When you think of honey bees, is your first thought “sting” or “honey”? Well, if it’s “sting” there are a few things you should know. First, most bites come from yellow jackets or hornets. Honey bees are blamed, but they’re so, so, so busy collecting pollen and nectar that they don’t care about us at all! A colony is made up of about 50,000 bees: a queen, 15% drones which are male honey bees and worker bees – all female. Drones don’t have a sting. Workers only bite to protect the colony and can only bite once. They die when they bite. The queen can sting several times but she reserves this to sting other queens. More on this in another article …
If your first thought was honey, do you know how bees make honey? It starts with the forager bees collecting the nectar. They can fly up to five miles, but usually keep it within two miles. Imagine how difficult the bees of Tillamook are to fly against our strong winds! I suspect they are living shorter lives because of the winds they have to fight. Normally, a bee lives about 40 days in summer. His effort contributes 1 / 12th of a teaspoon of honey in his life.
Bees retain the nectar they collect in their “honey stomach”, which adds enzymes to the nectar that change its chemical composition and pH. Back at the hive, the bees pass the nectar from one bee to another, each time adding enzymes before depositing it in a cell. Then comes the work of evaporating the water contained in the honey. When there is only about 18% water, these hard workers cover it with a layer of wax. It will last forever. They found honey in King Tut’s tomb 3,325 years ago – still good, unfermented. The color and flavor of honey is determined by the flowers it is made of.
Keeping bees is certainly a challenge, but also very, very rewarding. It starts with understanding the biology and behaviors of honey bees. The first problem is forage. It takes two million trips to the flowers to collect enough nectar to make a pound of honey! Incredible! Planting bee-friendly trees and shrubs helps because a flowering tree with a radius of fifteen feet has as many flowers as two acres of flowers. There is a huge difference between what bees will do and what they love! It always surprises me when I plant things that bees are supposed to like but there are no bees on them. What I learned is that honey bees are smart enough to go to flowers that have the highest sugar content or those that have the nutrients they need. Incredible! I have already said it ?
What do bees like? Go to www.tillamookbeekeepers.org and click on “Foraging” to view photos and information on growing annuals, perennials, herbs, trees and shrubs.