Amber of MOB Honey has graciously invited all our customers to come and check out her apiary at the East Village Experience Centre.
This is a great chance to check out these hardworking bees make the delicious honey we all love so much! Before you go, Amber wanted to share with you some of the things you may witness at the apiary!
First, remember that in honey bees, there is no ruling body, instead, the overall behaviour and division of labour follows an age-dependent preference in carrying out tasks. The queen lays eggs and the worker bees (who are all female) perform tasks based on their age. First, they're a nurse, then a cleaner, then a wax builder, then they're on defence, and then lastly, they become a forager.
Here are some other un-bee-lieveable facts and things to look out for during your visit to the apiary!
Bees are super generalist foragers, meaning they forage on many different types of flora. The more you plant, the more food they have to eat.
Pollen is visible to the naked eye. Large clumps of orange, white, yellow, red, and even purple pollen have been seen on our Calgary bees!
Pollen is stored on the exterior of the bees corbiculae, which is a pollen basket located on the tibia of the hind leg. We, beekeepers, like to call them pollen pants!
Nectar is stored in the bee's honey stomach, so we won’t be able to see those provisions until they arrive inside of the hive. Bees transfer the nectar to younger bees inside the hive through trophallaxis. This will look like two bees kissing, extending their proboscises (tongues) to engage the other in a sweet ritual of nectar transfer (they also transfer other information and pheromones). These actions will be seen on the bottom board!
Bees forage from dusk till dawn unless it is cooler than 5° - 10° C. Pay attention to the time of day, outside temperatures, and weather. Honey bees can’t dry themselves off easily so they prefer not to fly in the rain.
On very warm summer nights in July and August, if the hive is larger than the hive body (wood structure), you could see 100’s of bees clustering/bearding at the entrance to make room inside of the hive. Each hive likes to keep internal temperatures around 35°C in all four seasons!
Look out for guard bees! These defenders monitor the entrance for intruders like wasps and other robbing honey bees from different colonies. Guard bees not only protect the hive from intruders but also hive-mates who have been infected with disease or parasites out on foraging flights. As a prophylactic mechanism, guard bees will prevent infected bees who carry viruses like hairless-black syndrome and deformed wing virus from entering their hive who risk spreading the virus.
You’ll see ample hygienic behaviour at the bottom board! You may see cleaner bees removing dead bees from the hive. Don’t worry, the regeneration of bees is natural! Worker bees live around 6 weeks in spring and summer and 6 months in winter. Cleaner bees also remove hive debris like wax cappings, dirt, and sometimes white larvae or pupae.
Understanding Monthly Bee-Cycles
May is the dandelion and cherry blossom flow, so there are many forager bees coming in with nectar and pollen rewards! They build up yellow wax in May and the queen is laying 1000 eggs a day if the wax cell resources are available.
June is a dearth in our local climate. Dearth means a lack of nectar flow. The city is pretty dry in June! The bees will eat up a lot of their hives honey stores in June and stop producing wax unless you feed them supplemental nectar (sugar syrup).
July is the main flow in Calgary. Sweet clover, alfalfa, and brassica are in abundance and valuable resources for them. The hives will have peaked and their numbers are around 50k to 60k per colony. You’ll see the most activity this month. Inside the hive, the wax builders create pure white wax because pollen from July blooms is lighter than dandelion pollen. Wax comes from eight wax glands on their bellies and they need to eat a lot of honey in order to produce wax.
August is the time of year the queen slows down her egg-laying. The bees ripen the honey by fanning the water content in nectar from 80% down to 17.8%. You’ll see a lot of fanning on the bottom board during this time.
In any month, nasnov pheromones will be released by worker bees positioned at the hive entrance. They stand still, facing the hive with butts out towards the sky. It looks like they stick their butts up in the air (farting), spreading the pheromone by fanning their wings.
In July and August, you’ll see defence bees battling to the death with intruder wasps. Sometimes dead carcasses will be seen on the bottom board or directly under the hive on the wood chips. During this time of defence, the Beekeeper will intervene with what’s called an entrance reducer - a stick that fills the large entrance on the bottom board, reducing the entrance to only a few centimetres wide. This smaller entrance helps the guard bees to defend their colony from intruders.
You can see Amber (the Beekeeper) anytime between 9 am and 5 pm on any given day. Hive visits highly depend on activity and idiosyncrasies within each colony. Stop by to say hi if she’s in the enclosure! She loves talking about bees!
If you're unable to stop by the experience centre (or are hungry for honey!) we recommend grabbing some of Amber's delicious honey today!
Add To Your Yoghurt & Fruit
MOB Honey is delicious paired with our Vital Greens Organic Yoghurt and fresh fruit. Drizzle on top for a sweet and tangy combo.
Use In Vinaigrettes
Honey sweetens and deepens the flavour of any vinaigrette and is delicious on top of crisp greens like our Deepwater Farms Salad Mix.
Glaze Roasted Vegetables & Meat
Honey makes an incredible glaze, not only for a variety of veggies but also to add a hint of sweetness to oven-roasted Free Range Chicken Thighs!
Healthy Sweetener For Homemade Iced Tea
Quench your thirst this summer with delicious homemade iced tea. Add some muddled Fresh Local Mint from Rafferty Farms to really elevate it!
Mix With Granola & Seeds
Mix a little honey into granola for a hearty and healthy breakfast. Try using one of Amber's unique flavours like MOB Cinnamon Honey for a delicious touch.