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Respect the Bee

Updated on July 2, 2010

The Wide World of Bees

One of the most familiar insects in the world is the common Honeybee! Bees of all kinds plays a key role in the human and natural world alike. More has been written about honeybees than any other species of insect. Why is that? Well, The human fascination with this insect began many many years ago when people discovered what incredibly tasty stuff honey is!

Honeybees have a bright color pattern to warn potential predators (or honey thieves!) that they have a weapon to defend themselves. Their weapon is a modified egg-laying tube (ovipositor) . This is combined with a venom gland to create a stinger located on the lower belly. The stinger is modified from a structure found only in females bees. Male bees cannot sting. When the hive is threatened, honeybees will swarm out and attack with their stingers to drive the enemy away.

Honeybees, like most insects, look at the world through compound eyes. These are made of hundreds of small simple eyes called ommatidia. The images received by all the ommatidia are put together in the insect's brain to give it a very different way of seeing the world.

Honeybees are social insects. In the wild, they create elaborate nests called hives containing up to 20,000 individuals during the summer months. (Domestic hives may have over 80,000 bees.) They work together in a highly structured social order. Each bee belongs to one of three specialized groups called castes. The different castes are: queens, drones and workers.

Bees in action

The Main types of Bees

There is only one queen in a hive and her main purpose in life is to make more bees. She can lay up to 2,000 eggs per day and will live two to eight years!! Can you believe that? An insect live up to 8 years! She is much bigger (up to 20mm) than the workers or drones (12mm). She has chewing mouth parts. Queens have a curved stinger with no barbs or obstruction on it and can be used many times.

Drones are males only and have no stinger. Their life span is only about eight weeks. There are a few hundred at most, ever present in the hive. Their sole function is to mate with a new queen, if one is produced in a given year. A drone's eyes are noticeably bigger than those of the other castes. This helps them to spot the queens when they are on their nuptial flight. Any drones left at the end of the season are considered non-essential and will be driven out of the hive to die.

Worker bees do all the different tasks needed to operate and maintain the hive. They make up the bulk of the hive's residents and they are all sterile females. When young, they are called house bees and work in the hive doing brood rearing, comb construction,  tending the queen and drones, cleaning and protecting the hive. Older workers are called field bees. They head outside of the hive to reap nectar, pollen, water and certain sticky things used to build the hive. Workers born early in the season will live about 6 weeks while those born in the fall will live until the following spring. Weird huh?

Workers are about 12 mm long and highly specialized for what they do, they have little pollen baskets behind each leg that can be used to store extra goods they are harvesting. They have a straight, barbed stinger which can only be used once. It is unfortunately ripped out after application.

Hi Honey, I'm Home

Honey is a thick, sweet liquid produced by certain types of bees from the nectar of flowers. Honeybees refine and concentrate nectar to make honey. They (honeybees) make loads of honey so they will have plenty of food for winter time when flower nectar is unavailable. Unlike most insects, honeybees remain very active through the winter, consuming honey and keeping busy in order to keep from freezing to death. (Hence the term "busy as a bee")

People very early on most likely watched bears and other hungry animals raid bee hives for honey and then tried it themselves! Once people found out what honey was, next they had to learn how to get it from the bees safely!

Where are the bees going??


Colony collapse disorder (or CCD for short) refers to a mysterious phenomenom affecting domestic honeybees. It causes them to leave the hive and never return, leading ultimately to the end of the colony. First noticed in the fall of 2006 in the United States, CCD has been the focus of loads of research to try to determine what's causing it. Pathogens, environmental toxins, parasites, and even cell phone transmissions have been the subject of investigation. One factor that has been identified and uniquely associated with CCD is a virus known as Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV). It is not proven yet that IAPV is the sole cause of CCD, but it is found in nearly all hives affected by CCD. A possible scenario is that CCD is triggered by various stress factors in bees infected with IAPV. Research is currently underway to test this hypothesis.

The Honey Poll

What food or drink do you think goes best with honey?

