1. Cream honey and butter together. Add egg and vanilla. In bowl, mix flour, soda, powder and salt together. Add flour mix. Add nuts and chocolate chips. Drop onto cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.

 

 

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