I am sure that most of you have gone through life without giving a second thought about honeybees. Yes, everyone knows they live in a bee hive and make honey, which beekeepers collect and sells in jars at your favorite grocery store or farmers market. But very few understand the important role that these Angels of Nature play in our life.
So, please read on and I will share some interesting facts, tid-bits, and beautiful images of honeybees and how we are putting them, and ourselves, in danger.
The practice of honey collection and beekeeping can be traced back to the stone-age, as evidenced by cave paintings.
The honeybee is the only insect that produces food that human beings eat. Honey is the only food that includes all the substances necessary to sustain life, including vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and water.
The world’s agriculture depends on the honeybee for pollination, which accounts for 80% of all insect pollination. Without pollination, there would be a major decrease in the yield of fruits and vegetables.
The honeybees make honey from the nectar they collect from flowering trees and plants. The average worker bee produces about 1/12th teaspoon of honey in her lifetime. Honeybees collect 66 lbs of pollen per year, per hive. A hive of bees will fly 90,000 miles, the equivalent of three orbits around the earth to collect 1 kg of honey.
Honey Bee on Lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
All honeybees are social and cooperative insects. A hive’s inhabitants are generally divided into three types:
Workers are the only bees that most people ever see. These bees are females that are not sexually developed. Workers forage for food (pollen and nectar from flowers), build and protect the hive, clean, circulate air by beating their wings, and perform many other societal functions.
The Queen lays the eggs that will spawn the hive’s next generation of bees. There is usually only a single queen in a hive. Queens also regulate the hive’s activities by producing chemicals that guide the behavior of the other bees.
Drones are male bees — the third class of honeybee. These drones are kept on standby during the summer for mating with the queen. Several hundred drones live in each hive during the spring and summer, but they are expelled for the winter months when the hive goes into a lean survival mode.
Bees live on stored honey and pollen all winter, and cluster into a ball to conserve warmth. Larvae are fed from the stores during this season and, by spring, the hive is swarming with a new generation of bees.
Honeybees are not aggressive by nature, and will not sting unless protecting their hive from an intruder or are unduly provoked. Honeybees represent a highly organized society, with various bees having very specific roles during their lifetime: e.g., nurses, guards, grocers, housekeepers, construction workers, royal attendants, undertakers, foragers, etc. The queen bee can live for several years. Worker bees live for 6 weeks during the busy summer, and for 4-9 months during the winter months.
The honeybee hive is perennial. Although quite inactive during the winter, the honeybee survives the winter months by clustering for warmth. By self-regulating the internal temperature of the cluster, the bees maintain 93 degrees Fahrenheit in the center of the winter cluster (regardless of the outside temperature).
We have to help the honeybees. Our food supply and the balance of nature depends on these small-winged Angels of Nature. A quarter of our food depends on them collecting and spreading pollen. Yet we are polluting our environment with so many pesticides and toxins that the honeybees can’t survive.
Honeybees have thrived for 50 million years, each colony 40 to 50,000 individuals coordinated in amazing harmony. So why, seven years ago, did colonies start dying en masse? Marla Spivak reveals four reasons which are interacting with tragic consequences. This is not simply a problem because bees pollinate a third of the world’s crops. Could this incredible species be holding up a mirror for us?
Please click on the link below to learn more…
[ Sources: National Geographic, benefits-of-honey.com, backyardbeekeepers.com, Maria Spivak ]