The Buzz on Honeybees

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Sustainability

July 5, 2018

by Bobbie Moore ’20

Bees are the world’s most prolific pollinators. There are many types of bees: like bumblebees, carpenter bees, sweat bees and honey bees, and they help pollinate our flowers, fruits and vegetables. The honey bee is a very important player in this pollination as well as the production of honey and beeswax. According to the American Beekeeping Federation, “Approximately one third of all the food Americans eat is directly or indirectly derived from honey bee pollination.”

Honey bees live in a hive where they have a queen, workers and drones. Each hive, or colony, has one queen, and she runs the whole hive. She guides the workers and drones and lays eggs. The queen bees can live up to fie years and can lay up to 2,500 eggs a day. Since there is only one queen per hive, if she dies, the workers will select a young larva and feed it royal jelly to make it a queen. All of the worker bees in the hive are female, and they go out to forage for food, they help build the hive as well as protect and clean it. If you see bees flying around outside of a hive, chances are they are worker bees. Worker bees typically live for five to six weeks. Lastly, we have the drones – the male bees. Their only role is to mate with the new queen. There are quite a few drones in a hive, but they are kicked out when winter hits.

Since the late 1990s, there has been a noticed disappearance of bees and high rates of decline in honeybee colonies. There are a few different factors that could be causing this decrease with bee-killing pesticides near the top. Other reasons that could be linked are industrial agriculture, parasites, and climate change. “The loss of biodiversity due to monocultures and the wide-spread use of bee-killing pesticides are particular threats for honeybees and wild pollinators” (Greenpeace). This decline in bees is alarming because a world without bees and other pollinators would be devastating for our food. In an effort to try and reestablish some of these lost colonies, lots of people have become intrigued by beekeeping.

There are benefits and rewards that come with keeping bees. Many backyard beekeepers have seen a great improvement in their gardens. One big reward for lots of people is the honey. It’s possible for a single colony to make around 100 pounds of honey. Harvesting honey is a big attraction to beekeeping. The survival of plants depends on pollination, which honeybees do a lot of. Honeybees and other pollinators are very valuable and beneficial to gardens. And of course, you are helping to save the bees! It may not seem like much, but even backyard beekeeping can be vital to offset the decrease of these pollinators.

Recently, the Graceland Sustainability program was interested and determined to bring bees to our campus in Lamoni, Iowa. After some time, we got a Flow Hive. To make it sound easy, the Flow Hive can basically act like a tap for the honey. These hives make it easier to get the honey, and they disturb the bees less during the process. The hive on campus was recently set up in an area behind the library. We are in the process of finding and bringing actually bees to the hive. With this, and our insect habitat we recently installed, we hope to encourage pollination on campus. We also will have honey that may be able to make its way into the community. And, of course, we hope to be able to educate people on honey bees and the important role they play in our food system.

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