Sunday, December 1, 2019

The Sting of a Honeybee

Most people have been stung by a bee in their lifetime, but the sting of a honeybee is a little bit different. When a honeybee stings, it also affects them as well as the individual stung. A honeybee doesn't like to sting. They will only sting to protect themselves or their hive because a honeybee can only sting once, and then it dies. If you look at the end of a honeybee stinger, it looks like the end of a fish-hook that is barbed. When the honeybee stings you, its stinger gets stuck in your skin because of those barbs. When the honeybee flies away, the stinger is still stuck in the skin of the human which causes the honeybee's stomach to rip apart, killing the honeybee.

If you ever get stung by a honeybee, the first reaction will be to pull the stinger out of your skin, but
don't pull it out! When the honeybee flew away, she left that stinger in your skin along with the venom sack. If you pull the stinger out, you will push more venom into your skin, causing a bigger swelling reaction. The best thing to do if you are stung by a honeybee is to use your fingernail and gently scrape the stinger out of your skin. A natural swelling reaction will occur with a honeybee sting so don't worry about swelling. The cause for concern will come if after a sting, you have trouble breathing or swelling of the airway. In a case like that, medical attention is necessary! As for a normal sting with some swelling, the swelling will go down in a couple of days. If you would like the swelling to be lessened, one thing you can do is to take baking soda and mix it with a little water, creating a toothpaste consistency. Put this on the area affected and the baking soda will help draw the venom out, lessening the swelling reaction.

Image result for using a smoker on honeybees
A lit Smoker
When a beekeeper goes to the hive, they may use some equipment that will help to minimize the amount of stings they receive. One piece of equipment a beekeeper will use is a bee-suit. The bee-suit will cover the beekeeper from head to toe and prevent the honeybees from from having direct contact with a beekeeper's skin. Another piece of equipment the beekeeper will use is a smoker. A smoker is basically a tin can the beekeeper will build a campfire in and then use to smoke the bees. The smoker doesn't hurt the bees at all but instead calms them down by masking their form of communication. Honeybees communicate through smells. When they get alarmed, they release the alarm pheromone that smells like bananas. This is signalling to all the other bees that there is something attacking the hive and they need to fight. This is where the smoker comes into play. The smoke will mask those pheromones and help the bees to remain calm while the beekeeper checks on them.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Flavors of Honey

Honey is one of the best foods both for you and flavor wise. Did you know there’s over 300 varieties of honey in the United States? Honey comes in many colors and flavors. Some are a strong and dark in color like buckwheat honey. Others are a light, almost water white, with a light flavor like basswood. 

The flavor of honey is dependent on the nectar sources gathered by the honeybees. Because of this, different states have different kinds of honey. The different flowers where the nectar comes from is what determines the flavor and color of honey.

If a bee visits the flower of a fruit tree, such as an orange or apple tree, traces of that flavor can be found in the honey. This makes them great to use in smoothies. If a honey bee visits the buckwheat, a cover crop with grain like seeds, the honey is darker and bolder in flavor and is wonderful in cooking meats and baking.

A fun experiment would be to find all the flavors of honey available in your area to find your favorite. Each time you go to a new state try their honey to see how it’s different from yours.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Eye of the Bee-holder

Image result for eyes of a honeybeeYou may have heard the phrase, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder," but have you ever wondered what beauty looks like through the eyes of a bee? The honeybee has five astonishing eyes to take in the wonderful world around it! Honeybees have three eyes on the top of its head. These eyes are called simple eyes as they sense the light around the bees. The other two eyes are on the sides of the honeybee's head and are called compound eyes. These eyes are used to detect patterns and shapes the bee might need to see such as plants.
Image result for waggle dance
Waggle Dance the honeybees use to communicate
Honeybees use their amazing eyes to see different colors! They can see more colors on the purple end of the color spectrum than humans can! The reason for this is so honeybees can find flowers with the sweetest nectar. Honeybees are a lot like humans in that they have favorite colors. Honeybees use the color of the flower to be able to sense the sweetness of the nectar. Many times, honeybees will go to the sweetest nectar flowers before going to the rest of the flowers around.

Once the honeybee finds the flower, they go back to the hive to tell the rest of the forage worker bees where to go! Unfortunately, honeybees don't have GPS that they plug the coordinates into. What they do to direct everyone to the flowers is dance instead! The honeybees communicate by doing the waggle dance. This is where the honeybees will go back to their hive and run around in a figure 8 to communicate with the bees. Directions are determined based on the direction the honeybee is facing and the angle in relation to the sun! It's not quite a GPS system like we use, but a very unique way honeybees communicate with each other!

