The common honeybee is one of the most crucial and misunderstood animals in our world’s ecosystem. We, as humans, depend on the honeybee above all other animals for our food. Without the honeybee, most of our agricultural production would end. In fact, bees account for 80% of all agricultural pollination.
For many, the joy of beekeeping is something that they experience every day. For others, the dream of getting their own apiary (honeybee hive) is something they hope to achieve.
So, what are these bees? Most people are unaware of how productive just one hive of bees can be.
Honeybee Information and Facts:
One hive of bees can produce 50 or more pounds of harvest honey per year. That’s in addition to the 60 or more pounds they’ll produce for their own use over winter.
During that same year, a hive of bees will collect 66 pounds of pollen. Since pollen is one of the richest in natural foods, it’s no wonder that honey is so valuable as a nutritional source as well.
Beeswax in the hive will be produced in quantities similar to honey, with one hive’s wax works weighing in at well over a hundred pounds.
Royal Jelly is a specific substance secreted by nursing bees to stimulate fertility in a new Queen Bee (a hive has only one queen). This digested pollen and honey or nectar mixed with the special chemical sells at prices rivaling premium imported caviar. It’s loaded with B vitamins and used as a fertility stimulant and supplement.
When bees sting, they kill themselves in the process of defending their hives. The barbed stinger of a bee pulls out to be left behind when stinging a victim. This process eviscerates the bee, who dies soon after. The venom in the average bee sting is enough to cause irritation in most people, but some are deathly allergic.
The three types of bees are: Queen Bees, Worker Bees, and Drone Bees.
Queens are the ruler of the hive and the only fertile female in it. Their job is only to produce larvae which will make up the hive’s residents. A queen bee lives for 3-5 years and will be replaced when losing productivity, which is often the impetus for a “swarm” when a new hive leaves the nest to find another home. The queen will mate once with several drones during her lifetime. Unfertilized eggs that she lays will become males (drones).
Worker Bees are infertile females. They live for about 4-9 months during winter and only 6 weeks during the height of summer when the hive is most productive. In both cases, the workers literally work themselves to death. Of the 60,000-80,000 bees in a hive during the height of summer, about 95% will be worker bees. Workers act as housekeepers, nursemaids, builders, guards, and foragers. They are also the only bees in the hive with a stinger.
Drone Bees are all males and are usually born in the early summer, the 2,000 or so drones in a hive will be kept on standby in case the queen must be replaced. They will mate with the new queen, fertilizing her for production. The mating process kills the drone. In the autumn, the drones will be expelled from the hive by force by worker bees, as they are of no use in the winter.
Africanized bees are aggressive honeybees with origins in Africa. They have been nicknamed “killer bees” because they can swarm a person or animal and literally sting it to death. They are the result of a cross between wild African bees and domestic honey bees. They are relatively rare in the U.S. and attack less often than the media would have you believe.
Want to learn more about honeybees?
Check out these resources from extension centers:
Beekeeping Tips for Beginners from University of Missouri Extension
Honey Bee Information from Texas A&M University