Friday, December 1, 2023

Honey Bee Holiday


As the Holiday season approaches, and snow starts to fall, honey bees embrace their Holiday by taking a break from collecting pollen and nectar from flowers. In the chilly weather, they choose to stay inside their hive and focus on two essential tasks: keeping warm and conserving energy. This way they will be strong and energized to visit flowers in spring time.

Honey bee hives during winter.

As we cozy up indoors with a fireplace or heater creating warmth during the winter, honey bees have to create their own heat to survive. By huddling together in a cluster, they generate heat through the vibration of their wing muscles. This clustering technique helps them maintain a cozy temperature inside the hive.

Honey bees clustering to keep warm.

During wintertime, honey bees rely on the honey reserves they had carefully stored within their hive weeks earlier before it got too cold to fly. It serves as their nourishment and ensures they have enough energy when the warmer days of spring arrive. While staying warm, all the honey bees, including the worker bees, are resting to conserve energy. After almost a year of their busy activities, the honey bees take a well-deserved “stay-cation” in preparation for the upcoming spring season.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Bee-Thankful Kid Friendly Recipes

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and why not celebrate with some easy recipes that use delicious honey! Below are some great recipes to try to show your appreciation for all the hard work honey bees provide for us.

Honey Peanut Butter Yogurt Dip from Sioux Honey

  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • Combine and stir all ingredients in a small bowl until smooth.
  • Serve with fruit, pretzels, or any other food that you want! 

Energy Balls
from 2023 American Honey Princess

  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup flax seeds
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Directions: combine all ingredients and form into a ball

Honey Turkey Rollers from National Honey Board

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup mustard
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder (optional)
  • 6 (8-inch) whole wheat tortillas
  • 1 cup colby jack cheese, shredded
  • 12 thin slices turkey
  • In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add honey, mustard and onion powder; mix well.
  • Spread 1 to 2 tablespoons of honey cream cheese mixture out to the edge of each tortilla.
  • Sprinkle each tortilla with cheese, leaving about 1 inch around the edge.
  • Place 2 slices of turkey on each tortilla.
  • Roll up each tortilla tightly and wrap in plastic wrap.
  • Chill at least 30 minutes, then slice each tortilla log into eight 1-inch rounds and serve.

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Don't BEE Scared

October is a month filled with festivities and a touch of fear, but honey bees outside their hive are nothing to be afraid of. While you're outdoors, enjoying the sight of flowers or sipping on sweet beverages, you might notice honey bees buzzing around. Don't panic! These foraging honey bees have one mission in mind—they're simply searching for food, not interested in bothering you.
Curious honey bee on a finger.

Nectar is a part of a healthy honey bee diet, and they drink and collect it from flowers. Honey bee's sense of smell is remarkable, around 50 times stronger than a dog’s. This ability enables them to detect the aroma of the sugary liquids from flowers or even your soda, drawing them from distances of up to 5 miles away.
Honey bee drinking honey from a hand.

Although they have a great sense of smell, the honey bees' vision has its limitations. They can perceive colors such as purples and blues from afar but need to be close to observe finer details. So, if a honey bee ever comes near you or lands on you, it's not an act of aggression—she simply mistook you for a flower. During such encounters, it's best to remain still and allow the honey bee to explore its surroundings. These gentle creatures pose no harm unless threatened. Attempting to swat them away may provoke them to defend themselves with a sting.

Curious honey bee in a hand.

Friday, September 1, 2023

Different Ways to Help Honey Bees

Honey bees are vital for the pollination of many of our fruits and vegetables. Making sure we are all doing our part in helping them survive and grow is very important. 

Honey bee population numbers in the United States have been decreasing over time until about 10 years ago, but the population numbers have remained fairly stable since then. However, there are several things we can do to help honey bee populations.

  1. Grow a bee friendly garden:
    • Planting garden flowers and native wildflowers are a great source of nectar for honey bees! Some key flowers to plant are bee balm, sunflowers, lavender, goldenrod, and many more! In addition, planting trees, such as maples or black cherries, provide many blooms that support honey bees.
  2. Avoid pesticides and herbicides
    • Using pesticides and herbicides can be harmful to honey bees and other pollinators. Not using pesticides and herbicides can help honey bees, but if they need to be applied make sure to not apply them when flowers are blooming and do it at dusk or dawn when honey bees are not foraging.
  3. Support beekeepers
    • Buying honey and related products can be a great way to support honey bees. Another way to support both beekeepers and honey bees is to contact a beekeeper if you see a honey bee swarm. Beekeepers can help provide a safer home for honey bee swarms, which helps everyone out in the end.
  4. Be an advocate for honey bees
    • Teach others the importance of honey bees and other pollinators and ways they can help. Not everyone understands that honey bees are the number one pollinator in the world and their survival and success is so important!

