We feed the birds sunflowers. In turn the birds plant sunflowers for our bees. So yes the birds and the bees are connected once again. The cycle goes on in many many different scenarios every single day of every season.
Lots of bloggers have been asking about beekeeping. I'll give you the readers disgest version of how it works. First we set up the hive and order bees, this is best done in the fall or early spring. I was on the late side getting my bees and got lucky to find some.
The bee packages are usually 3 pounds of bees of all ages and a mated queen comes with the package. During the winter bee brood production is a trickle, so spring has the ramp up so the package bee people can grow bees to sell. Therefore late spring is when one getting a bee package. The bad news on this is our best pollen source is Tulip Poplar and it was finished before we got our bee package.
Once the bees have been placed in the hive along with the caged queen. She is protected so the workers can get used to her, otherwise they might kill her. After 3 days she is released. First the worker bees have to draw comb on the new foundation and start collecting pollen and nectar before she starts laying eggs. Depending on how the workers are doing and the weather it could take a week or longer for them to draw out the comb.
In the comb the bees store pollen, nectar, honey and brood. Below is a little information about the bees I borrowed from a beekeeping website.
There is only one queen per hive. The queen is the only bee with fully developed ovaries. A queen bee can live for 3-5 years. The queen mates only once with several male (drone) bees, and will remain fertile for life. She lays up to 2000 eggs per day. Fertilized eggs become female (worker bees) and unfertilized eggs become male (drone bees). When she dies or becomes unproductive, the other bees will "make" a new queen by selecting a young larva and feeding it a diet of "royal jelly". For queen bees, it takes 16 days from egg to emergence.
All worker bees are female, but they are not able to reproduce. Worker bees live for 4-9 months during the winter season, but only 6 weeks during the busy summer months (they literally work themselves to death). Nearly all of the bees in a hive are worker bees. A hive consists of 20,000 - 30,000 bees in the winter, and over 60,000 - 80,000 bees in the summer. The worker bees sequentially take on a series of specific chores during their lifetime: housekeeper; nursemaid; construction worker; grocer; undertaker; guard; and finally, after 21 days they become a forager collecting pollen and nectar. For worker bees, it takes 21 days from egg to emergence. The worker bee has a barbed stinger that results in her death following stinging, therefore, she can only sting once.
These male bees are kept on standby during the summer for mating with a virgin queen. Because the drone has a barbed sex organ, mating is followed by death of the drone. There are only 300-3000 drones in a hive. The drone does not have a stinger. Because they are of no use in the winter, drones are expelled from the hive in the autumn.
So when do we get honey? The new beehive needs to build up strength the first year and needs all the honey they can make to survive the winter. So if the bees do well and over winter we might get to collect some honey this time NEXT YEAR.