WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY: An Intro to Honey Bees By Pure Buzzin11 July 2022
Presenting their introduction to honey bees, North East community interest company, Pure Buzzin, delve into the important world of beekeeping.
Beekeeping, as a practice, is a gateway into the world of pollinators – animals and insects that underpin the fragile ecosystem by moving pollen from the male anther of a flower to the female stigma of a flower. If you investigate a small sample patch of earth, you’ll quickly see that even the smallest of areas are bursting with life, all of which relies on the continued pollination of our world’s flora.
Honeybees live in huge colonies, with hives consisting of up to sixty thousand individuals. While each honeybee is an individual creature, the colony lives and functions as a singular unit known as a superorganism. Collecting sweet nectar from a flower’s nectaries using a long tongue – or proboscis – bees utilise the thousands of hairs that cover their bodies to collect pollen. Moving from flower to flower to gather more food for her colony, the bees transfer pollen from one flower to the next, carrying out the important act of pollination. Once pollinated, a flower can produce fruit and seed.
A GATEWAY TO THE WORLD OF POLLINATORS
Returning to the hive, the bee will add an enzyme to the nectar, starting the process of turning the nectar into their treasured honey. In a honeybee’s lifetime, it will make around one twelfth of a teaspoon of honey. While this may sound like a small amount, let’s remember that the bee is a part of a superorganism which can produce more than sixty pounds of honey throughout the year.
A BEE COLONY CAN PRODUCE UP TO 60LBS OF HONEY PER YEAR
A matriarchy ruled by the female of the species, the colony centres around a Queen bee, who lays around 2000 eggs per day, with all of her daughters keeping the colony functioning. Inside of the hive, the insects are in constant communication, passing messages around the hive in a way that is comparable to the human nervous system. Communicating primarily through chemical messages known as pheromones, female honeybees also communicate through dance – known as the Waggle Dance. By dancing, a bee can easily communicate to her sisters, signalling the location of nectar. Consisting of circular turns that give information on where to fly, oriented by the sun, and vibrating, which communicates how far to fly, research has found the Waggle Dance to be incredibly precise.
What insects and pollinating animals need is habitat; a place to hunt, to make a home and thrive. Monocultures, such as pristine lawns and asphalt are the pollinators nemesis – as natural habitats decrease and monocultures increase, pollinators’ are rapidly threatened. But all is not lost: there are simple things we can collectively do to help increase pollinator populations. The best thing is to almost do nothing; let your lawn become wilder and allow native plants to return with a flush of colour, creating a unique area that requires minimum input for maximum output that will change with the seasons.
THE SUPERORGANISM IS A MATRIARCHY
Even if you only have a small area of outside space or a balcony, you can create spaces for pollinators. Fill a tub with soil and leave it outside, it won’t be long until Mother Nature finds her way and a flower emerges, which in turn will encourage insects to visit. Sowing a seed or getting a plant from your local plant centre will of course give the pollination station a head start.
In celebration of World Environment Day, we should strive to be mindful of our consumption, where the food we eat or our indulgences have come from and what impact they have left on the planet. Finally, remember to share some of our love with the rest of the world – insects included. Take some time out of your busy schedule to observe them and become inspired by the strength of a honeybee colony.
Pure Buzzin' is a community interest company established by Stephen Douglas in 2020.