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Bonuses Beyond the Hive

Honeybees do a very important job of pollination. Did you know that they provide bonuses beyond the hive? Beeswax is where bees store their honey. It can be used for so much more. Honey a great sweet treat but has a number of bonuses beyond the hive. 

Beeswax is the where everything in the hive is stored. It’s used in candles, many cosmetics, and used other strange uses. Surf boarders use beeswax to keep themselves from falling off the board. To reduce the use of plastic people are making reusable beeswax wraps. Beeswax is also an ingredient in chewing gum. People used to and to this day chew on honeycomb. It acts like a natural gum and is a tasty treat.

Honey has used in cooking for thousands of years and has many other uses. Honey has been used in medicines since ancient times. It cleans wounds, reduces pain and heals burns. One study shows that it helps get a better nights sleep. 

Both beeswax and honey are high in moisture which makes them great to use in homemade cosmetics. Beeswax is found in a lot chapsticks and lotions. Honey is amazing in a used in a face or hair mask. Below are two links for some great homemade products. Both made with the bonuses from the hive!

Check out these articles for DIY Beeswax Wraps and Honey Face Masks.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

What is a Beekeeper?

To most people, the common definition of a beekeeper is simply a person who raises honeybees and sells honey. While that is the general idea of what a beekeeper is, it doesn't encompass the entire complexion of who a beekeeper can be.

Image result for honey and beeswaxA beekeeper can be anyone that has a single hive in their backyard as a hobby or can be a beekeeper that has hundreds to thousands of hives working for their livelihood. To many beekeepers, beekeeping is a family tradition or business, an educational experience, a hobby, or a lifestyle. Many beekeepers are successful at what they do and are able to support themselves from beekeeping alone. While they may have bad years or good years, beekeeping is like any other agriculture commodity where there is a lot of unexpected obstacles throughout the year for the beekeepers to overcome.
In beekeeping, there are several different careers a beekeeper can have.

The beekeeper can be a salesperson and sell the products of the hive or beekeeping equipment. If they are selling products of the hive, they can sell honey, beeswax, propolis, royal jelly, or pollen and products made with those items as part of their ingredients. Another career aspect in beekeeping is pollination. Pollination in the United States normally involves beekeepers from several different states as they travel from coast to coast following the pollination needs. Beekeepers will travel to California to pollinate the almonds, Washington for the apple blossoms and Wisconsin for the cranberry blossoms. In order to get many of the food sources we have, we require the help of these beekeepers throughout the country!

Other areas in beekeeping that beekeepers make a career at are involved in the making and selling of new bees. In states like California and Georgia, beekeepers will spend their springs making new honeybee queens to sell to people across the United States. Along with those queens, beekeepers will also split the bees they have in their hives to make packages. This is where they will put 2-3 pounds of bees into a package along with a queen bee. They will then be shipped all across the United States to their new home. Once the new owner receives them, the honeybees will be transferred from their package into a hive.

Other careers in beekeeping are research and education. Several places across the United States are actively hiring people to research new ways to improve the health of honeybees. Research is crucial in helping to find new ways to help honeybees. Education to the public is another area that actively employs beekeepers. While beekeepers believe our industry is the sweetest in the world, not everyone knows how important our industry is, or ways the public can help improve the health of honeybees.

When it comes down to it, a beekeeper is very sweet and loves their honeybees. While beekeepers do keep honeybees, they also become masters at several different jobs along they way and began beekeeping for many different reasons. If you are looking to learn more about beekeepers, talk to a  local beekeeper. I'm sure you'll be amazed at the different stories they'll tell you about what it means to be a beekeeper!

Monday, July 1, 2019

Three Tools of a Beekeeper

As beekeepers, we have three very important tools that make working our bees easier: the veil/suit, the smoker and the hive tool. When all the tools are used properly, you can work your bees and can do so without being stung. 

Before doing any job you always want to have the proper safety gear. In beekeeping, you always want to protect your face from being stung. With the veil, your entire head is covered and safe. Some beekeepers choose to have a full suit that covers their entire body so they are covered from head to toe. The veil is attached and only the hands and feet are exposed. This suit can come in a variety of materials such as nylon or cotton and can be a little heavy, but it’s great at protecting beekeepers from bee stings. There are also special gloves made of leather or thicker material that protect a beekeeper's hands. 

