I am a little behind as fall has been really busy at the Gardens, but I have one crazy thing to share! We went into the hives on September 18th. It wasn’t really feeling much like fall yet, but the bees knew!
The worker bees (women of the hive) had decided it was time to prepare for winter. The SHOCKING thing was that meant evicting the men (drones) out of the hive. Literally! These little ladies were actually tackling the drones and dragging them to the edge and shoving them off of the landing platform on the front of the hive. I am not joking. At first I was shocked and then the rampant feminist in me found this extremely funny. I just kept visualizing a WOW (women of wrestling) wrestler throwing her opponent out of the ring – I am still giggling about this. See the video below and look for the wrestling bees.
In all seriousness, the insect world is RULED by the females and with the honey bee colony, in the winter, the drones do not earn their keep. They take up space and resources (food) that should be used to help the colony survive the winter, so out they go!
Even though there are upwards of 60,000 individuals in one colony, they can respond VERY quickly to environmental conditions. In the human world, it can take MONTHS to make even minor changes in behavior, but I guess in the wild when your survival is on the line, quicker action happens.
This is one of the reasons beekeepers are vigilant about checking their hives regularly to look for changes in living conditions and reproductive behaviors. This day we also checked for mites in the brood boxes and found about 3 (out of about 300 bees sampled). Elly made the decision that we should treat for mites. With one honey super still on each hive, we use a formic acid-based treatment which is safe for this application.
Stay tuned as we start to approach winter. I am curious about what our steps will be to try to insure colony survival.