Royal jelly is inappropriately named. Most royal jelly production in a hive is fed to ordinary female worker honeybee grubs. It is a mixture of two liquids produced in the head glands of nurse worker bees - the hypopharyngeal and mandibular glands. Larvae that are destined to be workers are fed for two days on royal jelly. Larva that are destined to be queens are fed all their larval lives on royal jelly. Royal jelly is rich in amino acids, vitamins and sugars. Human uses include antibacterial, dietary supplement, and in cosmetics.
Beeswax. Used in polish, candles, modeling, casting and ointments.
Honey. Food for humans and others. Humans have been harvesting honey for at least 9,000 years. It is recorded on a rock painting in the Cuevas de la Arana in Valencia, Spain. Normal honey is made from nectar collected from flowers. Forest honey and leaf honey is made from the sugary secretions of aphids and scale insects collected from leaves. The nectar is carried back by the honeybee workers in their honeystomach or crop. The water in the nectar is removed by evaporation leaving a sugar solution concentrated enough to prevent the growth of any bacteria and yeast cells that may be present (about 80% sugar). There are also enzymes from the workers hypopharyngeal glands that passed into the nectar as it was being sucked up and ejected. This evaporation process takes days. Over 1,000,000 tons of honey are produced commercially worldwide each year.
Bee venom. Used to decrease sensitivity to the venom. Used in the treatment of humans for multiple sclerosis, arthritis, rheumatism, chronic pain, neurological diseases, asthma, gout, fibromyalgia, and dermatological conditions.
Bee brood. A high protein, high fat food. This is why honey badgers, bears etc. will brave attacking bees to get at the brood.
Pollen. Produced by flowers, collected by the workers and mixed with a little nectar to make it sticky. It is used as a dietary supplement, and in the study of allergic reactions.
Why a honeybee dies after it stings us
When a honeybee stings a mammal the bee dies because its sting stays in the mammal's skin and pulls out the poison sac and some of the abdominal contents. This is because the sting is barbed at the end, and mammal skin is stretchy. If the bee were to sting another insect it could easily pull out its sting as the insect is covered with brittle chitin.
The muscles attached to the poison sac continue to pump even though they are no longer attached to the bee, so it is important to scrape off or pull out the sting as quickly as possible. There is also an alarm pheromone released with the sting, and this recruits more bees to come and investigate/attack.
A typical honeybee will inject 5 - 50 micrograms of venom. Unless a person is allergic, the sting will just cause some pain and a little swelling. However 10 stings will cause an adult human to feel ill. Over 50 stings requires immediate medical help, and 300 can be fatal.
The only time a honey bee queen uses her sting is when she kills rival queens in the hive.
Swarming is most common in spring and early summer. The old queen and about half of the bees leave the nest to form a new colony. A newly hatched queen will take over the existing hive and remaining bees. The swarming colony may rest temporarily in "unsuitable places" causing some alarm in the human population.
Local beekeepers will soon capture the swarming colony and re house it in a suitable hive. This is the natural way of increasing their stock. During swarming the bees are at their most docile. It is during this phase that it is possible to photograph a person covered in bees.
There are some very important differences between the bumblebee life cycle and the honeybee life cycle.
There is no mouth-to-mouth exchange of food
between adult bumblebees, nor do adults groom each other or the queen as is
seen in honeybees.
As yet no equivalent to the honeybee "queen substance" has
been found. In honeybee hives workers licking the queen and each other pass the
"queen substance" throughout the hive, and this pheromonal control enables the
queen to maintain dominance.
Bumblebee queens appear to maintain dominance
purely by aggressive behaviour. This involves head butting mainly.
With bumblebees the colony is
started anew each year with only the new queens surviving the winter. Whereas
the honeybee hive continues year after year, even though there may have been a
change of queens during the summer.
During the cold winter months the honey bee
workers cluster around the queen deep in the hive to maintain a high enough
temperature to survive, they also feed on their store of honey. So when the
weather warms enough for them to forage there are already a large number of
Honeybee queens never forage, so unlike bumblebee queens they have no pollen basket; they live their lives inside the hive
only emerging to found a new colony when they swarm with a full compliment of
Bumblebees in temperate climates never swarm, however there are a few
tropical species that initiate new colonies by swarming.
Varroa destructor is a mite that parasitizes honey bees leading to loss of honey and wax, as well as poor pollination of crops.
It was first identified in 1951 in Singapore, and has spread worldwide because of the movement of infected colonies, and the importation of infected queens. Beekeepers aim to "control" Varroa as the cannot eradicate it.
The Beehive Inn, Eamont Bridge
In this hive we are all alive
Good liquor makes us funny
If you be dry step in and try
The virtue of our honey.
When Mrs. Gorm (Aunt Eloise)
Was stung to death by savage bees,
Her husband (Prebendary Gorm)
Put on his veil, and took the swarm.
He's publishing a book next May
On, "How to make bee-keeping pay."