In March, I gave a report to share with my 4-H group. This is an edited version of my report.
Honey bees are insects. Honey bees have many features. Honey bees have six legs. The legs are attached to the thorax. Honey bees have five eyes. Two of the eyes are compound and three are simple. Honey bees have four wings. The wings are also attached to the thorax. When in flight, the wings hook together to create simultaneous motion. Because a honey bee is an insect it has three body parts, head, thorax, and abdomen. The honey bee has two antennae. They use the antennae to touch, smell, taste, and even hear. Honey bees use their antennae largely to smell. Honey bees also have two stomachs. One is for digesting food the other is to store nectar and is called a honey stomach. The honey stomach is not only a storage center for nectar, but also the nectar begins dehydration here. In order for the nectar to become honey the nectar has to be dehydrated. Honey bees have one stinger and proboscis. Honey bees only sting in self-defense and to protect their hive. The proboscis is like a straw. A honey bee uses it to slurp up nectar.
Honey bees live in groups called colonies. In a colony, there is one queen. The queen is a female bee. It takes her sixteen days to be completely mature. She is raised on a protein rich substance called royal jelly. Shortly after she emerges, she takes a mating flight. A mating flight is a trip a newly hatched queen takes to mate with drones. After her mating flight, all she does is lay eggs. A good queen can lay about 2,000 eggs a day. The queen does not eat or clean herself. Worker bees, specifically called attendant bees, clean and feed the queen. Workers are also female bees. The workers do all the work around the hive. They clean, nurse the brood, feed the queen and drones, clean the queen and drones, defend the hive, and collect and store pollen and nectar. Drones are the only male bees in a colony. They cannot feed or clean themselves. Drones exist solely to mate with virgin queens. After drones mate with a queen, they die. If any drones make it to winter they are forced out of the colony by the workers.
All honey bees start out as eggs. Eggs look like grains of rice. After three days a bee hatches out of its egg and it is a larvae. Larvae look like milky crescents. Workers and queens are capped on day nine and drones are capped at day eleven. Capped brood is cells that have wax over them. The wax is usually a yellow color. Drone brood sticks out more from the frame than worker brood. Finally, at the end of sixteen days (queen), twenty-one days (worker), or twenty-four days (drones) the bee emerges as an adult.
Here I am reading my report.
Here I am showing the hive and its parts.
I also showed my fellow 4-H-ers how a beekeeper inspects their hives.
Around the winter solstice, the queen starts laying eggs. During the summer, colonies start reproducing by swarming. In preparation for a swarm, the worker bees start raising queens. When the queens are capped, the old queen takes half of the population and leaves to find a new place to start a colony. When a new queen in the mother hive emerges, she goes throughout the hive and kills all the other potential queens. Sometimes a colony will swarm more than once. In this case the first daughter to emerge takes half of the remaining bees and leaves the colony. After the swarming season, the bees build up their honey and pollen stores in preparation for winter. The workers kick all the drones out of the hive in late fall. Then the remaining bees cluster up in the middle of the hive and the queen stops laying eggs. As the winter progresses, the bees move around the hive eating their stores as they go. To keep warm bees shiver. They rotate the bees on the inside and the outside of the cluster. The queen is always on the inside so that she is easy to keep warm. Around winter solstice, the queen starts laying eggs again in preparation for spring.
There are many reasons and ways to get started in beekeeping. One may get started because they want to help the honey bees. Both honey bees and native bees have been disappearing in the past few years. Many believe they are disappearing due to chemicals including: fungicides, pesticides, other plants meant to keep weeds and pests at bay, and the varroa mites. Varroa mites are parasitic bugs that attach themselves to bees and make the bees more susceptible to diseases. Others may get started because they want the products of the hive such as the honey and beeswax. Some may want bees for the pollination benefits they give and what they do for the environment. Some may even start a business from beekeeping. Although, it is really hard to make money off of beekeeping because the investment is so large.
There are a couple ways to get started in beekeeping. One way is to apply for the Iowa Honey Producers Association’s Youth Scholarship Program. You must be between the ages of 13 and 17 by November 1st of the current year, you must be enrolled in school, complete all the paperwork, submit the paperwork by September 30th of the current year, and be new to beekeeping with no immediate beekeeping family members. Recipients of the scholarship receive a beginner hive set up, hive tool, smoker, hooded jacket with an attached veil, gloves, free classes and a mentor for a year. I applied for the IHPA Youth Scholarship Program and was a recipient. So far I have attended most of the classes, built my equipment, and have even ordered my bees. I am keeping a record of my first year beekeeping on my blog Dassel Acres. Another way to start beekeeping is buying all the supplies yourself. For one hive, all the basic supplies and a package of bees would cost almost five hundred dollars. If you are going into beekeeping you need to know that beekeeping is an expensive hobby. All experienced beekeepers suggest buying two hives initially because you will be able to compare your hives to each other and will be able to share brood and resources between the hives.
If you do not want to be a beekeeper there are still things you can do to help the honey bees. One of the most important things you can do to help honey bees and native bees, is to reduce your pesticide usage. You can do this by not spraying your lawn at all, using pesticides nontoxic to bees, spraying between dusk and dawn (when bees are not active), and by not spraying dandelions. Not spraying dandelions is important because dandelions are the bee’s first food. If all the dandelions disappear, the bees will have a harder time finding food in the spring and more colonies will die off. Another way to help the bees is to plant pollinator friendly gardens. They best way to do this is to plant the flowers in your yard so that one type of flower is constantly in bloom. Having pollinator friendly flowers in bloom from April to October will insure that bees will have plenty of food while they are active. Because honey bees foraging range is up to five miles, you can support bees that live near by or far away. Finally, supporting your local beekeepers will always help the honey bees because beekeepers are helping the honey bees. You can support local beekeepers by buying honey and honey related products from them.
Why is it important to help the honey bees? Like I have already said honey bees and native bees have been disappearing. Another reason is because bees are major pollinators. Without the honey bees one in every three bites of food you eat we would not have. We would not have very much produce or grains or any meat. We would not enjoy the vast amounts of food we eat if not for the honey bee.
I really enjoyed sharing my knowledge and love of honey bees with my 4-H group.