Honeybees Interesting Facts Bees wax

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					WL 8

                                               information on the environment / eolas ar an gcomhshaol


       Honeybees-Interesting Facts
       The Honeybee belongs to the                                                 months in winter and early spring.
       insect order Hymenoptera, which                                             All worker bees are females
       order contains many thousands of                                            (infertile) and are smaller than the
       species of bees, wasps, ants and                                            queen. The young worker bees
       many groups of parasitic insects.                                           remain in the hive for two weeks
                                                                                   where they are involved in
       The bee has been known to the
                                                   Worker                          cleaning empty cells, caring for the
       human race for many thousands of
                                                                                   young, building comb and
       years. There is a very old
                                                                                   processing the incoming nectar.
       educational painting in a rock
                                                                                   When the worker is 10 - 14 days
       shelter in Spain depicting bees.
                                                                                   old, it flies to the field where it
       Stone Age man ate honey which
                                                                                   forages, collecting nectar, pollen
       he stole from the nests of wild
                                                                                   and water and then returns to the
       bees. Bees were first kept by man
                                                   Drone                           hive.
       in hollow logs with sticks to
       support the honey combs. Later                                              Some worker bees perform guard
       man kept bees in straw baskets                                              duty at the hive entrance
       called ‘skeps’ and today, bees are                                          defending the hive against
       kept in standard hives.                                                     strangers; other workers at the
                                                                                   entrance fan fresh air into the hive
       There are about 10,000 species of
                                                                                   and force out stale air. The
       bees which roughly are divided              Queen                           movement of the workers’ wings
       into two main groups: Social Bees
                                             Three kinds of bees make up a         help to produce enough heat to
       that live in colonies and Solitary
                                             honey bee colony. The colony          keep the colony of bees at an even
       Bees that live alone.
                                             consists of thousands of              temperature. The sting of a worker
       Feithidí sóisialta atá sna Beacha     workers, one queen and few            bee is straight, with barks or hooks
       Meala. Cónaíonn agus saothraíonn      hundred drones.                       on it. Bees depend on their sting as
       siad le chéile i ngrúpaí móra a                                             their only means of self defence
       dtugtar coilíneachtaí mar ainm                                              and will only sting when they feel
       orthu. Is mar seo a leanas leagan    The QUEEN honeybee lays the eggs       they are under threat.
       amach na gcoilíneachtaí:             that hatch into thousands of           DRONES are the male honeybees
       • A QUEEN (the reproductive          young bees. Laying eggs is the         and are large burly clumsy
         female)                            queen’s only function, she does not    creatures with hairy bodies and
                                            gather food or build honeycomb.        large eyes. They develop from
       • The WORKERS (infertile females)    Queens can live for 3 - 4 years and    unfertilized eggs and their only
         numbering about 10,000 in          may lay up to 2,000 eggs per day       function is to mate with young
         winter and increasing to about     at a peak time. The queen has a        queens. After mating the drones
         60,000 in mid summer               smooth curved sting which she          die. They have no sting and are
       • DRONES (male bees) numbering       uses only to kill rival queens.        unable to defend themselves
         200 - 1,000 approximately and      The WORKERS do all the work in         against workers who ruthlessly
         are present in the colony mainly   the colony. They live for about 6      force them out of the hive when
         during the summer month            weeks in summer and up to 6            there is a scarcity of food and at
                                                                                   the start of the winter period.

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ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY GARDENING / Honeybees: Interesting facts / WL 8

