Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner

Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner
Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Day 225 - The Swarm of Bees

Swarm of Honey Bees
Recently there was a story about a group of kids playing basketball and the basketball rebounded off the back of the rim and hit a bunch of bees and were stung by a "swarm of bees."  This story was told to us by Ed Williams a local Beekeeper who gives information sessions at the local Lyonia Preserve.  He explained that when approximately 10,000 - 15,000 bees break off of a hive to form their own hive, they are in a swarm.  When in  the swarm they have nothing to defend or protect and are actually quite defenseless.  Truth was in the story about the kids was the basketball had hit their HIVE.  Different Story.  It is amazing how we think we know the story and are quick to judge and by giving us just one more piece to the puzzle, the complete view changes.  The right thing to do when you hear a story that just doesn't sit right in your gut, is to keep asking questions...eventually that one final piece will be in the right empty spot and the completed puzzle shows itself in a different light.

Honey Worker Bees FEMALE!

We listened to Ed talk about these amazing creatures.  He was specifically talking about the European Honey Bees which were brought from Germany.  He explained how during the six weeks of the bees life, they know what to do on day one or three or twenty three or forty-one.  The numbered day of their life determines what there role is for the day.  Queen Bees are fed royal jelly while the other working bees (all females) are fed royal jelly for their first two day and the third day are fed a different food so that they stay small.  The males or drones are only fertilized by the Queen Bee if she needs them to mate.  Once they have mated, they die.  As Ed explains it, they are only good for drinking beer, watching football and mating.

When the collective mind of the bees makes a decisions, they do what is best for the hive.  Nobody is the leader, not even the Queen Bee.  For the survival of the hive, if a Queen is sick, they will kill the Queen and start feeding royal jelly to the next bee they select to hatch and they will be a healthy community once again. If the hive gets too large, they will stop feeding the Queen Bee as she is too fat to fly if they don't.  Once she gets fit because they start to chase her around, they fly off in a swarm to a branch on a tree while the scout bees fly off to find a new hive.  They come back and do what is called a waggle dance in a figure eight.  The direction of the middle of the eight tells the other bees and scout bees where the place may be that is a good place for the next hive.

By vibration only this is communicated from the waggle dance.  Once the BORG-like mind decides ok, this is where we will go, all 15,000 bees fly with the Queen in the middle and start a new hive.  The Six Million dollar question is HOW DO THEY KNOW HOW AND WHEN TO DO THIS????  If you can figure it out, then you win the Nobel Peace Prize.

We don't know but what we do know is that the more we find out about these amazing creatures and how much we have to thank them for our food, we realize how much more we don't know.  They are docile bees.  They live all year round unlike Yellow Jackets or Killer Bees (African) which live for one year and then bury a queen for the winter.  She will lay her eggs in the Spring and start a new brood of bees unlike the Honey Bees which are self-staining and docile.

Female Bald Eagle

Male Bald Eagle
Imagine our surprise when we went this morning to view the American Bald Eagle Male and Female that had returned to Holly Hill, FL to their nest and we happened upon a swarm of bees.  We had just learned that you could hypothetically put your hand or arm in the swarm and they will not harm  you.  Ed didn't recommend this or recommend that the males who have Queen Bees at home to starve their Queen and chase her around the house to get her to lose weight either.  But he said they are full of honey in a swarm and quite vulnerable.  It is remarkable to see and quite fascinating.  If you are interested in findout more, you can read Honeybee Democracy by Dr. Thomas Seely.

While honey lies in every flower, it takes a bee to get the honey out. ~ Unknown.

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