I think we should get ourselves some honey bee facts, after all there are so many healing and health-promoting opportunities for the humans begin with this little busy creature. As you read the following honey bee facts, you will be so intrigued just like me by this teensy-weensy fellow's extraordinary abilities.

Honeybees are a highly fascinating, remarkably organized society. Typically, they live in colonies which consist of a queen, hundreds of drones and 20,000 to 80,000 female worker bees. A bee colony is known as a super-organism as no single bee can survive on its own. There is division of labor and every bee must carry out their own duties and co-operate with one another for survival. The following lists the roles and responsibilities of bees in a hive.

 

Queen Bee

The queen is the only fertile female in the colony. It is the only member that is able to lay fertilized eggs. The queen bee continually emits pheromones (a bee perfume) that only the bees in the hive can smell. These pheromones keep the female workers sterile and also act as a signal to assure all the bees in the colony that the queen is alive and all is well in the hive. It is believed that this unique scent provides the colony a sense of identity and personality. The queen mates early in life, stores up millions of sperm within her body, and fertilizes her eggs as and when needed. She is capable of producing up to 2,000 eggs within a single day. To produce drones, she lays unfertilized eggs. A queen bee lives for 3 - 5 years. However, when she falters in her egg-laying performance, the hive will start looking for a replacement and feed royal jelly to a developing larva.

Drones

A drone is hatched from an unfertilized egg. This process is also called arrhenotokous parthenogenesis. Thus a drone has only one parent and a single set of genes that means he has only one set of chromosomes from the mother. So, paradoxically, a drone has no father but a grandfather from his mother's side! Drones have neither stingers to help defend the hive nor the necessary body structure for collecting pollen or nectar to contribute and feed the community. They live for one sole reason - to mate with the queen bee.  When there is a lack of food during the winter season, they can be prevented from entering the hives by the worker bees and as a result, die of starvation.

Worker Bees

Worker bees constitute the largest population in the colony and are all females. They are unable to produce fertilized eggs, however if there is no queen, they sometimes lay unfertilized eggs, which become male drones. Each worker bee, guided by a biological clock, assumes different responsibilities and performs specific job duties as she reaches a certain age. Below are the different jobs and roles of the worker bees.

Cleaners

Worker bees become cleaners of brood cells when they are only one or two days old. They are responsible for cleaning and polishing the empty cells that ready to receive new eggs and store nectar and pollen. The queen inspects the cells and if they are not clean, the cleaners will have to do it again.

Undertakers

When the worker bees are a little older, they become in charge of removing dead bees and disposal of the corpses to a place as far from the hive as possible. Diseased or dead broods are also quickly removed by the undertakers before becoming a health threat to the colony.

Nurses

Brood care bees assume the role of incubating and caring for the developing larvae. It is said that on average, nurse bees check a single larva over a thousand times a day. Worker bees also take nectar and pollen and deposit into them cells as food for the colony. They feed pure royal jelly, a milky concentration secreted from the food glands in their heads, to the queen larva, and a mixture of pollen, honey and jelly to the worker and drone larvae. According to a study by Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg in Halle, Germany, when a hive is infected with a parasite, the nurse bees selectively eat honey that has a high antibiotic activity and distribute it to other members of the colony. As the hive's medical specialists, they prescribe different types of honey as medicine to other bees depending on their infection (BBC Earth, Oct 2014).

Builders

Worker bees that are about 12 days old are mature enough to begin secreting and producing beeswax , the material for the construction of comb. The wax flakes they produce help with the building of new wax comb and in the capping of ripened honey and cells containing developing pupae. The bee must consume large amounts of food (honey and nectar) to produce these wax flakes. In 1999, Thomas Hales produced a 19-page mathematical proof that of all the possible structures such as rectangles, squares or triangles, honeycombs use the least amount of wax and are the most efficient and practical structures in nature . As Charles Darwin put it, the honeycomb is a masterpiece of engineering and is "absolutely perfect in economizing labor and wax."

Temperature Controllers

These worker bees control the temperature and humidity within the hive. In a hot weather, the temperature in the hive can get too high. These bees obtain water within a short distance from the hive and bring it back to spread on the backs of fanning bees. These bees ventilate the hive by fanning their wings, create airflow in the hive and bring down the temperature with evaporated water. When the weather turns cold, the bees congregate in a cluster to keep themselves warm.

Guards

Guarding the hive is the last task of a worker bee before venturing out to the fields. The guards inspect every bee that returns to the hive for a familiar scent. Only members of the hive are allowed to enter. Bees from other hives are occasionally allowed in when they bribe the guards with nectar. These "foreigners" steal some honey and pollen and leave. The guard bee also looks out for any crack through which a robber bee or intruder might enter the hive. These worker bees also defend their colony against other insects. When their stingers are used to attack the intruders, they tear their abdomen and die as a result. They also emit an alarm pheromone from a gland near their stingers to alert other bees on any impending danger.

