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I began this blog to chronicle my beekeeping experiences. I have read lots of beekeeping books, but nothing takes the place of either hands-on experience with an experienced beekeeper or good pictures of the process. I want people to have a clearer picture of what to expect in their beekeeping so I post pictures and write about my beekeeping saga here. Along the way, I've passed a number of certification levels and am now a!
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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

First Signs of Spring

At my house one of the earliest signs of spring is when the rosemary bush begins to bloom. Now not only is it blooming, but the bumblebees have begun to visit it.
Another sign of spring in the south is the budding of the azalea bushes.
In Atlanta one of the most obvious signs of spring is the blooming of the dogwood which began this week. We think this is such a sign of our spring that we have had an Atlanta Dogwood Festival every year for 72 years. But if you are a beekeeper, the first sign of spring is when you observe a DRONE in the hives. When the male bees begin to emerge in the hives, the business of making queens and making new little bees becomes a serious spring activity. This drone circled in red in the picture above, is from March 27 of 2007 . You can see him best by clicking on the picture to enlarge it.

I saw my first drone this year last Saturday on March 22, just after the official first day of spring. He was walking proudly through the hive. I think he felt more territorial since he was the only one I saw.

I was in an awkward position when I saw him, balancing the frame in one hand and putting the frame rack on the hive with the other and couldn't take his picture. He was actually more handsome than the 2007 first drone, but I can't always snap what I want to snap. In the early spring, the new drones stand out because they are so much larger than the worker bees. However, later in the season when there are at least 100 drones in most hives, the lone drone is not a spectacle but part of the ordinary.

I find it so interesting that the bees push the drones out of the hives to starve to death in the fall. The hive then lives through the winter as a circle of women. In the spring the queen begins to lay eggs in drone cells again and the process starts all over.

The drone has a grandfather but not a father. Workers and queens develop from fertilized eggs. They have genetic material from both the drone with whom the queen mated in midair and the queen bee.

Unlike the workers, drones develop from unfertilized eggs. The eggs from which they come have only half of the genetic material - their mother's genetic material. So drones have grandfathers (the queen's genetic material) but not fathers. They are haploid beings.

The drone has no stinger, so he is a good practice bee for the art of picking up a single bee. I'm hoping to do this this year so that someday I, having practiced with drones, can pick up and mark a queen.

But I have a hard time picking up dead bees from the deck - speaking of dexterity, not squeamishness - so I don't think this will be an easy challenge.
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