When we start studying insects, the facts about bees we learn leave us astounded. There are approximately 20 000 species of bees, of which 7 are honey bee species. Honey bees are the only insects in the world that make food consumed by mankind, that do not prey on other creatures, and that make a positive contribution to agriculture to such an extent that the world would not have enough food, if it was not for them
Bees are amazing creatures that have remarkable brain power, although their brain is only the size of a sesame seed. They can calculate distances and direction, they can give directions to a successful harvesting field. Without any official organizing, they form highly civilized and organized colonies, with each bee doing his or her job unselfishly.
It is interesting to note that a honey bee will have to make about 1600 trips to the flower fields in order to make one ounce (28 gm.) of honey. Each round trip can be up to 5 miles (8 km), and this adds up to between 50 and 1000 or more flowers each day per bee.
Pollen is also collected from the flowers at the same time, and stored in baskets on the bees’ legs on the flight home. This pollen can vary in color from the palest of yellows to a dark reddish orange. The type od flower and pollen collected by bees has a distinct effect on the resulting flavor of the honey. As the bees fly from flower to flower, collecting pollen and nectar, the bees are pollinating the flowers and plants they visit, and in this way make themselves of utmost value to the agricultural sector. Bees pollinate approximately half of all plants world wide.
Once the pollen and the nectar are offloaded in the hive, there are a few processes that take place. The pollen is stored in open cells in the hive. The pollen is mixed with fresh nectar, to make bee bread. This is the staple diet of bees. The honey is regurgitated into open wax cells. Here other worker bees mix it with enzymes, and still others beat their wings over the honey to speed up the evaporation of excess moisture in the honey. Once evaporation is satisfactory, the honey is sealed with a wax cap for later use.
Honey is not however counted as a staple food of bees. Only in winter do bees eat the honey, and even then it is diluted with water and mixed with pollen to form bee bread. As long as nectar is in full supply, the nectar is used to make the bee bread.
Water is also an important part of not only the bees’ diet, but also for the maintenance of the hive. A number of bees have the exclusive job to cart water into the bee hive, and to cart it around in the hive. This water helps with the cooling of the hive. As the water evaporates, the bees beat their wings over the water, and thereby regulate the air flow in the hive. This helps to maintain the constant temperature that they require.
Although many scientist have tried, no one has been able to create honey artificially, as we do not have the enzymes which are needed for the changing of nectar to honey. By learning all the interesting facts about bees that we can, and by protecting the bees and environment around us, we can ensure that there is a storehouse of honey available to future generations.