Honey bee stewardship is the epitome of continuing education. There are always more questions than answers, partly because the life of a honey bee community, in a word, is miraculous, and we humans struggle with miracles. Honey bees are creatures that have survived who knows how many millenia because they know about unselfish cooperation. What can we do to help ourselves by helping them? Please send me your questions, and I'll do my best to answer them.
Who are those bees?
Well, those big buzzers that we see in late Spring through early Fall are drones/males. Their only job, so we think, is to mate with the queen, a good deal, unless you know their fate. And those thousands of little ones? Ah, they're the workers, females all! In the height of the season, they live only a short time..4-6 weeks, maybe. And in the course of that short life span, you'd be surprised how many new responsibilities they take on. So, where's the queen? Oh for sure, she's inside the hive, laying eggs, say 1000-1500 per day in the busy season. And you can bet that the workers are taking good care of her. Although she's the queen, she does not rule the hive.
Where do bees go in the winter?
Not far at all. They cluster together up in the top of the hive, where it's the warmest, near their food stores, and they keep warm by rotating positions in the cluster, the outsiders flexing their muscles to create heat for the insiders, and then they all slowly rotate positions...kool, yes...but warm, too...about 95 degrees year round. Johann Thur, 19th century author of "Beekeeping,Natural Simple Ecological", emphasized the need for heat and scent to keep the hive healthy. Are we listening?
Everybody's asking, What's CCD?
Colony Collapse Disorder. Bees fly out of the hive and do not return. There is so much research, so many questions, that even the brightest and best have best guesses, at best. The pointer is beginning to swing towards "lots of bad stuff all happening simultaneously". Some suspects include: monoculture (one crop only for migratory foraging), systemic pesticides, varroa and other mites, viruses, poor immune system weakening due to poor nutrition (high-fructose corn syrup), to name some. Google "CCD" and you can read for weeks. Some beekeepers are partially to blame for putting chemicals into their own hives. A statistic: since 2006 the colony loss in US alone is around 40%.
From "Fine Gardening" magazine, February 2014 #155, 7 Beekeeping Myths by Richard Fell...Can you name them?
Consult the magazine for more lucid detail. 1. Bees need to be in a rural setting to produce honey. 2. The bees will swarm--and that's scary. 3. Bees are aggressive. 4. Beekeeping is labor intensive. 5. You must keep honeybees to have bountiful crops. 6. Beekeeping is expensive. 7. Your neighbors won't let you keep bees. Again, back to the magazine for detail and a whole lot more.
Why did I organize this website?
To promote chemical-free beekeeping, and to show that stewardship is a different way to look at bee-keeping. We are not masters of our planet, but stewards. Do we care enough to care for them in a way that is best for them, and not necessarily best for us? When we take the time to observe these miraculous insects, even in the most casual way, we are amazed with events that even the greatest research and technology cannot fully explain. What can we, as backyard beekeepers, do to improve the lot of the honey bee? Possibly, improve plant diversity, reduce/eliminate our own use of insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and a continually growing list of "--cides" that soon lose their effectiveness. By example, all of us can make a difference.
How many bees in a hive?
An accountant might ask, "how many do you want there to be?" If there are any accountatnt beekeepers out there, the quote is a joke! In a Langstroth, 2 boxes high, in summer, maybe 50,000. That would be one queen, a guess of 500 or so drones (males), and the rest workers, females all. In the winter, still one queen, no (zero) drones, and say 5,000 workers. In a Warre, in summer, 1 queen, 200 or so drones, and 25-30 thousand workers.
What's the difference between a hive and a colony?
In layman's terms, a hive is comparable to a home...man-made of wood and components necessary for living. A colony is a family, a group, and in my case, a nest, of apis mellifera ligustica, Italian honey bees.
What can we do to improve the life of the bees?
With our flower-less landscapes, e.g. lawns, we could take a small part of that lawn and grow wildflowers indigineous to our area. Oh, and we could try to wean ourselves off all "-icides", like pesticides. Maybe we could try to grow our own tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers - you know, a "garden" salad. All of us...little by little.