Bees

A Honey Bee at work on my French Lavender.
Latest Update 8th October 2016.

Bees.
  • Bees are flying insects closely related to wasps and ants.  They are major pollinators and produce honey and beeswax from pollen and nectar collected from the flowering plants they visit. 
  • Without pollination, many flowering plants would not be able to produce fruit and set seeds, and as a consequence many would become extinct.
  • There are nearly 20,000 known species of bees and they are found on every continent except Antarctica.  They can be found wherever flowering plants grow. 
  • They are adapted to feeding on nectar for energy and pollen for protein and other nutrients.
  • They produce and store honey to feed on when nectar is not available. (e.g in cold weather).
  • Their larvae are sealed in wax cells with a supply of nectar and pollen mixed together to form a sticky mass.  This feeds them as they mature into adults.
Pollinators. 
  • Bees play an important role pollinating flowering plants, they focus on gathering either nectar or pollen depending on demand, especially in social species.
  • Bees gathering nectar may accomplish pollination, but bees that are deliberately gathering pollen are more efficient pollinators.
  • It is estimated that one third of the human food supply depends on insect pollination, most of which is accomplished by bees, especially the semi-domesticated European Honey Bee.
  • Many bees are opportunistic foragers who gather pollen and nectar from a wide variety of plants.  Others gather it from just a few different types, whilst some concentrate on a single plant species.
  • Pollen and nectar are usually combined and stored in a cell in the nest with an egg deposited on the mixture. The cell is typically sealed after the egg is laid, and the adult and larva never interact directly.
  • Visiting flowers can be a dangerous occupation for bees as their predators hide in them to capture the unwary.  Other bees are lost to birds in flight, and many are killed by insecticides used on flowering plants.  The insecticides kill the bees by direct poisoning and by contaminating their food supply. 
  • A queen honey bee may lay 2000 eggs per day during their busiest time in spring, and she must lay 1000 to 1500 eggs per day during the foraging season to replace daily casualties. 
Honey
  • Honey is produced by bees as a food source. To produce a single jar of honey, foraging honey bees have to travel the equivalent of three times around the world.  
  • Honey bees transform saccharides into honey by a process of regurgitation.  They do this as a group a number of times until it is partially digested. 
  • The resulting aqueous solution is still high in water content, and most of it must be evaporated to produce the golden viscous fluid we are all familiar with.
  • Because honey's natural sugars have been dehydrated, fermentation is prevented, and added enzymes modify and transform the honey's pH and chemical composition.
  • In cold weather or when fresh food sources are scarce, bees use stored honey as their source of energy.
In my Garden
  • The organic gardener does not use synthetic fertilisers, insecticides or herbicides.
  • There are plenty of natural alternatives which do not kill pollinators like bees or beneficial predatory animals, insects and microbes.
  • Flowering plants and herbs are grown near and amongst fruiting plants and vegetables to attract, feed and provide habitat for pollinators and predatory insects.
  • As a result, when the plants are harvested for food, they are not contaminated by poisonous chemical residues.
  • We don't have a hive or native bee nest in our garden, but we do have an abundance of European Honey Bee visitors, and an occasional Australian Blue Banded Bee.