Sunday, December 1, 2013

Beauty and the Bees

Honey is great for making skin soft!
Honey is truly one of Mother Nature’s “super foods.” Although honey is mostly commonly thought of as a sweetener for food, there are many uses for honey outside of the kitchen! Honey is gaining popularity in the beauty industry in bubble baths, facial masks, moisturizers and cosmetics. Honey is all-natural, wholesome and has a long history of enhancing beauty--starting as early as Cleopatra. Today, one very popular moisturizing facial mask is made out of honey, coconut oil and aloe! Honey is a humectant, which means that it attracts moisture. It works like lotion and keeps skin soft. Honey is also great for treating acne. That’s because honey is antibacterial which means that no bacteria or germs can grow in it. Honey is
There are over 300 varieties of
honey produced in the United states,
and 3,000 across the world!

also becoming popular in removing hair as well. It’s called sugaring. They take honey and mix it with lemon juice and sugar to make a sticky paste. Then, beauticians stick it to the skin, pull it off quickly and the hair comes right off! It is almost painless as well! Even outside of the beauty salon, honey is a great product to use on skin. Mixing honey and milk together can be a great remedy for a sunburn! Honey can even be used to make your hair shiny! Mixing honey and apple juice together and combing that solution through your hair before a shower will give your hair extra shine without looking greasy.

Did you know it takes 8 pounds of honey
to produce 1 pound of wax? That's a lot of work!
Honey isn’t the only product bees make that people use in the beauty industry. Beeswax is also a very common product. Many types of chapstick and hand lotions are made from beeswax because it helps hold in moisture. Beeswax is produced when a worker bee gorges herself with honey and then tiny cells of wax come out of four pairs of wax glands on the bee’s abdomen. Did you know that it takes about 400,000 wax cells to make one pound of wax? That is a lot of time and honey! Check out and mix up your very own homemade beauty recipes using honey and other hive products.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Bee Thankful

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, there are many things to be thankful for, including honeybees! Honeybees play a very large role in our daily lives.

Historical beekeeping
In the 1600’s, Pilgrims and Indians celebrated the first Thanksgiving. Did you know that honey bees were originally brought to the United States by Pilgrims? Records indicate the first hive of bees was shipped from England and arrived in Virginia in 1622. These bees would have been very helpful to early settlers because of their pollination services. When bees pollinate, they fertilize plants. These fertilized plants will then produce fruits and vegetables. These foods would have been very important to the Pilgrims. Also, the bees would have produced a wonderful natural sweetener!
Honey bees pollinate much of our food supply
Honey bees are still beneficial to our food supply today. Across the United States, honey bees pollinate over 90 different food crops and about 1/3 of our food – that’s like every third bite! Without bees, many of our favorite Thanksgiving dinner foods would be gone. Do you like cranberry sauce, beans, squash, sweet potatoes, or pumpkin pie? Without bees, we would have hardly any of these foods. Even the butter for your rolls and whipped cream for your pie would be scarce. Thanksgiving dinner would be pretty boring without honey bees!
Planting bee-friendly flowers provide bees with a food source
Because bees are so important, we must do what we can to help them. Planting bee-friendly flowers, buying honey from beekeepers, and telling about the importance of honey bees are great ways to help! This Thanksgiving, let’s be sure to be thankful for the wonderful gift of bees!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Taking Care of a Bee Sting

This is what a stinger of a worker bee looks
like up close!

No one likes to get stung by a bee, not even beekeepers! The truth is that honeybees don’t want to sting us either! Honeybees have a lot of work to get done in a very short amount of time. It will take about two million trips to flowers to produce one pound of honey! Not to mention the worker bees only live for about six weeks. Even though honeybees don’t want to sting, it still happens. So, lets take a look at what happens when a bee stings, and what to do if you get stung.

This is what a sting looks like right after it happens!

