Impromptu adventuring, exploring our backyard and then putting pen to paper, hoping to entice you to try one, if not all, of our escapades, is my true reward!
Published July 16th 2016
My husband and I went on a Super Bee Tour at the Ginger Factory in Yandina and to say that we were blown away by what we learned is really an understatement!
A bumblebee carrying pollen in its pollen baskets - photo courtesy of Tony Wills, Wellington, New Zealand
How do Bees make Honey?
When the sun comes up in the morning and the temperature at the entrance of the hive reaches 16 degrees Celsius, the field bees leave the hive to search for nectar within a five kilometre radius from the hive. Did you know that a bee's sense of smell is ninety times more sensitive than a humans? Having located a flower, the bee hops on to it to look for the nectar, which is usually deep within the flower. As the bee alights on the flower it naturally disturbs the pollen grains on the stamens of the flower - this sets in motion the invaluable service of fertilisation of the fruit and seeds of the plant.
A bee extracts nectar from a flower as pollen grains stick to its body - photo courtesy of Sajjad Fazel
The bee sucks up the nectar through it's tongue which is hollow like a drinking straw and stores the nectar in its honey stomach. Many flowers have to be visited in order to fill the honey stomach - some bees can visit up to 32 flowers in one minute - can you believe that?
The bee cannot go home yet as her body is covered in pollen grains which provide a valuable mineral and protein food for the larvae back in the brood of the hive. So she quickly combs the pollen into baskets on her back legs and loaded with nectar and pollen, makes a bee line for home.
Bee covered in pollen - photo courtesy of Jon Sullivan via en.wikipedia.org
Once home, she quickly enters to give her 'stash' to the colony; the pollen is dropped off for the workers to store to feed the brood; the nectar is transferred, tongue to tongue, to the workers; the bees consume some of the nectar for themselves and the balance is stored for the colony's future use. During this transfer of nectar, the hive bees get information about the source of the nectar - taste, aroma, colour and the direction and distance it was located - so more bees now know where to find it!
How clever and thrifty is this?
Bee Hive - courtesy of ladele88 via Flickr
The nectar now has to be changed to honey. The water content is about 80% and if left at this level it will ferment. As the bees handle the nectar they add enzymes which split the dominant sugar (sucrose) into glucose and fructose. The temperature in the hive is about 36 degrees and the fanning of the bees wings evaporate the water until it is between 16% and 20%. This is now honey and can be safely stored and capped for future needs.
A hive of bees needs 125kgs of honey and 32 kgs of pollen a year for their own needs. The capped honey is referred to as ripe and is extracted for human consumption.
Did you know that to collect one kilogram of honey, bees need to make approximately 150,000 flights, fly between 150,000 and 450,000 kms and visit more than one million flowers?
Bee Keeper checking his honey bees and bee hives in a cider apple orchard - Photo courtesy of Alamy Stock Photos
More interesting facts:-
The honey bee is the only insect that produces food we can eat;
It's estimated that cross-pollination from bees helps 30% of the world's food crops and 90% of wild plants to grow. That means, without bees, most of the plants, including food and native plants, would go extinct;
The average worker bee produces 1/12th teaspoon of honey in her lifetime;
A colony of bees consists of 20,000-60,000 honeybees, and just one queen. The worker bees are all female. They will live for about 6 weeks and do nothing but work;
Bees are some of the hardest working creatures on the planet, and because of their laborious work ethic, we owe many thanks to this amazing yet often under appreciated insect.
By keeping flowers pollinated, bees perpetuate floral growth and provide attractive habitats for other animals such as insects and birds. Bees are easily amongst the most important insects to humans on Earth. These humble, buzzing bees deserve a huge thanks – for helping provide us with our favourite fruits and vegetables, their delicious honey, and beautiful, flowery gardens!
We all love honey! Photo courtesy of zcool.com.cn
Next time you're thinking of killing a bee, please think twice!
With thanks to Athol Craig and Skaidra Craig for valuable information obtained in "Nature's Gifts"