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If you are considering adding a beehive or two to your homestead, it’s a good idea to learn as much as you can about honeybees first. Bees are so beneficial and not only do they provide delicious honey, they also pollinate our gardens and produce beeswax that can be used to make candles and other useful items.

Hive Dynamics

Every beehive is occupied by three different types of bees.

  • Worker Bees: Worker bees don’t lay eggs. They are the female bees that take care of the queen. They are also responsible for collecting pollen and nectar from miles around, building the honeycomb, and tending to the young bees. If all that’s not enough, they also produce royal jelly with glands located on their heads. This nutrient dense substance is fed to the baby bees (larvae). Now you know where the phrase “Busy as a bee!” comes from.
  • The Queen: The queen is the only female in the hive that lays eggs. She is taken care of by the worker
    Here we find many bees surrounding a marked bee queen.
    bees. They feed her and protect her in exchange for her providing eggs to sustain the colony. If your hive’s queen dies, she will need to be replaced in order for the hive to survive. Sometimes, the hive will attempt to replace an older queen. This is usually the only time the female worker bees will lay eggs.
  • Drones: The male bees are called drones. The drones have one job; mating with the queen during her mating flight. That’s it! They don’t even have stingers or baskets on their legs to collect pollen.
Lifecycle of a Honeybee

Understanding the lifecycle of your honeybees will help you to know if your hive is healthy. First, the queen will lay her eggs in an empty cell. She may lay up to 2,000 eggs in one day! The eggs are very tiny and white.

In about three days, the eggs will hatch and become a tiny larva. Honeybee larvae are chubby and white. They are also helpless, so they are fed and cared for by the worker bees. They are fed royal jelly for about three days. After that, they are given pollen and honey. The larvae are fed an astonishing 1,000 times daily. In about six days, the larva will be quite large, and the workers will seal the larva in its cell.

Hidden away in its cell, the larva becomes a pupa. For the next two weeks, the pupa will undergo a dramatic transformation. It will grow into a fully-grown honeybee with legs, eyes, antennae, wings, and stripes. At maturity, in 12-14 days, the bee will chew its way out of the cell. If the hive is growing a new queen, however, she will grow much faster (7 days) and only be fed royal jelly.

Young worker bees are in charge of cleaning the hive and taking care of the queen and larvae. When they get a little older, they will produce was to build the honeycomb. They also guard the hive. When they are around three weeks old, they will begin to leave the hove in search of pollen and nectar.

A Day in the Life of a Worker Bee

The life of a working honeybee is actually quite fascinating. The foraging worker bees will fly from flower to flower collecting nectar in their special stomachs. Pollen will be collected on the fuzzy hairs of their legs and on their bodies. On their hind legs, they also have special cavities (pollen baskets) that hold large amounts of pollen. They collect water, too, and everything is taken back to the hive. While they’re going about their business, the flowers are being pollinated.

Bees on a honeycomb with honey. Worker bees seal the honeycomb.
Meanwhile, the worker bees that remain inside the hive build the honeycomb that’s used to store food and raise the brood. When the foraging bees return to the hive, they pass the collected nectar to the house worker bees who use special enzymes to convert the raw nectar into honey. They place the honey into the prepared cells and fan it with their wings to remove any excess moisture. It will then be capped with wax if it’s meant for storage.

The workers store pollen and honey in the cells that are closest to the larvae at the bottom of the hive. When those cells get filled up, they will begin to store honey up higher in the honey supers, provided by the beekeeper.

The Importance of Scent

Scent is very important to the function of a bee colony. Bees use pheromones to communicate and the queen has her own special pheromones. When the queen stops communicating or her pheromones become weak, the bees know it’s time to create a new queen. Worker bees also produce special pheromones that can warn the hive of danger and help guide the foraging bees back to the hive. Even the brood gets in on the act by producing special pheromones that tell the workers when it’s time to change their diet or seal them in their cells.

Dancing Bees

Worker bees also communicate with each other by doing special dances that tell the other bees where the food is located. These intricate bee dances can reveal how far away the food is, how much food is there, the quality of the food, and the direction in which it’s located according to the sun. In fact, bees actually use the sun as a sort of compass for telling direction.

Bee Varieties

There are several varieties of honeybees choose from. Two of the most common are:

Italian honeybees: They are gentle bees that produce a lot of honey. The only drawback is that they use a lot of their honey to maintain their brood during the winter, so you will need to leave them a good amount of honey to get them by.

Russian honeybees: These are a hybrid strain that combines a few traits from both Italian and Carniolan honeybees. They are naturally resistant to mites and they overwinter very well. You need to keep an eye on them in the spring because the colony will grow rapidly, and they may outgrow their hive and decide to swarm.

As an up-and-coming beekeeper, learning about the lifecycle of the bees in your care is a great place to start. Beekeeping may seem a little intimidating at first but knowing what a healthy hive should look like is half the battle.

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Fixes: Solve Waterlogging and Flooding Problems

If you’ve suffered from the problem of flooded soil before then you know the pain of a lost harvest that was so close to ripening. Luckily, there are ways that you can prevent it from happening again.

Even if you don’t have a big enough garden to create a drain or run-off areas, you can still implement small solutions that will work as long as you make sure to act at the right time. First and foremost, you should be mindful of the weather forecast and whether it calls for rain.

A few days ahead of the rain spell, you should begin by picking up fallen leaves or pebbles that may block the drains, leading the soil to absorb all the moisture. Remember to have a look at the drain as well and pick up any leaves that surround it because these can get carried into the drain and allow a blockage. If you don’t have the time to pick leaves yourself, you can purchase a garden vacuum to do it for you.

You can optimize your soil to have the best drainage possible by adding organic matter like peat mulch or compost. While this will increase your soil’s absorbency, you can add heavy topsoil like bark or fresh mulch to protect your crops’ roots. If there are parts of your garden where the soil tends to get flooded often, add adequate topsoil that’s mixed with some sand.

Leaf mold is made from leaves that have decayed and serves as an excellent conditioner for your soil. Whether you’re getting rain or not, it’s always a good idea to add some to your soil every year; it can increase the soil’s ability to retain more water, which is excellent in the case when you’re expecting heavy rainfall.

Since leaf mold generally doesn’t need to be used more than once a year, you’ll have plenty of it as long as you’re adding to the pile. It takes around two years to finely decay and turn into compost that’s much more refined.
Another factor you need to make sure of is that your soil isn’t compacted i.e. has few air pockets and isn’t well-aerated. This is actually a fairly common problem that leads to waterlogged soil and it highlights the importance of tilling your soil often. If the soil is compacted, it keeps water from passing through the top layer of the soil, therefore allowing water to collect and subsequently drowning the crops.

By aerating your soil regularly, you can create more air pockets in it which lets roots have better access to oxygen and other nutrients. In this case, aerating it gives water a way to pass through the top layer and increases the soil’s absorbency. You can use a number of tools, such as a garden fork, to aerate your soil.

These are some of the preventative measures you can take a few days before a heavy rain spell to help reduce the chances of waterlogging and flooding in your garden. Make sure that you don’t waste any time after learning that a heavy downpour is on its way because carrying out the above-mentioned measures takes time. Happy Farming!

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