Facts About Honeybees
Bees are insects.
There are about 20,000 species of bees.
Yellow jackets are wasps and often mistaken for honeybees because they are about the same size. Honeybees get an undeserved bad reputation, but it is the yellow jacket that visits picnics, as they eat meat, and can sting and bite multiple times. Yellow jackets also eat honeybees and honeybee babies (larvae).
Honeybees are not aggressive by nature and will not sting unless protecting their hive from an intruder or are unduly provoked.
The honeybee has 6 legs, 4 wings, a nectar pouch, and 2 pollen baskets.
A bee’s buzz is the sound of its wings flapping at 200 times per second.
A honeybee flies at about 15 miles per hour.
Up to 60,000 bees live in one hive.
There is only one queen bee in each hive, except right before swarming out when a daughter queen is being raised.
The queen can lay eggs for years after mating and she determines the sex of each egg as she lays them. She usually lays 98% female bees (workers) and 2% male bees (drones).
Worker bees only live about a month to a month and a half, while the queen lives for two to five years.
During its four to six week lifespan, a Worker bee will work constantly, first inside the hive and then foraging for the last half of its life, covering up to 5 miles per day.
Rather than hibernating during winter months, the queen lays fewer eggs and those honeybees feed on stored supplies and share body heat.
Winter bees can live up to 4 to 6 months because they do not wear out their wings and body as quickly.
The honeybee hive is perennial. Although quite inactive during the winter, the honeybees survive the winter months by clustering together for warmth. By self-regulating the internal temperature of the cluster, the honeybees maintain approximately 93 degrees Fahrenheit in the center of the winter cluster (regardless of the outside temperature).
Honeybees represent a highly organized society, with various bees having very specific roles during their lifetime: housekeepers, nurses, , grocers, construction workers, royal attendants, undertakers, guards, foragers, etc.
The queen bee’s job is to stay inside the hive and lay about 1000-1500 fertilized eggs per day after just a few short mating flights, right after she is born, mating with as many as 20 male drone bees. This is her only adventure outside of the hive until a replacement queen is made. Then she will fly away with half the colony’s bees, (called a swarm) hoping to find a new home, leaving all the stores and the other half of the bees behind with her new daughter queen.
The male bees, or drones, are useless inside the hive, can’t fly very well, don’t gather food, can’t sting or secrete wax. After mating once with a non-related queen outside of the hive, they soon die. All drones are kicked out of the hive before winter comes.
Bees are very hygienic and clean their hives of debris every day.
If a slug or mouse or other “large” intruder is found inside a beehive, the bees can kill it and hermetically seal it off with a wax coating to keep the hive clean. Five years later, the mouse would still be mummified.
Honeybees are not native to the USA. They are European in origin and were brought to North America by the early European colonists. Honeybees were known by the native Indians as “white man’s flies.” Honeybees can help native plant species thrive, which encourages native pollinators to return.
Honeybees have been producing honey for 10 million years.
Honeybees gather nectar, the sweet liquid made by flowers and tree blossoms, to make honey. Honey is the only food that includes every substance necessary to sustain life.
Pollen is a rich source of protein and fat and is used to feed baby bees.
Bees must visit about 2 million flowers to produce one pound of honey.
The bees from a single hive will fly over 55,000 miles to make 16 oz. of honey.
In her lifetime, a single bee makes less than a quarter teaspoonful of honey.
One beehive can make over 200 pounds of honey in a year, but usually 40-60 pounds can be collected by the beekeeper after the first full year.
A bee visits thousands of flowers in one day but only visits a single kind of flower on any one trip away from the hive.
Worker bees make 10-15 trips per day to gather nectar and pollen.
Bees dance a ‘waggle dance’ to tell other bees the location of flowers rich in pollen and nectar.
Honeybees make honey from the nectar they collect from flowering trees and plants and sap droplets as well as honeydew processed by other insects. Honey is used by the bees for food all year round.
While gathering flower nectar, honeybees sip the nectar and then store their collected nectar in a special honey stomach. A little can be released into the stomach of the bee for energy and food. Once full, the bees place their nectar in an empty honeycomb inside the hive. . Natural head gland secrete chemicals, which the honeybees combine with water and the nectar. Then evaporation of this mixtures creates the resulting honey, which when 18% moisture content, the bees know to cap it with wax.
Honeybees are environmentally friendly and are very important for plants to live and produce seed.
Honeybees help produce one third of all the food we eat (in addition to all fruits and vegetables, a steer eats the grass pollinated by our honeybees).
Bees are more important to us in their role as crop pollinators than as honey producers. They are responsible for pollinating 80% of all fruits, vegetables, and seed crops.
Honeybees are the only insects that produce food eaten by man.
Honeybees are vegetarians.
In a single day, a honeybee may pollinate as many as 10,000 flowers.
The practice of honey collection and beekeeping dates back to the stone-age as evidenced by cave paintings. Honey has been found in Egyptian tombs thousands of years old.
Man has been collecting honey from the honeybee for at least 9,000 years. Romans used honey instead of gold to pay their taxes. Ancient Chinese completely covered small pox sufferers with honey to speed healing and prevent scarring. Ancient Egyptians used honey to treat a variety of ailments such as cataracts, cuts and burns. Honey is hydroscopic (meaning it attracts water) and has antibacterial qualities (internal and topical).
It is reported that eating local honey can fend off hay fever and allergies.
Other products of the beehive that are important to us are pollen, royal jelly, propolis and beeswax.
“Bee venom therapy” is widely practiced overseas and by some in the USA to address health problems such as arthritis, neuralgia, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The venom from honeybees is used to treat a multitude of body ailments from cancer to multiple sclerosis.
Bees collect approximately 66 lbs. of pollen per year per hive. Pollen is one of the richest and purest natural foods containing vitamins, minerals, 22 amino acids and up to 35% protein.
Royal Jelly is 50% protein and is a powerful milky substance secreted from the head of worker bees and fed to larvae and the Queen bee. Royal Jelly, when fed continuously, builds an ordinary bee larvae into a Queen Bee. Worker bee larvae are only fed Royal Jelly for 3 days.
Secreted from glands, beeswax is used by the honeybee to build honeycomb. It is used by humans in drugs, cosmetics, artists’ materials, furniture polish and candles. Beeswax is a renewable resource (as long as we have honeybees). When burned, it produces negative ions, a wonderful fragrance and no smoke.
Propolis is collected by honeybees from sticky substances in their environment, mostly from trees, sticky plants and grasses. This sticky resin is mixed with wax to make a sticky glue that bees use to insulate their hives amongst other important applications. Propolis is a varying complex substance of various forms of alcohol, amino acids, acids, aromatic esters, flavones and flavonoids, fatty acids, terpenes, sterols and numerous carbohydrates, amongst other things. It can be a powerful antibiotic, depending on its source. Miners, during the California Gold Rush, discovered chewing propolis aided them with treating gum disease and tooth problems, as it contains a substance similar to hydrogen peroxide.
I hope you have enjoyed learning a little bit about honeybees as much as I have. ApriLLanceBees@gmail.com , providing lovingly raised, local, gentle, no chemicals ever used, honeybees for your backyard, garden or home orchard.