Whidbey Island Washington Beekeeping & Honeybees - Lavender Honey - Green Road Farm - Tim Walsh

Bee Notes

1) What is Honey and how is it made?

As the honey bee gathers nectar, she will regurgitate this small droplet many times per mission as she collects the nectar. The nectar of a flower from a plant, tree, or shrub is primarily 80%-90% water and the di-saccharide chemical, sucrose. Simple table sugar is chemically the di-saccharide, SUCROSE. However, there are many different sugars, some very complex poly-saccharides, and others are simple mono-saccharide like glucose and fructose; some are sweeter than others. She returns to the hive and deposits this drop and a house bee will deposit this droplet into a cell and water will evaporate from it. She will then go out again on her mission for nectar. A honey bee’s stomach is like our pancreas in that the hypopharyngeal glands emit an enzyme called invertase, that chemically breaks down the di-saccharide SUCROSE into two different mono- saccharides, GLUCOSE and FRUCTOSE. After the worker bee adds the microscopic amount of invertase to the nectar and this droplet evaporates the water concentration to about 16-18% water, we have HONEY!
Honey consists of primarily two simple sugars, glucose and fructose dissolved in about 16-18% water. Just like you might keep a food like orange juice in a sealed bottle, the bee keeps the honey in a sealed wax comb that they have made. The ONLY thing that a beekeeper does to the honey is remove the combs of honey from the bees, cut off the wax cappings of the comb, drain (extract) the honey from the comb, filter out any particles of wax and bottle it. Your own body does exactly the same thing with table sugar, sucrose. Your pancreas manufactures invertase, and when you eat sugar, the invertase breaks that sucrose down into glucose and fructose which is sometimes called “blood sugar” and is found in your blood.

Honey is 18% Water
35% Glucose (Dextrose)
40% Fructose (Levulose)
3% of the other substances probably make up the characteristics of what gives a certain honey a particular flavor, smell, and color.

  • Different flowers produce different colors of nectar, which produce different colors and kinds of honey.
  • Bees respond to dark clothing. Dark clothing looks like an animal. That is why beekeeping outfits are white.
  • Drones do not have stingers.
  • Drones have big bodies and big eyes.
  • The Queen’s only job is to lay eggs in the cells.
  • Most of the bees in a hive are workers and female.
  • Raise the hive off the ground a foot or so to reduce moisture.
  • Place the hive in the sun.
  • Face the hive facing east for the early morning sun.
  • Never stand directly in front of the hive. This is their flight path.
  • Always work your hives from behind the hive.
  • Smoke your hives before opening.
    Blow two or three gentle puffs of smoke into the front of the hive. This smoke will cover the guards at the door and allow the smoke to drift up into the hive. Wait 2-3 minutes so that the smoke can become effective within the hive. Remove cover and gently smoke the top of the frames.
  • Sugar Syrup – Sugar/Water
    When 2 pounds of sugar is dissolved in 1 pound of water, that is referred to as 2:1 sugar syrup.
    1:2 – is an egg laying stimulant for the queen in early spring
    1:1 – is an artificial nectar to get bees to build comb and feed brood larvae in spring and summer.
    2:1 – is a winter feed substituting for honey in the fall or early winter
  • Most bees starve to death in March
  • Nectar is the best food for bees.
  • Common white table sugar is the predominant sugar found in Nectar.
  • Feeding is necessarywhen the bees are short of winter stores.
  • Manybeekeepers don’t bother to feed new colonies in June, July, or August figuring thatnature will provide nectar.

How do I hive a package of bees?
1. Packaged bees can be installed at any time of the day and in any weather. However, late in the afternoon on a non-windy day is preferable.2. Spray the bees or brush on some sugar water on the cage screen before installation. This is not absolutely necessary, but helps to calm the bees down and inhibits flight until they locate on their new home. It is perhaps more crucial if the wind is blowing and there is a chance the bees that take flight will be blown to another hive or too far away from the new hive to find it.3. Setup your hive with four frames removed from the middle of the hive.4. Remove the plywood from the top of the package.5. Knock the bees to the bottom of the cage and remove the queen cage. Check to see that the queen is alive in the queen cage. If she is dead, put the queen cage back in the hive and call for a replacement. Keep the package in a cool place and feed them everyday until you get the new queen.6. Replace the plywood on top of the package while you are working on installing the queen cage.7. Hang the queen cage between frames No. 2 and No. 3, making sure the candy end is accessible to the bees. Have a hammer and small tack available in case you have to re-attach the disk to the queen cage.8. You are now ready to dump the bees in the hive.9. Once again, knock the bees to the bottom of the cage. Using one finger and your hive tool, remove the sugar syrup can. If the bees start emerging from the queen cage opening before you get the can out, knock them down again until you get the can out.10. Once the can is out, rotate the cage and move it back and forth to get as many bees out as possible. Immediately put down the cage, and put in the missing frames and close the hive. Do not worry about crushing bees with the frames; they will get out of the way.11. Lean the empty cage up against the front entrance of the hive. Make sure your entrance reducer is installed. On polystyrene hives, stuff a little grass in about 90% of the entrance. This confines the bees for a short time and allows them to become accustomed to their new home before they take flight.12. Feed the bees, but it is important not to disturb the bees unless necessary. Check after 4-7 days. If the bees have not released the queen, you release her by removing the cork.13. Remove the queen cage and push the frames together. If any extra comb has been built underneath the queen cage, remove it.
Most beekeepers prefer division board feeders, top feeders or inverted jars placed INSIDE the colony.


DRONES – When the queen is missing, the worker bees will start laying eggs – but they can only lay drone eggs. The Drone bee’s only job is to fertilize with a queen during her mating flight. They become sexually mature after about 12 days after emerging and die upon mating with the queen. When a queen is absent, they have no purpose. They cannot feed themselves for the first four days of their lives and they eat 3 times as much food as a worker bee. An excess of drones in a colony puts an added stress on the colony’s food supply. When cold weather begins in the fall and the honey flow stops, drones usually are forced out into the cold and left to starve. Colonies without queens allow them to stay in the hive indefinitely.


Using a smoker disguises the bees Alarm Pheromones. When a hive feels it is under attack, guard bees release a chemical from a gland on its abdomen. This chemical is called a pheromone and it alerts the colony to the attack. Smokes disguises the pheromone and the bees remain calm.


I had read somewhere on the web that breathing out of your mouth may agitate the bees. I decided to change the syrup one day without smoking them. The bees were calm for the most part, going about there business when I decided to try breathing directly on them. I took a big breath and gently exhaled onto them. Immediately they flew up and went on alert. If you think that the instincts bees possess would relate to there survival in some way then it makes sense. My breathing on them would resemble a a bear or animal of some sort trying to get at the honey. So I keep my mouth shut now 🙂


Queens take 16 days from the egg being laid to being hatched. The breakdown is 6 days until it is capped and then 10 days capped before it hatches.




November 2017
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