Champlain Publishing is teaming up with the Sustainability team and the Champlain Apiary to raise awareness about bees and our campus! This is the third in a series of educational blog posts about honey bees! Keep an eye out on campus for more posters and promotional materials coming soon.
Why, hello there! I see you have come back to learn about us worker bees! I’m sure your visit with the queen was quite the experience. Unlike Queen Bella, who doesn’t use her wings very much, we worker bees are using them constantly. Really, how do you survive without any wings? I use them to fly out of the hive to gather nectar and help pollinate other plants while I’m out and about.
Worker bees are responsible for pollinating about one-sixth of flowering plants and almost 400 different agricultural plants worldwide. Crazy, right? What can I say? I get around. I can fly at 15 mph (that’s 200 wing beats per second or 12,000 per minute!). It’s a workout, but I have to be able to collect lots of nectar for the colony. My fellow worker bees and I will fly 55,000 miles just to make a single pound of honey!
After visiting anywhere from 50 to 100 flowers, I fly back to my hive and mix my collected nectar with enzymes from glands in my mouth and store the mixture in a hexagonal honeycomb. When the water content is reduced to 17 percent, the mixture turns into honey. When this happens, I seal the honeycomb with a thin layer of wax–until we need it to eat later.
On my own, I make about one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey during my lifespan; however, between myself and the tens of thousands of other worker bees in my colony, we can make approximately 60 lb. or more of honey in one season, with around 25 lb. of surplus honey. Some of the larger hives have 80,000 worker bees and can produce 100 lb. in surplus!
Of course, my colony needs some of the honey we make to survive through the winter. Unlike other species of bees, honey bees live through the cold weather. We all have to cozy up and huddle together for warmth, eating the honey we stored from the previous summer. Some of the bees will spend time flapping their wings to create more heat. We’re always busy, making food, raising young bees, providing for the colony, and building up the hive.
On average, we live for about nine months. So typically, we don’t have to endure the cold for too long. But for now, I have to go. I have to get back to work collecting and making honey so that we have food for the winter. I wouldn’t want the queen to have my head! –Emma Reed