|A colony of bees (hive) has a queen bee, male bees (drones) and female bees (workers) but did you know....
The queen is the largest bee and is always surrounded by attendant worker bees. Next in size are the drones, while worker bees are the smallest.
A queen can sting many times but she rarely does, except to kill another queen.
The worker bees can sting only one time, and then she dies. Drones have no stingers.
The queen can lay a couple of thousand eggs every day.(1)
The drone's sole purpose is to mate with a virgin queen during her nuptial flight and he dies soon after.
Worker bees start working from day one and perform different tasks like cleaning the hive, maintaining the hive temperature, taking care of brood, feeding the queen, foraging for nectar and converting nectar into honey. Foraging bees bring in the nectar and give it to the hive bees which convert the nectar into honey with the help of enzymes and bacteria that they secrete. The worker bees then cure the honey by evaporation and finally store it.
About 1 oz of honey will supply a bee enough energy to fly around the world. Bees are hoarders. They stock up for winter and rainy days. After all, there are very few days in the year when flowers are in bloom. The more space we provide, the more honey they store. That is why we can harvest honey. A good beekeeper will always leave about 60-90 pounds of honey for the bees for winter. After all, bees are the only insects that make human food.
The queen bee is the heart of the hive but it is the worker bees that make all the decisions. They decide when to replace a queen, when to swarm, when and how many drones to produce, and they even drive out the drones when winter arrives.
It is the queen that gives out the scent (pheromones) that keep the hive working. If the queen is lost all the bees, about 50,000 per hive, know within an hour that she is lost and they can start rearing a new queen.
A worker bee can travel up to 3 miles to collect nectar. In her short life span of 6 weeks she produces about 5 drops of honey. It takes 12 workers to make 1 tablespoon of honey To make 1 lb of honey the bees make about 25,000 trips, travel the distance equal to twice around the earth and pollinate 2 million flowers. They collect the nectar and pollen that they need for making comb and honey. Pollen is also a great source of protein for them. The flowers get pollinated so they can produce fruit to propagate the species and provide food for people. Here is a win-win situation. We can do the same for bees by helping their environment and in return collecting SOME of their honey.
The world of bees is fascinating and bees are in trouble. Use of chemicals by farmers, homeowners, golf courses and beekeepers (such as medicines to combat disease and parasites, but parasites keep developing resistance) are all taking a toll on bees. Colony collapse disorder is just one of those, and we don't yet know for sure what causes it. There used to be many backyard beekeepers with a couple of hives. This was very important as it kept drones around to pass on different genes to the nearby virgin queens. Drones from different hives tend to congregate and fly around over hills, called DCA, Drone Congregation Area, waiting for the scent of the special pheromone that virgin queens give out.
We hope you become interested and start your own backyard beekeeping. There is much information available from local beekeepers associations and backyard beekeepers associations. Members tend to be very friendly and helpful.
Visit our photo gallery for informative photos.
(1) The Beekeeper's Handbook by Diana Sammatoro & Alphonse Avitabile
www.ctbees.com Connecticut Beekeepers Association
www.easternapiculture.org The Eastern Apicultural Society of North America
www.abfnet.org American Beekeeping Federation