Posts Tagged: Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Faciity
Life and death in the bee observation hive...
If you ever have the opportunity to check out a bee observation hive--a glassed-in hive showing the colony at work--you can easily spot the three castes: the queen bee, worker bees and drones.
If you look closely, you'll observe the foragers performing their waggle and round dances and the royal attendants circling the queen in a retinue.
The queen will lay from 1000 to 2000 eggs a day in peak season. From an egg, to a larva to a pupa to a newly emerged bee, it's all there.
You'll observe the worker bees performing their specific duties: nurse maids, nannies, royal attendants, builders, architects, foragers, dancers, honey tenders, pollen packers, propolis or "glue" specialists, air conditioning and heating technicians, guards, and undertakers. The worker bees (sterile females) run the hive. They're the "you-go" girls and the "go-to" girls.
The Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis has several observation hives. One is in the Laidlaw conference room; another is in an entomology classroom in 122 Briggs Hall. The bees enter and exit through a thin tube connecting the inside of the colony to the outside world.
Avid bee enthusiasts place an observation hive in their homes, often in the living room. It's a honey of a conversation piece, beside being an educational experience.
The saddest part? Watching the undertaker bees carry out the motionless bodies of their sisters and brothers.
Or watching the sisters, as winter approaches, evict their brothers. The girls are protecting their precious food storage and want fewer mouths to feed.
Drones, whose only responsibility is to mate with the queen, aren't needed in the winter months.
But wait 'til spring...
Eagle-eyed Carol Nickles saw it first.
The graduate student coordinator for the UC Davis Department of Entomology spotted the bee swarm from a third-floor window of Briggs Hall.
There it was, swaying on a tree branch, about 25 feet above the ground.
A bee swarm, shaped like a bowling pin, but about 2.5 or 3 feet long.
What exactly is a bee swarm? The late Harry Hyde Laidlaw Jr. (1907-2003), noted bee geneticist-breeder at UC Davis, defined it as "a cluster of worker bees with or without drones and a queen, that has left the hive." The bees often cluster on a tree limb while the "scouts" search for a suitable home.
This particular swarm may be offspring from the bee observation hive located in 122 Briggs Hall for the past several months. Every April the folks at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, located west of campus, set up a bee observation hive for UC Davis Picnic Day. Thousands of social folks check out these little social insects. This is a social network more fascinating than Facebook, Twitter, My Space and Linked In combined.
You can watch the colony at work behind glassed walls. You can see the queen laying eggs, the nursemaids caring for the pending offspring, the royal attendants feeding and grooming the queen bee, and the architects and construction workers building the comb. Other bees are processing pollen into bee bread and converting nectar into honey. Meanwhile, workers are returning from their foraging trips and performing their trademark "waggle dances," letting their sisters know where they've been, where to go and how to get there.
As new offspring emerge (21 days for an egg to become an adult), the hive becomes overcrowded and congested. The end result: bee swarms, a natural part of their life cycle and one of nature's wonders.
The bee swarm at Briggs will probably move by tomorrow morning, says UC Davis bee breeder-geneticist Michael "Kim" Fondrk.
"By noon," he estimates, "they'll be gone."