Monday, April 18, 2011

Making Queens: Supercedure Cells & Swarm Cells

Queen with blue mark
More "spot the queen" fun! In the photo on the left, the queen is clearly marked with a blue dot in the center of the frame. Her large abdomen (which holds all of the eggs she will lay in her life time--and she can lay up to 2000 a day) is one reason that it's easy for beekeepers to spot supercedure cells and swarm cells. These are the cells where queens are raised and they're much larger than worker or drone bee cells.

supercedure cells
In picture to the right, you can see two "supercedure" cells. These are cells the bees build to raise a new queen that will supercede the old queen in the colony. Worker bees build supercedure cells when they sense the old queen is fading: her pheremones become less strong or she doesn't produce as many eggs. To produce a queen, the worker bees feed the female eggs in these cells royal jelly throughout their entire larval development. This rich diet stimulates the development of the queen's ovaries. Like those in the photo above, supercedure cells tend to be located in the middle (or top) of a frame. A fully closed supercedure cell will look like a peanut.

swarm cells
In the photos on the right and below, you can see what are called "swarm cells." Swarm cells are generally located on the bottom of a frame. The two photos are different views of the same frame. If you look closely, there's an elongated cell on the left that is fully closed: a queen pupa is forming there. In the open cell on the right, a queen larva is still growing. The queen cells are large to accommodate the queen's larger body.

swarm cells

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Placing Bees in Your Garden-Cool Video!

Here's a great video of Steve Repasky, Apiary Director at Burgh Bees, helping Post-Gazette writer Doug Oster ("Digging with Doug") place a bee colony in his garden.  The video includes a nice shout out to dandelions that are about to bloom and info about how to link to some recipes using dandelion greens.  Go Steve! Go Doug!  Go Bees! Go Dandelions!

Link to Digging with Doug-Bees in the Garden

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Review of One More Honey Cookbook!

Avner Laskin. (2008) Honey:  More than 75 Delicious Recipes (New York: Sterling Publishing Co.). $15

Laskin's cookbook just arrived and I'm happy to report that it's a lively little book of recipes, with some great ideas for using honey and highlighting its unique flavors.  The author describes himself as an "artisan baker and artisan chef" and he is the author of a number of cookbooks, including ones on coffee, nuts, olives and hummus.  He blogs at

The cookbook is divided into recipes for breakfast (including honey crumpets);  baked goods (honey carrot cake); a small section for salads and entrees (honey Waldorf salad and calamari in honey garlic sauce); and desserts and drinks (honey cinnamon milkshake spiked with brandy).  While some of the recipes hardly seem worth it--do we need to be told to put honey on oatmeal?--there are many tempting entries, including honey bao (Chinese steamed buns).  The book also includes photos for some of the dishes.

Here's a simple recipe for a great little bruschetta appetizer that we adapted from the book:

Honey and Blue Cheese Bruschetta
1/2 loaf of French bread or baguette (approx. 12 inches long)
3 ounces good quality blue cheese (like Maytag), crumbled
2 tablespoons honey--a dark, fall honey would be great with this.
1 tablespoon walnuts, crushed
Preheat oven to 400 F.  Slice the bread on a diagonal into 1/4 inch slices.  Place on a cookie sheet and toast both sides until golden brown.  Remove toasted bread from oven and sprinkle with the crumbled cheese.  Drizzle honey on each slice and garnish with walnuts.  Serves 4.  You could play around with the cheeses and nuts for a nice variety:  try goat cheese, summer honey, orange zest and almonds or,crumbled feta, summer honey, roasted red peppers and pine nuts.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Pollinator Garden Guides and Links

It's time to start thinking about gardening, and especially about pollinator-friendly gardening. Pollinator gardens can be very low-maintenance and have the added delight of providing steady blooms from spring to late fall. Here are a few links to get you started.

The Pollinator Partnership website ( offers great (and free!) pollinator-friendly planting guides tailored to specific regions throughout the country. Here's a link to the guide page:

In Pennsylvania, Penn State's Center for Pollinator Research has developed a series of handouts pollinator-friendly gardens and gardeners and sponsor a pollinator garden certificate:

Mrs. G's Chocolate Brownies

From Gene Option's Honey: A Connoisseur's Guide with Recipes (reviewed in Honey Cookbooks, Part II)

We baked these a few weeks ago and they produce a richly flavored brownie with a cake-like texture. They're best eaten within a day or two of baking them, which shouldn't be too difficult because they're good!

Yield: 16 brownies
1/2 cup unbleached white flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 cup butter (recipe calls for vegetable shortening, but I couldn't bring myself to use it)
6 tablespoons mild honey (summer, amber honey)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square pan. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a small bowl. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler, stirring to combine well. Add honey and vanilla and stir well. Beat in the eggs. Add the dry ingredients and nuts and beat until well blended. Spread into the prepared pan and bake 25-30 minutes. Cool in pan before cutting into squares. The recipe includes a note that if chewy brownies are preferred, then remove from the oven after 20 minutes.