I have to say that after looking down and realizing that I was covered in bees (during my first hive inspection…ever) it became difficult to focus on completing the task. However, a few deep breathes later I also became aware that the bees were NOT stinging me! This is when I initially experienced not just an appreciation for honeybees, but genuine joy in my beekeeping responsibilities. Honeybees are truly awesome!
The bees had no interest in stinging me. They are a fairly focused species. They want to collect pollen, make honey and repeat.
I just happened to be standing in their flight path. Bees establish a path to get in and out of the hive and they stick to the path. Therefore, I created my situation. I opened and then smoked the hive causing the bees to leave, and then I stood in their way.
In addition to those that collect pollen and those that make honey, the honeybees have other clearly defined jobs that support their main honey making goal. The jobs of the female worker bees include:
- Bees that make honey
- Bees that collect pollen and nectar
- Nursery bees (to help make strong honey makers …the brood)
- Guard bees (to protect the honey…and the queen!)
- Mortuary bees (to remove deceased bees) Insuring that movement throughout the hive and the honey making process is not interrupted by the many bees that die each day
Other than the queen, who can live up to five-years, honeybees live approximately six-weeks. And, they live those weeks progressing through several of the jobs listed above.
Many honeybees start out working in the nursery. Caring for the young allows new honeybees to become familiar with the scent of the hive. Knowing the scent of the hive is necessary to successfully complete the other hive responsibilities. If they do not know the scent of the hive and the scent of the bees that belong in their hive, then they cannot guard the hive from intruders who will smell differently. The scent is also essential for pollen collecting bees. After leaving the hive, pollen collecting bees use scent to navigate their way back to the hive.
While the honeybees are busy doing the jobs that allow them to make a source of food and ensure their survival; they just happen to help people too. When honeybees fly flower to flower collecting pollen and nectar, they accidentally transfer pollen from one flower to another. This transfer of pollen can fertilize the flower and produce fruit. Fruits that are products of honeybee pollination include cherries, cucumbers, melons, cranberries, plums and apples to name a few.
Now that I have gained an appreciation for what the honeybees do for us (even if it is by accident) and a total fascination for the honeybee social structure; keeping honeybees and talking about honeybees is a great joy.
My respect for them means that it still takes me a long time to complete a hive inspection, but at least I’ve learned to work the smoker!