Friday, September 9, 2011

Busy Bees

I have always liked this old-style beehive. As you can see, not too far away is the more modern version. I took this picture near the visitors' center near our favorite walking place, Walney Pond. I have shared other photos of the bee hives before.

The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
To join her comrades in the braided hive,
Where, housed beside their might honey-comb,
They dream their polity shall long survive.

~Charles Tennyson Turner~
A Summer Night in the Bee Hive
I find all the humming and activity of the bees fascinating, though I am careful not to get too close.

Bees have been producing honey for at least 150 million years. The honey is used as food for the hive during the long months of winter, when flowers aren't blooming and therefore little or no nectar is available to them. European honey bees, genus Apis Mellifera, produce such an abundance of honey, far more than the hive can eat, that humans can harvest the excess. For this reason, European honey bees can be found in beekeeper's hives around the world.

Honey bees are social insects, with a marked division of labor between the various types of bees in the colony. A colony of honey bees includes a queen, drones and workers. The Queen is the only sexually developed female in the hive. She is the largest bee in the colony. A two-day-old larva is selected by the workers to be reared as the queen. She will emerge from her cell eleven days later to mate in flight with approximately 18 drone (male) bees. During this mating, she receives several million sperm cells, which last her entire life span of nearly two years. The queen starts to lay eggs about 10 days after mating. A productive queen can lay 3,000 eggs in a single day.

Drones are stout male bees that have no stingers. Drones do not collect food or pollen from flowers. Their sole purpose is to mate with the queen. If the colony is short on food, drones are often kicked out of the hive.

Workers, the smallest bees in the colony, are sexually undeveloped females. A colony can have 50,000 to 60,000 workers. The life span of a worker bee varies according to the time of the year. Her life expectancy is approximately 28 to 35 days. Workers that are reared in September and October, however, can live through the winter.

Workers feed the queen and larvae, guard the hive entrance and help to keep the hive cool by fanning their wings. Worker bees also collect nectar to make honey. In addition, honey bees produces wax combs. The comb is composed of hexagonal cells which have walls that are only 2/1000 inch thick, but support 25 times their own weight. Honey bees' wing stroke 11,400 times per minute, thus making their distinctive buzz.

I found this Native Bee House at Meadowlark Gardens on my last visit there.

From 1972 to 2006 there was a dramatic reduction in the number of feral honeybees in the United States, and a gradual decline in the number of colonies maintained by beekeepers. In 2008 the U.S. average losses of honeybee colonies were about 35 percent, where some beekeepers lost 90 percent of their colonies. One contributing factor may have been a virus, but that seems unlikely because the virus can be found in other countries, and those countries are not suffering the same losses.

While most attribute the problem to mites or insect diseases, other possible causes have been noted, such as stress due to the environmental changes or pesticides. Cell phone radiation and genetically modified crops have also been included as possibilities. It is thought that most likely it is a combination of factors.

It makes you think doesn't it? Maybe we can do our part by taking a few small steps by not using so many harsh chemicals and pesticides around us for a start. Plant more bee friendly flowers in your garden. There is a very interesting article here which may help. Pandora may be out of her box but maybe we can push her back a little one step at a time. This didn't start out to be a 'green' post but I guess it has ended up as one.


  1. Like you I am fascinated but keep my distance. Bee stings make me swell up in a spectacular fashion.
    A truly interesting and informative post - thanks.

  2. I remember the old style beehive, and the native bee house is an interesting style.
    It's good to know the honey bees are thriving there.

  3. A very informative blog Denise, especially relevant following my fascination with the Bumble Bees found in England.

  4. That old style bee hive is fascinating, I have never seen one of those before. I enjoyed your article on the bees Denise.

    It is very difficult to write about bees without getting into Colony Collapse Disorder. I often talk to a beekeeper at our local farmers' market. She says so far the bees in our area have not been effected. I have all sort of plants in my yard just for the bees.

  5. Fantastic reportage about the busy bees!
    Léia :)

  6. Very enlightening informational post.

  7. OKAY Denise, these just creep me out...LOL I wouldn't be closer than one mile from this place :)

  8. It is fascinating but I don't want any hives around here. :)
    Cher Sunray Gardens

  9. I love and respect bees, as a vegan I do not eat honey.
    Jane x

  10. HI Denise... Very fascinating and well done post on the honey Bee!!

    is there not anything, I believe. about bee's...that I don't know!!
    My X husband ( wish there was a better way of putting that) raised Bee's we had 20 hives stacked high..they are very fascinating!!
    We sold pound and pounds of processed and raw honey for years!!
    Being allergic to the bee stings I was verrrry careful : }}
    Some very close calls and hurried visit to the hospital!!

    Have a fun weekend!!

  11. As if I didn't say enough..haha I wanted to say I loved the first one of the out style hives and your photo's where just great brave women

  12. Bees are fascinating creatures. We've noticed a scarcity of honey bees in the garden this year, though I did see a few yesterday on the Ice plant (Sedum spectabile)which is very attractive to them.
    We risk losing everything if we lose our bees.

  13. What a great post. Bees are so important and unfortunately have had a rough time recently.

  14. very cool denise, packed with lot's of info i did not know. we sure are on the same page today, i enjoyed this!!

  15. Denise,I love this post. I have been working on putting one out for months since we have 32 hives ourselves. We have our own raw honey and pollen when we want it. Problem is I can't get a hold of a lady who has a big grant to work with queens and would be a big part of the post.
    Thanks for re-inspiring me to keep with it :)

  16. I had to shake off the bees on my hummingbird feeders to refill them one last time.

  17. Great post, interesting stuff, Thanks for sharing!

  18. such a wonderful bee post! you have inspired a craving for a spoonful of honey ;-) which I will go and satisfy.

  19. It was good to read your post and to see your photos. I have been on the bee's side for a long time and stopped using chemicals period. As a result, there are more bees here but still not enough to suit me. I even have Little Dutch Clover in my lawn that used to attract honeybees all summer long. Barefoot boys and girls always stepped on them and got stung. Nowadays, the clover is not pollinated like it used to be.

    I suppose you know if that honeybee is killed off that the human race will also vanish as their pollination is the food people eat. No other insect is responsible for pollination of food crops consumed by people.The prediction is at best 10 years and humans will disappear after they have killed the honeybees.

  20. Great post, Denise. I wonder if the bee population increased this year or if it's still in decline.

  21. Interesting facts about the honey bees. They're a fascinating species.

  22. Denise, interesting post on the honey bees. I learned a lot from your post. It is good to see them thriving at your Walney Pond. They are important to have around just not too close. I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

  23. Thank you, Denise, for this post! I clicked the link and read the little article is so timely, as I am preparing to do some planting in my garden and I do want to attract bees. I was thrilled to see they suggest the California lilac, Ceanothus, because I've had my eye on that beautiful blue flowering lilac and know just where to put it. This has given me some needed inspiration to get started! Thanks again.

  24. Nice post. Bees are fascinating and thank you for sharing information.

    Have a great weekend.

  25. Very interesting post. Bees make the food world go round by their pollination.