Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Honeybee’s Life in the Hive

Have you ever wondered how the thousands of honeybees in a hive understand each other and know what to do during their lifetime? Each honeybee has a specific job, and they all know exactly what to do. There are three types of bees in a hive: the queen, the drone, and the worker bee. There are about 40,000 to 80,000 worker bees in the hive, about 1,000 drones and one queen. Let’s focus on the worker bee and what she does in the hive.

The worker bee is the smallest bee in the hive, and they are females. She is the one that you see outside, pollinating flowers as she collects nectar and pollen. The worker bee also does all of the work inside the hive. She begins with cleaning out the cell she emerged from, and then moves around the hive cleaning up any debris, extra wax, leaves, dead bees, etc. They are very clean insects!

After this, the worker bee becomes a nurse bee by feeding the larva “bee bread,” which is pollen and nectar mixed together. Then, she becomes a part of the queen’s court and helps take care of the queen bee. The queen is busy laying up to 2,000 eggs a day with no rest, so the worker bee feeds her and grooms her. Next, she will move out to the entrance of the hive box where she becomes a guard bee. In the event that something creates danger for the hive, she will let off a scent that is called the alarm pheromone and alert the other bees of the danger. 

In the summer time, it can get very hot with the sun shining on the hive all day. Honeybees keep their hive around 94° to help the larva and pupa grow strong and healthy. They stand in the front of the hive and fan their wings to make the air in the hive circulate and cool down the interior. During winter months, they will vibrate their bodies to warm the hive.

Worker bees have eight wax glands on their abdomen. After eating honey, they can draw the wax out of their wax glands in little flakes. They gather the wax with their mandibles and mix saliva into it to make it more pliable. They use wax to form cells for storage of eggs, pollen, nectar, and honey.

The last job that the worker bee has is foraging. She communicates with her sisters using a bee dance. She vibrates and moves around in little circles which tell the other bees where the flowers are located. Bees forage for four things: water, propolis, nectar, and pollen on flowers. Honeybees have two stomachs—one for eating and one to put the nectar into called a honey sac.  While the nectar is in the honey sac, she will add three types of enzymes into the nectar. These enzymes are what causes honey to never spoil. She then puts the nectar into a cell where she uses her wings to dehydrate it and thicken it into honey. Then, she caps over the cell full of honey with wax to keep it clean. Honeybees store plenty of honey for their food throughout the year, as well as plenty to share with humans.

I am very grateful for honeybees. They teach us many things about life.  Watching them do all of the many different jobs both inside and outside the hive is amazing. They know how to keep the hive running smoothly, they cooperate and communicate and work very hard. Each bee is needed, or the colony would not survive. Honeybees are amazing insects!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Most Important Job

What do you think about when you hear the word Pollination? Honeybees are a big part of pollinating one third of the food we eat. Honeybees have a lot of hair on their bodies, and when they are flying the wind is blowing through their hair, which creates static electricity. Then when they land on the flower the pollen will literally hop on their backs because it is attracted to that electricity.  As the bees move from flower to flower, the same process will happen.  Some of the pollen that they already have sticking to their hair will fall off onto the other flowers, which is the process of pollination.

Some of the many fruits and vegetables that bees help pollinate are pears, apples, mangos, watermelons, strawberries, green beans, celery, onions, peas, and tomatoes, they also help pollinate coffee! But food is not all that bees pollinate. They also pollinate cotton, and alfalfa, which the cotton we use for clothing and the alfalfa we use to feed our dairy cows. Did you know that almonds are actually 100% dependent on bee pollination and commercial beekeepers will travel with their bees to California to help pollinate the almonds?    

As you can see there are many different things that bees help pollinate for us. If you really think about it, the next time you are eating a meal, figuratively every third bite you take would be pollinated by bees. Bees are very vital to the human diet and to the environment.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Can Honeybees Talk?

Animals communicate in many different ways. Some communicate through touch, while others use sounds or smells. With between 20,000-80,000 honeybees per hive, have you ever wondered how honeybees communicate? A hive of honeybees works together so seamlessly and instinctively--their communication process is fascinating! Honeybees communicate using three different methods: dance, vibrations, and pheromones. 

The honeybee uses several different types of dance. One of the dances is called the waggle dance. You can see an example of the waggle dance below. After the honeybee comes into the hive with a full load of nectar and pollen, she uses this dance to tell her sisters what she has found and where it is located. The worker bee will face a certain direction and wiggle at a certain speed during the dance. This will share with the other honeybees the direction of the nectar source, how far it is, and how many honeybees need to go there to collect the nectar. The other bees then follow her directions and find the flowers to forage for the hive. Another dance they use is called the round dance, which tells the bees that the flower source is close to the hive. 

The honeybee also communicates through vibrations and pheromones. Honeybees vibrate their bodies and let off certain smells which tell the other bees in the hive what needs to be done. The queen will send a scent to the queen’s court if she needs to be fed or groomed. She is constantly communicating with the worker bees through vibrations and smell. The worker bees will also communicate to other worker bees if the baby bees need to be feed or if the hive needs to be cooled. By vibrating and letting off pheromone smells, the other bees know exactly what is needed throughout the dark and crowded hive. 

Even though honeybees cannot talk like you and me, they are still able to communicate beautifully. It’s remarkable to see them use dance, vibrations, and pheromones to live in harmony and work together. What an amazing insect!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Natural Honey=Natural Beauty

Honey is a great sweet treat, but you can also use honey in beauty products. Honey is a natural humectant, which helps lock in moisture. In winter, the weather can be tough on your skin. There are many different ways to help take care of your skin, and honey can be one of them.
A very easy way to make a body scrub is to mix equal parts honey and brown sugar. Combine these two ingredients together, and you will get a great body scrub that you can use for smooth skin. When using this scrub, apply it in a circular motion on your skin, then rinse with warm water and dry off.

There are so many different ways of using honey and other products we get from honeybees in beauty products. For example, you can use beeswax to make homemade lip balms and lotions. You could also try using honey in different face masks and body scrubs. 

Making homemade honey beauty products is simple and cost effective, so if you have anyone with a birthday coming up, this is a great gift idea!