What are Beehives?
A standard beehive consists of a bottom board, a brood chamber, a
honey super a lid and straps or clips to hold it all together and a colony
of honey bees.
The brood chamber and honey super are boxes, which sit on top of each
other and contain frames. Usually, there are between eight and ten
frames in each super.
The frames are four thin pieces of wood put together to make a
rectangle. They are placed side by side in the supers giving the
honeybees a framework on which to build the honeycomb. Each
frame has three or four strands of wire running from end to end to
help support the honeycomb.
Beekeepers put a wax or plastic foundation sheet in each frame to help
the bees build the honeycomb.
The bottom is the base of the beehive. It is usually made of metal or wood so it will last for a long time.
Bees enter and leave the hive through a space in the bottom board at the front of the hive.
The brood chamber sits on top of the bottom board and is the bottom box of the hive. The queen bee
usually lives and lays her eggs in the brood chamber.
A Queen excluder can be put on top of the brood chamber to prevent the queen from entering and laying
eggs in the honey super. Worker bees are able to pass through the excluder, which is often a piece of wire
mesh placed on top of the brood chamber. Beekeepers seldom take honey from the brood chamber
because the colony uses it for everyday food.
The honey supers are stacked on top of the brood chamber.
Honeybees store honey mainly in the supers. Beekeepers collect the honey from the frames of honeycomb in
the supers. The number of supers depends on the size of the colony and on how much nectar is available for
the bees to collect.
Lids seal the top of the hive from the weather. Beekeepers can use a ventilated or unventilated type of lid
depending on the climate.
Ventilated lids have holes drilled in them which are covered by bee proof gauze.
Reference: The story of producing Honey in Australia – Kondinin Group. Published - 1998
Life in the Hive
Can you spot the different bees?
In every bee colony there are three castes of bees –
A Queen, Drones and Workers. There are thousands of workers, hundreds of drones and just one queen
bee. The castes are interdependent, which means they rely on each other for survival.
The Queen Bee
The Queen is central to the hive: Each colony has
one queen. The Queen is the largest bee and her job
is to lay eggs. She is the only bee in the colony,
which can lay eggs to produce female and male
bees. Her body is specially formed for egg laying so
that the eggs can be placed a little above the centre
of the cells in the honeycomb. Before depositing
her eggs, she inspects each cell to be sure the
workers properly clean it.
When, for any reason the colony needs a new Queen; extra royal jelly is fed to chosen larvae in the cells.
The first young Queen to emerge from the pupa destroys all other developing Queens in the cells, then
sets out on her mating flight after five to twelve days. After mating the young Queen has much to do. With
her eggs fertile, she must return to the hive. The old Queen will have left with a swarm beforehand. The
new Queen, closely surrounded by worker bees who feed and groom her, can lay up to 2000 eggs in one
day. That is one egg every 43 seconds.
Drones are the future fathers of the bee colony
(rather a very small number of them will be).
Shorter than the Queen, drones are larger than the
workers. They have no accomplishments other than
being patient. They cannot make wax, have no
proboscis for collecting pollen or nectar, and have
no pollen pikes on their legs. They are never called
on to defend the hive so they have no need for a
Drones rarely feed themselves - instead, they hold
out their tongues and a worker bee places food on
it. They are truly gentlemen in waiting. They are
waiting for the day when a young Queen will fly
from the hive.
When a new Queen flies from the hive she joins the drones, who are already circling in drone congrega-
tion areas. The swiftest drones will catch and mate with the Queen, but their life is short. After mating,
they will float back to earth and be dead by the time they reach the ground: They have helped to bring new
life to the colony and their work is finished. The remaining drones return to the hive either to be driven
out or to die there during the winter or when a shortage of food occurs.
Workers are female bees, which do not normally lay
eggs. They have an average life span of six weeks.
Workers have many jobs during their lifetime. They
start their lives as hive nurses which clean and cap
cells, and feed the drones, queen and brood. Later
they receive and store nectar from older workers, pack
pollen, build honeycomb and clean the hive. Their
next jobs are as honey ripeners and then as hive guards,
which prevent bees from other colonies, an pests such
as wasps from entering their hive.
Finally workers become foragers, which search for and collect nectar, pollen and water. They also collect
plant resin to make propolis.
In her lifetime, the Queen can produce more than one million eggs. At first, after the eggs are hatched, all
the larvae are fed on royal jelly - a milky white fluid made by a gland in the nurse bees’ head. This rich
food helps larvae to grow strongly. After three days, the workers’ diet is changed mainly to pollen and
nectar, while the Queens continue to be fed on royal jelly.
On the eighth day, the larva spins itself a silken cocoon and during the next week or two makes the great
change from pupa to adult. It gnaws its way out of its cocoon and, as it gains strength, joins the workers in
their task of foraging or engineering, nursing the young, converting nectar into honey, cleaning the hive
and waiting on the Queen. So the life cycle goes on!
Reference: Honey the storey of producing honey in Australia - Kondinin Group. Published - 1998
Bees work from sunrise to sunset, as long as temperatures are over approximately 14°C.
Bees have been in Australia since 1822. European settlers brought the honey bees to produce honey
to eat and to help pollinate their crops.
Bees are insects. All insects have six legs and three body parts (head, thorax and abdomen). Most
insects have wings and all have antennae.
Bees possess five eyes. They have 2 large compound eyes made up of thousands of tiny eyes and
three small simple eyes at the front of their head. All these eyes help bees to see rapid movements,
such as people trying to swat them.
A Honey Bee community is known as a colony.
A worker bee must fly the equivalent (relative to humans) of three times around the globe to gather
approximately 500g of honey. This is likely to involve more than 10,000 flower visits or perhaps 500
foraging trips A healthy colony of bees can produce from 150-200 kg of honey per year.
Scout bees report the nectar source to the rest of the hive by doing a waggle dance, which describes
the source location in relation to the sun.
Honeycomb is mathematically the second strongest structure in the world after the Egyptian pyra-
Honeybees wings beat 11,400 times per minute.
Bees eat honey primarily to fuel their wing muscles. They fly within a radius of up to 6km of their
hive though few go that far. Their top speed is about 32 Km/h.
Honeybees’ stingers have a barb, which anchors the stinger in the victim’s body. The bee leaves its
stinger and venom pouch behind and soon dies from abdominal rupture.
A single hive contains approximately 40-45,000 bees.
Bees cannot recognise the colour red however they make up for it by seeing ultraviolet light. Some
flowers have ultraviolet strips on their petals that act as landing strips to guide the bees to the nectar
Reference: The Workbook Series, Honey - Kondinin Group. Published 1998
B E E C H W O R T H H O N E Y
Phone: (02)6033 2322 Fax: (02)60332344 w/www.beechworthhoney.com.au firstname.lastname@example.org