P1010206Apis mellifera

Most bees in Florida live in apiaries.  Wild bee colonies have mostly been decimated by the Varroa Mite.

Each colony has only one queen whose sole function is to lay eggs.  There may as many as 40,000 worker bees, all females but without ability to reproduce.  About 2,000 drones may be in the colony, their function being to impregnate the queen.  And since they do no work, the low ratio of drones to worker bee is probably all a hive could tolerate.   The queen, the biggest of the bees, lays each egg in a cell.  When the egg hatches into larvae, the worker bees, the smallest of the bees, feed pollen and honey to the larvae.   The larvae undergo another transformation into pupae and then hatch out as full grown bees.

Worker bees specialize in specific functions: nursery, wax makers, honeycomb construction, maintenance and cleaners of hive, pollen storers, honey makers, guards, and collectors.    The hard working workers live 4-5 weeks, but if born in the fall, may last through the winter using the honey in the hives to sustain themselves.  Queens can live for several years.  As soon as the weather turns cold, the drones are kicked out of the hive.

Bees sustain themselves on nectar and pollen.  Pollen is fed to the larvae.  Honey is produced when a bee sucks up nectar from a flower, transfers that nectar to another worker bee who keeps the nectar on her tongue until the water evaporates leaving honey.  Honey is then stored in the hive and used to provide food for the colony when there are no flowers blooming.

Bees mark the presence of certain flowers with a pheromone .  They return to the hive and dance to communicate direction of the flower and distance to other collector bees. Bees cannot see red; red flowers are usually pollinated by butterflies, birds, bats or wind borne pollen.  Honey bees capacity to see extends to the ultraviolet and white flowers which reflect UV light whichs attract bees.

A honeybee’s sting is fatal to her.  She stings only if she believes her hive is in danger.  If a bee buzzes around you, stand still, until she realizes you have no pollen or nectar and she will fly away.   She may have smelled your soap or perfume.

Womack Creek and the Crooked River are lined with tupelo trees which bees harvest to make tupelo honey, a non-sugaring honey.  They can be heard in late March and April when the tupelo blossoms are blooming.

In 2013 the tupelo flowers did not seem to attract as many bees as in previous years.  The male flowers seemed much smaller and their bloom time seemed abbreviated.   They started blooming about 2 weeks later than in previous years.

Appreciate every bit of honey on your biscuit!  A hundred little worker bees made that possible.

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Hives, protected from bears by electric wires, not too far from entrance to Womack Creek Campground.  Photographed November 10, 2016.

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