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Extension > Youth Development > Minnesota 4-H > Projects > Environmental & Earth Science > Entomology > Bug Camp > Beekeeping

Yellow Medicine County Bug Camp Beekeeping

Beekeeping's benefit to agriculture

Agriculture's dependence

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has estimated that about 3.5 million acres of U.S. fruit, vegetable, oilseed and legume seed crops depend on insect pollination. Another 63 million acres derive some benefit from insect pollination. An estimated 80 percent of crop insect pollination is accomplished by honey bees.

Dollar value

A 1989 Cornell University study concluded that the direct value of honey bee pollination to U.S. agriculture is $9.7 billion.

Food supply

About one-third of the total human diet is derived directly or indirectly from insect pollinated plants.

Livestock feed

The production of most beef and dairy products consumed in the United States is dependent on insect-pollinated legumes (alfalfa, clover, lespedeza, etc.).

How many bees does it take?

To pollinate California's approximately 360,000 bearing acres of almonds, it is estimated that 250,000 colonies of honey bees must be borrowed from other states to add to the 500,000 colonies already in the state.

Professional practice

The practice of renting bees to pollinate crops has expanded rapidly. Most pollination services available to growers in the United States are provided by commercial beekeepers.

Honey bee facts

The colony

Honey bees are social insects, with a marked division of labor between the various types of bees in the colony. A colony of honey bees includes a queen, drones and workers.

The queen

The queen is the only sexually developed female in the hive. She is the largest bee in the colony. A two-day old larva is selected by the workers to be reared as the queen. She will emerge from her cell 11 days later to mate in flight with approximately 18 drone (male) bees. During this mating, she receives several million sperm cells, which last her entire life span of nearly two years. The queen bee can lay 9,000 eggs in one day.

The drones

Drones are stout male bees which have no stingers. Drones do not collect food or pollen from flowers. Their sole purpose is to make with the queen. If the colony is short on food, drones are often kicked out of the hive.

The buzz about honey

A hive of bees can make two pounds of honey a day. To create that much honey nectar from 100,000 flowers needs to be gathered. Talk about "bee-ing" active!

A honey bee flies a distance equal to twice around the world in its lifetime!

If you want to know where a bee finds its nectar, just watch it dance. Bees explain nectar location to others in the colony with funny dance like performances. Honey bees are social insects. They communicate with each other by dancing. They do this to tell nest mates where pollen and nectar are available. There are two common dances. The round dance tells recruits that food is close by the hive. The waggle dance communicates specific information about the distance and direction of the food.

Bees love honey as much as people do. In fact, the whole process of making honey is a way of storing up food for the bee colony.

Bees may buzz a lot, but you won't hear honey bees complaining. They are totally deaf.

A busy bee will produce just one-twelfth of a tablespoon of honey in a lifetime.

All honey will crystallize (develop sugar-like granules) in time. Honey will crystallize rapidly if placed in the refrigerator. Place one jar of honey in your refrigerator and one jar in a cabinet to compare. Don't worry. You can make the crystals disappear. Carefully place the jar in a pan of warm water. When heated, the honey will re-liquefy. Some honey (called creamed or spun) is finely crystallized. This makes the honey spreadable like butter.

Talk like a beekeeper

Anther: The area where pollen is developed and contained in a plant.

Apiarist: A beekeeper

Apiary: Where several bee colonies are kept in one place.

Bee bread: Mixture of pollen and honey fed to bees after they are three days old.

Beehive: A place where a bee colony dwells. Beekeeping

Beeswax: Secreted wax from the underside glands of the bee abdomen; bees mold the wax to form honeycomb.

Brood: A group of bees born at the same time.

Brood of chamber: Place in the hive where the queen lays her eggs.

Colony: A community of tens of thousands of worker bees, usually containing one queen, with or without drones.

Comb honey: Honey presented in its original wax comb.

Crystallization: Honey is a supersaturated solution. Crystals will develop in honey when glucose crystallizes out of solution. Crystallization of honey is most rapid at 57 degrees F.

Drone: A male bee.

Extracted honey: Honey removed from the comb by a special machine called an extractor and sold in liquid or crystallized form.

Hive tool: A tool the beekeeper uses to pry the frames out of the hives.

Larvae: A wingless, newly hatched bee.

Nectar: Sweet liquid from flowers that bees use to make honey.

Nurse bee: Bee that is in charge of caring for and feeding the larvae.

Pollination: Fertilization of a flower by a bee. The bee collects pollen from one flower on her legs and transfers it to other flowers when she lands on them.

Pupae: The stage of a bee's life between the larval stage and the adult.

Queen: The female bee that lays all the eggs in the colony. There is only one queen bee in a colony.

Royal jelly: The food the larvae eat for the first three days of their lives.

Smoker: Tool which sends out small amounts of smoke which calms the bees so the beekeeper can safely look at the hives.

Super: Where honey is stored.

Venom: Poison produced by the bee that is injected into your skin when a bee stings you. This is what makes a bee sting hurt.

Worker: A sterile female bee that performs special jobs in and around the hive.

Why Do Bees Sting?

Bees do not sting for the fun of it. A bee's sting is a way of protecting itself. She will only sting when she feels threatened or to protect her hive if she feels it is being invaded. If you don't bother her or make her feel like she or her hive is in danger, she won't bother (STING!) you.

What does the beekeeper do?

Not only are the bees hard at work year round (since they do not hibernate), but the beekeeper is "busy as a bee" as well. In the summer, he has to make sure there are plenty of flowers around the hive so the bees can collect the nectar to make honey. He also has t collect the honey after the supers fill up. In the fall, he extracts the honey and the supers. He feeds sugar water to the hive and wraps the hive to protect it from the winter cold. During the winger he makes sure the bees have sugar water to eat and that the hive is well insulated. When spring comes, he removes the winter wraps and moves the hive to a spot where spring flowers are blooming.


National Honey Board, 390 Lashley Street, Longmont, Co 80501

Penn State SRUA, 324 Henning Bldg, University Park PA 10802, 814-863-7738

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