Sunday, February 19, 2012

Bee School

Bumblebee and Raspberry Flower
I attended Bee School this Saturday. I live in a rural area of western NC, so beekeeping is a fairly normal hobby. I think one of the teachers said there are 150 registered beekeepers in the county. If everyone who attended the class becomes a beekeeper, then the number will jump to around 200. Haywood County has around 50,000 residents, so the number of beekeepers will amount to 0.4% of the population. Well, that number isn’t as large as I had originally thought, but maybe my blog will influence more people to have their own apiaries.

I think it is amazing that there were no honeybees in North America prior to the colonists. Bumblebees are a native species but they don’t produce much honey because the colony doesn’t overwinter. I wonder what changes were brought about in the environment with the introduction of a non-native species. I had a conversation with my Invertebrate Zoology professor last semester, and he said honeybees are not invasive because they do not take over the niche of any native species. Another teacher said that since they cannot survive in the wild, honeybees are not considered to be an invasive species. I’m not sure which teacher was correct. Only 30 years ago, there were widespread feral populations of honeybees in North and South America, but with the unintentional introduction of tracheal mites and other pathogens, feral populations are now rare.

I found the Bee School to be well organized and well worth $25. The class continues again next Saturday from 9-4pm. Beekeepers seem to want more people to become involved with beekeeping. It is nice there is no competition or hurt feelings between beekeepers. A group of beekeepers is like a colony of bees with each working together for the benefit of the group… I’m growing too philosophical with this post.  

Here are some interesting facts about honeybees from a paper given by the Bee School:

-          The average worker makes 1-1/2 teaspoons of honey in her lifetime.
-          A hive of bees logs over 55,000 air miles to collect one pound of honey.
-          The honeybee is so efficient that it would use only an ounce of honey for fuel to fly around the world.
-          A honeybee visits about 50-100 flowers during one collection trip.
-          A queen can lay her weight in eggs during a 24hr period.
-          A drone has no father, but it does have a grandfather on his mother’s side.
-          A flying worker can carry a load of nectar and pollen which is equal to 80% of her own weight.  

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