The Sweet World Of Bees

A harmony of cheerful buzzing, unassuming yet purposeful.

Today we venture into the sweet world of bees.

The worker bees, which are exclusively female, live for around 30 days. Yet in that short time, they fly the equivalent distance of 1 ½ times the circumference of the Earth.

Hibernation, who?

Bees are awake and active all winter. Some worker bees take on the job of “heater bees,” where they vibrate their bodies (and dislocate their wings) in order to keep the hive at the optimal temperature of 95ºF. Dedication to the craft is an understatement.

Despite these valiant efforts, in Utah, hives have a 50% chance of surviving the winter.

A bee must collect nectar from about 2 million flowers to make 1 pound of honey.

A single hive can produce anywhere from 60 to 100 pounds of honey every year. Beekeepers check on their hives about once every two weeks and feed them a sugary solution that’s typically 50% water 50% white sugar, sometimes with additional probiotics.

Honey bees are not born knowing how to make honey. Instead, they are taught in the hive by older bees.

Bees communicate in 2 ways: the waggle dance, and through the use of pheromones.

Regardless of where a bee finds pollen, they can always navigate directly back to their hive. Once home, they do a ‘waggle dance’ to tell their friends of their spoils. After seeing the bee dance, another worker bee can fly directly to that same patch of pollen.

Who knew dancing was all that was needed to avoid miscommunication?

But it’s not all sunshine and honey. Bouncer bees gaurd the perimiter of the hive making sure no bees come into the hive that don’t belong, and tackle the occasional nosey wasp. They’ll also headbump the intruder a few times as a warning before they go in for the sting.

Hives produce distinct substances: honey, beeswax, propolis, and royal jelly.

Bees use propolis, a sticky substance gathered from the buds of trees, to fill in cracks and weatherproof their hives. They’ll fill any space with this making it extremely difficult to open the hive boxes. Propolis also contains medicinal properties.

Male bees are called drones. They don’t have a stinger and their only job is to mate with the queen.

Queen bees are a result of larva that was fed copious amounts of royal jelly. I couldn’t make this up if I tried.

A queen only needs to take 1 mating flight in her lifetime, where she leaves the hive and mates with anywhere from 5 to 45 different drones. She stores the sperm in her spermatheca, and can lay up to 2,500 eggs per day.

Bees are sold by the pound and when packing them up some use a low-velocity bee vacuum.

Disarming the bees to harvest honey takes on a few options including a low-velocity bee blower, using smoke, or spraying them with nectar. Once the bees are wet they can not fly and generally start to clean nectar off of the other bees making them tired from eating the sweet nectar.

Bees react strongly to dark colors, commonly associated with their predators, like bears! Wearing white is a good way to avoid making the wrong first impression.

On the surface a bee seems so simple.

Gather pollen, turn it into something magical.

Yet there is so much order, purpose, and complexity in their buzzing structured lives.

May the reader take a moment to reconsider what ‘busy as a bee’ truly means.

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