There are many other ways to help honey bees and other pollinators, but this is a great list to help you get started! Be sure to do your part in helping the survival of honey bees, as they are vital to the pollination of so many of our foods.

Calling a local beekeeper about honey bee swarms
is a great way to help out honey bee populations!

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Home Sweet Home and The Beeswax Builders

             The houses we live in provide protection from weather and the outdoor elements as well as a safe place for us to sleep. In contrast, honey bees must put on their construction hats and build their own home. Once honey bees find a safe spot to build their home such as inside a tree or in a hive box, they start building their walls out of a special material called beeswax. These walls are not only their home but also a storage space for honey and other important things.

Honey bees storing honey in their hive made of beeswax.

Worker bees that are 6-7 days old develop their 8 wax glands within their abdomen. These glands allow them to produce and secrete beeswax in the form of fragile flakes. Next, the worker bees peel off these flakes and chew them using their mandibles. This allows them to stick the beeswax to a surface and mold it into their favorite shape with six sides-- the hexagon. Each individual hexagon is called a cell.  Hexagons are honey bees’ favorite shape because they use the least amount of beeswax to allow for the most amount of space inside each cell.  The hexagons collectively serve important purposes within the hive.

Worker bee producing beeswax flakes from her abdomen.
The shape of a hexagon has 6 sides.

This clever construction of hexagon cells made of beeswax allows the honey bees to store their precious foods such as nectar, honey, or pollen. Additionally, the queen bee lays a single egg in each of these cells around 2,000 times a day, ensuring the growth of the colony. The walls of a bee hive are super close together. They leave just enough space for one or three bees to fit in between. This special arrangement helps the honey bees control the temperature inside the hive easily. Ultimately, honey bees are very resourceful and are remarkable mathematicians, engineers, and scavengers!

Beeswax walls close together help honey bees regulate the temperature of the hive.

Saturday, July 1, 2023

How Honey Bee Pollination Works

If it weren’t for honey bees and other pollinators, we would lose out on a lot of food that we eat on a daily basis, such as apples, oranges, and almonds. In fact, ⅓ of the food crops we eat are dependent on pollination and 80% of the pollination is done by honey bees. 

Pollination of flowers and crops is accomplished by honey bees through a simple process. Honey bees land on flowers to primarily collect nectar to make into honey, but also collect pollen on the millions of hairs that they have. They then fly to other flowers of the same type and pollen is dropped off when the honey bees collect more nectar. This then pollinates the blooms so that fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds are able to grow into the food we eat. More specifically, the pollen from the anther of a flower sticks to honey bees which is then inadvertently carried to the stigma of the flower, which is shown in the picture below.

Honey bee pollination is done by carrying pollen from
the anther of one flower to the stigma of another flower.

Thursday, June 1, 2023

The Journey of Honey: from Flowers to your Kitchen

Have you ever wondered how that jar of honey ended up in your kitchen? Honey bees are the incredible creatures behind the making of honey, and their process is quite fascinating. Let's take a closer look!

To make honey, honey bees start with an important ingredient: nectar. Flowers produce nectar, and honey bees collect it and bring it back to their hive. Inside the hive, they store the nectar in hexagonal cells made of beeswax.

Honey bee collecting nectar from a flower.

Nectar in beeswax cells inside a honey bee hive.

Next comes a special step called "fanning." Honey bees fan their wings over the nectar-filled cells, creating a gentle breeze. This breeze helps to dry out the nectar. This drying process is what transforms the nectar into honey. When the nectar's moisture level drops below 18%, it officially becomes honey.

Once the honey is ready, the honey bees seal the cells with beeswax. This ensures that the honey is stored safely for a long time because honey has a low water content and a high sugar content, making it difficult for bacteria to grow. That's why honey never spoils as long as it remains sealed, just like the jar of honey in your kitchen.

Capped honey cells inside a honey bee hive.

When beekeepers harvest honey, they take frames filled with capped honey cells. They carefully scrape off the beeswax caps using a bread knife or an uncapping tool, revealing the honey inside. These frames are then placed in a machine called a honey extractor. The centrifuge spins the frames rapidly, and the honey is separated from the cells. It collects at the bottom of the machine and is drained into a bucket. Once in the bucket, it's ready to be bottled.

Beekeeper using a tool to scrape off beeswax cappings.

Honey frames in a honey extractor.

Did you know that there are more than 300 varieties of honey in the United States? The only difference between them is the flowers the honey bees choose to visit. Depending on where you live, you may have different honey varieties to choose from. For example, orange blossom honey, made from the nectar of orange blossoms on orange trees, is popular in Florida and California.

Honey is not only delicious but also precious. It takes the entire lifespan of 12 honey bees to produce just one teaspoon of honey. So when you enjoy honey, make sure to savor every drop and appreciate the hard work of those amazing honey bees.