See results
The Backyard Beekeeper's Honey Handbook: A Guide to Creating, Harvesting, and Cooking with Natural Honeys
The Backyard Beekeeper's Honey Handbook: A Guide to Creating, Harvesting, and Cooking with Natural Honeys

The Backyard Beekeeper's Honey Handbook: A Guide to Creating, Harvesting, and Cooking with Natural Honeys [Paperback]


Delicious Honey Recipes

Orange-Almond Cake with Honey Syrup


3 cups of uncooked farina, such as Cream of Wheat - 10 minute cook time style (found in the hot cereal section)
1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups plain low-fat yogurt
1 1/2 cups Honey
4 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
grated zest of one orange
1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds, coarsely chopped

1 1/2 cups Honey
1 1/2 cups orange juice


Preheat oven to 350 °. Grease a 10-inch bundt pan, or coat with baking spray.

In a large bowl, sift together farina, flour, baking powder and soda.

In a medium bowl whisk together yogurt, honey, orange juice concentrate and grated zest. Stir into farina mixture until combined. Add chopped almonds and stir well. Pour into prepared pan. While cake is baking prepare syrup, see directions below.

Bake cake 40 – 45 minutes until golden brown. Remove to a rack. Poke lots of holes into top of cake with a toothpick. Pour syrup over cake in pan. Let sit in pan overnight. If necessary use a knife to loosen sides of cake from pan. Turn out onto a cake plate.

While cake is baking prepare syrup. In a medium saucepan combine 1 1/2 cups honey with 1 1/2 cups orange juice. Bring to a boil and simmer at a low boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam.

Serves: 8-12

Cajun Turkey Burgers

You'll be surprised how delicious turkey burgers can be!


1 pound ground turkey
1 cup white mushrooms, finely chopped
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon Honey
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons olive oil


Place all ingredients except olive oil into a large bowl. Using a pastry cutter or your hands, blend until all ingredients are well combined. Form into 4 patties.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add patties. Cook until browned. Turn and continue cooking until burgers are no longer pink inside.

Serve on buns with your favorite condiments - fresh summer tomatoes, onions, a slice of cheese, etc.

Avocado Salad With Honey-Cumin Vinaigrette

Served with crusty bread, this salad is filling enough for a complete meal.


4 Tablespoons lime juice
3 teaspoons Honey
3 teaspoons fresh parsley, chopped
3 teaspoons fresh cilantro, chopped
3 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely minced
3/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 large onion, finely sliced
2 large avocados, peeled, pitted and sliced
1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 cucumber, finely sliced
1 (12 ounce) package mixed greens


Combine first six ingredients together in medium sized bowl. Gradually whisk in oil until thoroughly blended. Add salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle over salad and toss.

Gently combine all ingredients.

Serves: 4

Banana-Peanut Shake

After school your kids will enjoy our nutritious peanut butter smoothie.


1 ripe banana, frozen
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons Honey


Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth.

Serves: 1

The Bee Within

Honey for Health and Beauty

Honey is not just for bread or tea at all! No no!

Honey can be used for many different things! Here are some examples!

Skin Rejuvenation

Simply adding 1/4 cup of honey to your bath water will create a moisture rich skin-softening bath

Honey and Sage Cold Syrup

Relieve a sore throat and other cold symptoms with this home treatment infused with sage.


1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1/3 cup, plus 1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar


Steep sage in a cup filled with boiling water for 10 minutes. Strain out sage and allow the mixture to cool. Place honey in a jar and add vinegar and sage water. Shake well. Take 2 teaspoons every hour.

Firming Facial Mask

You remember the egg white mask? Take it to the next level by adding the moisturizing goodness of honey!


1 egg white
1 teaspoon glycerin (available at drug stores or beauty supply stores)
flour to form a paste


Whisk ingredients together. Smooth over face and throat. Leave on 10 minutes. Wash off with warm water.

(from "Bright and Beautiful" by the National Honey Board)

yum yum

We want Honey Comb!

The central feature of the bee hive is the honeycomb.   This marvel of insect engineering consists of flat vertical panels of six-sided cells made of beeswax.   Beeswax is produced from glands on the underside of the abdomens of worker bees when they are between 12 and 15 days old.  House bees take the beeswax and form it with their mouths into the honeycomb.  The cells within the comb are used to raise young and to store honey and pollen.The comb is two-sided, with cells on both sides.  As you can see, the cells are perfectly uniform in shape.  Not only that, but the combs are built a precise distance apart depending on whether they are meant to contain food or young bees.  The nursery area of the hive is called the brood comb, and that is where the queen lays her eggs.


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