Sunday, July 7, 2013

Honey Super and Honeybee Facts

The North Hive Gets a Honey Super - Photo by Mr. Bee
Our North Hive was ready for the first honey super!  This is the next box we've added which the girls will stock not with brood, but food stores. A bee's main food store is honey.  We'll reserve this honey for the bees for winter, so we're crossing our fingers that they can fill it up and we can add another box to harvest for ourselves.  (Fingers still crossed.)

Today I'll share a little about the differences between honey bees and the other insects they are sometimes confused with. Many of these tips come from Beekeeping For Dummies.

Many people mistakenly lump all insects with stingers into the "bee" category. Honeybees are usually gentle in nature, and true bees are covered in hair and they use pollen and nectar from plants as their food source.  Away from their hive, they are non-aggressive.  They are not apt to sting, since they die afterwards, unless they feel the hive or their honey is being bothered. Honeybees are master pollinators and account for helping with many of the foods we eat.

Honeybee with Full Pollen Sacs - Photo by Mr. Bee
The Bumblebee is plump and covered with hair. They live in small ground nests and die off every autumn. They make very small amounts of honey and are usually very docile.
Bumblebee - Photo from
The Carpenter Bee is quite different from the bumblebee, though it looks similar. It makes a tunnel in solid wood and is a solitary bee.  They are gentle but can do damage to a house or barn.

Carpenter Bee - Photo from
A Wasp can be one of many insects, but the most familiar is a smooth, hard-bodied creature with a tiny "waist".  They build paper or mud nests and the slightest disturbance can lead to a sting. Social wasps are meat eaters, but adults are attracted to sweets. Please note that wasps have barbs, not stingers, so they can keep "stinging" again and again.

Wasp - Photo from
Yellow Jackets are probably most recognized at your picnic this summer.  They are fierce and highly aggressive, and they are another social wasp. Many people do not know that they are meat eaters. (A honeybee will not be interested in your hamburger.)

Yellow Jacket - Photo from

Finally, the Hornet. They are "not lovable" and much like yellow jackets, except that they build their nests above ground. They are also meat eaters and are ruthless hunters.  As scary as they are, they do build impressively large nests.

I am not a fan of most of these stinging insects - except the Bumblebee, who doesn't love that big 'ol bumblebee?? - but I have learned that they play an important part by aiding in decomposition in nature.

The main lesson we can walk away with here is the same thing we're teaching Little Miss Bee:

If you see a bee (or anything like it), leave it alone.  If you see a honeybee, you can thank it for a third of your diet.

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