Only the queen bee and the worker bees can sting. The queen bee is the only bee in the hive that can sting multiple times. That is because her stinger is shaped like a needle and is completely smooth. That means when she stings, her stinger can't get stuck on anything. It is very unlikely to get stung by a queen bee because the rest of the bees in the hive are very protective of her and she rarely leaves the hive. Worker bees can only sting one time, and then they die. This is because they have a barb or hook on the end of their stinger that gets stuck in whatever the worker is stinging. Once her stinger is stuck, she will pull so hard that she will actually pull the insides of her abdomen out and die. She also leaves behind her venom sack, which continues to pump venom into whatever was stung. So what is the best thing to do if you get stung?

Here is what the correct way to remove
a stinger looks like!
Flick the stinger out with a finger nail or a credit card, don’t pinch at it with a tweezers or your fingers because that will force more venom into the sting. Next, ice the area where you were stung. If you are stung on the arm or leg, try to keep it elevated. Make sure to take off any jewelry from around the area as there might be some swelling that occurs. If the area starts to itch, use an antihistamine cream. Also, avoid scratching the area.

If you feel like you are having trouble breathing, your heart rate speeds up and/or your throat feels tight, find an adult and tell them right away! You could be allergic to bee stings. To be safe, tell an adult every time you get stung! 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Honey, You're Versatile

Honey is an incredible product produced only by honey bees. In her lifetime, a worker bee will fly thousands of miles collecting pollen and nectar from flowers. Bees use the nectar to make honey by adding special enzymes to it and dehydrating it until it is just right. This sweet food is delicious by itself, but did you know that are many uses for honey?

Honey is a great ingredient for any recipe
A wonderful way to use honey is in the kitchen – there are hundreds of recipes that honey can be used in, such as bake goods, desserts, side dishes, main courses, and beverages. Because honey is a pure, natural product, it is a wonderful ingredient to use while cooking. Unlike other ingredients, honey not only sweetens and flavors foods, its special properties also help to keep certain foods such as baked good moist and delicious. How do you like to eat honey? For easy recipes to make with honey, check out the “Recipes” link on our blog!
Honey can help moisturize your skin
                  Another way to use honey is in skin care – honey is frequently used in lotions, soaps, lip balms, and cosmetics. Honey is a humectant, which means it attracts moisture to itself. If you have dry, rough skin, honey can help. For thousands of years, famous people such as Cleopatra and Queen Anne used honey to keep their skin and hair looking fresh and beautiful – how can honey help your skin?

Adding honey to hot tea can
help soothe a sore throat
Finally, honey can be used to heal wounds and for other medicinal purposes. Honey is antibacterial; it can be very helpful in healing cuts, scrapes, and burns. Since it is antibacterial, it keeps the wound clean and its moisture helps the wound to heal well. Honey is also excellent if you have a sore throat or cough. Eating honey or adding it to hot tea can help coat and soothe your throat.

With over 300 varietals of honey in the United States and over 3,000 in the world, there is one for every preference!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Parts of a Honeybee

Did you know that honeybees are insects? This means that they have a three-part body and can fly! They have a head, a thorax and an abdomen. The thorax  is the middle part and the abdomen is the long torpedo shaped end. Just like humans, bees have some very specialized body parts to do their daily work. Let’s take a look at those parts and what they do!

Here are even more parts on a bee!


The head is the control center of the bee. It holds the brain of the bee and is also where the nurse bees produce royal jelly, a substance they secrete that makes a normal worker egg become a queen bee! The royal jelly comes out of glands on the top of the worker bee's head. The head also holds the antenna, eyes, and mouth.

Compound and Simple Eyes

Can you see all the tiny dots on her eye?
Those are all lenses!
Honeybees have two compound eyes. Compound eyes are special because they can see different kinds of light very well, especially UV light from the sun. They also help the bees see colors. They have thousands of tiny lenses to make one big eye. That is pretty amazing! A bee has three simple eyes on her forehead that help her determine how much light there is.


A bee uses her antenna to tell how fast she is flying. She also uses them for smelling. Honeybees use smells to tell lots of things, like who to let into the hive and also to communicate with each other.

Bees use these to smell things!!
Mandible (Jaws)

The mandible is a very important part of the bee that allows them to eat food and also is like the honeybee’s hands. The honeybees use them to eat pollen and also to bring pollen to the newly laid eggs. Their jaws are also used to cut and shape the wax in the hive. Did you know that it takes a honeybee about 24 hours after eating lots of honey to start producing wax?


