Honeybee Facts from Our Apiary

Working with bees in our apiary has taught us many Honeybee Facts over the years. You probably already know how important bees are to the ecosystem, but did you know that one in three bites of our food relies on bees for pollination? Or that bee-by-products have potential medical uses? We didn’t either when we first started keeping our bees!

Royal Jelly
Honeybee Facts Royal Jelly is made by bees to support bringing a new queen into the hive. Photo: Chesterhaven Beach Farm.

Honeybees play a vital role in our ecosystem.

Honeybees, the only insect that produces food for humans, have been around millions of years. They play a vital role in the ecosystem and pollinate nearly a quarter of all the foods that humans consume and 80 percent of the world’s crops. Their pollination services are worth as much as $15 billion a year in the United States. In addition to producing honey, bees also produce wax, propolis, and royal jelly in their hives.

All of these bee-by-products are used by people in various cosmetic, personal care, and chemical applications. From the beeswax in your Lip Balm to the royal jelly in your face cream, bees play an important role in how people live their lives.

Honeybee facts to share:

Bees are smart and able to learn and remember things. They make complex calculations about distance and foraging, and their honeycomb is considered one of the most practical, efficient structures in nature. A single bee can carry about half her own body weight in pollen for several miles. Honeybees communicate with one another through smell and dance.

Photo of a honey bee on flower
Honeybee on mountain mint at Chesterhaven Beach Farm

Sweet Honey Facts

A colony houses 20,000 to 60,000 honey bees and one queen, who lays up to 2,500 eggs per day. Honey bees will travel up to three miles from the colony to gather nectar, visiting between 50 and 100 flowers per trip and as many as 2,000 flowers a day. The average worker bee produces about 1/12 teaspoon of honey in her six-week lifetime. To make one pound of honey, around 2 million flowers must be visited.

Americans consume roughly 285 million pounds of honey each year. Honey contains enzymes, vitamins, and minerals. One of the most interesting bee facts we’ve learned is that honey is one of the very few foods containing pinocembrin. This compound is an antioxidant associated with improved brain function. Who knew?!

Honey isn’t the only important product that bees create! Propolis may help with the healing process—its effects on sores, skin infections, and certain viruses are in testing.

Regimented Bee stings administered by a professional, known as apitherapy may also ease the pain that is caused by rheumatoid arthritis.

Fifteen years ago it was typical for American beekeepers to produce 70-80 kilos per hive. In recent years, 20-25 kilos are usual and 35 kilos are regarded as a good extraction. This has affected not only the supply of honey but has led to increased prices.

A frame of honeycomb and bees for bee facts piece

The most important honeybee facts: How you can help the bees

In recent years, scientists have documented an increase in mass bee die-offs. This troubling phenomenon may be due to increased pesticide use, rising crop prices that have led farmers to replace diverse planting with monoculture farming, and varroa mite, a parasite that has proven deadly to bees.

Moreover, as the climate continues to change, blooming seasons and weather become unpredictable and dangerous for the bees. But, there’s always something you can do to help!

A big way to help the bees is by planting a pollinator garden. By creating a botanical sanctuary, you give the bees a place to eat while also beautifying your land. Another way to help the bees is by supporting local beekeepers. In buying their honey, you’re giving back directly to the farmers, so that they can continue to grow their hives.

A short film by Melina Madara

Imagine a world without honey and honey bees.

Imagine that scientists in this world discover that plant nectars have important curative properties that are enhanced when certain enzymes are added. Now imagine how much time and effort it would take for scientists to extract the nectar from plants: micropipettes, or ultra-thin straws, would be used to suck the nectar from flowers; or flowers could be harvested, placed in a centrifuge the nectar spun out, collected and filtered. The moisture content of the collected nectar would have to be reduced by heating or evaporation from 60% to 16% to prevent fermentation, followed by the addition of the necessary enzymes. This whole process would be so time and labor-intensive that only a wealthy few could afford the finished product.

Add honeybees to this world.

The honeybee’s tongue serves as a micropipette. Under the best conditions, an individual honeybee can make over 1,000 flower visits to collect a quarter of a teaspoon of nectar in a day. The vast number of these winged workers would not only collect significant quantities of nectar but would also lower the moisture content of the nectar to 16% by fanning their wings to evaporate the water from the nectar. These same bees would add the necessary enzymes and produce the finished product…

-an excerpt from Honey the Gourmet Medicine by Joe Traynor

macro image of corner of honeycomb
Macro shot of honeycomb by Melina Madara

Honeybee Facts Sources:

About the Author

kara

Kara waxes about the bees, creates and tests recipes with her friend Joyce, and does her best to share what she’s learned and continues to learn about the bees, honey, ingredients we use and more.

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