Foragers 

When they are about fourteen days old, the worker bees leave the nest at sunrise as foragers and visit the flowers four to five-kilometer radius from the hive in search of nectar, water, pollen and propolis. They can make about ten trips a day, each one lasting about an hour and return to their hive at sunset. At this final phase of life, at the age of 6 - 8 weeks, most worker bees will die in the field. During the winter, bees stop flying, hibernate in their hives and live on stored honey from fall to the next spring.

 

 

 

Other interesting information

-There are over 25,000 species of bees worldwide.

- An adult worker bee's lifespan is about 45 days during summer months.

- Male bees are called "Drones" and they do not have stingers, their only purpose is to mate with the queen bee.

- A queen bee can sting multiple times without dying.

- 99% of the bee colony is made up of female bees known as worker bees.

- The average honey bee's wings flap over 183 times per second. The honey bee's wings stroke incredibly fast, thus making their famous, distinctive buzz. A honey bee can fly for up to six miles, and as fast as 15 miles per hour.

- Bees have an excellent sense of smell which allows them to find their hive.

- Honey Bees actually dance when they return to the hive to tell the other bees where the flowers are.

- Worker honey bees transform the floral nectar the gather into honey by adding enzymes to the nectar and reducing the moisture.

- The honey bee has been around for millions of years.

- Honey bees, scientifically also known as Apis mellifera, which mean "honey-carrying bee", are environmentally friendly and are vital as pollinators.

- It is the only insect that produces food eaten by man.

- Honey is the only food that includes all the substances necessary to sustain life, including enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and water; and it's the only food that contains "pinocembrin", an antioxidant associated with improved brain functioning.

- Honey bees have 6 legs, 2 compound eyes made up of thousands of tiny lenses (one on each side of the head), 3 simple eyes on the top of the head, 2 pairs of wings, a nectar pouch, and a stomach.

- Honey bees have 170 odorant receptors, compared with only 62 in fruit flies and 79 in mosquitoes. Their exceptional olfactory abilities include kin recognition signals, social communication within the hive, and odor recognition for finding food. Their sense of smell is so precise that it could differentiate hundreds of different floral varieties and tell whether a flower carried pollen or nectar from metres away.

- The average worker bee produces about 1/12th teaspoon of honey in her lifetime. It takes about 556 workers to gather half a kilo of honey from about 2 million flowers.

- A hive of bees will fly 90,000 miles, the equivalent of three orbits around the earth to collect 1 kg of honey.

-It takes 500 honey bees four weeks to make one kilogram of honey, and they will travel the equivalent of three orbits of the earth in distance to collect it.

- It takes one ounce of honey to fuel a bee's flight around the world.

- A honey bee visits 50 to 100 flowers during a collection trip.

- The bee's brain is oval in shape and only about the size of a sesame seed, yet it has remarkable capacity to learn and remember things and is able to make complex calculations on distance travelled and foraging efficiency.

- A colony of bees consists of 20,000-60,000 honeybees and one queen. Worker honey bees are female, live for about 6 weeks and do all the work.

- The queen bee can live up to 5 years and it's role is to fill the hive with eggs. She is the busiest in the summer months, when the hive needs to be at its maximum strength, she lays up to 2500 eggs per day. The queen bee has control over whether she lays male or female eggs. If she uses stored sperm to fertilize the egg, the larva that hatches is female. If the egg is left unfertilized, the larva that hatches is male. In other words, female bees inherit genes from their mothers and their fathers while male bees inherit only genes from their mothers.

- Larger than the worker bees, the male honey bees (also called drones), have no stinger and do no work at all. All they do is mate. In fact, before winter or when food becomes scarce, female honeybees usually force surviving males out of the nest.

- Each honey bee colony has a unique odour for members' identification.

- Only worker bees sting, and only if they feel threatened and they die once they sting. Queens have a stinger, but they don't leave the hive to help defend it.

- With the exception of allergy sufferers, it is estimated that it would take 1,100 honey bee stings to be fatal.

- Honey bees communicate with one another by dancing. More on their awesome sense of time, communication of distance and direction in "The Awesome Honeybee Dance".

- During winter, honey bees feed on the honey they collected during the warmer months. They form a tight cluster in their hive to keep the queen and themselves warm.

- Honey was so in demand in the eleventh century that it was a stipulation for German peasants to offer their feudal lords payment in honey and beeswax.

- Beeswax production in most hives is only about 1.5% to 2.0% of the honey yield.

- A beehive can use up to 10 litres of water per week.

- Aero-dynamically it is impossible for bees to fly.

- A person who looks after bees is called an Apiarist or a Beekeeper.

- Even with protective equipment, beekeepers can get stung up to 100 times per day when collecting honey.

- Bees need to eat seven kilograms of nectar to produce just one kilogram of beeswax.

- Worker bees live on pollen and nectar and live six weeks. Queen bees live on Royal Jelly and live up to six years.

- One kilogram of pollen contains, on average, the same amount of protein as seven kilograms of beef.

 

 

WHAT'S IN HONEY?