The honeybee's proboscis is a dark orange or brown
The proboscis is a long, straw-like tongue that the bee uses to drink up nectar from flowers. Did you know that honeybees have two stomachs? They have a stomach called their honey stomach that is like a storage bin for the nectar the bees collect. When the bees get back to the hive, they take the nectar from their honey stomach and pass it to one of the other worker bees to find an empty cell to put it in. They also have a stomach for the food they eat that leads to their digestive tract.



The forewing is a larger wing that bee uses for flying. Did you know a bee makes a buzzing noise because they can flutter their wings 11,000 times per second? That is really fast! The hindwing is a smaller wing connected to the forewing that the bee can use for cooling off the hive through fanning. Fanning is when a bee flutters her wings very fast but doesn’t move anywhere. It’s kind of like running in place for humans.

Honeybee's wings are almost completely see through!


A honeybee has six legs and uses them mostly for walking. They can also use them for carrying pollen. Did you know that when a bee lands on a flower they cover themselves with pollen, then they brush their legs down their back to push the pollen into their pollen baskets? Bees comb their hair too! Pollen baskets are sticky hairs on the back legs of the bee that act like backpacks so the bees can carry large amounts of pollen at a time.



Can you see the hooks on her stinger?
The stinger is a sharp needle-like object used for defense. Only the worker bees and the queen have a stinger. Drone bees don’t have stingers, so they can't protect the hive. The stinger on a worker bee has a hook on it so when she stings, the stinger gets stuck. Then the worker bee will pull so hard her insides actually come out and she will die!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Liquid Gold

A worker bee gathering nectar
For beekeepers, summertime is a very important season – it is time to extract honey from the beehive! Throughout the spring and early summer, honey bees work hard gathering nectar from flowers. They store the nectar in a very special sac called a honey sac. The bee flies back to the hive and gives it to another work bee. The bees pass the nectar from bee to bee, adding special enzymes to it. Finally, the bees put the nectar in their honey comb. Nectar is like very sweet water, but honey is very thick and sticky. To change the consistency of the nectar, the bees fan their wings and blow air over it to pull some of the water out. When it has the right amount of water, the bees cover it with beeswax to seal and protect the honey.
A full frame of honey!
Now it is the beekeeper’s turn to work. Beekeepers go out to their beehives and carefully remove all of the frames with honey on them. They brush the bees back into the hive and take the frames home. When they arrive, they use a very hot knife to cut the beeswax seal off and expose the honey. It is exciting to see the fresh honey glistening on the honey comb! The beekeeper then puts the frames in a large machine called an extractor. The extractor spins around very quickly; in fact, it spins so quickly the honey flings out of the cells of honey comb and drips down the sides of the extractor to the bottom. At the bottom of the extractor is a spigot. When the beekeeper opens the spigot, golden honey comes streaming out! It is so much fun to see (and taste!) the reward of the bees and beekeeper’s work. The beekeeper can then strain and bottle their honey – it is ready to eat!
Honey is very valuable
Bees make honey by themselves; beekeepers just extract the honey. A beekeeper does not have to add anything to the honey. The bees make it perfectly on their own. Honey is very valuable – in her whole lifetime, a worker bee will produce only 1/12 tsp. of honey. That is about one drop! Honey is a very important and delicious food. So next time you enjoy a spoonful of honey, think about all of the work that went into producing it and thank the bees and beekeepers!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Honeybee or Wasp?

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a honeybee, a wasp and a bumble bee? Well, here is your chance to learn! Most of the time when a person gets stung by an insect, it isn’t a honeybee. There are thousands of types of stinging insects in the United States and honeybees don’t want to sting you if they don’t have to. Did you know after a honeybee stings, she will die? She only has a 6-week lifespan, and she has a lot of work to do in a very short amount of time! It will take 12 worker bees their entire lifetime to make one teaspoon of honey! Let’s take a look at a few more stinging insects.

