Tails Blog

Bees and bee keeping

Steve Coppell - Friday, July 06, 2012

Bees probably evolved at the same time as flowering plants. This means that there have been bees for at least 135 million years.

Bees that we see working among the summer flowers are collecting nectar and pollen.The bee will land on a flower and push it's long tube shaped jaws down inside it. Then the bee extracts sweet nectar using its proboscis or tongue. The nectar is carried in a honey sac inside the bees body.

Bees collect pollen almost without trying. While it is extracting nectar, grains of pollen from the anther of the flower stick to its furry body and legs. The bee will comb the pollen off its body and press it into pollen baskets on its legs.

As the bee moves from one flower to the next, any grains of pollen still clinging to its body rub off on to the stigma of the new flower and pollination occurs.The bee will visit hundreds of flowers to fill its honey sac and the contents of sixty honey sac's produce only a thimbleful of honey.

When the bee gets back to the hive with its load of pollen and nectar, it is met by a hive worker bee. The forager bee regurgitates the nectar and the worker bee swallows it. Digestive enzymes inside the worker bee's stomach change the nectar into watery honey. The bee then regurgitates tiny drops of this watery honey on to the tip of its tongue. The warmth of the hive will evaporates it. The end result is honey which we all know and love.

The modern hive has several layers. Frames are provided for the bee's to make combs in. Often the frames in the top section are where h
oney is harvested from. The bottom section is the brood chamber, where combs are made for the hives eggs, that later become larve. The queen lives in this chamber. A grid above the brood chamber prevents the queen from entering and laying her eggs in the top chamber. 

Thanks to www.tokresourse for the above picture.

Harvest time

Harvest usually happens at the end of summer when the honey combs are at their fullest. The bee's use stored honey during the winter months for food when there are no flowers to collect nectar from. Centrifugal force is required to easily extract the honey from the combs.

So it's not hard to appreciate all the effort that goes into producing one of our favourite foods. Harvesting honey is an ancient pastime. Evidence of organised bee keeping exists on rocks paintings of mesolithic cave dwellers. Our connection with the humble bee is understated. The honey we spread on our toast in the morning is just the beginning.