Apis Mellifera, the European Honeybee; Honeybees are not native to the United States, most Honeybees in the US are Apis Mellifera, a species originally from Western Europe. They are a non-aggressive social insect that lives and thrives in a complex community with one Queen, tens-of-thousands of female Worker Bees, and several thousand male Drones.
Here's just a few of the interesting bits that make Honeybees so fascinating...
* The Queen has just one job: to lay eggs, up to 2,000 per day. The Drones also have just one purpose in life: to mate with queens, but not their own queen, as she is their mother. The Worker Bees' jobs include: caring for and feeding The Queen; producing the highly efficient hexagonal honey comb; feeding and caring for The Queen's offspring through their larval and pupal stages; foraging for nectar and pollen; protecting and cleaning the hive; and of course, making honey.
* All of the decisions regarding the health of the hive, and the status of the Queen are made by the Worker Bees. Worker Bees can inform the Queen as to how many Drones to produce or how many Worker larvae to fertilize by how large or small they build an individual cell in the comb. It is the Worker Bees who decide when it is time for a new queen and they will raise one by feeding royal jelly to a female cell for the entirety of its larval stage.
* The Worker Bees collect and coat the hive interior with propolis for its antiseptic qualities.
* They communicate with pheromones, vibrations, and a complicated dance that can inform other foraging bees in the hive of the exact location of good forage, including which direction to travel relative to the sun and the precise distance from the hive.
I could go on and on about the culture and functioning of a Honeybee hive. They are an amazing species. And they are stunningly beautiful. To say I am fascinated with the Honeybee is indeed, an understatement.
This past weekend I attended the Urban Beekeeping class through PRI-Cold Climate and had the pleasure of donning a beekeeping suit and working with a hive of Honeybees.The class is taught by Erin Rupp of BeezKneez Honey and hosted at a hive they maintain in a public garden very close to my home. This was my second time through this class, but this time was different. This time I was able to stay after the class and help Erin move bees. She needed to hive a new nuc of bees, and split a duplex that had over-wintered into two hives.
Working with Honeybees is an incredible experience; The constant buzz and activity of the hive... the slow careful movements of the beekeepers... the warmth of the sun. It all comes together to create a very soothing and grounding experience. Life is hard for the Honeybee right now and our entire food system is dependant on them. To have an opportunity to work closely with the bees is both an honor and a privilege.
I have a deep respect for Apis Mellifera and hope to someday care for hives of my own. Until that day I will do what I can to support them: maintaining a pesticide-free, pollinator-friendly, and diverse garden for them to forage.