Towpath Naturalist Society buzzing about bees

Photo courtesy of FRANK ENTERLINE
Beekeeper Frank Enterline holds up a tray from one of his hives.

(Editor’s Note: This is the second of a two-part series about “All the Buzz About Bees,” a program held at the May 14 meeting of the Towpath Naturalist Society).

LEWISTOWN — Undoubtedly, honey is one of the most popular products from honey bees. But these important insects provide a wide range of useful substances. They include beeswax, bee pollen, propolis, bee venom, royal jelly and beehive air therapy.

Frank Enterline, of Reedsville, has maintained hives in his backyard for the better part of the past 50 years. On May 14, Enterline shared his years of experiences with the presentation, “All the Buzz About Bees,” to the Towpath Naturalist Society at its meeting at St. John’s Lutheran Church, Lewistown.

The uses for honey ranges in the thousands. It’s rich in antioxidants and has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that help fight off infections. It’s also great to use as a salve for burns and scratches.

Pollen, beeswax and propolis also offer antibacterial and moisturizing properties as it’s a popular ingredient in cosmetics. Considered to be a low-irritant, beeswax skin care products are very popular.

Terms to know

Some common terms to know when discussing bees:

•Bee venom – Poison secreted by special glands attached to the stinger of the female bee.

•Beehive – Artificial cavity for a bee colony to live in, usually a box or boxes with movable frames.

•Chunk honey – Honey comb cut from frames and placed in jars along with liquid honey.

•Cluster – Large group of bees hanging together, one upon another.

•Creamed honey – Honey which has crystallized under carefully controlled conditions to produce tiny crystals and an appealingly smooth texture.

•Hive tool – Metal device used to open hives, pry and manipulate frames and scrape wax and propolis from equipment.

•Hopelessly queenless – Describes a colony that has lost its queen, and also has no queen cells or young brood that can be used to raise emergency queens.

•Nectar – Sweet and often fragrant liquid secreted by nectaries of flowering plants as an attractive reward for pollinating animals.

•Pheromones – Chemical substances secreted from glands and used as a means of communication.

•Pollen – Male reproductive cells produced by anthers of flowers. Collected and used by honey bees as their source of protein.

•Propolis – Plant saps and resins collected by bees and used to strengthen the comb and to seal cracks. Possesses antimicrobial and waterproofing properties.

•Royal jelly – Highly nutritious glandular secretion of young bees, used to feed the queen and young brood.

•Scout bees – Worker bees searching for a new source of pollen, nectar, propolis, water or a new home for the swarm they are a part of.

•Smoker – Device in which materials are kept smoldering to produce cool smoke (not flames) to subdue bees. “A smoker calms the bees,” Enterline added.

•Swarm – Large number of worker bees, drones and usually the old queen that leaves the parent colony to find a new home and establish a new colony. “The queen starts to lay eggs starting in February, so they can build up to the summer for honey flow,” Enterline said. “When the queen leaves the hive, she will be followed by 3,000 to 10,000 workers. She’ll lay eggs on branches. Thousands of bees will be swirling in a circle, which is the swarm.”

•Veil – Hat, helmet or headpiece including a screen of wire or fabric netting, used to protect the beekeeper’s head and neck from stings.

•Waggle dance – System honey bees use to communicate the locations of food sources or potential nest sites to each other.

•Worker comb – Comb measuring about five cells to the inch, in which workers are reared and honey and pollen are stored.

Parts of a beehive

There are five parts to the standard beehive:

•Bottom board – Floor of a hive that all the other hive components rest on top of. Can be a solid bottom board, or a screened bottom board, that allows hive debris to fall through onto the ground, or a waiting catching board.

•Brood boxes – Stackable boxes that make up the hive. Generally, the larger, taller boxes are used for a brood nest and food storage for the colony. Smaller, shorter boxes are used for honey harvesting for the beekeeper.

•Frames – Used inside each box, the frames hold the sheets of honeycomb and make removing frames for inspections possible. Plastic frames are available but wooden frames are still the most common option.

•Inner cover – One of the most versatile parts of the hive, the inner cover goes on top of the top box of the hive – just under the outer cover.

•Telescoping top cover – Made of wood and covered with metal, the top has sides that extend for a few inches down the side of the hive.

As a beekeeper, you have to be aware of what’s going on in your hive,” Enterline cautioned.

He said mites, which can infest and destroy the colony, usually prove to be a bee’s biggest enemy. Maintenance of the hives doesn’t mean micromanaging their lives.

“I like to leave the bees alone as much as possible,” Enterline said. “I let them get their work done. I’ll go in, if I think there’s a problem in there, like there’s no queen.”

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