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Little Known Facts About Honey Bees, Plus Poems
A Bee on a Pink Flower
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
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 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
Oh Happy Honey Bee
by Catherine Giordano
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
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 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
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 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
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
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
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,
The revery alone will do
If bees are few.
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?
The Yellow Bumbee Bee Video--A Song for Kids
I wish to thank Linda Fessel and Jim Arnold, beekeepers, for their research assistance.
© 2014 Catherine Giordano