Saturday, July 7, 2012

Inside the hive!

Ever wanted to see the inside of a bumblebee hive?  Curious about queen bees?  Like gross stuff?

We have all of those things in today's post!

Thanks to the hard work of my dear labmate, who has been more-or-less successfully (depending on how you feel about bee stings) rearing colonies of bumblebees as a part of his research, I now have a bunch of amazingly gross/awesome pictures to share with you all.

His bumblebee colonies were originally purchased from a company in Michigan and shipped to us in the "artificial hives" they have since lived in all summer.  The artificial hives are made of plastic which contains some cotton batting, and the whole thing is encased in a cardboard box.  The bees construct their own waxy hives inside this contraption.

Weird space craters or bumblebee hive?

This is what the whole contraption looks like as it's dissected to evaluate the colony.

Cool!  Those open craters are actually pupal casings.  We think that after the bees are removed from their pupal casings, those spaces become honey storage.  The shiny liquid-y stuff?  Definitely honey, though not the same as the commercially harvested stuff made by honey bees.

You can also see some powdery, earwax looking stuff piled in one of the larger craters.  I think that's pollen, but it might just be wax.

The larger, lighter yellow casings near the bottom of the picture might be ROYAL casings.  There are some serious queens up in those things.

Close up!

That little bitty white oval is an egg, soon to be a larvae once it is placed in a casing.

To give you an idea about the lifecycle of these fellas:

Size reference:

FYI:  I have GIGANTIC HANDS, so this isn't really the best reference.  

Finally, a slightly bedraggled queen, one of many in this hive:

Bumblebees are awesome, hives are disgusting, and the whole thing has been fascinating for me.

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