BEEKEEPING IN THE NORTHEAST - An account of my beekeeping, not a treatise of expertise, but for friends & family who wish to keep bees vicariously through me, and for the occasional apiarist passer-by.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Bees And Decision Making

The super-organism of the honey bee colony has the single purpose of survival, however success relies on individual bees making their own daily decisions about the many tasks at hand. They decide whether or not to linger in the hive to observe a new bee dance, how much attention to pay to it, whether or not to abandon a good source of food for a great one told about by their sister. If the dance indicates it is three times as good, she may continue on her own path, but five times as good is a deal maker. They decide whether to change jobs from water bearer to pollen collector. I watched two bees inch their way side by side to rescue a sister flipped over in a pool of salt water from our kayak boots. Later, a bee flipped over in the hive and immediately another bee picked her up and flung her unceremoniously outside! Decisions, decisions!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Painting A Beehive

What not to paint / What paint works best.
All photos by Athena's Bees - feel free to share

Some years ago I came across a wonderful article I can no longer find about how to paint a hive. The paint recommended there was a winner. My hives from six years ago still look freshly painted to me. Dries fast, and can use at low temps. I've been very pleased. Since then I've found out a few things helpful to beekeepers about painting their hives. I'll try and be thorough here with examples and links.

How To Paint:
That's basically it.
The hive parts that touch each other must be paint-free. Paint only the outside surfaces for weather protecting the wood. 

The bees will propolis the insides. 

The landing board may be completely painted as it does not touch the bees nor need to be removed during an inspection.

What to use:  Exterior Paint, Latex. The photos above are with a weatherproofing stain, VOC less than 100. Drying time ideally well over a few weeks before installing bees but just be reasonable if in a rush.
In our northern climate I make sure I can use it in cold weather. VOC less than 50 - (Fumes & Smells) links go to Wikipedia & Minnesota Dept of Health sites, respectively. Another article is at the Natural Resource Defense Council website.
~ This VOC is right on the can of paint ~ and stands for Volatile organic compounds that result in chemical molecules released into the air that may be harmful to humans and animals. Most articles you find are about indoor paints and less than 50 is considered acceptable by our local paint dealer. VOC of ZERO does exist. I recommend checking out Sherwin-Williams. At any rate, my Sherwin-Williams Super Paint does not smell to me and I SMELL EVERYTHING! (Much to my husband's dismay.) 
~ UV - Check the color numbers! LRV ~  means Light Reflective Value and is right on the color sample card, or should be.
Why do you need to care? Over-heating, cooling, and what bees can see:
Bees see only ultra-violet colors. Colors look different and bees are attracted to our Purple, Violet, then Blue in that order. Red doesn't work for them. White looks bluish-green to them.  
A row of look alike hives can result in drifting of bees from their hive to another. Painting them different colors can help. Heat and Cold: Painting hives black with an LRV of Zero, can cause an over-heated hive. The LRV for dark green, for instance, is 9 so I chose it for my winter wind block along the sides and back of the hive. (See this at AthenasBees). The lower the number the hotter the color. Pastels may be more like LRV 74.    
we see 
bees see
add in UV
uv purple

uv purple

uv violet
uv blue

blue green


What does this mean? Colors look different and they are attracted to our Purple, Violet, then Blue in that order. Red doesn't work for them. White looks bluish-green to them.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


I just finished studying Dewey M. Caron's "Honey Bee Biology" chapter 7 about honey bee communication. This YouTube video covers almost everything discussed and is done well. The amazing thing, not mentioned, is that different races of bees convey distance differently. My Carniolan bees do not use the sickle dance at all. Other races use the round dance to indicate close by sources, within about 40 meters but all the info I can find on this varies dramatically. The sickle dance is one used for intermediate distances but sort of morphs from round into waggle dance as the distance gets farther away. Here is the video: