Sunday, January 9, 2022

2022 Representative Crowned in Las Vegas

The new American Honey Queen was selected at the 2022 American Beekeeping Federation Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada.

2022 American Honey Queen
Lucy Winn from Pennsylvania

Congratulations! She will travel the United States promoting honey and beekeeping and post interesting articles about bees and honey along the way. Keep an eye out for the sweetest representative in America!

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Who Are Beekeepers?

This month, let’s learn about the people who take care of honey bees; Beekeepers!

Beekeepers are the caregivers of the beehive.

Hobbyist beekeepers generally have 1-25 hives. Some gather and use the honey for personal use while others may experiment with purifying beeswax to make cosmetics like makeup, lotions, and soap bars. Many hobbyists keep their bees in small city lots which helps to pollinate the flowers that we see at city parks, along the roads, and in our neighborhoods. Even though hobbyist beekeepers have relatively few hives, it still takes a lot of hard work to inspect the hives regularly in the hot summers and cold winters. 

Beekeepers check their hives regularly to see how the bees are doing
and if they need any supplemental food.

In contrast, Sideline and Commercial Beekeepers have hundreds and thousands of hives! These people manage beehives on a large scale to provide you and me fresh fruits, veggies, nuts, and even our clothes! All of these products are made possible by commercial beekeepers loading their beehives onto tractor-trailers and moving them across the country as the different crops bloom. Honey bees are very efficient pollinators, pollinating millions of flowers each day! They too work hard all year to help other farmers increase the quality and quantity of their crops. The next time you go to the grocery store or buy honey from a beekeeper, remember that one-third of the food that you eat was pollinated by a honey bee and that the beekeepers worked hard all year to give you this amazing product called honey. 

This Montana beekeeper loads his hives in preparation for crop pollination.




Wednesday, December 1, 2021

How do we use products from a hive?

Honeybees are quite amazing insects if you really think about it. Not only do they make it possible to have so many delicious fruits and vegetables but the products that they produce are used in so many different ways! The unique and diverse ways that these products are used my surprise you and who knows, you may even be already using them at home.



Health

What do you reach for when you feel a tingle in your throat? Make it your jar of honey or honey cough drops! Honey and propolis are found in many health products for the immune boosting properties found in them. Honey helps to naturally sooth a sore or scratchy throat. One product that you may not think of is pollen. Pollen is a great addition to your diet as it is high in protein and has many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants found within the yellow, green, and orange pollen pellets collected by honeybees. This pollen can improve your imune system in addition to improving wound healing.



Beauty

Beeswax can commonly be found in beauty products such as chapstick, lotion, makeup, and even hand creams. The properties in beeswax not only helps to lock moisture into the skin but can also help to draw additional moisture to the skin. Royal jelly is another product made by bees that can be found in beauty products. Typically you will see royal jelly in facial and hand creams for its believed benefits that it helps to reduce the signs of aging. But besides beeswax and royal jelly, honey can be found in hand soaps, hair masks, and body wash as honey not only adds moisture to skin and hair but it can also help to reduce inflamation of the skin. 



Home Products

There are many uses of beeswax around the home! Making and using beeswax cloth wraps are a great alternative to plastic food storage bags if you are looking to wrap up some fruit or maybe a sandwhich. Not only is it reusable but it is also super easy to clean because beeswax repells water. The ability to repel water is a great reason to use beeswax to waterproof boots, clothing, tents, and equipment that you don't want to get wet. You may ocassionally see beeswax used in furniture and shoe polish or even applied to skis to help them glide. Firestarters are commonly found using beeswax to protect the firestarter from getting wet making it better able to handle the elements when camping. It can also be used to lubricate zippers, wooden drawers, instrument valves, or even grease your baking pans!





We can utilize the products of the hives in so many different ways. But the fascinating aspect is that many of these products have been used for thousands of years! Try incorporating products from the hive into your health care and beauty routine or maybe try some of the home products featuring beeswax.

Monday, November 1, 2021

The Fascinating Languages of Honey Bees

Honey bees have many ways to communicate with each other. In this month’s article, we will cover how honey bees talk in the hive and communicate where food is!


Pheromones - The Honey Bees’ Perfume

Here a worker bee extends her abdomen to warn the colony of a threat.

The first way honey bees communicate is through smell. The two main odors are for alarm and the queen bee. The alarm smell helps the guard bees to quickly tell the rest of the colony that an intruder is about to attack. The colony in response will come to that location to provide assistance to protect their hive. Generally, bees will respond to alarm pheromone only at or near the colony, not in the field. Honey bees also use this scent to help her sister locate the hive, food, and water. The queen bee produces a unique smell that tells the colony that all is well. If the queen were to die, that smell would be missing and the worker bees would begin to make a new queen from a female egg.