Bee larvae                               Honey is presented in many forms:          Beeswax
Bees like other insects are              • LIQUID HONEY: this honey is              Beeswax is a by-product of
produced from eggs. The queen              extracted from the combs and is          beekeeping and is a highly
lays one egg in each cell of the           sold in glass jars. It is available in   valuable product. It has many uses
comb. The eggs are very small,             many different colours depending         e.g. candle making, polishes, art,
pearly white, visible to the naked         on the flowers used by the bee.          cosmetics. It is used in beekeeping
eye. After three days a tiny             • COMB HONEY: is honey stored by           as foundation in frames to
wormlike larva hatches from each           bees in the cells of freshly built       encourage bees to build comb.
egg. It is fed for three days on food      comb and is sold as sections or          Beeswax is produced by bees from
produced from the head glands of           pieces of cut comb in plastic            their own bodies. Worker bees have
the worker bees. When the larva is         containers.                              four pairs of wax glands on the
three days old, it is fed a mixture of
                                         • CHUNK HONEY: is liquid honey             underside of their abdomens. The
honey and pollen. Five days after
                                           with one or more pieces of comb          wax oozes through these glands
the larvae hatches, the worker bee
                                           honey and is sold in glass jars.         and forms tiny flakes or scales on
builds a wax cap over the cell. In
                                                                                    the outside of the abdomen. The
it’s sealed cell the larvae changes
                                         • CREAMED HONEY: all honeys                flakes are then passed to the bee’s
into a pupa, then the pupa
                                           granulate or crystallise with time.      jaws. The flakes are then chewed
develops into an adult bee. The
                                           When the rate of crystallisation is      and other materials may be added
adult worker bee bites it’s way out
                                           controlled, a creamed honey is           to them. When they are soft, the
of the cell 21 days after the egg is
                                           obtained. Creamed honey is               bee puts the wax on the part of
laid. The drone takes 24 days and
                                           suitable as a spread.                    the comb that it is constructing.
the queen 16 days.
                                                                                    Wax is produced usually by young
                                         Nectar is an essential food for bees
Honey - what is it and how                                                          worker bees about 10 to 16 days
                                         and can be used immediately to
                                                                                    old, but in an emergency older
is it made?                              feed bees. If it is not used at once
                                                                                    bees can also do the work. The
                                         the bees will store nectar as honey
From the human point of view,                                                       bees produce wax only when it is
                                         for use later. If the bees have more
honey is the prime product of the                                                   needed to build the honeycomb.
                                         honey than they need, the
honeybee. Honey is a foodstuff,
                                         beekeeper will remove the surplus          Wax can only be made if the bees
which is produced by the honeybee
                                         honey for his own use.                     are very warm. In order to obtain
from the nectar of blossoms, which
                                                                                    this warmth, the bees cluster
bees collect, transform, combine
with specific substances of their        By-products of the hive                    together on the comb they are
                                                                                    building. The hexagonal shape of
own, and store and leave in              Propolis                                   the honey comb cells constructed
honeycombs. Bees use the honey to        Propolis is a by-product of the hive.      with remarkable precision and
feed the larvae during the winter.       It is a sticky substance collected by      regularity ensures the least waste
Flowers have special glands called       the worker bees from the buds of           of space and material. A
nectaries that produce nectar.           various plants and trees e.g.              honeycomb has walls that are only
Nectar is the sweet liquid which         chestnut, laurels, etc. They carry it      one eightieth of an inch thick, but
plants produce to attract insects for    back to the hive on their hind legs.       can support 30 times their own
pollination. It consists of sugars       It is not a food, but a building           weight.
dissolved in water. Honeybees suck       material. It is used as a type of
up nectar from the nectaries of the      ‘cement’ to seal any cracks or             When the beekeeper uncaps
flower with their long tongues and       crevices in the hive. It is also used      honeycombs to recover honey, he
store it in their honey sacs. When       in the construction of combs to            collects the wax cappings and any
the honeybee has filled it’s honey       give added strength. The bees will         other unusable comb. These he
sac with nectar, it returns to the       use propolis to encase and seal any        heats in water and the wax rises to
hive. In the hive the bee                unwanted objects in the hive too           the surface. After it cools and
regurgitates the nectar and passes       heavy for the bees to remove e.g. a        hardens, the cake of wax is
it to the hive bees who put it in an     mouse. The propolis prevents the           removed and refined for re-use.
empty cell in the hive for use as        mouse from rotting and creating a
needed. While the nectar is in the       nasty smell. There is considerable         Plant pollination
bee’s honey sac, it combines with        evidence that propolis contains
enzymes. In the honey comb the                                                      The greatest value of honeybees is
                                         antibiotic properties and is said to
waterevaporates and the chemicals                                                   in their service as pollinators
                                         have beneficial effects in cases of
from the bee change the nectar                                                      which far outweigh their value as
                                         sore throats, infectious wounds
into honey. When the honey is ripe                                                  honey producers. Pollination is the
                                         and in relieving many human
the bees seal it into the cells by                                                  term used to describe the transfer
                                         complaints and sicknesses.
putting wax caps on the honey                                                       of pollen from the male element of
filled cells.                                                                       the flower to the female element
                                                                                    of the same flower, or to other

