Bees & Beekeeping
By Luca and Harrison
On the first day of J Term, we had the opportunity to draft our topic that we would research and learn about through the next two weeks. As we strolled down the list of topics, we both looked at each other with one topic in our minds: Bees! After a bit of luck struck us as we picked the number one out of the hat, which allowed us to pick the first topic, there was no question what topic we would be researching.
A mutual attitude was felt toward our exciting J-Term trip to Greensgrow Farm. We were able to experience first-hand what it was like to be in the shoes of an urban farmer, this of which we both found to be quite interesting. She led us to the lot where their bees were kept, and they had nine hives, each consisting of approximately 30,000 bees. We learned that these bees were the healthiest in their area: a remarkable feat. In addition, the farmer told us that these bees produced about 10 gallons of honey in the late spring and summer, much of which was sold. As the day ended, we were reassured that bees were in fact amazing creatures.
Types of Bees
There are many different species of bees. Each one is classified into families according to their characteristics and abilities. Each families have different purposes in the environment. For example, the Apidae family is made up of the honey bees, bumble bees, and other stingless bees. Then, the melittidae family consists of four species of African Bees. To continue, the Andrenidae family are all the mining bees. This family is huge, consisting of over 1300 different species. The Stenotritidae family is made up of twenty one Australian species. These bees are very small. There are about nine different families of bees discovered so far, and more will most likely arise as time goes on.
Within the families lies the actual specie of the bees. There is a huge variety of types; however, some of the more familiar bee types include the honey bee, carpenter bee, mining bee, and the bumblebee. The honey bees are split into about ten different types and are all considered working bees. The carpenters like to live in wooded conditions and are known for their pollination skills. To continue, the mining bees have a huge population and like to work under ground. In addition, they are known for excavating tunnels underground. Finally, the bumblebees travel in tiny groups, consisting of about two hundred workers, and they work in the pollination process.
In 2006, a very important issue was discovered: European Honeybees (apis mellifera) were dying, specifically 30% to 90%. As it may appear to be an insignificant issue, it is in fact crucial. These bees have roles which other bees cannot fill. They pollinate crops, and without this pollination, the farmers would be unable to grow their produce, having a widespread effect. Also, this affects the food chain, the production of goods, and it causes the bees to be constantly moving. In an attempt to justify for this, some theories included that the bees had poor nutrition, were dying because of the pesticides the farmers used, and Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). This is when colonies just disappear and leave their queen bee behind. Scientists performed an experiment in an attempt to solve this major crisis. They found a hive which they thought had CCD. The scientists searched specific sequences and bacteria. They found the bees that had IAPV (or Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus) did not die, meaning bees with this disease were immune to Colony Collapse. Their conclusion was that the reason for the disappearing bees was a combination of CCD, poor nutrition, and pesticides, thought there is no definite resolution.
The purpose of beekeeping is basically to contain species of bees in a natural environment to allow them to live and produce materials. Beekeepers can contain almost any type of bee; however, bee species differ from each other and can affect some environments or the beekeepers in harmful ways. In addition, beekeepers have to wear special gear occasionally and prepare differently depending on the type of bee. To continue, the utilization of the bees materials is one of the primary goals for beekeepers. Bees produce several materials that contribute immensely to the human environment. For example, bees produce honey, royal jelly (Bee milk), and other substances. However, when beekeepers take these materials from the bees, they have to leave some of the products for the bees to survive and complete the cycle all over again. In order to speed up this process or help the bees survive, certain chemicals are used. Many people dread upon the use of chemicals on natural things including food and animals. However, depending on the type of chemical, the bees actually benefit from them. In order to do so, the bees collect the chemical and spread it around their hives as a protective shield. This kills bacterias and prevents diseases from getting into their hives.
- Honeybees flap there wings over 11,400 times a minute
- All bees fly at an average of 15 miles per hour
- Honeybees never sleep
- Depending on the bee species, a hive can hold between 40,000 to 60,000 bees.
- One ounce of honey can fuel one bee to fly around the whole earth
- One beehive can produce up to 400lbs of honey in a year
We had the opportunity and privilege to go to Greensgrow farm, a local, non-profit farm, and see their healthy bees. We saw how many nests there were (about 10 or so), and she told us a little bit about them. In addition, we learned how the new queen bee enters her new hive and how the farmers at Greensgrow actually witnessed this taking place. To continue, the farmer explained how the bees actually hibernate during the winter and how the bees were just starting the hibernation process when we were their. We learned that these bees are major producers of honey, and that they do swarm often. Though our experience at Greensgrow was limited due to the season , we enjoyed it very much.
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