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Little Known Facts About Honey Bees, Plus Poems

Updated on August 2, 2017
CatherineGiordano profile image

Catherine Giordano is a writer and public speaker who is a great admirer of honey bees.

A Bee on a Pink Flower

A bee on a cherry blossom.
A bee on a cherry blossom. | Source

Honey bees are vital to the food supply.

Did you ever stop to think what life would be like without honey bees? There would likely be very little human life around if it were not for honey bees.

Honey bees play a major role in pollination of fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Of about 240,000 flowering plants in North America, three-quarters require the pollination of a bee, bird, bat or other animal or insect in order to bear fruit. Without pollination, food for humans would be in short supply. Bees are the primary pollinator for about one–fourth of food crops.

Pollination occurs when the pollen from a male flower is transferred to a female flower. The pollination is what causes the plant to “fruit”, that is, produce a fruit, or vegetable, or nut. Bees fly from flower to flower to suck up the nectar from within the flower. In the process, some of the pollen gets stuck to their bodies. When they visit the next flower, some of the pollen rubs off and thus pollinates the flower.

Bees tend to fly from one flower to another within the same species during a nectar-gathering foray which accounts for the honey bee's outstanding role as pollinator. If it flew from one flower species to a different flower species, pollination would not occur.

Examples of fruit crops that rely on honey bees are apples, apricots, avocados,blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupes, cherries, cranberries, cucumbers, pears, raspberries, strawberries, and watermelons. Many vegetables require honey bee pollination--alfalfa, asparagus, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, clover, cotton, cucumbers, onions, radishes, squash, sweet clover, and turnips. Honey bees also pollinate almonds and other nuts.

In addition to pollination, honey bees give us honey. The average hive will produce about 65 pounds of honey a year. They only need about 25 pounds for their own food supply; the rest can be harvested by the beekeeper.

I wrote a little poem to celebrate the benefits honey bees provide to mankind. I know the bees do what they do for their own purposes, but I speculate that perhaps they know how useful they are to humans.

A Wise Honey Bee

Does a honey bee know how clever she is?
Does a honey bee know how clever she is? | Source

An Ode to the Honey Bee

by Catherine Giordano


Clever little honey bees!

Are they wise as Socrates?

Do they know the plant-world needs

All their pollinating good deeds?


Industrious little bees,

Honey making factories.

We owe them much thanks and praise

For the sweetness they bring to our days.

A Bee on a Yellow Flower

A bee alights on a yellow flower.
A bee alights on a yellow flower. | Source

A honey bee hive has a complex social structure.

A honey bee hive will contain 50,000 or more bees. Every one of those bees has a particular function to perform for the community. Every bee knows its job.

There is one queen per hive. She will mate only once in her life and is inseminated with enough sperm to lay up to 1,500 eggs in a day for the rest of her three- to-four year life span. The queen does nothing but lay eggs. She may lay as many as 1 million eggs in her lifetime.

Female bees are called worker bees. During the first half of their life they are hive bees; Later they become field bees.

The hive bees tend to the queen, the brood (the unborn bees), the newly born bees, and the hive.The field bees forage for nectar which makes the honey.

The hive worker bees have a lot to do. Young worker bees make the beeswax used to construct the honeycomb. Eight paired glands on the underside of the abdomen produce wax droplets, which harden into flakes when exposed to air. The bees then work the wax flakes in their mouths to soften them into a workable construction material which they use to make the honeycombs.

The honeycombs cells are filled with the gorged-up nectar that the field bees bring to the hive. When the honey has dried out sufficiently, they hive bees cap each honeycomb cell with wax to store the honey.

The hive bees also make “bee bread” to feed the hive. Some of the pollen that clings to the field bee’s body is mixed with nectar to produce “bee bread.” This is also stored in the honeycombs.

There are only a few hundred male bees, called “drones,” in a hive. The drones live “the life of Riley.” They don’t have much to do. About the only thing they do besides try to be the one of the 10 to 15 males that mate with the queen is to aid the hive by joining in with the flapping of wings that the bees do to heat or cool the hive, as necessary. The hive is maintained at 93o F. The buzzing sound associated with bees is the sound produced by the flapping of the wings.

A Happy Honey Bee

A bee approaches a flower to guzzle nectar.
A bee approaches a flower to guzzle nectar. | Source

Oh Happy Honey Bee

by Catherine Giordano


Honeybee, Honeybee,

Your life, it seems to me

Is so sweet and happy

Amidst nature’s beauty.


You can soar on the breeze

On your honeybee sprees;

Nuzzle flowers that please,

Guzzle nectar with ease.


The hive mentality,

Humming in harmony,

Gives you security.

Oh happy honeybee!

A Bee on a Green Flower

A honey bee about to suck nectar from a flower.
A honey bee about to suck nectar from a flower. | Source

Honey bees may literally work themselves to death.