This is a wasp. See how shiny he is?
Wasps are long, flying insects with a narrow waist. They have four wings and a hard, shiny body with no hair. Wasps look more brightly colored than honeybees as well. The lifestyle of a wasp is much different than a honeybee. Wasps live in colonies of about 10,000, and the queen wasp builds a paper nest. They also hibernate in the winter time. Unlike honeybees, wasps can't produce honey and rely on robbing food from other sources. The last thing that makes wasps special is that they can sting multiple times, and their venom is much more painful than a honeybee sting.
This is a hornet. He is a little bigger
than a wasp, but looks very similar.

This is a honey bee. She is very fuzzy!
She collects pollen with all those little hairs. 
Honeybees are smaller insects about 2 centimeters long and are covered with fuzzy hair all over their body. They have two wings that flutter up to 11,000 times per second! That’s why we hear a buzzing noise when a bee flies by! An average hive of honeybees has about 60,000 bees during the middle of summer. The queen bee in the hive has only one job, and that is to lay all the eggs in the hive. Did you know the queen lays 1,000-2,000 eggs per day? During the winter, honeybees are constantly moving and eating honey to keep the hive at a constant temperature of about 98 degrees. The last difference is that honeybees can only sting one time, and then they die! That is because worker bees have a hook on their stinger that gets stuck in whatever they are stinging. When they try to fly away, it pulls their insides out! I'm sure those bees would much rather be out collecting pollen and nectar, instead of stinging something and dying!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Beekeeping Through the Ages

For thousands of years, honey bees have played an important role in history. Many societies throughout history have kept and benefitted from bees and the many products they give to us.

Egyptian hieroglyphics show early beekeeping practices

In ancient Egypt, honey bees were kept in pottery jars. Egyptians used honey in various foods as well as to keep their skin beautiful. Archaeologists even found honey in King Tutankhamen’s tomb that was roughly 2,000 years old. Because honey never spoils, however, it was still edible! Would you like to taste it? In ancient times, honey and beeswax were used to pay taxes, rent, and other fees. It was so highly valued that many people accepted it in place of money!

Beekeepers in the Middle Ages kept bees in hollow tree trunks
In the Middle Ages, beekeepers kept their honey bees in hollow tree trunks, since the trees provided natural shelter for the bee and made it possible for the beekeeper to care for his hives. Honey and wax were also very important. People did not use refined sugar, so honey was their only sweetener. They also made candles out of beeswax, which provided a source of light as well as a wonderful smell!

Reverend L.L. Langstroth
The first hive of honey bees appears to have come to the United States from England in 1622. By 1853, honey bees made it into California. Honey bees are now kept in all 50 US states – maybe there is a beekeeper near you! In 1851, Reverend L.L. Langstroth invented the modern-day beehive. It had removable frames (where the bees stored food, the queen laid eggs, etc.) which allowed the beekeeper to inspect his bees up close. Langstroth's invention is still being used 160 years later!

Anyone can be a beekeeper!
In 1984, NASA took bees into space for an experiment, demonstrating bees’ abilities both on and off the planet! There are currently about 2,491,000 maintained beehives in the US with beekeepers of all ages involved in beekeeping – maybe someday YOU will be a beekeeper too!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Hive for Rent: Parts of a Beehive

When most people think of beekeeping, the first things they think of are white boxes sitting in a big green field. Would you believe that those hives actually have 8 or more different parts to them? Just like your house, bees have different “rooms” and entrances to their home. Let’s take a look at some of those parts and how they are used! 

Hive Stand: The hive stand is on the very bottom of the hive. It is a short wooden box that is used to keep the hive off the ground. Some of them even have an angled landing ramp for the bees to land on to get into the hive.

Hive stands can help the bees stay warm in the winter by
Keeping warm air trapped under the hive!

 Bottom Board: There are a few types of bottom boards, but the most common is a solid bottom board. It is used as a tray to catch any dead bees or leaf litter that comes into a beehive. It also helps keep the hive warm in the winter by sealing off the bottom of the hive from the ground. 

Some bottom boards have screens on the bottom so they stay cooler in the summer,
and also to keep any dead bees away from the other bees!

