By Jessi McCarty, VIC Summer Naturalist
The Humble Honey Bee (Apis mellifera)
The Paul Smith’s College Beekeeping club currently has an apiary of four hives at the Osgood Farm site. The club started in 2016 with the help of professors Deb Naybor, Bethany Garretson and our local mentor Bruce Kilgore.
Bee colonies can be ordered in a package of three pounds and set up in a new hive. The bees quickly go to work to draw comb out so that nectar and pollen can be stored. The nectar is then dehydrated by fanning of the bee’s wings to be made into honey. Empty cells are used by the queen to lay eggs. A bee colony can be 20,000 to 60,000 non-fertile female workers, 100 or more male drones, and one fertile female queen.
The life cycle starts out as an egg and hatches to develop into a larva. Eventually, this larva is fed by worker bees and develops into a pupa, and then is capped off by another worker to emerge as a fully functional bee.
Some of the first jobs this worker will have will be cleaning its cell and helping with surrounding cells. Eventually, as they age they start taking on new jobs working up to foraging for resources like nectar, pollen, and propolis (Propolis is a natural glue that bees collect and make from the buds of plants. It’s a resin that has antibacterial properties and is harvested to make furniture varnishes.
If you look closely at the picture below, you can search for a Queen bee, indicated by the bright yellow dot. If you look around her you will see her court; these are attendant bees that make sure she remains groomed and well-fed! Interestingly, she can lay up to 1,200 eggs in a day.
Some of the tools a beekeeper uses include a bee suit, hive tool, and the iconic smoker. While the suits protect the beekeeper from stings, the hive tool is used as a pry bar to break propolis seals and help lift frames. The smoker uses cool, cloudy smoke to mask pheromones used by bees to indicate an intruder. Once the smoke is detected, the bees start to gorge on honey in case they have to abscond the hive due to fire. This creates an easy working environment for the beekeeper to inspect the hive for production and presence of pests or disease.
The types of hives that we use are Langstroth, the most common type found in the commercial industry today. Though a few other types exist, including the top bar, Warre hive and in some countries, they use straw and mud to create a hollow tube to house the colony.
• A honey bee beats its wings 200 times a second!
• In a honey bees life, they only produce 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey.
• The male Drone doesn’t possess a stinger and has to be fed by the female workers.
• The honey bee is the only species other than humans that have a language. Know as the waggle dance!
• Honey is the only food that has an infinite life span, jars of ancient honey were found in Egyptian tombs that could still be eaten.
• They pollinate the entire almond crop in California.
• 2 out of every 3 bites of food you eat was either directly pollinated or influenced by Honey Bee pollination.
What you can do to help support a healthy population of pollinators!
• Visit the PSC VIC and get some pollinator seed packs from the front desk with an informational pamphlet
• Leave some section of your yard to go “wild” letting wildflowers go to full bloom so there are ample food sources
• Limit or cut out the use of all pesticides/fungicides at your home
• Leave some watering dishes with stones so pollinators can stop and get a drink
• Join your local beekeeping association to learn more about becoming a beekeeper
If you are interested in further information, feel free to contact the following involved with the PSC Beekeeping Club.
• President- Cody Kautzman email@example.com
• Vice President- Kyle Gleichauf firstname.lastname@example.org
• Founder of the club- Jessi McCarty email@example.com