Imagine if all the honey bees in the world disappeared today. We would lose more than just honey. The benefits of honey bees goes beyond providing beeswax and honey.
There are over 20,000 species of bees in the world but it is only the honeybee that makes honey. They are also known for constructing nests for wax, the large size of their colony (each colony has about 60,000 honeybees), and their production and storage of honey.
The honey bee colony consists of the drones, the worker bee, and the queen bee. The worker bees are the largest population in the colony and are responsible for feeding larvae, foraging for pollen and nectar, tending to the queen and the drones and defending the nest for the survival of the colony. Their average lifespan is six weeks.
The queen bee is the only bee that can lay eggs. They lay up to 2,000 eggs a day and can live for up to five years. The queen bee can mate early in life and store millions of sperm within their bodies. The only job of the drone bees is to fertilize the queen bee and they die immediately after mating. Some other facts about honey bees are:
- Honey bees gather nectar from two million flowers to make one pound of honey.
- The average honey bee will make only 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.
- If the queen bee dies, the hive can produce an “emergency queen” by selecting a young larva from the previous queen and feeding it a special food called “royal jelly” so it can develop into a fertile queen.
- The buzz sound from honeybees is made by their wings, which can beat 11,400 times per minute.
- The honeybee is the only insect that produces food we can eat.
Benefits of Honeybees
One of the main benefits of honeybees are their functions as insect pollinators. While flowers provide bees with nectar and pollen to feed the colonies, bees help spread pollen between flowers in a process known as pollination. Without pollination, plants would be unable to create seeds and this could affect feeding for humans.
Worker bees, whose jobs are to feed the colony, collect nectar. Nectar is the sweet liquid substance that flowers produce to attract bees or other animals.The honeybees’ fuzzy bodies are used to collect pollen.
Pollen is a powder which contains the male genetic material of flowering plants. This pollen rubs off on flowers which they collect nectar from. This pollen transfer makes it possible to fertilize ovaries and enable reproduction. Plants are then able to produce fruits and seeds.
Although some plants are self pollinating or depend on the wind for pollination, most depend on pollinators such as honey bees. Therefore taking away bees would mean a huge decline in the availability of food and fruits.
- Production of Honey
Production of honey is one of the popular benefits of honeybees. Worker bees collect nectar from flowers by using their proboscis to suck it out and storing it in their stomachs to take to the beehive. While in the bee’s stomach, the nectar mixes with an enzyme produced by the bees, thus converting the nectar to honey.
The bees further drop the honey into the beeswax comb, which are produced by the bees, and repeat this process till the combs are full. For long term storage, the bees fan their wings to thicken the honey and when this is done, they cap the honeycomb with wax and move on to the next comb to start over.
You can use honey in just about any cooking method from grilling to baking. It is also a good substitute for sugar as it is more natural. Some of its non-edible uses include skin treatments and as an antioxidant.
- Byproducts of Bees
Honey is not the only good thing that comes out of bees. They also produce a natural wax known as beeswax. This happens when the glands of the worker bees convert the sugar content in honey into wax.
The beeswax comes out from the bee’s small pores to produce tiny flakes of wax on their abdomen. The worker bees chew these pieces of wax until they become soft and moldable and then add them to the honeycomb construction.
People use beeswax to make candles, wax wood furniture, polishing, and for waterproofing leather. They also use it in skin care products. Other byproducts of bees include royal jelly, mead, and bee bread.
Did we leave anything out? Let us know what else you benefit from honeybees.