Honey bees are probably the most domesticated insects in the world, if you can describe keeping bees as domesticating them. We have been so successful at keeping bees, that their “wild” cousins, living freely in their natural habitat are not so common any more.
An awesome project called Free Living Honey Bees promotes and shares the joy of seeing honey bees spotting in their natural habitat. You can find information about wild honey bees from the UK and around the world on the website. If you spot a wild bee colony, you can share pictures and videos of it with the community.
Honey bees are one of the most remarkable insects on the planet, there is no doubt about that. They punch well above their weight, when you compare what they are capable of, with other insects. The way their colony is organised, how each member of the hive plays a small role, to help a colony of about 50,000 bees to function seamlessly led to a bee colony being designated as a superorganism by scientists.
So what exactly is a worker honey bee, a queen honey bee, is there a king honey bee? Find answers to these questions and much more in this comprehensive and definitive honey bees facts compilation.
Honey Bee Facts for Children
Do honey bees sleep and for how long? – It is difficult to say definitively whether bees sleep or not. A researcher called Walter Kaiser, in 1993 published his findings into whether bees do sleep. His conclusion was that bees do sleep. Others researchers/scientists argue that bees do not sleep, they merely stay motionless to preserve energy during the night.
How many colours can a honey bee see? – Honey bees’ vision is better tuned to the blue end of the light spectrum and ultra violet. This helps bees to see flowers, their main source of nectar and pollen. Flowers reflect a lot of ultraviolet light. Bees do not see the colour red.
Where do honey bees live? Honey bees live in hives (man made). In the wild, they live in the hollow of trees. There are three types of bees in a colony: a queen, the workers and drones. Each plays a different role in the colony.
There are over 270 bee species in Great Britain, some of them are honey bees.
Are Bees insects? Yes. Bees are insects, they have 3 pairs of segmented legs which are attached to their thorax (upper part of the body). That is they have six legs.
The female bees in the hive, with the exception of the queen, are called worker bees. They can not lay fertilized eggs, though they do lay unfertilized ones if there is no queen. These unfertilized eggs are what eventually become drones.
How many wings does a bee have? Bees have 2 pairs of wings. The forewing and hindwing, giving them 4 individual wings in total. Like their legs, the wings are attached to their thorax. In flight, bees typically flap their wings around 230 times per seconds. In addition to flight, bees use their wings for thermo-regulation (temperature regulation), nest ventilation, and communication.
How many eyes does a bee have? Bees have five eyes in total, as incredible as that may seem. They have two large eyes called the compound eyes, the two eyes have tiny cells that piece together an image of what bees can see. The other three eyes known as simple eyes or occelli which form a triangle on the head of a bee, help it detect light (but not shape). Occelli helps bees detect when a predator is approaching.
What are male honey bees called? Male honey bees are called drones. They are generally larger than workers (female honey bees). They do not sting, they also do not help in hive maintenance, their only purpose is to mate with a queen.
Do any other insect species apart from honey bees produce food consumed by human beings? No! Honey is the only human food produced by any insect species.
Is honey a healthy food? Yes, it is. It contains antioxidants and vitamins, and it is fat free and cholesterol free.
UK Specific Honey Bee Facts
British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) is the definitive organisation/authority for anything related to beekeeping in the UK.
The British black bee (Apis mellifera mellifera), a descendant of the European dark bee, is the only known British honey bee.
There are over 270 recorded bee species in Great Britain, some of them are honey bees.
The British national hive design was based on the Langsthorn hive.
British beekeepers kept their bees in a skep, which is then slotted into a south facing recess in a garden wall, called bee bole until wooden beehives were introduced in the late 19th century.
The largest number of bee boles in the UK was found at Ganllwyd, near Dolgellau in Wales. During restoration by the national trust in 2011, a total of 46 bee boles were discovered.
Honey bees work all their short lives. Once they hatch, they become nurse bees, graduating to become cleaners, eventually they become guard bees and finally foragers.
Honey bees outnumber the residents of London in the summer months. A situation that is ascribed to an increase in the number of urban beekeepers.
A honey and olive oil preparation that keeps hair healthy and lustrous was created by Queen Anne In the early 1700’s.
General Facts About Honey Bee
Faces – Honeybees are said to recognise and remember human faces
Collaboration – There is a video circulating on the internet showing two honey bees working together to open a bottle of fizzy drink.
Honey bees fly at an average speed of 25km per hour. That is the maximum speed of an Electric Scooter.
If a bee loses its stinger, it will die. This is because the bee leaves behind part of its digestive tract along with its stinger after it has stung. The abdominal rupture kills the bee.
