A professional apiarist gave a talk last night at a meeting. He was very interesting, if a bit long-winded. I learned some things about bees.
- They must eat pollen as larvae in order to grow and develop their bodies. If they don’t have pollen, they don’t grow the glands they need to communicate with pheremones as adults. So bees collect pollen to feed the larvae, and while doing that, they pollinate the plants. So bees are symbiotic with plants that require pollination.
- Most bees in the jungle carry some African bee genes, which make them more aggressive than European bees, which until recently have been the dominant gene pool in North America.
- Virgin bee queens “swarm” with a huge cloud of drones drawn from many surrounding hives. The queen mates with dozens of drones, and stores their sperm in a sac inside her abdomen. From this sac, she fertilizes tens of thousands of eggs during her reign as queen.
- There is no practical way to prevent your beehive’s queen from mating with Africanized bee drones from other hives. The only way you can try to prevent the spread of African bee genes is to import a queen every year from a northern climate where European bee genes are dominant, and where African bee genes generally do not survive.
- Nectar is carbohydrate for the bees, and pollen is protein. They must have both to eat properly, and for the hive to grow and survive. The hive generates “excess” honey that you can harvest, only if the bees are drawing nectar from flowering plants which have plenty of nectar. If the bees are subsisting on a relatively low-nectar-producing flower crop, there will be barely enough honey to feed the hive, not enough to harvest. Likewise with pollen; it is bad for the hive to harvest pollen from the bees, because they need to eat it and to make “bee bread” (a mixture of pollen, honey and bee saliva) for the larvae.
- If you see a beehive in the open, not concealed in a cavity like a box or a tree trunk, do not approach it. Such hives are usually Africanized, and they can kill you quickly with thousands of stings. That said, it is difficult to identify an Africanized bee with certainty unless you measure its wings and other body parts.
- To start your own beehive requires about $300 in hive parts, safety equipment, and a queen. She will create the hive. When the hive gets too big, she will leave with half of the bees, and go start another hive.
- Beekeeping is rising in popularity, and laws against beekeeping are being struck down. In the jungle, a recent state law overrides all local restrictions except in deed-restricted communities which expressly forbid beekeeping.
I had thought it might be interesting to raise bees. But safety concerns dissuade me for now.