Scientists already know an enormous amount about bees – there are shelves and shelves of books in libraries written about bees – but we’re still learning new things all the time.
Who does what?
- In every colony of bees there are 3 castes (types) of bee: a queen (just one!), drones (hundreds), workers (thousands).
- The queen is longer than the other bees and lays up to 2000 eggs in a day.
- The drones are the male bees, whose job is to mate with the queen.
- The workers are females, who have different jobs in and outside of the hive – cleaning, feeding, keeping the hive at an ideal temperature, and going out for food.
It's a hard grind...
- Worker bees live for around 40 days, and in that time a worker will only produce about half a teaspoon of honey.
- Worker bees communicate the location of a food source to other workers, with a complicated dance. The dance uses the position of the sun as a point of reference, tells the others how abundant the food source is, and even takes into account things like a strong headwind!
- Worker bees travel kilometres to find their food – 3km (and preferably much less!) will make for happy bees, but they will travel far more if they need to.
- Bees produce honey for their winter food, but typically produce 2-3 times more than they need to get the hive through winter.
- If the queen dies, or if the hive gets too crowded, workers will create a new queen by feeding a larva royal jelly. A queen created when the hive is crowded will take a large proportion of the bees with her to form a new colony – this is called “swarming”.
Styles of honey
- Honeycomb: pretty much nothing done to it – just cut from the frame of a beehive!
- Raw honey: unheated, untreated, and unfiltered honey.
- Candied honey: all natural honeys will crystallise over time; this changes the texture, but nothing else – the quality of the product remains the same. Unfiltered honey will crystallise faster, as will honeys stored in cooler room temperatures. You can warm candied honey to make it smooth again, if that’s your preference. Some producers actually experiment with ‘seeding’ their liquid honeys with candied honeys to create specific textures from the selected crystal structures.
- Creamed honey: this is made by whipping candied honey.
- Liquid honey: filtered and stored at beehive temperature (not above 36°C) to delay candying.
Sources of honey
What about hay fever?
So we’ll just say try it and see how it works for you… Of course we’d say that!