Even before recorded history, man was gathering honey from honey bees living in hollow trees. But honey wasn’t the only reason for keeping honey bees because man soon learned that the honey bee was an interesting and exciting social insect. The mystery and fascination of the hive, how honey bees live, work and reproduce has intrigued man ever since.
The Honey Bee Colony
The story behind what appears to be the casual movement of honey bees from flower to flower is the discovery of an industrious and tireless society. Honey bees are social insects. They band together and divide labor. The honey bees society is made up of three types of individuals with sharply defined duties and functions. The population of the colony numbers from about 7,000 in mid winter to over 70,000 in late summer and consists of one Queen, several hundred Drones and thousands of Workers.
How Honey Bees Work
Most all flowers produce a sweet liquid to attract insects, primarily honey bees, so that pollination can take place and assure the survival of that plant species. Honey bees make honey from nectar found inside the flower blossom. Field worker honey bees collect the nectar and carry it back to the hive in pouches within their body. The field worker honey bee gives the nectar to young worker honey bees back in the hive, who then place the nectar in a beeswax comb made up of six sided cells. The excess water is then evaporated from the nectar. After a period of time the nectar is transformed into pure honey. Some workers collect nectar, some collect pollen and some do both. In terms of economic value the workers that collect pollen are the most important to you and I. Honey is just the sweet, secondary reward that we collect from honey bees. If honey bees ceased to exist today, about one-third (1/3) of all foods we eat would disappear. Why? Because of pollination. The worker that collects pollen from the flowers packs it into pellets on her hind legs. As she travels from flower to flower, the pollen brushes off onto a special pollen receiving structure called the stigma in the center of the flower. This process is called pollination and allows all flowering crops to reproduce. The outcome is fruit, vegetables, nuts and a wide variety of seeds that are used for human and animal foods. For this reason many people keep bees on farms and near gardens.
*The above Bee and Beekeeping educational information is from Dadant and Sons, Inc.