flowers of the same species. Many        The Body of a Worker Bee                   forewing
plants are air pollinated and have
no need of insects e.g. coniferous                                Circulatory system
trees, grasses and most cereals.
Fruit trees and soft fruit require                        simple eyes                                        hind wing
special pollinators i.e. insect
pollination. It has been proven that      compound                                                                 heart
apples, pears, plums and other            eye                                                                    Abdomen
hardy fruits and soft fruits will        antenna                                                                  digestive
yield a much heavier crop and a                                                                                   system
better shaped fruit when                                                                pollen
                                                   head                   nervous                                  stinger
pollinated by the honeybee. The                                           system        basket
bee’s food consists of pollen and
                                                     foreleg, with antenna being
nectar. In order to obtain these the                       cleaned in notch      middle leg      hind leg
bee flies from flower to flower
collecting them. In doing so, the
flowers are pollinated. The bee also
plays an important part in the
                                         limited vision. They are not capable          Bee stings
                                         of forming any image on a retina
pollination of ornamental plants                                                       Most bees depend on their sting as
                                         and it is thought that their
and flowers. The destruction of                                                        their only means of self-defence.
                                         function is to determine light from
many of the old and established                                                        The glands attached to the sting
                                         darkness and possibly to see which
hedges which were the natural                                                          contain venom or poison that is
                                         way is ‘up’. The compound eyes are
habitat of wild insects and wild                                                       mainly formic acid. The sting of the
                                         extremely complicated. Each
bees, who played an important                                                          worker bee is straight and barbed.
                                         compound eye consists of a great
part in pollination, has increased                                                     When the bee thrusts the sting
                                         number of facets, each of which
the need for honeybees.                                                                into the flesh, it is unable to
                                         function as a single lens. The
                                         number of facets varies from 3,000            withdraw the sting because of the
The external features of the             to 6,000 in the queen and worker              barbs and the sting is torn from
adult bee                                and as many as 13,000 in the                  the bee’s body. It remains in the
                                         drone. Behind each facet is a lens            flesh with it’s muscles pumping
Honeybees vary in colour from                                                          more venom into the flesh. To
                                         reaching down to the retina.
black to yellow. The honeybee, like                                                    prevent this the sting should be
                                         Because of it’s construction, the
many other insects, has a body                                                         scraped loose at once. You should
                                         retina cannot form an image but
that is divided into three sections :                                                  never squeeze the sting when
                                         receives a mosaic of dots of
the head, the thorax and the                                                           removing it as this will force more
                                         varying intensities. Vision by
abdomen.                                                                               venom into the wound. A sting will
                                         human standards is poor, but
The head of the bee has five eyes:       detection of movement is                      cause sudden pain at the site of
three small ones in a triangle on        excellent. Bees cannot focus their            the sting and swelling of the
top of it’s head and a large             eyes because the eyes have no                 affected area may follow. Some
compound eye on each side of it’s        pupils. Bees can distinguish                  people may develop allergic
head. The three small eyes or ocelli     colours, their best vision is at the          reactions to stings such as
are simple eyes and have very            ultra violet end of the spectrum.             difficulty in breathing, blotched
                                                                                       skin and in more severe cases,
                                         The head also has two long feelers            anaphylactic shock. This type of
                                         or antennae with which the bee                reaction usually develops in less
 The Head of a Worker Bee                can sense, touch, taste and smell.            than an hour and those affected
                                         The bees tongue is a flexible tube            should seek immediate medical
        Three simple eyes                which it uses to suck water and               assistance. The worker bee dies
                            compound     nectar into its mouth.                        within a few hours of stinging. The
                                 eye     The Thorax carries two pairs of               queen bee has a smooth curved
                                         wings. The front pair is bigger than          sting which she uses only to kill
                                         the hind pair and the two wings of            other queens. She is able to
                                         each side are hooked together. The            withdraw the sting after use and
                                         bee has three pairs of legs. Part of          therefore does not die after using
  antenna                                                                              it. Drones do not possess a sting.
                                         it’s hind legs are used for carrying
                                         pollen and propolis. This area is
                                         known as the pollen basket. The               Why keep bees?
                        mouth parts      sting is situated at the tip of the           A lot of people keep bees because
   tongue                                abdomen.                                      they produce honey, one of the
                                                                                       healthiest and most natural foods