Honey bees are capable of being trained to detect illnesses in humans.
Honey bees use their long tongues called the proboscis to suck nectar out of a flower.
Workers bees are sometimes called “undertaker bees” because they oversee the removal of dead bees from the hive.
Pinocembrin, a powerful antioxidant, is found in honey and propolis.
The world’s oldest fermented beverage, mead, is made from fermented honey.
A 2000-year-old jar of honey was found by an explorer in King Tut’s tomb and it was claimed to still taste delicious. This shows honey can last for a very long time.
Honey is effective in healing open wounds and combating infections. It is also an energy booster, it is a source of energy that can help prevent fatigue and boost physical performance.
Worker bees have barbed stinger while queens stinger is smooth and it is mostly used in killing other queens.
A worker bee communicates the locations of food and water or a new home through a dance known as “Waggle Dance” or honey bee dance.
Honey bees huddle together in a winter cluster in order to keep warm.
A worker bee makes about half to one teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.
Honey bees are the only bees that make honey. Though bumble bees make honey-like substances, it tastes nothing like honey that humans consume.
Bees are so particular about the cleanliness of their hive that they will temporarily leave it to take a cleansing flight especially in the cold winter months.
Amazing Statistical Facts about Honey Bees
To make about half a kg ( 1lb) of honey, bees have to fly over 55,000 miles.
There are more than 300 taste sensors on the tips of the antennae of honey bees.
To make about half a kilogram of honey, bees must collect nectar from about 2 million flowers.
Bees have a special stomach for storing nectar called honey stomac. It holds around 70 mg of nectar, the approximate weight of the bee.
To fuel a bee’s flight around the world, it would take about 1 ounce of honey.
During one foraging flight from the hive, a single honey bee visits between 50 and 100 flowers.
A small colony of bees needs about 17kg of honey to survive winter.
There are more than 90million honey bee hives globally.
In this interesting video, two honey bees are seen working together, to open a bottle of popular orange flavoured fizzy drink, Fanta. The video was said to have been filmed in Brazil. The woman doing the filmin said in Portuguese The bees teamed up to steal my soda”. The video was shared on YouTube by “ViralHog”
Bees, especially honeybees, are very clever creatures both individually, or as part of up to 59,000 other bees in a colony, which is recognised as a single, superorganism. We came across the news of the video of the two bees that opened a bottle of Fanta, while researching The Hive’s facts about bees page. If you are curious about any aspect of the honey bee’s life, you should visit the page. You will find amazing and interesting information, including the fact that bees do recognize and remember people’s faces, despite having a brain the size of a sesame seed.
If you find beekeeping fascinating and want to know more about it, a beginner’s beekeeping book will teach you beekeeping fundamentals. You will also find in the beginner’s guide the importance of bees in the ecosystem, where you learn the significant role bees play in our environment and why perhaps, through your engagement in natural beekeeping, you would also be doing humanity a great favour by playing your part in the effort to tackle the decline in bee populations.
Beekeeping is one of the oldest human’s pastimes, dating back to over a thousand years ago. But that does not diminish the unfortunate fact that the decline in bee populations is not unconnected to human endeavours —- some of which are mindless. It is however heartening to see various ecological innovations by the same humans attempt at curbing the alarming decrease in these honey-making insects’ numbers.
Released in May 2001, A beginners guide to natural beekeeping is a basic, introductory book to natural beekeeping. The book does not have detailed in-depth practical beekeeping information like some of the other books. It is aimed primarily at people who are thinking about getting started in beekeeping.
2. Natural Beekeeping with the Warre Hive
Natural beekeeping with Warre Hive is another awesome natural beekeeping book a beginner should have in his or her beekeeping tool kit. David Heaf’s book has a section that covers in great detail the material, construction, and components of the Warré hive. It covers everything you need to know on how to build the Warre Hive from scratch and if you don’t want to build your own, there is a resource section in the back of the book including someone who makes them. Other sections cover such topics as getting, hiving, feeding your bee; monitoring and enlarging your hive etc.
3. Natural Beekeeping: Organic Approaches to Modern Apiculture
In this Ross Conrad’s natural beekeeping book, the best strategies for keeping honey bees healthy are laid out in simple details. Ross brings together the methods and strategies for controlling mites; breeding for naturally resistant bees, eliminating foulbrood diseases and many others. chapter on marketing provides valuable advice for anyone who intends to sell a wide range of hive products. Valuable advice is also provided for those that intend to sell a wide range of hive products in the chapter on marketing. This is a book for beginners, experienced beekeepers that are looking to develop accurate knowledge of pest-management and someone that’s into bee products business.