Beekeepers use a smoker to calm down the bees when they open the hive. A fire is started in the can using wood chips, leaves or sticks. Then, you pump the bellows to force smoke from the spout. The smoke masks the bees alarm pheromones and could simulate a fire response for them--filling their stomachs with honey to prepare to leave their "burning" home.

The hive tool is a mostly flat scraper made of steel. Beekeepers use the hive tool to separate the hive boxes and honey supers, loosen frames and scrape propolis and beeswax from boxes and frames. Honeybees secure their hive with these sticky substances and it would be very difficult to open the hive without your trusty hive tool.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Medical World of Honey

Image may contain: textHoney is a food that never spoils and a substance most commonly used for eating. Yet, the wondrous properties of honey don't stop there! Honey can also be used as a medicine. Honey has antibacterial properties which help create an ideal wound healing environment for any scrape or cut you may have. If you do end up getting a cut or a scrape, just apply honey to the wound and wrap it in gauze. The honey will keep the wound moist and sterile to help it heal from the inside out which will reduce scarring!

Honey has been used as medicine for ages.  During the World Wars, many supplies were rationed and people had to make sacrifices. This rationing also affected the doctors and surgeons in war zones. In order to still provide for the injured, doctors would use honey on their medical equipment! They would dip the medical utensils into the honey which would then sterilize the equipment before they used it. While it would create a sticky situation, the benefits of the honey were pretty sweet!

Image result for honey as a cough syrup
Throughout the year, many of us struggle with a sore throat at some point. If it's from a cold or simply from how much you talk in a day, honey can aid a helping hand! Honey, especially buckwheat honey, has been proven to be a better sore throat aid and cough suppressant than the normal cough syrup you get at a drug store. Next time you suffer from a cough, give honey a try!

Whether you want to use honey on your toast in the morning or keep it in your first aid kit, the many uses of honey are endless!

Friday, May 3, 2019

Honeybees Throughout History

The buzz about honeybees has been around for thousands of years. Honeybees helped humans in Ancient Egypt, Greece and early America. Rock art shows "honey hunting" in early civilizations in Africa, India and Spain, and organized beekeeping happened in ancient Egypt, Greece, Italy and Israel. The greatest minds throughout history have studied the fascinating honeybee. 

Ancient Egyptians are thought of as the first beekeepers in history. Historians have found hieroglyphs of bees dating back to 2422 BD! The oldest jar of honey found in the world came from the tomb of King Tut. Ancient Egyptians knew that honey was more than just a food. They used honey to clean wounds and to promote beauty and youthfulness in cosmetics. They used bees wax to make candles. Today, people are still using honey and hive products for the same purposes! 

Some of the greatest ideas about honeybees came from Ancient Greece. Before this point in history, most ideas and observations were passed down through oral traditional and stories. The Greeks wrote down their knowledge. One of the most well known minds to study bees was Aristotle around 342 BC. He was not a beekeeper, but that did not stop him from studying bees. Some of his ideas were correct but some of them were not. He knew there were three bees in the hive. He got the worker and drone bees correct, but he thought the queen bee was a king bee! 

Early settlers in America brought honeybees from Europe to North America in 1622. There were native bees already in North America but the colonist introduced domesticated bees. In colonial times, bees were extremely beneficial. Honey was used instead of highly-taxed sugar and beeswax was used for making shoe polishes, lipsticks and candles. The beehives featured on early American coins convey how important honeybees are in our history.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Flowers for the Honeybees

Happy Spring Everyone!
Image result for seed ball plants
The life of a beekeeper is always buzzing, especially in the spring of the year! Beekeepers are beginning to get their new bees as well as prepare their honeybees for the adventures of the summer to come. The spring is an important time for honeybees. If you are looking for an easy way to help honeybees, leave the dandelions in your yard! Dandelions are the first floral sources for honeybees and will help get their hive off to a great start.

Are you looking for an activity to help honeybees? One thing you can do is to plant flowers in your yard that provide pollen and nectar for honeybees. Check out this activity on making seed balls!

Seed Balls:
2 parts potting soil
5 parts potter clay mix
1-2 parts seeds

Mix together the soil, clay, and seeds in a large container. Once combined, add water little bits of water until it has the consistency of cookie dough. The balls should not be sticky. Once combined,  use your hands to form 1-2 inch balls. Let them dry overnight.

