I keep honeybees. Truthfully, I simply provide a structure for them to live in and try to keep pests away so they can successfully pollinate my plants, and I can harvest excess honey. They are truly remarkable creatures.
• The female workers are the only bees that most people ever see. Though decidedly female, these bees are not fully developed sexually. These female workers forage for food (pollen and nectar from flowers), build and protect the hive, clean, circulate air by beating their wings and perform many other functions.
• Worker bees live for about four weeks in the spring or summer but can live up to a few months during the winter. In the course of her lifetime, a worker bee will produce 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey.
• The queen’s job is straightforward — laying the eggs that will spawn the hive’s next generation of bees and regulate the hive’s activities by producing pheromones that guide the behavior of the other bees. There is usually only a single queen in a hive. If the queen dies, workers will raise a new queen by feeding one of the worker females in their larval stage a special diet of a food called royal jelly. It is the royal jelly that develops a female larva into a sexually developed queen.
• The queen bee lives on average about two to three years and is the only bee that lays fertile eggs. She is busiest in the spring and summer months, when the hive needs to be at its maximum strength. During that time, she lays up to 2,500 eggs per day. A queen can lay her weight in eggs in one day and up to 200,000 eggs in a year.
• Male bees are called drones. Several hundred drones live in each hive during the spring and summer, but they are literally tossed out of the hive for the winter months when the hive goes into a lean survival mode.
• Bees live on stored honey and pollen all winter, and cluster into a ball to conserve warmth during cold weather. Larvae are fed from the stores during this season, and by spring, the hive is thriving with a new generation of bees.
• A honeybee can fly for at least six miles each time out of the hive and as fast as 15 mph. Honeybees collectively may have to fly around 90,000 miles — three times around the globe — to make one pound of honey.
• A honeybee visits 50 to 100 flowers during a collection trip. To help each other find the best flowers, honeybees communicate with one another by “dancing” so as to give the direction and distance of flowers.
• Honeybees can sting only once, and their stingers have a barb, which anchors the stinger in the victim’s body. The bee leaves its stinger and venom pouch behind and dies soon after.
• No, I don’t think honeybees are aggressive at all. They are, however, very defensive. They don’t roam around like punks looking for a fight, but imagine how you would react to someone tearing into your home and harming your kids! Honeybees truly give their lives in defense of their home and offspring.
If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about beekeeping and perhaps want to become a beekeeper, one such school will be in Lufkin at the end of April.
Mark your calendars for the 2020 Beekeeping School. It is hosted by the Pineywoods Beekeepers Association. The dates are Saturdays, April 18 and 25 and May 2. The cost is $50 per person. For more information, look for the Pineywoods Beekeeping Association on Facebook.