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Monday, April 28, 2014

Flat Aggie is Buzzing with Excitement!

I love it when I get the Flat Aggie reports back.  I think I learn more than the kids sometimes and this report is no exception.  I love honey, but really don't know that much about the bees that make it.  Thanks to Erin from Diaries from the Dirt Road for sharing some bee keeping information with our Flat Aggie class!-KFM

Hello Class!!!

My name is Erin Mullins and I'm the 2014 Missouri Honey Princess. I had a wonderful time teaching Flat Aggie the importance that bees play in our agriculture system. I hope that with this you will learn to appreciate the bees more and will help me spread the word about them and honey.

I want to tell you about my Apiary (Place where bees are kept). I have been a beekeeper for about 5 years now and currently have 2 bee hives. One of them I bought and installed and one of them I caught as a swarm from the wild. Each year I collect honey and get to sell it to local people. My bees also help pollinate the wild flowers and trees that are around my house.

Me and Flat Aggie with one of my hives of bees

Inside each of my beehives there are about 50-60,000 bees!!! Out of all of those bees about 95% of them are girls. Sorry boys! There is one queen and thousands of worker bees who are girls. The boys are called drones.

L-R: Queen, Worker, Drone
The queen's job in a hive is to make baby bees. She can lay 1000-2000 eggs each day. Since the worker bees only live 4-6 weeks she has to keep laying more eggs to make new bees. The queens other job is to keep the colony together. The worker bees rely on the queen to keep them together. If there wern't a queen in the hive the colony would die. She puts of a pheromones (smell) that helps the other bees know where their home is. Since the queen doesn't leave the colony after she has mated she stays in the hive with that pheromone and the other bees leave and when they go home they know where to go.

The worker bees have many jobs within the hive. They help clean the hive, take care of the larvae and baby bees, feed the queen, forage for pollen and nectar, cool the hive, heat the hive, and help protect the hive against intruders.

The drone bees have only one purpose in the bee world and that is to mate with the queen to make baby bees. They don't have stingers, they don't do any of the work to help maintain the hive, and they are lazy! If the drones are lucky enough to mate with the queen their lives are short lived. Right after mating they die. If they don't mate with the queen they go back to the hive and just lounge around and eat honey all day. But during the winter time, in order to save honey for the workers and queen, they kick the drones out of the hive since they don't contribute to the hive.

The honey bee is very important to our agriculture industry. They contribute about 14 billion dollars annually to agriculture just for their pollination alone. That's a lot! The way that a bee pollinates a plant is when they travel to each flower collecting nectar the pollen from a plant sticks to the legs of a bee and when they go to a different flower a bit of it falls off which begins the pollination process. There are many plants that need the bees help to produce their products including: alfalfa, almonds, apples, apricots, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, clover, cucumbers, nectarine, peaches, pears, persimmons, plum, pumpkins, raspberries, squash, sunflowers, and cranberries with many many more. Without bees so many things that we like to eat we wouldn't have.

This bee has pollen on her legs

Bees also are the only insect that make a food for humans and that is honey. It's a wonderful food that is really good for you. When the bees are out on the flowers they are searching for nectar, which is like a sweet sugar water that a flower makes. The bees carry the nectar in a special stomach they have inside their body. They then take it back to the hive and put in the wax cells they have made. A bee will then use their wings to fan the nectar to evaporate most of the water leaving a sticky substance, honey! Such an amazing process for sure!

I hope that this introduces you to the fascinating honey bee and I hope you learned something new. Here are some more pictures of myself and Flat Aggie at the 2014 Spring Meeting of the Missouri State Beekeepers Association.

Flat Aggie with a Langstroh Beehive

Flat Aggie with a Russian Bee Hive

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