The National Honey Board has done extensive study and research about the history, nutrition and medicinal properties of honey and have compiled huge resource of information. For more information about honey, please visit the National Honey Board website.

Honey is a supersaturated sugar solution with approximately 17.1 percent water. Fructose is the predominant sugar at 38.5 percent, followed by glucose at 31 percent. Disac- charides, trisac -charides and oligosaccharides are present in much smaller quantities. Besides carbohydrates, honey contains small amounts of protein, enzymes, vitamins and minerals. Honey is known to be rich in both enzymatic and non-enzymatic antioxidants, including catalase, ascorbic acid, flavonoids and alkaloids. Although appearing only in trace amounts honey also contains about 18 different amino acids. Crane, E. 1976. "Honey: A Comprehensive Survey," Corrected edition. International Bee Research Association/Heinemann, London; Berenbaum, M., Robinson, G. and Unnevehr, L. 1995-1996. Antioxidant properties of Illinois honeys. University of Illinois.

HONEY CHARACTERISTICS

Each variety of honey has characteristics that make that each one unique. Some of the main characteristics are color, granulation, moisture content, Levlose (fructose sugars) levels and Dextrose (glucose sugars) levels. Honey color is always graded with a number. A low number indicates a light color and the higher the number the darker the honey. Granulation is also given a number value to rate at which point the honey tends to crystallize or granulate. Levlose, dextrose and moisture levels are based on a percentage.

USES

Honey has been used for everything from skincare to mead (honey wine). Honey is widely preferred as a sweetener because it is also a flavor enhancer. The wide variety of flavors available from different honeys makes honey a gourmet's delight.

STORAGE

If properly stored, honey will not spoil: A pot of honey found in an ancient Egyptian tomb was proved to be as wholesome as fresh honey. However, honey will ferment if it is diluted by moisture from the atmosphere or by other liquids. Prevent fermentation by keeping honey containers tightly sealed before and between uses.

IMMUNE SYSTEM WARNING

Honey should not be consumed by infants under one year of age or those with a compromised immune system.

SUBSTITUTING HONEY FOR SUGAR

Replace 1 cup of sugar with 3/4 cup of honey and reduce the liquid in the recipe by ¼ cup. Add a pinch of baking soda to recipes that do not call for sour cream or sour milk, so as to reduce the acidity of the honey.
Cook jellies and jams at higher temperatures when you replace sugar with honey.
Beat honey candies longer, and seal them more tightly when storing them to keep the honey from absorbing atmospheric moisture.

BAKING TIPS

When baking with honey, lower the oven temperature by 25° to 30° F to prevent over-browning.
When measuring honey, first coat the measuring utensil with a small amount of oil so the honey will not stick.
Store honey at room temperature rather than in a refrigerator. Keep it tightly covered and in a dry place.
If honey granulates, place its container in hot water until the honey re-liquefies.
Honey, because it is hydroscopic, tends to keep foods moist and tender. Therefore, if you are baking goodies for kids away at school, service members overseas, or friends out of town, always bake with honey to ensure freshness.

GRANULATION (OR CRYSTALLIZATION)

Is defined as a natural occurring process of honey that changes it from liquid to solid. Some people think the honey is spoiled as it crystallizes but according to the chart, crystallization in honey occurs when the honey molecules are at optimum temperature. It then begins to crystallize. This has a lot to do with how you store you honey. If you store your honey above 15.5c (or in a certain containers the optimum is 13c to 14.5c degrees) it will crystallize. Levulose and dextrose levels affect crystallization also, so typically the one with the higher dextrose will crystallize more quickly; for example, Clover and Alfalfa crystallize more quickly than Orange Blossom or Blackberry. Also larger quantities will crystallize if they are stored on a concrete floor and the cold temperatures are drawn up into the container. If the honey re-crystallizes very quickly it only means that the honey did not get properly liquefied which means that the sugar crystals did not get dissolved. So if you place your honey in a pan of water and heat it slowly making sure you dissolve all the crystals you can slow crystallization or it will re-crystallize within just a few days.

Honey History

It is believed that honey history dated as far back as 10 to 20 million years ago and the practice of beekeeping to produce honey, apiculture, dates back to at least 700 BC.
In ancient times, Egyptians sacrificed honey by the tons to their river gods, Roman legions slathered honey on the wounds as a natural cure to promote healing, and medieval lords reserved honey for their private use. It's told that the body of Alexander the Great was preserved and embalmed with honey. As honey was then expensive and not all could afford it, its use in cooking was reserved only for the wealthy. And ancient myths and writings on alcoholic beverages throughout the world also contain references to mead, or honey wine, which is known as the world's oldest fermented beverage.

The biblical history also contains honey facts related to its benefits and goodness. Honey, a delicacy fit for the kings and queens!

When refined sugar made from sugar cane came along, it provided a relatively inexpensive alternative form of sweetening and began to displace honey for culinary use. The benefits of honey since then became more focused on its medicinal properties and its use in fine gourmet and confectionary.

Today, the word 'honey" has gone beyond its association with its benefits as a food and has crept deep into many cultures and languages.