Entrance Reducer: A small piece of wood, plastic, or metal is called an entrance reducer. Beekeepers use it to keep robbers out in the springtime when a colony is weak and to keep mice out in the winter.
The entrance reducer has several different size openings it can be set to!

Deeps (Hive Bodies) and Supers: The white boxes where beekeepers keep their bees are called hive bodies. They are kind of like the outside walls of your house. Deeps are the larger boxes that the bees fill up first. The deeps are where all the new baby bees are born and also where the bees will store honey for the winter. Supers are where bees store the extra honey that beekeepers harvest from the hive. Supers are smaller than deeps because honey is very heavy, and smaller boxes are easier to lift. Still, a small super with frames full of honey can weigh 30-40 pounds!
Hives can be a large variety of colors, no just white!

Queen Excluder: This is a very special screen beekeepers put in between the deeps and supers to prevent the queen from traveling into the supers to lay eggs. The screen is a special width so only worker bees can fit through. The queen excluder ensures there is only honey in the supers.

Queen excluders can be made from metal or plastic!
The foundations can also be black
which makes the eggs easier to see
when a beekeeper is looking a the frame.
Frames: Frames are what beekeepers put inside of the deeps and supers where the bees build out their comb. Each frame is like a little room in the bees’ house. There are 8-10 frames in each box, and each one has foundation on it. The foundation is a thin sheet of plastic or beeswax with a hexagon pattern for the bees to start building out their comb. Did you know that bees naturally build their comb in a hexagon-shaped pattern? They are very smart and never waste space!

Beekeepers can put bucket feeders full of syrup on top
of the hole in the center of the inner cover!
Inner Cover: The inner cover goes on the top of the highest box. It has a hole in the center so bees can climb through. Sometimes, beekeepers put a feeder full of sugar syrup over the hole during late fall or early spring to serve as a food supplement.

There can be very fancy outer covers too!
Some look like roofs on a house. They
are very popular among gardeners!
Outer Cover: Similar to a roof, the outer cover telescopes over the inner cover and the top box. They are usually covered with metal to make sure rain and snow don't get into the hive. 

There are many other pieces of equipment that advanced beekeepers use, but these are the really important things that most beekeepers use. Can you relate each part of the hive to a part of your house?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Creative Communication!

Communication is important in all relationships. Humans communicate with one another on a regular basis to share information and thoughts. This communication is important in helping people bond with one another. Some forms of communication include speech, sign language, body language, and facial expressions. Did you know that honey bees communicate with each other as well? Honey bees live in large colonies, with an average of 40,000 to 60,000 bees in each hive – you can imagine how important communication is in such a large family!

The Path of a Waggle Dance
Honey bees use several different means of communication, with the most popular being dancing. Honey bees perform a specific dance in order to share the location of a food supply with the other bees in colony so that they, too, can gather food from that area. To perform the dance, a bee will walk forward, waggling her body from side to side. Then, she walks normally in a half circle and starts on the path again, waggling her body. The distance forward that the bee walks, the speed of her waggling, and the direction she is facing provide incredibly accurate directions to the other bees, who then go and collect the food. The directions are based off of the location of the sun, which the bees can sense even inside the dark hive.

Bees release pheromones to communicate important information, such as
if the queen is present in the hive or if there are intruders in the hive. The
other bees respond appropriately to the messages from these pheromones.
Another form of communication is the release of pheromones. Pheromones are distinct smells that the bees release to convey messages. The queen releases a special pheromone that helps the bees sense that she is in the hive and healthy. Worker bees also release pheromones. Guard bees, who protect the beehive from intruders, release a special alarm pheromone whenever there is an invader. This pheromone smells like ripe bananas!

Just as people communicate in different ways, so do honey bees. Communication allows the members of the colony to bond and to help one another, making the entire hive stronger. Communication - whether through speech, sign language, dancing, or pheromones – plays an important role in daily life. How do you communicate?

To see a bee perform a waggle dance, visit:

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Honey It's Cold Outside! How Bees Survive the Winter.

For many animals and insects, winter is the time for them to find a nice cozy place to snuggle up and hibernate. But for honeybees, the winter is just another day in the hive. How in the world do they survive the cold, you might ask? Well, let’s find out!