4. Homegrown Honey Bees: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Beekeeping Your First
If you are new to beekeeping, then you might want to grasp and read a copy of Alethea Morrisson’s book. The book is specifically designed for those that are completely new to the world of beekeeping. It is a book that experts alike will find informative and probably share with a fellow beekeeper. With explicit texts and beautiful pictures, this book will certainly whet your appetite for beekeeping. It is packed with an in-depth discussion of colony hierarchy, allergies, bee behavior, and more.
5. The Backyard Beekeeper, 4th Edition: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden
This is a masterpiece from highly experienced beekeeper, Kim Flottum. He understands the needs of a beekeeper quite so well. The Backyard Beekeeper is a must-have tool kit for newbies, for Flottum communicates unequivocally to those that are just dipping their toes into the world of beekeeping. The book contains fun facts, helpful tips and a short humurous narrative that helps make reading less tediuos.
6. The Practical Beekeeper: Beekeeping Naturally
The author of the book introduces the reader to the fundamentals of beekeeping, the players, namely the queen,the workers,drone, and the beekeeper. In this book you will learn about how you can keep bees in a natural and simple practical system without worrying about pests and diseases and minimal intervention by you. Essentially, it is about reducing your work as a beekeeper. The book is a collection of posts on the author’s website, the content of which was written and refined from comments on bee forums over the years. The Practical Beekeeper contains 3 volumes; the beginners, intermediate and advanced.
7. Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees
Buzz, written by Thor Hanson introduces the reader to the history of beekeeping and how important these honey-making insects are to humanity. The book also touches on the decline in the bee population. Buzz contains tips and narratives which the beginner and experienced beekeeper would find informative. So regardless of how long or short your journey in beekeeping has been, you would certainly find something new to learn in this book.
8. The Beekeeper’s Bible
Another great book for beginners! “The Beekeeper’s Bible” goes over the history of beekeeping all the way to hive management and it also features a number of recipes for products with bee-based ingredients. The Beekeeper’s Bible is an ultimate and practical guide to the fundamentals of beekeeping and is a book for all levels of beekeeping.
9. Beekeeping for Beginners: How To Raise Your First Bee Colonies
This is another beekeeping book for beginners, written by an experienced beekeeper, Amber Bradshaw. The book contains beekeeping essentials including everything you need to know to begin your first colony, how to start your colony off right with simple guides that feature the best practices and natural approaches. It also includes clearly defined terms and a complete glossary that will have you talking like a pro beekeeper in no time.
10. The Hive and the Honey Bee Revisited: An Annotated Update of Langstroth’s Classic
With inspiring, practical and clearly laid out techniques for beekeeping, Roger Hoopingarner’s The Hive and the Honey Bee Revisited is certainly one of the most informative beekeeping literature out there. It is an ideal book for the aspiring beekeeper and what the experienced folks should have in their tool kit. The book covers topics like tools, obtaining, sitting and hiving your bees, feeding, and monitoring the hive, harvesting and extracting honey with simple tools etc.
Awareness among the general population about the plight of the bees is growing every day, which is a good thing. However, taking action to help the bees, especially honeybees, which we can all easily keep in our back garden can be improved. Anecdotal evidence from people I have spoken to about keeping bees suggests that most people would like to help the bees, by having a hive or two in their back garden.
Two of the barriers people who would like to help the bees by becoming a beekeeper ,tend to cite as a stumbling block is not knowing how to start and the cost of beekeeping equipment and the cost of acquiring a swarm of bees. This article; a beginner’s guide to beekeeping takes you on a step-by-step journey into getting started with keeping bees.
The article covers how to acquire beekeeping equipment at very low cost, how to acquire a swarm of bees, free of charge
First thing first, are you allergic to bee sting?
The right beekeeping wear, coupled with treating bees with respect you should not get stung by your own bees.. However in an unguarded moment, you may get stug. Find out if you are allergic to bee sting. Being allergic does not mean you cannot be a beekeeper, it just means you need to take extra precautions, perhaps including having an epipen in your beekeeping toolbox.
Speak to one or more local beekeepers
Beekeepers are some of the most friendly bunch of people you will ever come across. They particularly like encouraging newbies to take up beekeeping. If there is a local beekeeper near you, speak with him or her. You will find valuable local beekeeping information that way.
What type of beekeeper do you want to be: natural or conventional?
