Clara Valley Beekeepers Guild
Here we give some odd information
about bees and beekeeping. Your are welcome to add to this list by sending your
suggestions or corrections using our contacts form.
- Honey bees do not pollinate tomatoes well as they require "buzz pollination".
- It is almost impossible for a honey bee to pollinate alfalfa as it cannot
"trip" the flower, however they are used in California for alfalfa
but at least one souce this is due to the effect of the heat and the length
of the season on the flower.
- Most citrus trees do not require pollination to fruit. Tangerines, Tangelos,
and Pummelo are among those that may require a visit by a bee.
- There are about 3,500 species of bees in North America, and over 20,000
bee species worldwide.
- The smallest bee is about 3/50 inch.
- The largest bee is roughly 2 inches long.
- Honey is still collected from a 1 inch bee (Apis dorsta) whose temperament
makes the africanized honey bee (so called "killer bees) seem very tame.
- Honey bees have hives, many other bees have nests.
- Honey bees fly at about 12-15 mph (roughly the 4 minute mile), Bumble bees
closer to 18 mph.
- A bee's flight muscles are not directly attached to the wings, an arrangement
that allows them to beat 250-300 times per second.
- Of the roughly 4000 species of bees native to North America it is estimated
that about 1500 are found in California
- There are two important imported bees in California -- the honey bee and
the alfalfa leaf cutter bee.
- An acre of apples can be pollinated with 300 mason bees or 20000 honeybees.
- The most common hive used today in the US is almost exactly the same as
that invented in 1851 by the Rev. Lorenzo Langtroth. (An alternative design
is the "top bar" hive but it is rare.) Langtrouth's determination
of the dimensional size of "bee space" was the key to his enduring
success. (The existence of bee space was found by Huber in 1790.)
- For about 1800 years, from Aristotle to Charles Butler in 1609, the queen
bee was thought to be male and was called the king. During the same period
the prevailing thought was that honey bees reproduced without mating.
- Columella produced a book on beekeeping in 60 AD that included advice on
requeening, two queen swarms, uniting hives and how to deal with wax-moths.
This work was expanded on by Palladius in the fourth century who even detailed
the month by month work of a beekeeper. This book was still in use in the
fourteenth century when it was translated into English!
- Alfred the Great (r. 871-899) recorded an edict that a swarm should be announced
by the owner of the hive from which they originated by tanging. The noise
served to let others know to whom the swarm belonged and that all others must
leave it alone.
- "laying workers" produce only drones in all races of honey bees
except one (Apis mellifera capensis) where the worker's eggs produce mostly
- Compared to a worker a queen has no wax or brood food glands, no pollen
baskets, reduced eye sight, barbless stinger and a smaller brain.
- Bees "taste" with their feet and antenna.
- They use dogs to sniff out bombs so why not bees? Inscentinel
says, if they are trained, you can use honeybees as sensitive, vapour detecting
- Saccharine is not sweet to a honey bee.
- As a navigational aid honey bees have a built in compass as they detect
the earth's magnetic field.
- The Nobel Prize was awarded in 1973 to Karl von Frisch for his work, began
in the 1920's, on defining the meaning of the "bee dance" (the dance
was reported in 1788 but not connected to foraging until 1901).
- In 1994 Kirchner & Town reported using a robot bee to show that the
dance is actually a song-and-dance routine as the dancing bee must also "sing"
with it's wings to be effective.
- Ling Heather honey is thixotropic (jelly-like consistency) making it very
difficult to extract from the comb without mechanical agitation before attempting
to extract. Agitation can be provided by plates with up to 1700 spring loaded
pins -- one for each cell on a frame -- to stir the honey in the cell.
- A pound of wax makes over 36000 cells of comb (80000 per kg).
- The cells on one side of the comb are not aligned with the cells on the
other side. To add to the structural strength of the comb they are offset
so that the center of a cell on one side is the meeting of three cell walls
on the other side. Cells are also tipped up by about 13 degrees to help keep
the contents from oozing out.
- The wax base holding the cells is roughly 0.008 inches thick (0.2 mm) and
the cell walls are about 0.003 inches (0.08 mm).
- In climates where the comb may soften and spill its load, the bees mix propolis
with the wax to give it more strength.
- Over winter (depending on latitude) a hive will consume over 50 pounds (25
kg) of honey and have an average heat output of a 40 watt incandescent light
- Skep hives were constructed of straw rope. A well made skep was strong enough
to support a man standing on it. Unlike many pictures you see, a skep normally
had no entrance hole in it's side. Cutting the hole weakens the structure
enough that the weight of the loaded combs attached above it causes sagging
which, over time, closes the hole.
- To protect skep hives from the weather "bee-holes", recessed areas,
were built into houses in times past. Straw hackle (tee-pee shaped straw tent)
were used during the same period by those with less fancy houses.
- To harvest the honey from a skep hive it was placed over a hole containing
burning brimstone so that the fumes killed all the bees, which fell into the
- Bee Bee Bee won the Preakness Stakes horse race at Pimlico with Eldon Nelson
as jockey in 1:55 3/5 . Now who says horses and bees do not mix.
- What does honey and bin Laden have in common? Beekeeping
.com and a Mississippi
State news letter (skip down to Honey, I Shrunk the Opposition) discuss
a New York times article that says a lot, and also give a value to honey in
other parts of the world..
- UC Davis researcher Heidrun B. Gross, funded by the National Honey Board,
reported, in March 2004, that a daily dose of dark honey boosts the antioxidant
level in the blood increasing the body's defense against cancer. (The
- It is estimated that for most of the population the lethal dose for bee
stings (either africanized, the so called killer bees, and European honey
bee is between 8 and 10 stings per pound of body weight (over a 1000 stings
for most adults). However, for those allergic to the sting one may be too
- One reads in books and online that the best way to remove the bee sting
is to "scrape it off". A UC Riverside study found "There was
no difference in the response to stings which were scraped or pinched off
after two seconds." That is, use any method but remove it quickly. (UC
- 45 people died in 1996 from insect stings (E905.3) in the U.S. which is
about twice the number that died from dog bites (E906) that year but less
than the number who were killed by lightning (E907). (CDC,
search 'E' code)
For more interesting information tibits vist:
Hayden Bee Research Center.
Bee Facts by the MaconCounty Beekeeper's Association of Franklin, NC
has a short list but contains items others missed.
Suggested Tibit Reading:
- "The Forgotten Pollinators" by Buchmann & Nabhan
- "The Honey Bee" by J. Gould & C. Gould
- "The Bee Book" by D. More
- "Bees of the World" by O'Toole and Raw
Clara Valley Beekeepers Guild
March 8, 2005