Recently my father, Tom Seager, asked a question about honey in the honey frames. I gave him a silly answer and we tossed around a few ideas of what the real answer might be. Ultimately, we settled on my silly answer as the final thought. However, it got me thinking, what are my followers’ questions about bees? I posted a question box on social media to get your thoughts. I was thrilled that a few of you stepped up and gave me some pretty challenging questions! I’m a bit of a science nerd, so I did some digging to see what I could learn about bees to answer your questions. So here they are, a few unique questions about bees asked by the followers of Kowalski Mountain!
Why Does Honey Not Fall Out of the Honeycomb?
In the honeycomb, there is capped honey and uncapped honey. When the honey is at its perfect consistency, the bees will cap the honey to preserve it. Until that time, the honey remains in the honeycomb uncapped. Honestly, I have never thought about these very unique questions about bees, but why doesn’t the honey fall out of the honeycomb?
Beekeepers keep bees in hive boxes that contain a group of frames. The frames hang vertically In the box and the bees create a honeycomb on both sides of the frames. The frames are spaced enough to allow the bees to move between the layers but to contain them and guide them throughout the box. The design of hive boxes was likely based on the way that bees naturally build a honeycomb in the wild. Philip was done several retrievals of wild bees and the honeycomb is usually built-in vertical columns of honeycomb. They might be thick, or longer depending on the space the bees have, but they still tend to build vertically.
When I first started researching this question, the immediate answer that I found was that the honeycomb is tilted upward. There is a 9 to 14-degree rise from the place where the honeycomb is attached to the frame to the top of the honeycomb. The writer stated it’s this slight incline that keeps the honey from falling out. While this seems to be the best answer, I discovered that it is not actually the reason that honey does not run out of the honeycomb.
As I continued digging, I found a very scientific study on this question. In this study, written by Robert Oeder and Dietrick Schwabe, they tested the theory of the upward angle by inverting the honeycomb forcing the angles to turn downward. They discovered even with the angle inverted the honey still did not fall out of the honeycomb.
Now, to be honest, this is a very scientific study, so some of it (ok a lot of it) is above me, but to summarize it most easily. The reason that honey does not fall out of the honeycomb is it has to do with the way in which liquids behave on the surface of a solid object. On a microscopic level, honeycomb is a rough surface, there are micro and nano-sized angles in the topography of the honeycomb. It’s this roughness that allows honey molecules to penetrate the microscopic grooves of the honeycomb, without the entrapment of air, that allows the honey to create a high state of adhesion between the drops of honey and the cell walls of the honeycomb. It’s this high state of adhesion that allows the honey to remain in place regardless of the angle of the honeycomb.
With our very first honey harvest, we used a gravity method to extract as much honey as we could. While it worked, it did not remove all the honey. Now I know why!
What is the Angle of the Honeycomb For?
The scientists concluded that the angle of the honeycomb provided maximum strength to the honeycomb. If you look at the honeycomb, it’s built with a minimal amount of bees’ wax, however, it’s extremely strong. A frame of honey or brood can be very heavy! The angle of the honeycomb and its attachment to the midwall of the comb increases the strength and carrying capacity of the individual cells.
Now when I initially answered this question for my dad, I told him it was bee magic! I still think that bee magic sums this up easiest! These unique questions about honey bees really stretched me to try and decipher the information! Read the full, very scientific report here to learn more about the angles of honeycomb.
Do Bees Like Music?
Bee-lieve it or not, they do! Bees communicate through a form of communication that is called a “waggle” dance. This waggle dance emits sound waves that are between 250 to 300 Hz. While bees do not have ears, they can not hear the music, however, they can sense the air-particle movements that sound waves emit. They can sense sound waves up to 500 Hz. Furthermore, bees prefer music that is rhythmic. So not only do they like music, they like a good beat! The writer of the article I read actually provided Bee Playlists in lots of different genres of music that you can play to attract bees to your garden. This might be something to consider as well if you don’t want to attract bees to your yard, skip the music that bees prefer at your next garden party!
This was a very interesting question about bees to me. I did not have any preconceived thoughts on what the answer might be. If you are looking for a very scientific explanation for the attraction of bees and sound waves, this study might interest you. Thank you to our Instagram follower tf2_cup for asking one of the very unique questions about bees!
What is the Role of a Queen Bee?
It’s commonly known that one of the types of bees in a honeybee colony is called a queen bee. However, the queen’s role can be somewhat confusing. It is assumed by many that a queen bee “leads” the honey bee hive. While the pheromones produced by the queen do signal the colony, the worker bees actually call the shots. The queen’s primary job in a beehive is to lay eggs. There is a single queen in each colony and therefore she is the only reproductive female bee in the hive. We might best refer to her as the star of the show! The entire colony’s survival depends on her doing her job well. If the worker bees determine that she is not doing her job well, she will be replaced to ensure the survival of the honey bee colony.
What is the Gestation Period of a Queen Bee?
Queen bees emerge from their cells in 15 to 16 days. They are the fastest developing bees of any of the castes (types of bees). Up until day 3, any fertilized egg has the capability of developing into a queen bee. Queens are fed an exclusive diet of royal jelly. They are reared in special cells that are larger than regular cells. Queen cells begin as queen cups that are then fully developed into queen cells. There are a few different kinds: supersedure cells, swarm cells, and emergency cells might be created in different circumstances. It’s fascinating how bees can actually make their own queen!
Is It Possible to Have More Than One Queen Larvae in a Hive?