Monday, May 1, 2023

Top Flowers & Plants Honey Bees Like

Honey bees collect nectar and pollen from the flowers and plants they visit. However, there are certain flowers and plants that they tend to visit more than others. Knowing which flowers and plants that better attract honey bees can allow you to plant the right ones in your garden. Each type of flower has a different blooming season, length of life, and how tall they are. Knowing these details allows to you pick the perfect ones based on your needs.

Some of the top flowers that honey bees like are:

Bee Balm

  • Blooms in the Spring, grows back every year, and grows to 1-4 feet tall.

Black-Eyed Susan
  •  Bloom in the Summer and Fall starting the 2nd year, grows back every year, and grow to be 1-3 feet tall.
Purple Coneflower
  •  Bloom in the Summer and Fall, grows back every year, and grows to 2-4 feet tall.
  •  Bloom in the Summer and Fall, only grow/live for one season, and can range in height from 1-15 feet tall.
Wrinkle-Leaf Goldenrod
  •  Blooms from late Summer to Fall, grows back every year, and is about 3-4 feet tall.

Saturday, April 1, 2023

The Inside Scoop on Beekeeping Tools


Happy Spring! As beekeepers are opening up their honeybee hives to prepare for another year of pollination and honey making, let's learn about the handy everyday tools that beekeepers use to check on their hives. Beekeepers across the United States utilize different methods of hive maintenance. Some of which have existed for centuries! There are a variety of ways to keep bees, but generally all beekeepers would agree that there are three vital tools required for going into a beehive. Let's explore the inside scoop on the essential tools of a beekeeper!

Hive Tool

A hive tool is used to separate frames inside a honeybee hive.

Hive tools come in different styles. This is one of the most common.

            First, is one of the most essential tools, the hive tool. The name and current common designs of a hive tool have been utilized for at least a century, which demonstrates the desirability of its' multifunctional use across generations. The main reason beekeepers use a hive tool is because honeybees create a substance called propolis, made from tree resin and beeswax. Honeybees use this to seal up their hive to keep it safe from bad weather and pests. The hive tool allows beekeepers to pry open the hive's lid and separated the frames for inspection. The generic hive tool has other functions as well. Personally, I find new uses for it every day. It may be used as a hammer, a shovel, a nail remover, a crowbar, and of course, a hive beetle squasher. When the tool becomes coated in propolis, it is easy to clean by using another hive tool to scrape it off. Remarkably, this instrument is so useful that there are even travel-sized versions available for beekeeping on-the-go.

           Bee Veil or Suit

Beekeepers wearing a full-body bee suit which protects them from potential stings.

The next essential tool provides protection from stings. Some beekeepers use a cap and vail, which protects the face, along with long-sleeved and pants when working with a colony that they are familiar with. Other beekeepers wear a full body suit with thick layers of mesh that prevent bee stingers from reaching their skin. This is great for inspecting unfamiliar colonies. The downside to this full-body bee suit is that you could be mistaken for a giant marshmallow. However, during the hot summer, the hot weather may have you feeling more like a s'more in these bee suits. To complete the picture, all we need is a campfire, which brings us to the last tool of this inside scoop.


A smoker puffs smoke on the hive to mask alert pheromones.

          The smoker, or as I like to call it, the travel-sized campfire, is used to puff smoke onto the beehive to mask the alert pheromones (which smells like bananas) honeybees may produce when their hive is opened. This way they are more likely to behave calmly, allowing for an easier hive inspection. The smoker requires a flame and some fuel such as grass clippings, cotton, hay, pine needles, or other kinds of fuel that do the trick without harming the bees. It's very important that beekeepers ensure the smoke remains cool to prevent hurting the honeybee's wings. Once you're finished using the smoker, you'll need to scoop out the remaining fuel. Scooping out the remaining fuel can be challenging without the proper tool. That's where the hive tool also comes in handy, with its long, metal stick perfectly suited to the task. Ultimately, a beekeeper's toolkit would be incomplete without the hive tool, protective attire, and a smok

Can you spot all three essential beekeeping tools mentioned earlier in the photo below?

Spot the tools of a beekeeper! 

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Benefits of Honey

Honey is a great food that both honey bees and humans consume. Honey bees collect pollen and nectar from flowers that they visit during pollination which they take back to their hive to turn into honey. Honey is primarily made up of sugars and water, with trace amounts of vitamins and minerals. Some of the key vitamins and minerals are: calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and more!

One way to use honey in addition to consuming it, is using it for wound care. Honey has been shown to speed up the process of wound healing, particularly burn wounds. 

Honey can also be used as a cough suppressant. This is because honey helps thin mucus and loosen coughs. Just taking two teaspoons of honey can help relive nighttime coughs for better sleep and more comfortability. 

