Thursday, September 1, 2022

Hive Talk: Communication Between Honey Bees

Personally, my favorite part about beekeeping is watching the bees interact with each other in the hive. 

From building comb, feeding brood, protecting the hive, and making food, a bee hive operates like a well oiled and very efficient machine. This cannot occur without proper communication.

Honey bees have two main ways of communicating to the other bees in the hive.  

The Waggle Dance is the way bees tell their fellow foragers about food sources nearby. The worker bee will walk in a straight line angled in the same way the food source is in relation to the sun.  The distance of the nectar source is communicated by how long the worker walks in that line. The excitedness of the dance is related to how plentiful the food source is. The full dance makes a figure eight. 

Example of the waggle dance

Honey bees also communicate through pheromones. Pheromones are natural chemicals that are excreted to evoke a response within the same species. Honey bees have one of the most complex pheromone systems in nature. Honey bees use pheromone communication in every aspect of their life.  For example. the alarm pheromone is used to tell guardian bees that the hive is being threatened, and needs to be protected. It is said that the alarm pheromone smells like bananas. 

Could you imagine communicating solely through movement and scent? Honey bee communication is just one of the few things that make the insect absolutely amazing. 

Friday, July 1, 2022

Beeswax Bonanza

 It is a well known fact that honey bees make honey. Did you know that there are other commodities produced by the very useful honey bee that can be utilized in many different ways? The goods produced by honey bees that people can use are called products of the hive. Let's look at another product of the hive, beeswax, and what people do with it. 

A worker bee produces beeswax from her wax glands, located on the underside of her abdomen, the third segment of the body. The bee will then chew the wax, to make it moldable, and form it in the hexagons seen on a honeycomb.

Did you know that a hive of bees has to eat eight pounds of honey to have enough energy to produce one pound of beeswax?

Worker bee producing beeswax from her wax glands.

People use beeswax in many different ways, from candles to furniture polish. Beeswax is also a common ingredient found in beauty products, such as lip balm or soap. Beeswax is used along with rosin to treat string instruments to be able to play.

Encaustic painting is the art form in which artists use colored beeswax on canvas or board to create beautiful works of art. 

Encaustic art titled "The Iris" by American Beekeeping Federation member George Hansen

Some people use beeswax as a chewing gum, others coat cloth with the wax and make a sustainable plastic wrap alternative.

How do you use beeswax? Below is a link by Good Housekeeping to make your own beeswax wraps.

Consider this for an eco-friendly and cost saving substitute for plastic wrap!

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Background of the Bee Suit

A fundamental piece in a beekeeper's toolkit is the bee suit. The classic all-white jumpsuit with mesh veil is the first thing someone thinks of when the word beekeeper is mentioned. The bee suit has been optimally fitted for beekeeping. Let's take a look at some of the different elements of the bee suit and the purpose of the design. 

beekeepers working in the hives while wearing their bee suits

Bee suits are light in color, most commonly seen in white. Predators of the hive such as bears, raccoons, and skunks all have dark fur. Because of this, darker colors alarm bees more than very light colors do. 

Bee suits can be made in a thick canvas material. The canvas suit is effective in keeping bees out and preventing stings, but can get extremely hot. Spending hours a day working in hives during the spring and summer months can be a very physically taxing job. Now, the popularity of mesh suits has risen. These new suits have layered mesh, which allow airflow while also protecting the beekeeper from a potential sting.
Another facet of the bee suit are gloves, in order to avoid stinging in the hand. A beekeeper's gloves are typically made out of goat leather. Goat leather is not as inpenetrable as leather from cows, but it is softer and thinner, giving the beekeeper more ability to move. Beekeeping can be incredibly delicate work, so free range of motion is important. Bee suits are specially designed for being in beehives and around honeybees. They are useful for any beekeeper!

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Honey Across America

Across the United States, from California to Maine, honey is produced. There are more than 300 different varieties of honey that can be found in America. Honey comes in many different colors and flavors. The type and taste of honey is determined by the nectar source that honeybees find in different flowers. As a guideline, the darker the honey, the more intense the flavor. Lighter honeys typically have a more floral and sweet taste to them.

A few of the different colors of honey.

Buckwheat honey is a darker variety of honey, known for its powerful and potent taste. It is produced by honeybees from a buckwheat plant. It can be found in the northern half of the United States.

Avocado honey is produced predominately in California. Avocado honey has a smooth yet bold flavor, similar in color, thickness and flavor to molasses.
An avocado tree where honeybees collect the nectar needed to make avocado honey. 

Orange blossom honey is made by honeybees mainly in Florida. Something that is unique about orange blossom honey is that it has a slight orange flavor to it. This is completely natural, as the flavor of orange is not artificially added. Most honeys that come from fruit producing flowers do not have the taste of that fruit, but orange blossom honey is unique. This honey is light amber in color.

Orange blossom honey with a sprig of orange blossom.

It is important to support the American honey industry. Honeybees have a vital role in agriculture, and the best thing a person can do to help the honeybees is to support the people who take care of them, the beekeepers!

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.


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.


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.