Some people like to wrap their hives with black
tar paper so the heat from the sun warms
the hives. These hives have been left unwrapped
In northern states, honeybees go into what is called a dormant state in the winter. They aren’t hibernating, but they aren’t as active as they are in the summertime. During the spring and summer, worker bees are busy making extra honey and storing it away so they have food for the winter. When the cold arrives in October or November, the worker bees kick all the drone bees out and let them die. They do this because the drones didn’t help them make any of the honey, so why should they get to eat it? Then, the worker bees form a large cluster around the Queen bee to keep her warm. The bees on the outside work their way to the inside and the bees on the inside work their way to the outside. Honeybees even shiver to make heat! All the moving around keeps the inside of the hive at a constant temperature of about 92 degrees! They use all the honey they stored during the spring and summer as food during the winter.

Migratory Beekeepers haul their bees on large trucks to
where ever they are going. They also put nets over
the hives to prevent excess bee loss during travels
Some beekeepers who don’t want to leave their bees in the snow for the winter will move their bees to warm states like California, Texas and Florida. Beekeepers who do this are called migratory beekeepers. They transport their hives to warm places so they can do an extremely important job called pollination. Beekeepers are paid to have their bees pollinate crops such as almonds, oranges and grapefruits. If those types of crops don't have honeybees for pollination, they wouldn’t make any fruits or nuts. Can you believe that honeybees pollinate about 90 different crops? Not only do they provide delicious honey for us, honeybees are an invaluable resource to U.S. agriculture.

On these cold, winter days when all you feel like doing is sleeping, just remember that even honeybees stay busy in the wintertime! 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

New American Honey Queen & Princess

The new American Honey Queen and Princess were selected at the American Beekeeping Federation convention in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  
2013 American Honey Queen: Caroline Adams, Texas
2013 American Honey Princess: Emily Campbell, Minnesota
They will be posting about their travels on behalf of the beekeeping industry.  Keep an eye out for new facts, beekeeping topics and videos throughout the year.

2013 American Honey Queen Caroline Adams &
2013 American Honey Princess Emily Campbell

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Becoming a Beekeeper!

Beekeeping is a great activity for your
whole family! 

In the United States there are around 200,000 beekeepers! Most of these beekeepers are hobbyists, or small-scale beekeepers, with less than 25 hives. Other beekeepers are commercial, and they might have hundreds or even thousands of hives of bees. All of these beekeepers had to start somewhere; some of them grew up in a beekeeping family, while others may have heard about beekeeping through a friend, a club like 4-H, or even by reading about it. If you want to learn about beekeeping, here are some ways to find out more.

Beekeepers in a meeting learning about the industry!
The first step you can take to become a beekeeper is to join a local beekeeping organization. Beekeeping clubs usually involve a group of beekeepers coming together to share with each other the knowledge they have about keeping bees. Often these clubs meet every month, and even have speakers that present to the group, so everyone can learn more. There are even big conventions held in different places throughout the year. These conventions may be one day to a week long, and are great ways to learn more about keeping bees and meet other beekeepers. To find a club in your area, you may have to do a little research. Ask an adult to help you look online, in newspapers, or another source for information on clubs in your area. If you know a beekeeper, you can try asking him or her for information on local or state organizations.

This is a beekeeping supply store in Kentucky!
Many beekeeping clubs have ways of helping youth get involved with beekeeping through scholarships, or providing you with a mentor that will help you along. Some clubs may even give you your first package of bees and the equipment you need to get started. The club might also offer a class you can take that teaches you everything you need to know to start beekeeping. Once you have learned a lot about honeybees and beekeeping you can get started!

The equipment you will need depends on how many colonies of bees you start with. I recommend starting with two hives, which gives you the chance to compare one hive to another. You can buy equipment from a beekeeping supplier, which is a store that sells almost everything you need to start keeping honeybees!

Queen Alyssa and Princess Danielle are getting ready to head to a convention this month in Hershey, Pennsylvania, so even they can learn more about keeping bees!

Good luck!