There are different types of beekeepers. The two main types are the conventional and the natural beekeepers. They both love bees, joining either camp will help you to help the bee. The main differences between them is their approaches to keeping bees. The type of beekeeper you decide to be will influence the type of equipment you buy. The author of this article is a natural beekeeper, so he encourages others to become a natural beekeeper. There are pros and cons to both methods. If your principal reason for becoming a beekeeper is to help the bees rather than to produce honey, then natural beekeeping is the best choice for you.
Attend a beekeeping workshop in person or online
A beekeeping workshop with hand-on demonstrations
The best way to acquire beekeeping skills quickly is to attend an introduction to beekeeping course. The best type of courses are those with a hands-on component in the course. This gives you the opportunity to actually handle beekeeping equipment and the bees. Because of the COVID pandemic, there are currently limited opportunities for in person beekeeping courses. An online beekeeping course is an adequate substitute.
Acquire you beekeeping equipment
A Warré Hive, easier to work with than other hives
You now need to acquire some beekeeping equipment. Beekeeping equipment is relatively inexpensive. A hive is the single most expensive equipment you will buy. Here are the most important equipment you need to become a beekeeper:
Hive – A warre hive starts from about £250
Clothing & gloves £40
Hive tools £20
Water spray £1.00 (A smoker is unnecessary
You will find out why purchasing bees is not included in the expenditure as I hope you will be able to acquire your bees free of charge. Keep reading to find out how to acquire bees for free.
Join your local chapter of British Beekeeping Association
Be sure to join your local British Beekeeping Association and NOT the national association. The reason for this is that you are automatically a member of the national association, once you join a local association. It does not work the other way around. If you join the national association by paying an annual subscription and want to join your local chapter, you have to pay another subscription fee, to join the local association.
Sitting your hive
You have your equipment, you have the basic knowledge required to be a beekeeper, now it’s time to site your hive. Find a level ground for your hive. Place it so that the hive entrance is facing south-east/east, so that the bees have that warming morning sun to start their day.
8. Acquiring your first swarm of bees
This is one of the differences between conventional and natural beekeepers. Natural beekeepers do not believe in or like buying bees. At this stage of your beekeeping adventure, conventional beekeepers will suggest you buy bees. You can simply ask a natural beekeeper near you for a swarm of bees (It is easier to give you a swarm in spring). You can also set up a bait hive to attract a swarm of bees yourself. Read more about how to set up a bait hive online.
9. Looking after and enjoying your bees
Now that you have a hive and there are bees in your hive, you are a beekeeper! The next step is to start looking after you bees. One of the best things about beekeeping is the fact that you do not need to do much. They bees will look after themselves. You can just look out for them by ensuring they are not attacked by wasps in the summer and not cold in the winter. There is a free book called at the hive entrance which you should read. It trains you on how to see how your bees are doing by observing their going in and out.
10. Winter is the time you bees need you most
When autumn starts giving way to winter, that is when your bees need you the most. You need to ensure they have adequate honey to see them through winter. In winter, you need to check on them at regular intervals to ensure their store of honey is not depleted. If it is, you may need to feed them some fondant.
11. Growing in confidence as a beekeeper
It takes a lot of time and experimenting to become a confident beekeeper. There are a lot of resources out there to help you become a better beekeeper including groups and sites such as The Hive UK. We are always happy to share our knowledge and experience with new and experienced beekeepers alike. Feel free to contact us via our contact page.
Beekeeping is one of the oldest human endeavours, dating back thousands of years. It is quite a simple proposition between humans and bees; humans provide a space that mimics the hollow of a tree, we call it a beehive. It must have a volume of about 40 litres, and other stuff such as an entrance that is not too big or too small, well insulated etc. If the bees are happy with the hive, they stay. If they are not happy, they swarm.
As with every area of our lives and industry, hi-tech is moving in, supposedly making our lives easier. Beekeeping is no exception. Recently, I came across some hi-tech gadgets and processes that are said to help with beekeeping. While trying to keep an open mind about these hi-tech beekeeping gadgets, here are some of the beekeeping gadgets i came across so far:
1. The Beehome
The Beehomes is a solar powered device created by Israeli technology company, Beewise. The Beehomes can house 24 hives and it contains a robot within which takes care of the bees in real time.
Beehomes use A.I to identify and automatically prevent the event of swarms by the colony by adjusting conditions. The climate and humidity control optimise the climate and control the elements within the hive so that the beekeeper needs not to worry about the hive being too cold or too hot. Beehomes autonomously and automatically handle issues associated with the general condition of the colonies and they alert the beekeeper to intervene when problems arise.
