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Colonies of honeybees must grow to have 4,000 bees before they begin to produce drone cells, according to research recently published by a team of scientists at Cornell University.

This swarm colony will need to grow to at least 4,000 bees before it makes any drone cells.

This swarm colony will need to grow to at least 4,000 bees before it makes any drone cells.

Making drone cells is the first step in the long-term reproductive cycle of honeybees.

But small hives have other survival concerns before they can get to this. They must generate comb for the queen to lay her eggs and for the workers to store pollen and nectar. They must seal the open spaces in the hive. They must organize foraging and storage.

So, when can they start creating drones — giving back, as they say, to the great bee community?

That’s the question that Michael Smith and his colleague at Cornell wanted to answer, and after a good deal of study, they came up with 4,000 as the magic number. The question is an important because it tells us something about the viability of bee colonies.

You can read a summary of the research, which has been published in the journal Naturwissenschaften – The Science of Nature, on this webpage.

 

Key words: honeybees, colonies of honeybees, 4,000 bees, drones, drone cells, Cornell University, Michael Smith, Naturwissenschaften – The Science of Nature

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Veteran beekeeper Howard Kerr told the Blount County Beekeepers Association that bees are extraordinary animals and worth a lot of study.

Howard Kerr speaking to the BCBA

Howard has devoted nearly 50 years to doing just that. Here are a few of the points he made:

  • While worker bees have barbed stingers, the queen has a smooth stinger. That’s what she uses to fight other queens. Because it’s smooth, she doesn’t lose it when she uses it. Worker bees lose their stingers when they used them and thus can live for only a short time after that.
  • When you buy a three-pound package of bees, you’re getting about 10,000 bees. There are about 3,300 bees to a pound.
  • The only purpose of a drone is to mate with a queen (not necessarily of the same hive). The mating is done in the air, and once the mating is finished, the drone dies.
  • You are what you eat; so are the bees. An egg gets hormone-rich royal jelly for about three days, but then the nurse bees most of the time stop feeding that. If a bee continues to get royal jelly, she could develop into a queen.
  • Bees use landmarks to find their way around, especially when they are returning to the hive.
  • Bees have something called “flower fidelity,” which is what makes them such good pollinators. They will work the same type of flower over and over. Consequently, they are more likely to carry the pollen from one flower to another. Other insects work a variety of flowers at the same time, and they are less likely to be good pollinators.
  • Bees are not smart (“People don’t like it when I say that,” Howard said), but they are “highly programmed.”

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If you're interested in joining the Blount County Beekeepers Association, call

Chuck Davis
865-566-3690

or

Mark Ford
865-603-2016

Welcome

Welcome to the web site of the Blount County Beekeepers Association in Maryville, Tennessee.

This site will tell you a little about the association and how to become a member. It will also tell you a little about beekeeping.

Bees are an important part of our environment and particularly our agricultural system. They are also fascinating creatures.

We hope you will be interested enough to join us at some point, even if you're not interested in keeping bees. There are lots of ways you can join in with what we do.

Follow us on Twitter at @blountbees.

Schedule of BCBA meetings for 2017

The Blount County Beekeepers Association meets on the second Monday of every month, except for September and December, at 6:30 p.m. at the Maryville Church of Christ, 611 Sherwood Drive in Maryville.

All of the meetings are open to the public, and anyone interested in learning more about beekeeping is welcome and encouraged to attend.

The following is the schedule of meetings and activities for 2017:

January 9 – regular meeting

February 13 – regular meeting

February 18 – BCBA short course for new beekeepers

March 11 – New Beekeeper Classes

March 13 – regular meeting

March 18 -Wooden Ware class

April 10 – regular meeting

April 29-
Field Day for new beekeepers

May 8 – regular meeting

June 12 – regular meeting

July 10 – regular meeting

August 14 – regular meeting

October 9 – regular meeting

November 13 – regular meeting

December 11 – Christmas dinner

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