An industrious worker bee may visit 2,000 flowers per day. The nectar she gathers goes into a special area of her body called the ”honey stomach.” When the honey stomach is full, the bee must return to the hive to disgorge its contents into the cells of the honeycomb.

She can only gather pollen from about 50-100 flowers before her honey stomach is full, and she must return to the hive to disgorge it.

A honey bee’s tiny wings must flap about 12,000 times per minute just to keep their pollen-laden bodies aloft for the flight home. During her lifetime, she may fly 500 miles, That’s a lot of wear and tear on the little bee. She will often die because her wings have become shredded.

A honey bee lives just three to five weeks. During her lifetime, she will produce only 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey.


A Sad Honey Bee

A honey bee only lives a few weeks.
A honey bee only lives a few weeks. | Source

A Eulogy for a Honey Bee

by Linda Fessel


It’s a short life for a honey bee

whose wings wear out

in freighted flight,

whose brief life ends

unobserved,

her fuzzy torso jettisoned

unceremoniously from the hive--

the only home she’s ever known--

to become a waiting gecko’s lunch.

And in the throes of death

she dreams of amber colored honey

that she sacrificed her life to make

but never lived to taste.

A Bee on a Blue Flower

A honey bee alights on a blue flower.
A honey bee alights on a blue flower. | Source

A Honey Bee Metaphor

The last poem isn’t about honey bees at all, but it just uses the honey bee as a metaphor. It is about how a depressed person will dwell on negative thoughts which deepen their despair.

A Lonely Honey Bee

A bee is used as a metaphor for despair.
A bee is used as a metaphor for despair. | Source

Despair

by Catherine Giordano


Despair is like a lonely honey bee,

Searching out toxic nectars,

Drinking the dark elixirs of gloom.


It takes a zigzag flight,

Stopping here, Stopping there,

Flitting about impatiently.


It alights on sad memories,

One after the other,

Until it has drunk its fill.

A Book of Poems Using Bees as Metaphor

The Bees: Poems
The Bees: Poems

This is the book for you if you have an interest in bees. The author, Carol Ann Duffy, has won major awards for her poetry. In this collection, she uses bee imagery and metaphor in her poems about life, love, and loss. I gave this book to my friend who is a beekeeper and she loved it.

 

Some Famous Poems About Bees

How Doth the Little Busy Bee

by Isaac Watts

How doth the little busy bee

Improve each shining hour,
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower!

How skilfully she builds her cell!
How neat she spreads the wax!
And labors hard to storeit well
With the sweet food she makes.

In works of labor or of skill,
I would be busy too;
For Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do.

In books, or work, or healthful play,
Let my first years be passed,
That I may give for every day
Some good account at last.


The Pedigree of Honey

by Emily Dickinson

The pedigree of honey
Does not concern the bee;
A clover, any time, to him
Is aristocracy.


To Make a Prairie It Takes a Clover and One Bee

by Emily Dickinson

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee, —

One clover, and a bee,
And revery.
The revery alone will do
If bees are few.


The Honey-Bee

by John B. Tabb

O bee, good-by!
Your weapon's gone,
And you anon
Are doomed to die;
But Death to you can bring
No second sting.

A Final Thought

This is not a poem, but it is definitely poetic. It was written by the author Ray Bradbury. It is from his book, Dandelion Wine.

“Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don't they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.”


Choose the best poem

Which poem did you think was the best?

See results

The Yellow Bumbee Bee Video--A Song for Kids

Acknowledgement

I wish to thank Linda Fessel and Jim Arnold, beekeepers, for their research assistance.

© 2014 Catherine Giordano

I'd love to have your feedback.

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    • Monika Chugh profile image

      Monika Chugh 13 months ago from Gurgaon

      Your poems are sweet and your rhymes exemplary. Thanks

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Thanks, Mel: I'll ask my beekeeper friends about the petals. I don't the bee did it intentionally. Bees are after nectar and pollen. I'm going to be doing another bee hub this week. The more I learn about bees, the more they amaze me.

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image

      Melody Lassalle 2 years ago from California

      I enjoyed your article and poems. Bees are so industrious. I did not realize they had to pollinate so many flowers in a day.

      I saw an interesting thing one day. I was watching a bee hover over our rose flowers, dipping in and out. Then, I saw it pick up a small petal in its legs and fly off with it. I had never seen such a thing before. I don't know if it was by accident or that bees do something with petals. Never did find the answer.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Tim: I just anted you to know I made the correction. Thanks for your help.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Thank you Tim. I used my beekeeper friends' research. I will check it out and correct it. When I use online research I always confirm all information with other sources.

