Cool Honey Bee Info

What are good plants for bees?

⁠Honey bees visit flowers to collect food sources: nectar and pollen.  Nectar is turned into honey and pollen is a source of protein, minerals and vitamins. Dandelions and clover are good sources of both nectar and pollen and bees seek them out so please don't think of them as weeds in your lawn.  Instead, think of them as bee markets. Many other flowering plants provide these food sources for honey bees. Blooming trees (maples, tulip poplar, fruit-bearing trees,  holly, black locust, to name a few) are good early food sources.   

When planning your landscaping,  avoid azaleas and rhododendrons as their nectar is toxic to honey bees (and humans too). 

Is this 'Yellow Stingy thing' a honey bee or a yellow jacket?

⁠This is a good question and knowing the difference can help keep you safe.  Honey bees have a fuzzy body  (top) and typically live in either a managed hive or in the hollow of a tree, Yellow jackets have a smooth body (no hair; bottom) and nest in the ground.   As a result, it is easy to stir up a yellow jacket nest when you are mowing your lawn.  Not surprisingly, they are rather upset when they leave the nest and will sting repeatedly (their stinger is smooth) so it is best to leave the area immediately.    While honey bees can sting, the foraging bees that are typically flying outside the hive are on a mission to collect food are are less likely to sting, because if they do will die.  Their stinger is barbed and will stick in your skin.    

What kind of honey is the best?

⁠That is a good question and there are many answers to that question.  The answer depends on what properites you are looking for in a honey.   In any case, honey is an amazing substance with many health benefits.

Love the sweetness: Most any honey will do, since the major component of honey are sugars.   

Love the floral aroma:  Try a honey from specific floral source that you like.

Seasonal allergies:  Look for a local wildflower honey that is a bit opaque, That cloudiness is the pollen from all sorts to plants that helps train your immune system to what's out there in the air. 

Antimicrobial properties:   Although all honeys have antimicrobial properties, Manuka honey, derived from Manuka flowers growing in Australia and New Zealand, is enriched in antimicrobial properties.  Manuka honey is graded by its methylglyoxal (MGO) content.  There is still much to be learned about the usefulness of this honey.  

Oh no, there’s a big ball of bees in my tree!  What should I do?

Step 1: Don't panic.  What you are seeing is on a swarm, one of the really cool things that honey bees do.   This cluster of bees is quite docile and they, along with their queen inside the cluster, are simply looking for a new home.  The hive they just left was just too small.  Step 2:  Try to find a beekeeper and ask them to come and capture the swarm and who will give them a home which they are looking.  Be ready to answer the beekeeper's questions about:

a. the appearence of the insects (honey bee vs yellow jacket, no one wants to catch the latter);

b. how big the swarm is (small or larger than a basketball); 

c. where is the swarm and about how high it is (way up in a tree can be a dangerous task for all involved);  

d. about how long has the swarm been there

⁠What is an apiary?

⁠An apiary is the beekeeper's term for the bee yard, where his/her bee hives are located.   The choice of where to locate one's hives actually takes a fair amount of planning.  Some shade is helpful, but not too much in order to minimize moisture collecting in the hive.  Orienting the hive opening to the S-SE protects the hive from cold winds as does some sort of wind break on the N-NW side.  

Do honey bees sting?

⁠Yes, honey bees can sting, but not all the Dream Team are alike in this respect. Among the hive members, Drones (males) as actually unique, as they have no stinger. 

⁠The vast majority of bees in a hive are female Workers.  They do have a stinger that has a barbed end (think of a fish hook).  As a result, it is a single use stinger, because once she uses it, the stinger stays in the target along with her venom sac pulled from her body.  Therefore, she only stings once, in defense of her hive.

⁠In contrast, the Queen has a smooth stinger, which can be resused and thus serves a very different function that that of the worker's. During situations when a hive must replace their queen, newly hatched young queens may fight to be the one surviving queen by dispatching her weaker sisters queens with her stinger.  The winner survives to lead the hive.  This is just one example of how a  bee hive uses redudancy (rearing more than one queen, in this case) as a strategic plan to ensure its survival.