Honey also can help various diseases by reducing heart risks, lowering memory loss, and even boosting one's mental health. In addition, honey contains antioxidants, which helps protect the body from inflammation. 

Monday, February 6, 2023

Will You BEE My Valentine?

The world around us is full of amazing relationships between living things that help each other to survive and thrive. One of the most special relationships is between honeybees, flowers, and humans. Honeybees and flowers have a symbiotic relationship, which means they depend on each other to survive and grow. Honeybees help pollinate the flowers by transferring pollen from one flower to another, which helps the flowers grow into fruit and vegetables. In return for pollination, the flowers provide food for the honeybees in the form of nectar, which they make into honey. The health of us humans is dependent on this relationship between honeybees and flowers because pollination is responsible for 1/3 of the food we eat. That is why beekeepers help facilitate this relationship by bringing thousands of honeybee colonies to plants that need pollination. 

Just like how honeybees and flowers help each other, we can also help others in our own way. On Valentine's Day, people often exchange gifts to show their love and appreciation for others. This is a great opportunity for you to think about how you can give to others, just like how the flowers give food to the bees and the bees give pollination to the flowers. For example, you can make a special card or craft for someone you love, give a helping hand to a neighbor or friend, or even donate to a charity that helps people in need. By giving to others, we can help make the world a better place, just like how the relationship between honeybees, flowers, and humans helps us all to thrive. So let's be like honeybees and flowers, and give to others whenever we can! 

Click here to learn how to craft a charming paper bee with this video below. It's a thoughtful gesture to show appreciation for someone special. You could even write a nice note on the back!

Sunday, January 8, 2023

2023 Representatives Crowned in Jacksonville

The new American Honey Queen and Princess were selected at the 80th Anniversary American Beekeeping Federation Convention in Jacksonville, Florida.

2023 American Honey Queen
Selena Rampolla from Florida

2023 American Honey Princess
Allison Hager from Iowa

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!

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Counting for Honey Bee Anatomy

My favorite way to remember the basic anatomy of a honey bee is to count to six!

1. Proboscis

A honey bee has one proboscis! The proboscis is the tongue of the honey bee. It is shaped like a straw, and specialized to allow easy access to the center of a flower to collect nectar. A honey bee will use their tongue in two ways. One of the ways is like a straw. The other is with a lapping motion, like how a dog drinks water.

A worker bee using her proboscis to collect nectar from the center of a flower.

2. Antennae

You will find two antennae on top of a honey bee's head. A honey bee will use their antennae for data collection. This includes touch, taste, and smell. Honey bees have some of the most complex pheromone systems in the world. Pheromones are chemicals bees excrete that are used to communicate with other bees. These antennae allow the honey bee to smell the pheromones and act accordingly. Did you know? a honey bee has four muscles that are used to control antenna movement.

3. Segments of the Body

The head, thorax, and abdomen are the three segments of the body that make up a honey bee. The head is used for sensory input. The eyes, proboscis, and antennae are all located on the head of a honey bee. 

The thorax anchors the wings and the legs of a honey bee. The muscles found on the thorax allow the honey bee to rapidly move their wings.

The abdomen of a honey bee is where they digest their food, as well as store nectar during flight. Wax glands, where honey bees excrete flecks of beeswax, are located on the underside of the abdomen. For a worker bee and a queen, the end of the abdomen is where you can find a stinger. A queen bee's abdomen is much longer than a worker or drone's. 

A diagram showing the anatomy of a honeybee

4. Wings

A honey bee has two pairs of wings. These four wings are incredibly fast. A honey bee can beat their wings 230 times per second. These wings allow the bees to fly three miles away from their hive at up to 13 miles per hour.  A hive of bees will fly 40, 000 miles to collect enough nectar to produce a pound of honey.

A honey bee in flight.

5. Eyes

A honey bee has two large compound eyes on the side of their head and three smaller eyes known as ocelli on the very front of their head,  five eyes in total. The smaller three eyes on the front of the bee's head primarily allows them to perceive light. The large compound eyes on the side of their head allows them to see in all directions. Drone bees have especially large eyes so that they can find the queen during flight. Bees are attracted to yellow, purple, and blue the most. Honey bees have hair on their eyes.

Notice the three ocelli eyes that form the shape of a triangle in between the bee's antennae.

6. Legs

Honey bees have six legs. The front legs have hooks on them, specially designed to help the honey bee clean antennae, so that they can smell, hear, and see better. The hind legs have an incredible body part called a corbicula, also known as a pollen basket. The pollen basket has a dip in the leg, surrounded by a ring course hairs that allow the bee to pack pollen. The bee can hold a lot of pollen during flight, making it easier to bring back to the hive for food. 

Honey bee with a full pollen basket.