                                                                         it’s easy | to make a difference
ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY GARDENING / Honeybees: Interesting facts / WL 8

which has been valued by man            Gormanstown, Co. Meath. It is held         Mr. D.J. Deasy (Public Relations
since prehistory, as a sweetener.       during the last week of July.              Officer)
Many people also keep bees                                                         45 Waltham Tce, Blackrock,
                                        This course comprises a series of
because they are interested in the                                                 Co. Dublin.
                                        lectures designed to suit all levels
study of bees and of their habits.                                                 Tel: 01 2889085.
                                        of expertise including
Bees are fascinating creatures and      practicaldemonstrations. The Irish
there is always something new to        National Honey Show is held                Further reading
learn about them. Beekeeping is an      during this course and in successive       Profitable Honey Production,
enjoyable open air hobby bringing       years recently, winners at this Show       published by Teagasc
you in contact with people from all     have gone on to take the Supreme
walks of life. Bees can be kept by      Award and many other awards at             Guide to Bees and Honey, by Ted
almost everyone except a small          the London International Honey             Hooper Published by Marston
minority who are allergic to bee        Show. The F.I.B.K.A. maintain a large      House, UK.
stings. Bees are kept not only in the   library of bee books which are
countryside but also in back yards,     available to members. It publishes         Bees at the bottom of the Garden
gardens and even on flat roof           a monthly journal ‘An Beachaire’           by Alan Campion & Gay Hodgson
buildings in the centre of large        devoted to beekeeping. It holds            Published by Adam & Charles
towns and cities.                       examinations to help to improve            Black, London
                                        beekeeping standards and it
Ireland has a long tradition of
                                        maintains a panel of excellent
beekeeping. Legend tells us that
                                        lectures to talk 6to beekeeping            This leaflet is based on an
‘The First Beekeeper in Ireland’ was
                                        associations. It also runs a labelling     information leaflet by Mr Michael
St. Modomnoc who lived in the
                                        scheme to identify ‘Pure Irish
sixth century. He brought bees to                                                  Gleeson, Federation of Irish
                                        Honey’. If you are thinking of taking
Ireland from Wales.                                                                Beekeepers Association, with
                                        up beekeeping or want further
                                                                                   assistance from Dr Martin Speight,
Honeybees and beekeeping played         information on beekeeping, contact
                                                                                   National Parks and Wildlife Service.
a very important part in society in     the following:
ancient Ireland. Bees were kept in
                                        Mr. Michael G. Gleeson (Hon.
the gardens of abbeys and
monasteries and honey, wax and
                                        Ballinakill, Enfield, Co. Meath.
mead were all very valuable
                                        Tel: 0405 41433
commodities. Mead, which is made
from honey, was a very important        Mr. Michael Woulfe (Summer
beverage which was served in            Course Convener)
many of the great monasteriesand        Railway House, Midleton, Co. Cork.
at many of the great feasts in the      Tel: 021 631011.
homes of the ancient kings of
Ireland. Beeswax was in great
demand for candle making for use
in the churches of the great abbeys
and monasteries.
Today beekeeping is practised in all                                               Issued by:
parts of Ireland. There are in excess                              roof            ENFO – The Environmental
                                                                                   Information Service,
of 2,000 beekeepers in the Republic                                                17 St Andrew Street,
of Ireland keeping 22,000 colonies                                crown board or
                                                                                   Dublin 2, Ireland.
                                                                  inner cover
of bees.
                                                                 super (to hold    Tel: (01) 8883911 (01) 8883933
Irish beekeepers are organised in                                honey frames      Fax: (01) 888 3946
local associations and the                                                         e-mail:
Federation of Irish Beekeepers                                   queen excluder
Associations (F.I.B.K.A) is the                                                    Write to or visit our Centre at the above
representative body of these                                     brood box (to     address or you may check out the ENFO
                                                                 hold brood        information stands at your Local Authority
associations. Anyone intending to                                                  Office / County Library
take up the craft of beekeeping is                               frames)
advised to join their nearest                                    floor
association which will provide help                                                ENFO is a service of the Department of the
and guidance including classes and                                                 Environment, Heritage and Local
courses on beekeeping. The F.I.B.K.A.                                              Government.
organise a week long summer                                   entrance block
course on beekeeping each year at                                                  Printed on recycled paper
the Franciscan College                                                             November 2000
                                          Parts of a typical modern hive

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