2. Bee Hive Monitoring System
ApisProtect Bee Hive Monitoring System helps beekeepers keep an eye on the colonies with the use of sensor technology. This device gives beekeepers an opportunity to check on their hives anywhere and anytime, and most importantly manage their precious time and resources. When the hive needs attention, the Bee Hive Monitoring System can send an alert to the beekeeper to intervene. This device also helps to evaluate the condition of each colony as well as identify the weak colonies for beekeeper’s intervention.
3. Hive Weight Scales
This particular beehive scales reports the weight of the hive every 6 hours as well as the temperature under the hives on the site the hive is located. The Hive Weight System supports 300kg maximum weight and a weight above 1000kg can cause damage. The collection and reporting of data by this device requires a satellite hub per site, though scales can operate as stand-alone scales by telling you the hive weight at a push of a button. This device is designed to be placed and fit underneath stand-alone hives or into some certain pallet systems.
4. Artificial Flowers
Created by Dutch designer Matilde Boelhouwer is this Bee-Sustaining Artificial Flowers which are designed to address the urban sustainability issues by saving the bees within the perimeter of the metropolitan city. The “big five of pollination – bees, bumblebees, hoverflies, butterflies, and moths” are attracted by the five different kinds of these artificial flowers. The creative’s artificial flowers, dubbed “Food for Buzz” have the ability to turn rain into sugar. Made with screen-printed polyester, the flower is a cluster of laser-cut petals and a small 3D-printed container that collects the water.
5. Honey Refractometer
One of the cool and very useful beekeeping gadgets is the Honey Refractometer. It measures honey’s moisture content by measuring the degree that the light passing through honey is bent. This process is called refraction. The concentration of honey can be determined by this process and it is important to have the proper moisture in honey, the one below 18%. Because if honey whose moisture content is above 18% is harvested, it will ferment. So using the honey refractometer is important to determine the moisture content of honey and to ensure it is below 18%.
6. Thermal Camera
This is a very useful beekeeping gadget for beekeepers that live in cold climates. Inspecting your hive is very important to keep tabs on what is going on in there. However, you really don’t want to open up the hive much during the winter as this will let out the warmth in the hive. This is where a thermal camera comes in handy. Monitoring where the colony is, no matter its size, is quite easy with the thermal camera. A beekeeper also gets to know when rodents have entered the hive, and depending on the size and location of the winter cluster, the beekeeper can determine whether the colony has run out of food. You can see if any rodents have entered the hive with the help of a thermal camera. They also detect heats and help the beekeeper determine exactly where the cluster is by taking photos of the hives from various angles.
7. Robotic Bee Attractors
This innovative robotic flower was developed by an Australian artist, Michael Candy. The flower is designed to attract real bees. The activation and control of this amazing innovation is done with an array of actuators and servos which attach nectar and pollen to the attracted bee. This invention is an amazing development in the field of biomimicry and a manifestation of ways technology has integrated with the natural world, even though the invention may look to some folk as impractical. The importance of bees in the ecosystem can not be overemphasised and it is the significance of these amazing creatures that inspired Michael Candy to create this robotic flower. The robotic flower is designed to allow for the reproduction of natural flora and to also ensure that honeybees remain an integral part of the ecosystem.
8. Solitary Bee Shelter
Solitary Bee-Accommodating Objects is another ecological initiative to address the ecological crises. It is conceptualized to help bees in urban environments. Designed by a Mexican-based creative studio, MaliArts, the solitary bee home would provide food, shelter and water to bees that found themselves in cities. The role of water is self-explanatory while the shelter would perform a dual function of nesting and resting. Altogether, forming a safe haven for the bees and ultimately curb the alarming decline in the population of these honey-producing insects.
9. Bee-Keeping Box
Designed by an Italian company is this cute bee-keeping box which is an absolute innovative compare to traditional hive. Beeing’s B-Box is designed to monitor the bees’ health and environment. The B-Box is simple and has a harvesting system which allows the beekeeper to separate the environment where the bees live from where they deposit honey. Also, the process of extracting honey does not require wearing protective clothing and the box is small enough to keep on the balcony.
10. Bee Survival Aid Devices
This ecological initiative was created by Shau Design and the creation was inspired by the serious concern for the decline in the bee population. Titled ‘Bee Hospital’, the Bee Survival Aid Devices is a set of smart devices which include a mite guard dispenser, a supplement center, as well as a bee-detecting device. The Bee Hospital provides the necessary nutrients for the survival of the bee in urban environments, the supplement center offers nutritious treatment that ensures the adaptation of the bees to urban environments. While the mite guard helps the bees to kill mites.