Body shape is like the Wasp but the colour is different.
The body is brown or black with lighter coloured bands encircling it.
The Colony is the collective name for all the bees in the nest or hive. Its size varies depending on the time of year. It is at its smallest from November to February and at its largest between June and August. Each colony is divided into three Castes, Queen, Worker, and Drone.
The queen is the mother of the colony. She is about 25mm in length and has a long tapered abdomen. Each colony has only one queen. She lays eggs from which queens, workers and drones are born. She is fed and tended by her court of workers and spends all her time laying eggs, one in each cell.
The cell from which she is born is different from the other cells. It is cone-shape and hangs down on the face of the honeycomb. It is called a Queen Cell. Queens can live for five or six years but they are at their best during the first two or three years of life.
The worker is a female bee. She is shorter than the queen, about 20mm in length. Her ovaries are not developed therefore in normal circumstances she cannot lay eggs. Workers do all the work in the nest or hive. Their stage of development determines what area of work they do e.g. very young bees feed the older grubs, then as their food glands develop they feed very young larvae.
The next stage is beeswax making and so on. They spend about three weeks working in the hive before becoming foragers, gathering nectar from which honey is made and pollen.
Workers live for only six weeks during the active season but those born in late September and October live for six months because there is no foraging at that time of year and little brood to rear.
The drone is the male bee. He is bigger and stouter than his sisters. He is not quite as long as the queen but looks bigger because of his shape. His function in life is to mate with the young queen.
Drones are born each year from about mid-April to the end of July and in August when the supply of nectar starts to diminish they are driven from the colony by the workers and killed.
Because of their size they serve to provide heat in the brood nest but they do not perform any work in the colony. Therefore when the end of the foraging season comes they are no longer tolerated.
The drone’s life span is an average of twenty one to thirty two days during Spring to mid-Summer. However during late Summer and Autumn they can survive up to ninety days
Honeybees in the wild live in trees, roofs, walls or any other place that provides shelter. Under the control of the beekeeper they live in a hive.
A square or rectangular box generally made from wood. No top or bottom is attached but a separate floor is placed underneath the box and a ceiling (called a crown board) on top. A shallow box covered with rainproof material is inverted over the top to form a roof. The Hive contains Bar Frames.
are wooden frames on which the bees build honeycomb. There are two sizes Deep and Shallow. Eleven deep frames are used in the bottom box of the hive called a Brood Chamber. The shallow frames are used for storing honey in the supers.
Is a sheet of six-sided tubes called cells made from Beeswax. The bees use these cells to store food and rear young bees. The beekeeper fixes a sheet of beeswax embossed on each side with the shapes of the cells. The frames are placed into the brood chamber and the bees build each cell up from this base.
This is the box that holds the nest area of the honeybee colony. Here the bees store food and rear young bees on the frames of beeswax. Brood is the collective name for the developing stage of the bee from the time the egg is laid until the adult bee emerges from the cell.
Are boxes similar to the brood chamber but only about half the depth. They also hold eleven frames but generally only ten are put in and the space between each frame is increased a little. They are put on over the brood chamber to provide storage space for the honey and are removed at the end of the season so that the honey can be drawn off.
Honeybees collect nectar, pollen and water. They eat honey and pollen. They also need clean water especially when rearing young bees.
Honey is a sweet liquid made by honeybees from nectar gathered from plants. Honeybees have a special sac for carrying the nectar. It is found in the upper part of the abdomen. As the nectar passes through the pharynx, or mouth of the bee, an enzyme is added which starts the process of converting nectar to honey.
When the bees arrive back in the hive the nectar is passed to three or four house bees who ripen the nectar, reducing the water level to 18% and turn the nectar into honey. Then they pack it into the honeycomb and seal it over with beeswax to keep out the air.
A powder-like substance produced by flowers. It is the male part of the reproductive system of plants. It also provides the protein in the bee’s diet. It is an essential ingredient of the food given to the young bee grubs.
This is a sweet liquid secreted by plants. It provides the carbo-hydrate in the bee’s diet.
This is used to dilute the honey before bees eat it or are able to feed it to young larvae. Like pollen it is essential for bees to have ample water when rearing larvae.
Honeybees make beeswax. They produce it from glands found on the underside of the abdomens of the workers. Each tiny wax flake is pushed out and moulded by the bee with her mandibles into whatever shape she requires
In the course of the honeybees’ visits to the flowers of many plants and trees to gather nectar and pollen the latter clings to the hairs on their bodies and is transferred from one flower to the female part of the next flower.
This is called pollination, which is followed by fertilization after which the seed or fruit of the plant begins to form. These are essential processes in the plant’s reproduction. Honeybees are therefore very important in nature as pollinators. They will only visit flowers of the same species e.g. if they are working apple blossom they will not visit dandelion even though it may be growing nearby.
INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT BEES
- It takes 12 bees their entire lifetime to make just one teaspoon of honey.
- Honey bees visit 2 million flowers to make one pound of honey
- Field bees visit 50 to 100 flowers during each trip.
- Honey bees fly 12 and 15 miles per hour.
- Honey bees flap their wings 12,000 times per minute.
- Honey is essentially dehydrated nectar from flowers. Bees eat honey and pollen from flowers. They ferment the pollen first and mix it with honey in order to be able to digest it.
- One honey bee hive visits about 225,000 flowers per day.
- A strong hive may contain up to 60,000 honey bees.
- All the worker bees are female. The drones or male bees have only one job and that is to mate with the queen. The drone mates one time then he dies.
- The queen bee can mate with up to 45 drones. But the average number is 13.
- The queen goes on a mating flight several days after she emerges. Once a queen bee is mated, she keeps the drone’s sperm alive inside her for the rest of her life. She never mates again.
