Part 1 of a 4 part series on what bees do seasonally, and how you can help your local bee population.
Bees are important to the environment, everyone knows that, right? Bees are also in decline. Everyone knows that too, at least I hope so. Honey has been consumed by humans pretty much forever. It was even found in King Tut’s tomb in Egypt from 3000 years ago. The oldest sample of honey dates back 5500 years, it was found in Georgia (the country not the State).
About 1/3 of the worlds food supply depends on pollination. Lots of things help pollination along like, wind, birds, bats, and of course bees. The fact that the bees are dying off is distressing. Being here in Newstead for ten years, and mowing my own lawn (badly), I have noticed the decline in the bees. They used to be everywhere, buzzing by my head and freaking me out, or sucking up nectar from some daisies. Now, I see them so infrequently. My cherry tree used to buzz so loud with bee activity, you could hear it across the yard, and it would be just covered with bees, covered in them. Now, I have to actually look and listen to find them on my flowering trees. My strawberries, apples, pears and other fruits around here all are developing with inadequate pollination. Last year, my Mason Bees that I had been raising since 2008 just never hatched in the Spring.
So, what’s happening to the bees anyway? What is causing them to disappear? How do they reproduce? How do they make honey? How do they make a new Queen? So many questions. The Newsteader is going to get the answers to these questions and more throughout this series.
Since it is officially Winter, the first question is:
What do bees do in Wintertime?
To get that answer and more, I talked to Chris Campbell from The Akron Bee Company. Mr. Campbell read some books, took a few classes, and got his first hive in 2011. He currently has 10 hives that produce about 5 gallons of honey per hive. That is enough to enjoy some, sell some, and to feed the bees in Winter. His goal is to get up to 100 hives!
Contrary to popular belief, Bees don’t Winter in Florida. In late Fall, when the temperatures drop, they suck up the last of the pollen and nectar that the Goldenrod has to offer. The female worker bees do some housecleaning at this time. Part of their Fall chores is kicking the male drones out of the hive to freeze and die since they are no longer needed, and there is only so much food 😳🤭. Yup, the drones just end up in a big, dead pile in front of the hive. Then, the Circle of Life kicks in and a sanitation crew of Yellow Jackets shows up and eats them. Once the temp drops to around 45 degrees, they go into a state of torpor in a big ball around the Queen. The workers detach their wing muscles and flap to make heat, and they keep the hive at 50 degrees all Winter. So that the bees on the outer part of the ball O’Bees don’t freeze, they rotate spots with the other bees. They survive on honey that Mr. Campbell leaves in the hive for them, and it should last all Winter. If they get low, sugar cakes are provided to help them through the rest of the season. Currently, the bees are nestled in their hives, in torpor. The hives are covered with a sort of quilt to help insulate, let moisture out and keep heat in.
Now you know what bees do in the Winter. In the next part of this series, in the Spring, we are going back to The Akron Bee Company to talk about the mites that have been killing off the bees, organic bee keeping, and what we can do as a community to help our local bee population flourish. JAP