The mixture of pheromones plus the distinctive queen signature pheromone, mix with food odors to give each bee colony a distinctive hive odor.


Waggle Dances - Where’s the food?

Honey bees use the sun as a point of reference to find flowers.

Honey bees communicate where resources are by performing a type of dance on the bee comb. When she first discovers a new field of flowers, she will remember exactly where it is in relation to the beehive. She takes a sample of the nectar back to the hive to share with her sisters. As she arrives back to the hive, she makes her way to the dancefloor, eager to tell the colony about the resource that she found! By moving in a figure-8 pattern at a specific angle on the comb, she tells the colony how far away the flowers are and which direction the bees should head. She will also wiggle her abdomen to show the quality of the nectar or pollen that she found.


Friday, October 1, 2021

The Relationship Between Beekeepers & Farmers

Have you ever heard about "mutual relationship"? A mutual relationship is when both individuals benefit from the interaction. In this case, we are going to look at the relationship between beekeepers and farmers and the benefit they each receive from working together with one another.


Benefits to the Consumer

With the joint effort of farmers and beekeepers, we are fortunate to be able to enjoy a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes. There are over 90 different crops that are pollinated by insects like honeybees. Some of your favorite may include melons, berries, pecans, apples, cucumbers, and so much more all because of the pollination from honeybees! Without farmers, our diets would look drastically different and without honeybees and beekeepers, 1/3 of the food that we eat wouldn't be possible. 


Working Together- Farmer Benefits

Beekeepers and farmers may work together for a multitude of reasons with one being pollination. When beekeepers introduce honeybees into fields of crops, the pollination that these honeybees help increase not only the yields but also the size and uniformity of the produce in that field. If large scale farmers have acres and acres of crops, there may be a chance that the local bees will not be able to effectively pollinate all of those crops leading to decreased yields and revenue for the farmer. Farmers receive the benefit of better crop production made possible through the partnership with beekeepers and their bees. 


Working Together- Beekeeper Benefits

When farmers and beekeepers work together, not only do the farmers benefit in this relationship but so do the beekeepers. When farmers ask beekeepers to bring hives of bees to crop fields for pollination, farmers typically will pay them for these pollination services. The payment from these pollination services can be a good source of income for the beekeeper as some beekeepers focus on providing these pollination services over producing honey. In addition to the payment that these beekeepers may receive, the bees that are placed in these crop fields will have the opportunity to collect nectar and pollen to store away as food. Some beekeepers may be able to receive specialty honey depending on what crops the bees are pollinating such as blueberry honey, orange blossom honey, and even cranberry honey. These specialty fruity honeys take on a faint taste of the flavor in which the nectar is gathered making orange blossom honey have a slight citrus flavor to it. Beekeepers can then go on to sell this honey as a specialty item as these types of honey are less common.


Small and Large Scale Beekeepers

There isn't just one type of beekeeper that farmers work with. Small scale beekeepers may not be solely focusing on providing pollination services to their local farmers. Rather, they may inadvertently be helping surrounding farmers as their bees visit the surrounding crops and orchards leading to increased production. These small scale beekeepers are typically keeping bees for a few reasons including pollinating their garden, receiving fresh honey, or for the joy of keeping bees. Large scale beekeepers, especially those that are focusing on pollination have a slightly different goal for their hives. While large scale beekeepers might focus their efforts on honey production, there are many other large scale beekeepers that partner with farmers for the purpose of pollination. These commercial beekeepers will transport their hives to wherever the farmer needs bees depending on which crops need pollination. 


Communication for Success

In any relationship, communication is vital! Through communication, beekeepers and farmers have the opportunity to prepare and plan for pesticide and insecticide applications on crop fields. When a beekeeper knows that a farmer is going to be applying chemicals to their crops, beekeepers have the ability to remove their bee hives from those fields to reduce the chance of those bees coming into contact with chemicals. Not only does this benefit the beekeeper as less bees will be affected by the chemicals but the farmer also benefits as there will be more bees available for crop pollination.  

Maintaining the relationship between farmers and beekeepers is mutually beneficial to both parties. Not only do the farmers benefit from larger yields of crops but the beekeepers also have the opportunity to receive payment for pollination services that are provided. Since 1/3 of the food we eat is impacted by pollinating insects like honeybees, don't forget to thank your local beekeepers and farmers that are responsible for providing us with delicious food for our tables! 

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Let’s Celebrate National Honey Month!

While honey may be the most well-known product from the beehive, honey bees' greatest impact is through pollination of food crops. But how do honey bees collect pollen? They use an invisible force called static electricity Today, I have a neat activity for you to try. With these experiments, you will be able to see and feel static electricity as it pulls on different items.


