ABOUT OUR BEES
Our bees came to Gather this year from our friends at Lockhart Honey in the form of a nucleus or “nuc” for short. A nucleus is essentially a starter colony of bees that has been broken off from a larger colony of bees for someone to start a new colony with. A nucleus of bees consists of about 10,000 working ladies on 5 frames (foundational frames, brood frames, and a honey frame) with an introduced queen that is around 2 months old! The breed of our queen is known as Minnesota Hygienic and is bred to be effective in resistance to and fighting diseases that can find their way into the hive!
WHY DO WE NEED BEES?
First and foremost POLLINATION! Did you know that every third bite of food you take is because of a bee? 9/10’s of the world’s food supply is pollinated by bees. As it is true that there are other insects, birds, and lizards that pollinate, they are not very effective pollinators because the food they collect is only to feed themselves. Bees on the other hand are very effective pollinators because they gather food for their young and stock their hives with pollen. Bees have special built in pollen baskets on their back legs that they stuff full of pollen and take back to their hives and they do this by visiting many many flowers (up to 5,000) a day! And as bees visit plants and flowers seeking food, pollen is collected on their back legs and is released on other parts of the plants/flowers which is how plants get pollinated or cross pollinated! Talk about a symbiotic relationship!
DO ALL BEES MAKE HONEY?
No. Only honeybees! (well, a bumble bee can make a very small trivial amount of honey, but if cannot be harvested). Did you know that there are over 20,000 types of bees, but there is only 1 honey bee?! Bees are further broken down into two types: Social Bees and Solitary Bees. Social bees are the kinds of bees that form colonies and live together: honey bees, bumble bees, and Africanized honey bees. These three types of bees lives in colonies ranging in size from many dozen up to 60,000 – and make comb, store food, and produce honey. Solitary Bees prefer to live and operate independently or in very small colonies. Solitary bees live in small nests, forage independently, and only generate the food they need for them and the small colony of larvae they may have. These bees include carpenter bees, sweat bees, leafcutting bees, ground bees – and the list goes on.
ARE THERE DIFFERENT TYPES OF HONEYBEES?
Yes! The Honey Bee has 44 known sub-varieties – each with different breeds. The sub-varieties are all have their own traits and characteristics and are designed for different temperaments, outcomes and environments. Some of the more common varieties of honey bees are: German, Italian – (the variety that we have!) European, Carniolan and the
Africanized Honey Bee.
ARE THERE DIFFERENT BEES IN THE HIVE?
Yes, each hive has three kinds of honey bees. The Queen, The workers, and Drone Bees.
The Queen is the largest bee in the colony. There is only one queen per hive and her main job is reproduction! The queen is a very busy egg layer producing up to 1500 eggs per day! Another fun tidbit about the queen is she can live for up to 5 years!
The Worker Bee: The smallest bees in the hive. Worker bees are all female and have different jobs depending on the stage of the life cycle. From the moment the worker bee emerges from her cell she has a job and literally spends her entire life working!
The Drone Bee: The are around for one reason only, to mate with the queen. The are excessive eaters, and aside from mating have no other responsibilities. Drone bees do not sting.
WHAT IS THE LIFE CYCLE OF A FEMALE HONEYBEE?
Worker Bees have different job responsibilities depending on their age in their life cycle. Working honey bees start off their job duties as house bees and when they are about half way through their life cycle, they transfer roles to field bees.
Worker bees have short lives, about 6 weeks in the summer and up to 4 months in the winter, while a queen can live up to 5 years!
**Job Responsibilities can overlap/not all bees have the same job/bees jobs can change in an instant depending on need.**
WHAT TYPE OF HIVE DO WE USE AT GATHER?
We use a Langstroth hive at Gather. Langstroth hives were developed by Minister Lorenzo Langstroth in the 1850’s and were built to have removable frames but more importantly, Langstroth had figured out the perfect frame spacing within the hive (3/8ths inch apart) – to keep the ladies happy and the honey flowing at peak performance. Lorenzo Langstroth is known as the Father of American Beekeeping!
WHAT WILDFLOWERS DO BEES LOVE?
As honey bees cannot see the color red, the flower colors that seem to have the most appeal to bees are: blue, purple, yellow, and white. Bees in the Rocky Mountain zone enjoy coneflower (echinacea), bee balm, penstemons, snapdragons, lavender, borage, goldenrod, hyssop, and sunflowers.
DOES THE FLOWER CHANGE THE THE HONEY?
Does the flower effect the flavor of the honey? Yes! Most honeys end up being a blend of wildflower nectars that are available in the radius of the hive, but sometimes, there is a major abundance of a certain kind of flower in the hive radius, therefore much of that nectar and pollen collected will be dominant in the flavor of the honey. Examples include, orange blossom honey, blackberry honey, tupelo honey, clover honey, and the list goes on and on. Honeys can also have different textures and viscosities depending on nectar and location or if it is strained or not. Have fun experimenting with all of the different honeys you find, whether local or other places in the country or world and all of the different flavors they have!