Now that you have your seed balls, it's time to plant them! Find an area with sunlight, flat landscape, and won't get mowed over. Next, place the seed ball where you would like the flowers to grow and let nature take care of the rest! There is no need to plant or water the seed ball as these require little to no maintenance to grow flowers. Best of luck planting!

Monday, March 11, 2019

The Buzz About Beeswax

When people think of honeybees, one of the first things they think of is the honeycomb's hexagon shape. The six-sided comb is where the bees store honey and nectar, but what is it made from? Honeycomb is made from beeswax and is one of the many products we can can get from our bee hives. A female worker bee does many interesting things in her lifetime, and how she makes beeswax is one of their most impressive skills.

When a worker bee eats honey, she produces a clear wax in scales from eight 
glands on her abdomen. These special glands take the sugar from the honey and make it into beeswax. The bee who made the wax will remove these scales with her legs, or another bee will come and help her remove them. The bees take that scale and shape the beeswax using their legs and strong jaws to make it into a soft ball. Then, it is able to be taken around the hive and placed wherever it is needed. 

Beeswax has many uses outside the hive and is great for many homemade crafts such as candles, lip balms and beauty recipes. 
Beeswax is also a great moisturizer found in a lot of cosmetics. Lip balms and lotion bars are very popular products made with beeswax because beeswax acts as a barrier to trap moisture and leave your skin feeling soft. Search "homemade honey beauty recipes," and try one today!

Beeswax candles are environmentally friendly and burn clean (meaning they create little smoke). Beeswax candles are also known to burn brighter and longer with a strong natural smell. Beeswax candles can be made either by rolling colorful sheets of beeswax around a wick or by melting beeswax and pouring it into a candle mold. Search "make your own beeswax candles" for more information.

Honeybees work hard to produce beeswax, and they use it to store all their most important belongings. Keep an eye out for some amazing products made with beeswax.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Love and Beekeeping

Happy Valentines Day! Did you know that Saint Valentine is the Patron Saint of Beekeeping? Valentine's Day is all about love and cherishing those around you. This is the same concept Saint Valentine shares with beekeeping. Being the Patron Saint of Beekeeping means Saint Valentine watches over the beekeeping industry, protecting the beekeepers and the honeybees.

This love for beekeeping is still cherished by many today. During winter months in northern states, beekeepers have to provide their bees with extra love to help them survive the winter.  The winter months of the north mean temperatures and snow are constantly falling. Beekeepers either keep their bees in the North or send the honeybees to the warmth of the Southern states.

Wintering in the North
Hives snowed in for the winter
Temperatures in the North can get as low as -30°F or colder. While the temperature of the air outside is that cold, the inside of the bee hive will be as warm as 98° throughout the entire winter! The honeybees are their own heating system. Honeybees will be in constant motion creating heat with their bodies, and then they fan their wings to move the heat around! To ensure the safety and warmth of the queen bee, she is at the center of the cluster of honeybees. 

A common path of states visited by Migratory Beekeepers
Migratory  Beekeeping
Migratory beekeepers move their honeybees throughout the United States to help pollinate crops. A migratory beekeeper might go to California to pollinate almond crops in the winter and then to Washington in the spring to pollinate apple blossoms. Summer could be spent in Wisconsin pollinating cranberries or North Dakota pollinating sunflowers. Migratory beekeepers are always on the move and help advance agriculture from coast to coast! 

Sunday, January 13, 2019

2019 Representatives Crowned in Myrtle Beach

The new American Honey Queen and Princess were selected at the 2019 American Beekeeping Federation Convention in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

2019 American Honey Queen
Hannah Sjostrom from Wisconsin

2019 American Honey Princess
Nicole Medina from New Jersey

Congratulations ladies! They 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 representatives in America!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Lessons from the Honeybee

Happy New Year! Here are some fun and educational activities to learn hands-on about pollination and honey. Try them at home or at school! Click on the "Lessons" tab above for more resources.

Cheese Balls Pollination Activity
Draw two flower shapes on a white piece of paper. Glue a white muffin cup in the center of one and fill it with cheese balls. Eat all the cheese balls--be careful not to lick your fingers! Then touch your fingers to the other flower. You just "pollinated" your flower! The cheese residue represents pollen and your fingers represent the fuzzy bees!

Honey, I Love You!
There are so many ways to use honey! It is delicious to eat, can soothe a sore throat or heal a cut,  helps beautify skin and hair and provides energy! See if you can use honey in these four areas this month: baking, healing, beauty and energy. Print off the coloring sheet below (made by a former honey queen!) for ideas.