Monday, February 20, 2012

The Bee's Knees


Hello once again from Andalusia,

Me and the beehive!

I'm currently writing from my office here in the passengers seat of la Galvez, parked next to my friend Hector's house, below his terrace and patio with beach views here in El Pelmar. The waves of the Atlantic ocean are crashing onto the beach and the Sun is glaring into the window, due to the magnifying effects of the van window, my office is even solar heated. Life continues to be good to me.
Ramon and the tower of beehives, all to be cleaned and sorted.











After our initial arrival to the area this past week, Ramon and I have more or less settled into the swing of things at Daniel's house in La Muela. As I mentioned previously, Daniel is currently turning his land into a queen bee rearing center, and we arrived just in time to lend a needed hand.

A surprise in a box. The mouse turned the beehive into a home.
While Daniel was in Chili the previous 6 months spending time with his big time Chilain Apiculture Uncle, his beehives went unattended to, and as a result require a but of attention in order to recuperate. Just as moths venture into the humidity of the wardborbe  and slowly eat away at our clothes during winter months, these fine insects do the same inside the beehives. Attracted to the moisture of the wax left behind after the last of the honey harvests of the fall and winter months, the moths procreate and lay their eggs, while each cocoon slowly eats away the pine wood consisting of the beehive boxes. Their cacoons are stronger than they look and the beginning of the beehive preparation process begins by knocking them loose, scraping them as well as the remaining bits of Propolis (tree resin collected by the bees and mixed with their saliva to be used as a glue, heat retainer and antibacterial within the hive) off of all surface areas. The 10 panels within the hive are also separated from the main box and the boxes are inspected and separated according to their condition.
View from the office.

The physical work only leads me to more curiosity into the world of bees, and in addition to asking every question that comes up, Daniel has offered me his extensive but concise library of spanish language beekeeping books. I have spent the past week familiarizing myself with the livlehood of the bees, their behaviour as well as products. As nature's pollinater the worker bee (non egg laying female bee) ventures up to 3 km away from its home in search of pollen and nectar filled plants. Through a very cleaver kick action of the back legs, the worker bee picks up and stores a grain of pollen on each of its side legs in order to bring back to the hive. Back at this hive, the Pollen is stored alongside the egg laying area, and used to feed the growing larva. Meanwhile the nectar is collected by the tongue of the bee and carried back to the hive in its stomach. While in it's stomach the nectar mixes with natural enzymes of the bees, including fructoses, and when the bee returns home, the nectar mix is regurgitated and passed on to a fellow worker, before being packed, covered and stored into the hexagonal wax cell they call home.
I love the uniform!


Inside the beehive the Nurse Bee, the other non egg laying female bee, between her 3rd and 10th day of life,  is responsible for feeding royal jelly, the vitamin B rich substance produced in their hypofaringic glands, to all larva in their first 3 days of life, as well as the Queen bee for her entire life. Here I might add that the Queen bee does nothing more than eat Royal Jelly and Lay Eggs. Not Bad.

A healthy panel full of Larva, and Pollen

Anyways, this is the basic breakdown on the action between the hives, and I continue to by amazed by their simplification of such a complex task. Each hive has between 60,000 to 100,000 members, and due to the Queen bee's gluttony the worker bees split and organize the work between themselves. I won't go too much into the detail in their communication, but between the vibrational frequencies sent between their hind legs, their precise abdomen shakes used to indicate the direction of a plentiful harvest, and their 5 multi-directional color perceiving eyes, the bees have a sensational  system of organization.
Bees dancing out side their front door


Thursday, we went up to Daniel's office which happens to be bluffside with a spectacular view of the beautiful coastline, where he is actively recuperating 30 beehives. Dressed in the full bee suit, Ramon, Daniel, and I inspected the state and development of each of the hives. Early Spring is the time that the bees are growing their family so we focused on inspecting the state of their development. We took note on the quantity of panels filled with larva and depending on their production, altered the order of the panels within the hive or substituted an empty panel for honey. Because it is early in the season and the bees are in a period of recuperation we had the opportunity to familiarize ourselves with just about every stage of bee larva development.

Inspection time.

Eucalyptus clearing.


















Our bee time has been shared between forest clearing work, and once again Ramon's Chainsaw skills as well as forestal work have come in hand. In order to clear space and open the land up to more sunlight we have taken down quite a few Eucalypti, Arizona Pines, Cedars and wild Olives that have overgrown the space. As a result of our wood clearing work, our week has been filled with the 3 stages of warmth, cutting, hauling and then burning the fruit of our labor in bonfire form. Which of course just isn't the same without chocolate, graham crackers, and marsh-mellow roasting on a stick, though I am still trying to find a way to introduce this to the Spanish people

South African Cave drawing.




Spanish Cave drawing.
La Galvez is in top form, and my list of sewing projects is
happily growing!

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