Bug of Week 5: Honey Bee

This week we celebrate the magical honey bee. As temperatures warm up in the spring, the first pollen sources become available, and the honey bees are ready to go. All winter long, they have huddled closely together in their hive, sharing body heat and feeding on the food they stored up for the winter - much like us, in spring, these bees are itching to get out in the garden again! Though bees may be best known for making honey and beeswax, they contribute so much more to our food system from their pollination efforts. Honey bees pollinate 1/3 of all the food we eat, from zucchini to apples to watermelon to coffee. You may fear them for their stinger, but honey bees are actually very social insects with flying patterns and dances that communicate with other bees. Each hive has 1 queen (who lays eggs for new honey bees), female workers (who gather food and run the nest), and male drones who mate with the queen. 

Please be gentle and respectful to all animals and insects.

SpeciesApis mellifera 

HABITAT (WHERE THEY LIVE): Honey bees were brought to North America in the 1600s from European settlers to start honey production in America. These black and gold bees live in beekeepers' hives and naturally in the holes of trees or on rock crevices. They can be found searching for pollen and nectar in the flowering plants of gardens, farms, meadows, woodlands, or orchards. 

NUTRITION (WHAT THEY EAT): Honey bees eat pollen and nectar from flowering plants in a 3-4 mile radius around their hive. Pollen is a rich food source that contains all the nutritional requirements of a honey bee: sugar, carbohydrates, protein, enzymes, vitamins and minerals. Nectar is a sweet substance found in flowers that the honey bees collect and then convert to honey. Only the female worker bees forage for food. These workers gather as much nectar from each flower as possible. Then they return to the hive and pass the nectar to a different worker. This worker holds the nectar on her tongue until the liquid evaporates, creating honey. That honey is then stored in a cell in the hive. Magic! 

PREDATORS (WHO EATS THEM): Honey bees habitats are preyed on by skunks, bears, and hive beetles, however the decline of honey bees is due to the devastating effects of diseases, parasites, pesticides and climate change - all of which threaten hives worldwide. The bright black and gold stripes on the honey bee serves as a warning to predators that they can sting. 

LIFE CYCLE: In each honey bee colony, there is one egg-laying queen who can lay 2,000 eggs a day. This queen mates with the "drone" or worker bees and then lays eggs for new honey bees in cells of the nest. These eggs grow for 21 days, during which they are fed pollen and honey by worker bees. After 21 days, the adult honey bee chews its way out of the cell.