What Honey Bees Look Like:
We normally see honey bees which are ½ to 5/8-inch long, have well developed heads with two short antennae, and large eyes. These insects have a fuzzy yellow-brown to black appearance because they are covered with fine hairs. The abdomen has a striped appearance. They have two pairs of wings, the hind pair shorter than the front pair. The workers have a barbed stinger at the end of their abdomen that is used against anything that threatens the colony. The back pair of legs is modified for the collection and transport of pollen. Honey bees have a tongue-like mouthpart, which allows them to collect nectar in flowers. These bees are the worker bees. Honey bees have three castes in their colonies: workers, queens, and drones. Queen bees are the largest of the colony, measuring from 5/8 to ¾-inch long and except for their size look like the workers. Drones are about 5/8-inch long and much stouter and darker than workers or the queen. Only the worker honey bees are normally seen outside of the hive.
Where Honey Bees Live:
Honey bees are social insects that live in the colony or hive with as many as 20,000-80,000 workers. Workers collect nectar and pollen from plants, inadvertently pollinating flowers and allowing plants to produce fruit. They also produce honey and honey comb from what they secrete. The queen and all the bee larvae are fed and cared for by young workers. Older workers gather the pollen and nectar for the colony. The entire population stays in the hive when the temperature drops below 50 degrees.
Honey bees are not naturally aggressive; however, if the colony is threatened, they will sting. The stinger has barbs, so that the stinger and the poison sac remain in the skin. Unlike wasps, honey bees can sting only once.
Why Honey Bees Swarm:
Honey bees swarm when the queen begins to fail or the colony is too large. Swarms often are seen on a tree branch, and when this occurs, the bees are not aggressive. The swarm lasts 24-48 hours and then moves to the sheltered environment high above the ground like a hollow tree, bee hive, hollow wall, or attic. Since honeybees are so beneficial, they should be left alone whenever possible. Anytime honeybees are in conflict with humans, the honeybees should be removed with assistance of a beekeeper.
Honey bees dance! When a worker bee returns to the hive with pollen, she dances to "tell" the other worker bees where the food is. Many times you will have a 'Dance Off .' The Bee that dances best gets the others to follow the directions related to her dance.
Resources Bee Sources
- Backyard Buzz: Why you want bees in your garden. UC Berkeley Slide Show http://multimedia.journalism.berkeley.edu/workshops/projects/72/show/
- Elementary School lesson plans and activity sheets. University of Arizona http://ag.arizona.edu/pubs/insects/ahb/inflist.html
- Honey Bees are Important Pollinators. University of Arizona http://ag.arizona.edu/pubs/insects/ahb/inf10.html
- National Honey Bee Day http://www.nationalhoneybeeday.net/beefactstrivia.html
Colony Collapse Disorder
- The Vanishing Bees - This man's bees are in grave danger. So is our food supply. Why something so small matters so much. NRDC Natural Resources Defense Council http://www.nrdc.org/onearth/06sum/bees1.asp
- While the honeybee's collapse-and its potentially devastating impact on our food supply. Audubon Magazine. http://www.audubonmagazine.org/features0805/pollination.html
- A Bee Lovers Garden http://www.abeeloversgarden.com
- Honey- a remedy rediscovered. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1292197/pdf/jrsocmed00148-0008.pdf
- Honey, the World's Oldest Sweetener. Mid Atlantic Apiculture MAAREC http://maarec.psu.edu/pdfs/HONEY.PDF
- Honey. Medicinal Properties. Virginia Tech http://www.sfp.forprod.vt.edu/factsheets/honey.pdf
- Health Benefits Gained from Honey. Alabama Cooperative Extension System. http://www.aces.edu/urban/STAR/HoneyHealth.html
- Long Island Bee Keepers www.longislandbeekeepers.org
- Cornell University Master Bee Keeper Program http://www.masterbeekeeper.org/
- Supplies http://www.brushymountainbeefarm.com/
- Bee Culture Magazine http://www.beeculture.com/