On a sunny Canada Day, July 1st, 2014, I embarked on a unique adventure by picking up my very first beehives from a honeybee breeder. The experience was akin to visiting a pet store or a dog breeder, full of anticipation and excitement. For the last few years, I have been a regular at Scott Ferrier's Maplebee Farm.

In this article, I share some basic information about honeybees, the different types, development cycle, honey, pollination, pests, and more. Check out the fun fact below, about how quickly a honeybee larva grows, it is crazy!

I typically purchase a "nuc" (short for "nucleus"), which contains 4 frames, which are a combination of honey, pollen, and unborn bees. In addition, there are about 3000 live honeybees, and one Queen bee.

scott ferrier, maple bee farm
honeybee nuc

 

After I transported the NUC, usually in the front seat of my car, to my home, that next step is to transfer the frames into their new hive.

frame of honey bees

 

In a honeybee hive, there are male bees, female bees, and Queen bee.

different types of honeybess

 

The Queen honeybee, has a longer, elongated abdomen, to accommodate the two separate sacs, one for sperm, and one for eggs.

queen honeybee

 

In the summer, a Queen honeybee can lay between 1500-2000 eggs....A DAY!

She can either lay a unfertilized egg, which turns in to a male honeybee, or a fertilized egg, which turns into a female honeybee.

honeybee eggs

 

After they are laid, honeybee eggs go through a complete metamorphosis, to become a developed honeybee.

metamorphosis of a honeybee

The complete development time is a little different for each type of honeybee,

  • Queen bee - ~ 16 days
  • Female bee ~21 days
  • Male bee, ~24 days

Fun fact, in 5 days, the growth rate of a larva, is the equivalent of a 6lb human baby growing to the size of an elephant!

growth of a larva honeybee

Honeybees are extremely efficient and like to keep their homes organized and where they store honey or raise new bees (brood).

honeybee frame

 

There are lots of different pests that can affect honeybees, one of the most common across the world is a varroa mite. It is parasite that feeds on both larva and live honeybees, causing all kinds of problems. Beekeepers need to deploy an integrated pest management strategy to mitigate varroa mites, from getting out of control.

varroa mite

 

Where I live, Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada, we also need to conscious about black bears. Check out this video of a black bear finding a honeybee hive. For sure bears enjoy the honey as a sweat treat, however, they are more interested in the larva, because it is rich source of protein and fat.

black bear at a honey bee hive
bear attack on a honeybee hive

 

Honeybees are one of the many pollinators that help with our food.

pollination and food

 

Honeybees receive a lot of glory for their role in pollination, and they certainly are important, however, there are lots of other pollinators.

pollinators of honeybees
pollinators
honeybee with pollen

 

Honey - why do honeybees make it?

  • Bees make and store honey because..........they EAT IT! It is a very compact, easily stored, high energy, low residue food.
  • Nectar is sugar water (Glucose, Fructose, Sucrose) with some essential oils and tannins.
  • Bees collect nectar and pollen and store it in cells in the hive
  • Water is evaporated out of the nectar. When the ratio is sugar to water is 16%, we call it honey, and the bees cap it over with wax. At this sugar density it will not ferment and will store indefinitely.
  • Honey is 80% sugar, 16% water, 4% other stuff
  • Pollen contains protein.
  • Honey = Carbohydrate,
  • Pollen = Protein

Average honey bee produces 1/12th of teaspoon of honey (5 drops)

honey from a honeybee

 

If you come for a professional headshot to my studio, if I have some available, as a small client appreciation, you will receive some "Headshot Honey".

headshot honey from peter istvan photography

 

Finally, you might be wondering how you can help honeybees (and pollination, in general) without being a beekeeper. There are three practical things you can start doing today:

  1. Plant bee-friendly flowers, Google “Native, bee friendly plants”. Here is a list of native plants in Ontario, Canada
  2. Avoid pesticide contamination
  3. Buy local honey

  

honeybees coming in for a landing

 

Would love to hear about your experiences with honeybees or honey? What is your favourite way to enjoy our honey? Or, do you have a question about honeybees? Ask below!

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Peter Istvan

Peter Istvan Photography

Peter is a professional headshot photographer. Available in studio, or on location. Serving Parry SoundMuskokaSudburyNorth Bay, Barrie, Toronto, and surrounding areas. 

Would be happy to hear from you!