- A queen bee lays up to 2000 eggs a day (an average of one every 45 seconds) and may lay a million eggs in her entire lifetime.
- The queen bee decides to lay a fertilized egg which will be a worker bee or new queen or an unfertilized egg which will develop into a drone.
10 Things About Honey
When it comes to honey, it’s an ingredient that is quite versatile. It could show up in everything from an appetizer to a dessert to everything in between. Simpler uses include sweetening tea or spreading it on bread or biscuitd. Regardless its use, it’s always a sweet treat to any food or beverage, so l present to you 10 Things to Know About Honey.
A Cure All? The popular and varied uses of honey as a medicine in ancient Egypt can be seen in Egyptian medical texts dating back to about 2,500 B.C. In these texts, honey is listed in hundreds of remedies.
In Ancient Times: Honey collection is an ancient activity. Eva Crane’s The Archaeology of Beekeeping states that humans began hunting for honey at least 10,000 years ago. She evidences this with a cave painting in Valencia, Spain. The painting is a Mesolithic rock painting, showing two female honey-hunters collecting honey and honeycomb from a wild bee hive. The two women are depicted in the nude, carrying baskets, and using a long wobbly ladder in order to reach the wild nest.
Coughing? What Coughing? A tablespoon of honey is more effective to soothe a cough than a cough syrup
No Spoiling Here: Honey is the only food that does not spoil. Honey found in the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs has been tasted by archaeologists and found edible.
Natural First Aid: Antimicrobial benefits of all honey work as a natural Neosporin on wounds and wounds will often heal even faster using honey.
White Man’s Flies: North American natives called honey bees “white man’s flies” because they were brought to North America by colonists.
Flower Love: It takes about 2 million flower visits by honeybees to produce 1 pound of honey.
Hay Fever Relief: Eating a little local honey will make you “immune’ to pollens in the area.
Energy Booster: It only takes one ounce of honey to fuel a bee’s flight around the world.
Brain Food: Honey is the only food that includes all the substances necessary to sustain life, including enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and water; and it’s the only food that contains “pinocembrin”, an antioxidant associated with improved brain functioning.
Garden plants for bees
- Try to have flowers ALL YEAR ROUND in the garden.
- LET THERE BE WEEDS as they are valuable food plants for bees.
However, there is no need to let your garden go ‘WILD’ if you like a more orderly scene as many garden plants provide excellent food sources for bees.
- FLOWERING TREES are especially useful in late winter and early spring as they provide pollen (protein for bees) to build up the brood eg. willow (salix), cherry blossom (prunus).
- MULTIPLE FLOWER HEADS are excellent, either in a spire like a bell flower (campanula), or trailing racemes like wisteria, or flat heads like achillea and ice flower (sedum).
The plant family which includes wallflowers – CRUCIFERAE – are very good for bees, providing both nectar and pollen in plenty.
- FULL SUN plants tend to produce more nectar & pollen.
- THINK SEASONALLY – a plant may be extra valuable because of the time when it flowers.
- Flowers with OPEN FACES are better for bees so NO DOUBLES, flowers with trumpets or long tubes (eg some fuschia) are difficult for bees to access as they have short tongues.
Autumn – Winter Plants for Bees
Hedera – Ivy – the chief source of pollen and nectar overwinter
Chimonanthus (winter sweet)
Spring Plants for Bees
You will probably be feeding your bees with fondant at the start of the year, so it is most important that they have good pollen sources locally.
Many trees which are excellent food sources for bees are too large for most gardens, eg horse chestnut
Willows – salix species are good for pollen
Almond, Flowering Cherry and plum (prunus species), Crab Apple (malus species) and similar early flowering fruit trees will provide both nectar and pollen
Cotoneaster is a great favourite with bees, for both pollen and nectar
Ribes (flowering currant)
Rubus (raspberry and related fruit bushes)
Bulbs and Other Perennial Flowers
Crocus – all types provide rich sources of pollen
Cheiranthus and Erysimum – wallflowers for pollen and nectar
Galanthus – snowdrops are valuable because they flower so early
Muscari – grape hyacinth are good for pollen
Summer Plants for Bees
There is no shortage of excellent flowering plants in this season, but here are a few especially suitable for bees.
Flowering Trees and Shrubs
Acer (maple) most garden varieties provide nectar and pollen
Escallonia for) hedging
Hebe – long flowering season
Philadelphus (mock orange flower)
Roses with single flowers, eg rosa mundi, kiftsgate
Annual and Perennial Flowers
Aubretia – long flowering season
All native geraniums [NB NOT pelargonium]
Kniphofia (red-hot pokers)
Lilium -excellent for pollen
Limanthes douglasii (poached egg plant)
Nepeta (cat nip)
Papaver (poppies) excellent for pollen
Romneya coulteri (californian poppy)
Solidago (Golden Rod)
Herbs are good for bees
Boragio and related herbs like comfrey
Origanum (marjoram, oregano)
Late Summer – Autumn Plants for Bees
Asters, especially multiple heads like Michaelmas daisies
Calluna (ling heather)
Erica (bell heather)
Hydrangea (choose lace-cap varieties)
Hypericum (rose of sharon)
Lamium (dead nettles)
Nemophila (shoo-fly plant)
Sedum (ice plant)
Plants Dangerous to Bees
Aesculus californica [Red horsechestnut – California Buckeye] – Common
Gelsemium sempervirens [Yellow jessamine] – Uncommon
Zigadenus glaberrimus [Sandbog Deathcamas] – Very unusual
Honey Dangerous to Humans?
Coriaria arborea [Tutu bush] New Zealand
Both of these plants may produce honey toxic to humans if they are exclusive sources for the nectar, but the bees suffer no ill-effects.