White Eyed Drones

Have you ever seen a drone (male) honeybee with white eyes rather than their normal colored black eyes? I did for the first time this year and it’s sort of freaky looking. Earlier this spring, I was inspecting one of my hives and came across a few drones with white eyes. I did not have my camera with me, so I came back the next day to take a picture and they were all gone.

A few weeks later another of my beekeeping friends said he had a hive that had white-eyed drones AND workers and wondered if I would like to have the queen to put into my observation hive. I gladly accepted his offer to see what would happen. Within the last few days I have begun to notice a few drones with white eyes. The picture below was shot though the glass of the observation hive so the quality is not all that great. I will have my camera on hand the next time I open up the hive to move some frames around and get a better picture.

After doing some research, I found that this is a genetic mutation caused by a recessive gene. Drones are genetically haploid, which means they only carry one set of genes, while all females are diploid or carry two sets of genes. Queens and worker get their two sets of genes when the egg laid by a queen is fertilized. A drone is created when a queen lays an unfertilized egg. So if the queen carries the recessive gene for white eyes then there is a grater chance of the white eye to express itself.

Some of the information that I read indicates that white-eyed drones cannot see well and there cannot find their way back to the hive, which might explain why I only saw the drones one day in my hive and not the next. The interesting thing about my friend observing white-eyed workers in addition to white-eyed drones is that I believe a white-eyed drone would have had to mate with a queen that also carried that gene to produce a white eyed worker. That would refute the claim that white-eyed drones cannot see well. We’ll see!

I have also read that there are  bees with other eye colors including green, shades of red from cherry, garnet to brick. Although I haven’t seen any with green eyes, I have notice some that appeared to have a purple-ish tint to them. So check out the color of your drones eyes. You too might be surprised. If you want to learn more go to the web address below:

http://www.beesource.com/resources/usda/breeding-improved-honey-bees-part-2-heredity-and-variation/

2009 Wildflower Honey Harvest

The rainy, cool weather we had about a month ago apparently has severely affected the Wildflower spring nectar flow. The mainstay of the spring honey crop in this area is the Tulip Poplar tree. During its bloom the rainy, windy weather accompanied by cool temperatures either prevented the bees from flying to gather the nectar, washed the nectar away or blew the blossoms off the trees.

The end result is that my bees put up only one fourth to one half the honey they normally put up this time of year. I have talked to a number of other beekeepers in the area and they report the same thing. In fact, one of them has one of his hives on a platform scale. He records the weight gain and loss on a daily basis and reports it to the USDA in Beltsville, MD for their study purposes. He said that the hive this year weighed 100 pounds less than the same time in 2008. Last year I harvested approximately 1400 pounds of local wildflower and this year I think I will be lucky to get 600 pounds.  So it looks like the local spring Wildflower honey crop is going to be in short supply. This all serves to remind us that this is really farming and you have your good years and your lean years.

Last week after taking off the honey supers, I moved 13 colonies up to our property in North Carolina to join the bees already there and to hopefully capture the Sourwood nectar flow and to finish building up some of the new colonies I started this year. We’ll see how that goes and I will report on it sometime later this month. Below are a couple of pictures of my friend and fellow beekeeper Jim McClure opening up the hive entrances we had closed off for the move and the hives in place with their supers ready to capture the Sourwood honey.