I made a visit to the sisterhood at the end of the garden yesterday to see how they were doing and to add another layer to their stack of hive boxes. Both hives seem vigorous and well-stocked with bees.
The bees in the photo below were standing at the entrance to the hive, holding their bodies up on stilt-like legs, whirring their wings. They are the hive’s air-conditioning crew, keeping a steady draft moving into the entrance, cooling the inside of the hive. When things get really hot, the ventilation crew will bring water into the hive to encourage evaporative cooling.
A few did not get the message and tried to sting me through my gloves. One of them left her stinger embedded in the fabric (and thereby sacrificed herself for the hive — the act of stinging kills the bee). In this photo the lance-like part of the stinger is buried and we see the poison sac that continues pumping after the bee has torn herself away.
For a view of the very tip of a bee sting, as seen under an electron microscope, see here.
Having given the bees the extra boxes that they need for the summer, I’ll now leave them in peace until it is time for me to make my annual bear-like robbery and collect rent.