Monday, May 9, 2011

We are family ...

Within a colony of honey bees, there are 3 castes, or parts of their family: the queen, the worker, & the drone.  Each has a distinct function to perform within the colony.  No fraternizing here!  A healthy, happy colony consists of 1 queen, 100 or so male drones, & about 50,000 female worker bees.  That's alot of buzzing around, it could wear a girl out!

A worker bee's mission in life is the survival of the colony.  All matters relating to the well being of the colony, except egg-laying, are handled by the worker bees.  Consider them the lady ninjas warriors of the bee world ... don't make them mad.!

The drone bees are the mates of the colony ... the queens boyfriends.  They are larger than the worker bees, square in shape, with big eyes ... all the better to find & mate with the queen. While living within the hive, they don't contribute to any work other than laying around, eating honey and  making a mess in the hive (not much different than in the human world ... sorry men, but it is so true.).  For this lap of luxury though, they pay with their lives.  The mating  process actually kills them.  That's why there's so many drones.

Now the queen.  We give the queen bee a royal title, but in reality, she has no real powers over the colony.  She doesn't rule or command them, but without her, the colony will surely die.  Her job is to lay over 2,000 eggs a day!  Wow, she's a busy lady!  She's smart enough to have a group of attentive maids who feed, clean, & clear up after her so her egg laying is never disrupted.  Baby worker bee eggs develop in about 21 days, & drones develop in about 24 days.  Baby queens develop more quickly, emerging from  their cocoons after 16 days.

And that is our happy, busy bee family.

the Beeginning of Beekeeping..

Beekeeping began as early as 30B.C. In Greece & Egypt, early bee hives were made of pottery & shaped like giant thimbles. The Romans used hives made from things like logs, brick, & even dung (ewww, don't think my neighbors would appreciate me doing that kind). In Europe, they used wicker skeps. It wasn't until the invention of "movable frame" hives around the mid 1800's that modern beekeeping began.

There are 4 main species of honey bee (Apis). All of them live in large colonies & store yummy honey for Winter supplies. The species who's honey humans have harvested for centuries is the Western, or European, honey bee (Apis mellifera). Now you know to thank the Western bee for that yummy sweet goodness we put in our teas, recipes, soaps, & lotions. Something tells me they don't wear cowboy boots in that hive though ...