    • profile image

      Tim 2 years ago

      One thing a queen will mate with 15 to 20 males not only 1.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      I'll look for Manuka honey. I live in Orlando Florida.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Suzanne thanks for the compliments on the poems. "Ode" and "Happy" were meant to be cute rhymes and not serious poetry.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      Manuka honey is available here in Britain so perhaps it's available where you are too. It's a tad more expensive but it's certainly worth a taste!

    • Suzanne Day profile image

      Suzanne Day 2 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      I didn't know you had to avoid giving honey to babies, that's definitely one to remember. Your poems are cute and your rhymes exemplary! Voted interesting ;)

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Thanks anart. Maybe I'll get a chance to try some Manuka honey some day. I'm so glad you liked my hub and pictures. The clip art ones took a lot of work, but I'm starting to enjoy creating my own pictures using free images as a start. I can't draw to save my life.

    • profile image

      Linda 2 years ago

      Nicely researched. I really enjoyed the poems. As you are a poet (and some of your friends are poets), I think you should always include a poem or two on the topic. They make a nice break from the stream of information and data (as interesting as they are).

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      Great hub and I like the illustrations too.

      Honey is one of my favourite foods. The best I've ever tasted is Manuka Honey from New Zealand, which is also used for hand creams and the like. It's so creamy, delicious and soft on the skin too.

      Lovely poems. Thanks for a good read.

      Ann

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      "Fertilizing and flapping!" I wish I had said that. Thanks for making me laugh with your comment. Look for my other Honey Bee hub for more info on bees. It was chosen as an "Editor's Choice."

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 2 years ago from San Francisco

      I love an article that makes me curious for more, and this one certainly did that. I had no idea that a single bee makes such a tiny amount of honey in her lifetime. Oh, and I didn't realize that the majority of the bees were female, and that the males are good only for fertilizing and flapping!

      What an interesting page. Thank you.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      DealforLiving: Thank you for reading. I put that warning right at the top because even tho I had heard it before, I forgot, especially the part about reading the label so as not to give a baby a food that has honey in it. Honey is a very healthy food, just not for babies.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      firstday: I didn't know about fake honey either. Lucky for me, I buy my honey from my friends, the beekeepers.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Esmonaco: One of the great things about HP is learning--both when I write and when I read. I threw in the poems as a little break from the deluge of facts, and it gave me the opportunity to do some cute pictures.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      tobusiness: Thank you. Writing these hubs about honeybees has taught me so much.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Thank you for your votes, Phyliss. I'm glad you liked the poems. Thanks to everyone who voted for their favorite poem. It just occurred to me--I should have included an answer for "I love them all." I hope that doesn't sound too conceited. Too late to change it now. People will just have to choose.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      chef: Thank you for your comment. Some people are becoming backyard beekeepers to support the bees. I'll do my part by writing about them. Support local beekeepers by buying their honey at farmer's markets and places like that.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Jmsp: Thanks for the compliments on my poems. Those are my light verse. Just cute rhymes. I also do some serious poetry.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      pawpaw: More bees or more hubs about bees? I'll be doing another one soon about beekeeping. But I'm thinking you meant more bees. There is a real problem with colony collapse disorder. I didn't write about it there are already quite a few hubs on the subject.

    • firstday profile image

      R Beggs 2 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

      I was not aware of the fake honey. Where does it end? This is a well thought out article.

    • jmsp206 profile image

      Julia M S Pearce 2 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      We need the humble bumble bee. Love the poems.

    • Pawpawwrites profile image

      Jim 2 years ago from Kansas

      Wish we had more of them. I think it is interesting how they communicate with body language.

    • DealForALiving profile image

      Sam Deal 2 years ago from Earth

      Thank you for this article on the humble honey bee. I didn't know that you had to keep infants away from honey or foods containing honey so thank you for the warning.

    • esmonaco profile image

      Eugene Samuel Monaco 2 years ago from Lakewood New York

      Well I certainly learn something every day here. I never knew about not giving honey to infants. Your poems are a pleasure to read. Thanks :)

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Loved it! A great way to spread awareness about our industrious little friends. We all need to do our bit to bring the numbers back up. Nicely done.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Hi Catherine. I like all your poems for bees - they are really clever and enjoyable. Your hub is packed full of very good information about the honey bee and its vital importance to humans. Very well done !

      Voted up, U, I and H+

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 2 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      Thank you for this. The humble honey bee needs all the help it can get these days. So much pressure on habitat and people not caring. You've not only given us fascinating facts but created poetry, quite a task. You must have been very busy!

      Votes and a share.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Thank you. And thanks for voting in the poll. I'd love to tell Linda her poem won. I started this thinking I'd have only a coup of paragraphs to introduce each poem, but there is just so much to say about honeybees. I'm glad you liked it.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Loved this informative and appealing hub. Packed full of information, great videos and intelligent and delightful poems. Voted up.