Spring has long since sprung in the northern hemisphere and summer has unofficially begun. Insect activity is in full swing as the race to pollinate is full on. Until recently I did not know very much about one particular pollinator, the honey bee. A chance encounter from a hive on the move was all it took to develop a deeper respect and understanding for such a magnificent yet sometimes unappreciated creature.
A few weeks ago all I could have told you about honey bees is that they make honey and play key roles as pollinators. While walking in the garden I came across a massive bee ball in the grape vines. Since insects are not my forte I consulted an expert, or apiculturist, who was a wealth of information and helped me better understand my find.
Within every hive there is a queen. Every spring, when larvae hatch into adults, there is a good chance that another queen will be “born.” When this happens, and because the number of bees in the hive will have increased due to hatching, the new queen will leave the hive and take up to half of the worker bees with her. Therefore, the bees will be in search of a new hive. While home-hunting bees can exhaust themselves and need a rest spot. Thus, the result is a writhing bee ball like the one found in our grape vines. Depending on the distance from the original hive, visiting honey bees could need a few hours or an entire day to recoup their energy to continue. As the apiculturist explained, during this time of movement honey bees are best enjoyed at a safe distance. In addition, he offered to remove the bees if they stayed longer then a day or two, although he was confident they would move on before that time. And he was correct; after a few hours the honey bees were on their way.
I was absolutely fascinated by my chance encounter with the honey bees. I also wanted to share this story with others and encourage them to leave the honey bees alone and please do not harm them. If all else fails, seek the advice of a professional. Honey bees are vital to our ecosystem as they are pollinators and producers of honey. Recently, honey bees have suffered great loss in numbers due to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Although a single causative factor has yet to be identified, it is thought that CCD can come from mites, disease, environmental stressors, and pesticides. Regardless, honey bees are a valuable commodity for a variety of reasons and therefore need to be protected. Love them or hate them, you cannot deny honey bees make the world a much sweeter place.