17 Random Facts About Honeybees
As part of my new beekeeper duties, I recently attended a very informative workshop on beekeeping. The presenter, Jim Bobb, president of Pennsylvania State Beekeepers Association, really knew his bees, and I could hardly keep up with my note taking. I thought you might be find one or two interesting. Here are the snippets of what I could jot down:
#1 – A single hive can have 50,000 to 60,000 worker bees in it at summer’s peak. In addition, there are about 800 drones and 1 queen.
#2 – In the honeybee world, females do all the work
#3 – Worker honeybees live on average for 35-42 days during the summer before literally falling over with exhaustion. In contrast, they live up to 4 months during the winter when they stay in the hive most days. The queen, however, can leave for 2-3 years since she very rarely flies.
#4 – A hive needs about 60 pounds of honey to get through the winter. Any less and they’ll starve. For hives that are being kept by humans, they usually produce about 120 pounds of honey during the summer so we get half the fruits of their labors.
#5 – Feathery hairs on a worker bee are what actually gather the pollen. This pollen then gets pushed back by the bee’s legs into a “pollen basket” on one of their back legs.
#6 – Bees have 5 eyes: two big ones like us, but then three little ones on the top of the head to help them fly straight.
#7 – Bees can’t see red. To bees, red looks like black. As such, honeybees won’t go to a purely red flower.
#8 – Scouts go out and literally choose what to pollinate. If a scout picks a patch of clover and tells the worker bees to go collect it, those worker bees won’t be put off course no matter how many sumptuous flowers they fly over.
#9 – Bees are actually somewhat picky eaters. They will eventually pollinate just about every flower available to them, but they start with their favorites (salvia) and leave their least favorites until last (pears).
#10 – There are over 30,000 species of bees in the world.
#11 – It takes about 21 days for a new bee to go from the egg stage to working in the hive.
#12 – In the bees’ diet, pollen is protein (fed to the larva only) and nectar is sugar (fed to both adults and larva). In case you’re curious, honey is nearly all nectar, although some pollen does appear in small amounts.
#13 – 96 degrees Fahrenheit is bee utopia.
#14 – Hives “split” by swarming, taking about 75% of the worker bees and the original queen to a new location. The remaining hive has a queen larva and lots of worker eggs ready to hatch so the hive can re-establish itself. This splitting process is a natural means for reproducing the overall bee population. If a hive has split during the summer, be careful not to harvest too much of its honey as the old population that took off for new ground gorged themselves on honey before they left, diminishing the amount stored up.
#15 – 3/8 of an inch, known as “bee space”, is the exact amount of space bees like to have between their honeycombs.
#16 – The drones, or males, only have one purpose in life: to mate with the queen. Few of them ever get to do such and those that do immediately die after completing their mission.
#17 – There is a little-known alternative treatment for severe arthritis and MS called apiatherapy. This treatment, developed by Dr. Charles Mraz, involves purposefully stinging the patient with bees a few times a week in an area where they wish to stimulate nerves and relieve pain. It is proven to work dramatically on some patients. The “venom” in the bee’s stinger triggers weakened nerves and joints.