Bees keep us fed [UPDATED]Published 3:41am Monday, August 26, 2013 Updated 5:46am Monday, August 26, 2013
People used to think that the large bee was the King bee, that is, until someone caught the “king” laying eggs.
The queen will live from 3 to 7 years and lay up to 15,000 eggs a day. She controls the workers with pheromones. Workers only live from 20 to 30 days.
It’s no wonder they have such short lives. They do the construction, storage, guarding, care-taking, foraging and keeping the nursery.
The drone has only one duty – to mate with a virgin queen then die. He is the acrobat of bees, able to fly backward, rotate and flip. After all, he has to keep up with the queen in flight.
Bees have five eyes. Workers eyes have almost 7,000 lenses.
A charge on the bee’s hair attracts pollen. They also have brushes on their legs to scrape the pollen from the front to the back where it collects in a basket, a sac attached to the rear leg.
Their jaws bite and pack the pollen and shape wax for building the comb. They have two sets of wings that have hooks that can hook the wings together during flight for maximum efficiency.
They also use their wings to generate heat to evaporate the water from the honey and maintain warmth in the hive during the winter.
Wax is secreted from plates on their abdomens. They suck up nectar with an airtight, straw-like tube that they can also use in reverse to take honey from their honey stomach to feed the babies.
The honey stomach is a second reservoir where nectar is temporarily stored before being regurgitated. In other words, honey is bee spit.
In a single trip, a worker may visit up to 100 flowers and carry more than half its weight in pollen back to the hive.
And, after all that, will produce about one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey during its life. To make one pound of honey, workers will fly 55,000 miles and visit 2,000,000 flowers.
Yes they can and do sting, dying when it tears the stinger out of your hide. The venom has a unique mix of chemicals that may play a role in stopping the spread of HIV which it has been shown to destroy.
Why should we really care about this marvelous creature? Because we depend on her to feed us.
Bees pollinate 100 percent of almonds, 90 percent of apples, asparagus, avocados, broccoli, blueberries and onions. Eighty (80 percent) of cherries, cucumbers and celery and 65 percent of plums and watermelon.
Farm fields are a desert to a bee. They need flowers. The chemicals that kill other insects kill bees, too.
The moral for gardeners is — don’t use insecticides willy-nilly. Don’t use systemic food for roses as the blooms have insecticide in them that will kill the bees.
Plant single flowers. The doubles have less nectar and are more difficult for the bees to enter.
Love your bees and they will keep you fed.
Bev Johnson is a master gardener in Otter Tail County.