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Bees In A Bell Jar

award winning honey

Lorraine and I headed out to the county fair to get photos of our award winning honey. On the right is our very light extracted honey and our comb honey. Some people came by and took a look our stuff, we puffed up bigger than prairie chickens on a lek–just overwhelmed with pride in our girls.

Hypno Cowboy

And to show you what a swanky affair the county fair can be, check out the entertainment: The Hypno Cowboy…it reads on his flyer that he is certified…where does one go to be certified as a hypno cowboy?

bell jar bees

A week ago, Mr. Neil added a bell jar to one of our hives.  The idea is based on this website, to get the bees to make some cool looking comb inside the glass jar.  At first he just put in the jar, but then after looking at the photos, decided to add some strips of foundation to get the bees started.  We covered with an empty brood box to shade and keep it dark (bees like it in the dark). Lorraine and I checked it over the weekend and discovered that things are running a bit amok in the bell jar.  Part of it is that the wax foundation has melted off in a few places.

inside the bell jar

Some of the strips were on the ground and the bees appeared to be drawing out comb there…I’m not sure how this is going to work having comb all over the ceiling.

honeybee

One of the very cool things about the bell jar is that it gives you a chance to see the underside of the bees–look at that little bee tummy in all its furry glory–I just want to tickle it!  It was challenging to get photos, the girls were running around very fast and the bell jar’s imperfections made it hard to focus.

bee undersides

As they were running around, I noticed quite a few of the girls were carrying wax in their mandibles.  Note the bee in the lower right corner–she’s blurry, but she definitely has wax in her mouth–a view of active comb construction that I’ve never seen before.  Since they were crawling on the glass, I thought, “Cool, they’re drawing out comb on the sides anyway.  Then I noticed a bee running around with a “circle” of wax.

Bee Working On Foudation

As a matter of fact, it was the perfect shape to match that hole in the foundation above.  I began to suspect that the bees may not have been drawing out comb on the foundation left on the sides of the bell jar, but were taking that wax away and reallocating it inside the hive.  Bees produce wax from glands on their body, down along the segments on the lower part of their body.  They secret and work it with the mandibles and add it for making comb.

bee mouth

As I watched the bees working the the wax with their mandibles, I was trying to determine if they were removing wax or adding it in…not an easy feat with hundreds of bees running around in various directions in a bell jar.  As I watched, I noticed that I could hear a sound coming from the bell jar…a crackly kind of sound…a sound like mandibles snapping on wax.  I tried to get a video of the sound.  If you use headphones listening to the video below, you can kind of hear the sound I’m talking about.  At about 29 seconds, there’s a bee on the right side of the foundation, removing a piece of the wax foundation, she’ll walk around to the other side and you will see her with the wax bit in her mouth.  At a 1:04, you’ll see series of bees crawling on the glass in the right side with pieces of wax in their mandibles too.  Here it is:

YouTube Preview Image

So, I’m not sure what’s going to happen with the bell jar bees.  I’m not too worried, we have hives producing honey for jars and comb honey, and hives working to fill their stores for winter and mostly happy bees.  We’ll see what happens over the next month.

Bee Mandible

Whatever happens, it’s been an incredible view of watching them work.

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