Move It - Salt and Pepper on Plate with a Spoon

Step 1) Pour about 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of black pepper onto a plate.

Step 2) To combine, stir the ingredients with your finger and then spread the pile out into a thin layer.

Step 3) Rub the spoon through your hair or on a piece of wool for about 1 minute.

Step 4) Slowly move the spoon, almost touching the plate, across the salt and pepper. What happened? The pepper weighs less than the salt and is lifted up by static electricity. To remove the pepper, simply touch the pepper flakes or gently tap the comb against the plate.


See it - Balloon and Hair

Step 1) Take a rubber balloon and inflate it to nearly its full size, stretching the rubber tight.

Step 2) Rub the balloon vigorously on unpinned hair for a full minute.

Step 3) Slowly lift the balloon away from your hair and watch the hair stand up towards the balloon! If you move the balloon close to your hair again, the hair will bend towards the balloon as it comes close.

Tips: This experiment works best on thin or naturally blond hair. If your hair is shorter, you may want to stand in front of a mirror to see the full effect. Alternatively, you can try this process on your arm hair.


Feel It - Feet and Doorknob

Step 1) Put on your shoes and move to a carpeted area.

Step 2) Shuffle your feet across the carpet for about 1-2 minutes. This will build a small electrical imbalance, creating static electricity.

Step 3) Shuffle over to the nearest doorknob and touch the handle. You will feel a quick zap that shows the static electricity discharging and returning to normal levels. If you want to feel the zap again, you will need to start again by shuffling on the floor. 

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Queen of the Hive

If you had to pick your favorite bee in the hive, would it be the worker bee, drone bee, or queen bee? All bees play an important role in the success of the hive but the favorite for most is probably the queen bee. Her role within the hive is instrumental to the success of the entire hive making her one important bee!



The Beginning
Let's start at the very beginning to how a queen is created. When a hive is queen-less or the queen is beginning to fail in her ability to lay eggs, the worker bees will start the process to create the next queen for the hive. In order to create the queen, the worker bees will create queen cups which are large cells where the queen will start to develop. In these queen cups, workers will place a single female egg in each of these cells which are now destined to become a queen. While the larvae begins to develop, worker bees will feed her royal jelly until the cell is capped over at day 9. On day 16, the queen will chew her way out of her cell with the help of worker bees. There can only be one queen bee in the hive so the first queen to emerge from her cell will kill the other developing queens or if multiple queens emerge at the same time, they will fight to the death with the strongest queen surviving. 


Queen cups have been created to start drawing out (creating) a new queen.


The Largest Bee
Each of the three bees found within the hive are a different size which correlates to the job that those bees have within the hive. The queen bee is the largest bee in the hive because of her responsibility to lay eggs. It was because of her diet of only royal jelly while she was developing in her cell which played an important role in allowing her to become the largest bee. Her body can be up to 20 mm long and she will have a large area on her thorax which will be free of hair making it easier for a beekeeper to identify the queen. Because her body is so long, her wings are only about half of the length of her body as she rarely has the need to leave the hive and use her wings. Another aspect that makes the queen unique is her stinger. Her stinger does not have a barb on it meaning that she is able to sting multiple times but she also uses the stinger to help position the eggs she lays in each of the cells. The next largest bee is the drone bee (male). The role of the drone bee is simple as they have one sole purpose which is to mate with a queen. The bees that do the majority of the work in the hive are the worker bees (female). A hive can be comprised of up to 50,000 worker bees each with different roles to support the hive. The different jobs that a worker bee has changes as she becomes older so in her short 5-6 week lifespan, she may do up to 8 different jobs!


The size of the bee plays an important role in the job they will have during their life.


The Role of the Queen
The queen has an important job for the rest of her 1-2 year lifespan which will focus around producing eggs and keeping the hive strong with worker and drone bees. Shortly after the queen emerges from her cell she will leave the hive in order to complete her mating flight. After returning to the hive, she will lay up to 1,000 eggs every day of her life. She is the only bee within the hive that is able to reproduce and determine the gender of each egg that she lays. The majority of the eggs that she will lay are female with the purpose of becoming worker bees. 


One egg is layed in each cell by the queen.


Caring for the Queen
Since the queen has the sole responsibility of laying eggs, she has servants to care for her. These servants are called the queens court as seen in the picture below. The queens court will surround the queen in order to take care of all of her needs. These worker bees will not only feed the queen but they will also keep her clean each day of her life.


The queens court surrounds the queen to care for her.

While there is only one queen bee in the hive, she has a very important role everyday of her life. The success of the hive is dependent on her ability to lay eggs that will grow up and have important roles within the hive. No wonder she is called the queen because she is so important!