Yes, it is very possible to have multiple queen larvae in a hive and actually quite likely. Bees are the ultimate preppers, they like to have a backup. The worker bees drive the supersedure (replacement) of a queen or the swarm of a colony. This is driven by the pheromones of the queen, or lack thereof. If the pheromones of the queen begin to weaken, or she is not laying sufficiently, the workers will prepare supersedure cells to produce new queens.
If the colony is too large, they will prepare the honey bee queen to swarm (or split) to create a new hive. However, they always prepare swarm cells to leave the colony with a queen for the bees that are left behind in the swarm. We almost always see multiple queen cells in the colony.
Do Queen Bees Compete for a Hive?
After a new queen hatches, she prepares for her mating flight. Drone bee are the male bees of the colony. While each colony has its own drone bees within the colony, the queen honey bee mates with drones from other colonies. The queen must leave the hive in search of drones to mate with and return as a mated queen. As with all bees, there are dangers that threaten the queen, and even predators that might attack her en route. As a result, it’s very common that there will be multiple queen larvae in the colony.
Once mated, the queen returns to her hive and she will kill any remaining queen larvae within the hive. Literally gnawing through the queen cell and killing the undeveloped queen. If more than one mated queen returns, they will fight for the place of the queen within the colony. Unlike worker bees, a queen bee has a reusable stinger.
It is possible that a hive might have more than one queen bee. Typically a beekeeper is unaware because once they find a queen, they usually stop looking! However, there are instances where beekeepers have found more than one queen. This most often happens as a queen ages. Her pheromone level will be lower, it will be harder for the workers and another queen to sense her so she may go unnoticed in the colony after she has been superseded by a younger queen. Special thanks to my long-time friend Rebecca Worthen at ak_becca for asking several unique questions about queen bees!
How Do You Deal with Disease In Bees?
This question really grabbed my attention mostly because of the statement that followed the question. The full question read ” How to deal with diseases in bees? I hear it’s almost impossible to keep bees now.” I recently wrote a post on the importance of pollinators. It’s commonly known that due habitat loss and increased pesticides that there is a reduction of bees throughout the world. However, in just the short time that Philip and I have been keeping honeybees we have found it quite possible not only to keep bees but to also see them flourish!
There are numerous diseases that do attack the honey bee colonies. The good news is there are universities around the world doing honey bee research. They are studying those diseases so that we can best protect the honeybees population and maintain the pollination of the world’s ecosystems. As a homestead beekeeper, Philip attends classes to educate himself regarding the issues that are affecting bees in our area. The best thing is he learns different techniques to manage issues within the apiary and how to apply those practices at the homestead level.
One of the best things that a person interested in beekeeping can do is to educate themselves about bees. Honeybees are very complex. Philip mentors new beekeepers to help educate them regarding hands-on practices of beekeeping. Seeking an experienced local beekeeper as a mentor can be a huge asset to any new beekeeper or even a person interested in beekeeping.
Since honeybees travel such great distances, it’s difficult to create biosecurity. While we might be able to prevent issues and contamination within our bee yard, our bees travel up to 3 miles to forage for pollen and nectar. In that circumference of travel, they are exposed to pesticides, invasive species, predators, yellow jackets and toxins of all sorts. Philip recommends that all beekeepers keep a minimum of two hives. By having two hives to observe, a beekeeper can more easily compare the behavior and hive activity to more quickly detect problems.
How Do We Protect Our Bees?
In our apiary, we treat our bees for varroa mites three times a year. This is done when the honey supers are removed from the hives so that there is no contamination of the honey. We participate in inspections of our apiary. The state inspector looks at the honey bee health of the colonies, they look for invasive species of bees and potential bee diseases that might threaten our own bees and also the native bees in our area. Since we travel with our bees, we work with the state inspectors from both states to ensure the transportation of healthy colonies across the county.
Philip works to manage the hive beetles. Hive beetles can damage the honeycomb and destroy the food stores of the honeybees. While they are difficult to eliminate, Philip uses traps to manage the beetle population. Wax moths are another issue that plagues honeycombs. We see this most often in the wild (feral) bee colonies that we rescue. Philip tries to convert a wild colony to frames rather than the long-term use of their wild honeycomb, as that brings contamination into the bee yard. Ideally, a “dirty” bee yard is used to quarantine wild bees brought into the apiary to minimize preventable issues.
What Can You Do Protect Bees?
Even if you are not a beekeeper, you can help protect the honeybee population. You can help by creating a habitat for bees. Plant a flower garden to attract pollinators. Reduce and eliminate your use of pesticides and poisons in your yard. Provide a safe water source for bees. The best way is a shallow bowl with pebbles allow bees to climb out of the water if they fall in. Many thanks to Instagram follower gracie_pow for reaching out to ask this question, I do hope that you find some encouragement that while keeping bees does have its challenges, beekeepers around the world are doing their best to maintain healthy colonies that are thriving.
Thank you for Asking Such Unique Questions About Bees!
Thank you so much to all of the Instagram followers who asked such unique questions about bees. You challenged me! I really had to dig in to find the answers to the unique questions about bees that you posed. I hope this post encourages you and gives you a bit more insight into the amazing creatures that honeybees are!
About the Author: Barbra-Sue Kowalski grew up on a small hobby farm. She was always drawn to farm life, however, she was stuck in an urban life far from her roots. Barbra-Sue was a single mom for 13 years, raising her 3 children on her own. She met Philip in 2018 and they married in 2021. Between the two of them, they have 5 grown children and 4 grandchildren. These empty nesters are following their dreams! As they both turn 50, they are building their off-grid homestead to live the life that they dream about. Learn more about Philip and Barbra-Sue here. Contact them here. To leave a comment on this post, please scroll down.