A hard year for hon­ey­bees

As the Bri­tish Bee­keep­ers As­so­ci­a­tion ex­plains, bees have had to over­come many chal­lenges to pro­duce this win­ter’s honey sup­ply

World of Animals - - How Bees Make Honey -

“The big­gest threat fac­ing hon­ey­bees this year is the Asian hor­net. The largest part of its diet comes from eat­ing hon­ey­bees”

“Hon­ey­bees have had a lot to cope with this year. The Beast from the East blew in at just the wrong time in spring, con­fin­ing worker bees to the hive when they needed to be out for­ag­ing for food to feed the grow­ing brood. Sum­mer came in a blast and blos­som came and went very quickly, fol­lowed by the heat wave. In pro­longed dry weather, flow­ers dry up and pro­duce less of the nec­tar hon­ey­bees need to make honey. De­spite this, over­all the honey crop looks like it will be a good one.

By far the big­gest threat fac­ing hon­ey­bees – and all pol­li­na­tors – this year is the Asian hor­net. Large parts of France are said to have be­come silent coun­try­side be­cause of this in­va­sive car­niv­o­rous species. It preys on in­sects of all kinds and even small mam­mals, but the largest part of its diet comes from eat­ing hon­ey­bees.

100 nests have been found on the Isle of Jer­sey and the fear is that it could spread across the

UK. There have been three con­firmed sight­ings in the UK in Septem­ber. Bee­keep­ers are on high alert across the coun­try, and a group is as­sist­ing bee­keep­ers on Jer­sey to hunt and erad­i­cate the Asian hor­net there.”

Find­ing a flower

Us­ing bright colours and ul­tra­vi­o­let pat­terns, flow­er­ing plants ad­ver­tise their nec­tar to pass­ing pol­li­na­tors. A bee search­ing for food can even sense

the elec­tric fields of flow­ers.

Mov­ing on

The bee leaves one flower and trav­els to the next to gather more nec­tar. It can visit 100 flow­ers in one for­ag­ing trip, un­know­ingly trans­fer­ring pollen

be­tween plants as it goes.

Get­ting de­hy­drated

To turn the wa­tery mix­ture into thick honey, bees fu­ri­ously fan their wings

over the open cell to en­cour­age evap­o­ra­tion. When they’re fin­ished the

wa­ter con­tent is about 18 per cent.

Ex­tract­ing the nec­tar

The hon­ey­bee lands on the cen­tre of a flower to ex­tract the sweet nec­tar.

A tube-like tongue – known as a pro­boscis – acts like a straw to suck

the liq­uid out.

Pass­ing it on

Back at the colony, the bee re­gur­gi­tates the nec­tar and passes it to a younger worker. En­zymes in its mouth lower the pH and break su­crose into glu­cose and fruc­tose.

Seal­ing the stores

With the honey con­cen­trated and bac­te­ria-re­sis­tant, the worker bees gather wax se­creted from glands on their ab­domens and use it to cre­ate an

air­tight cap over the cell.

Keep­ing things sep­a­rate

When a bee col­lects nec­tar, it doesn’t

go to the main stom­ach; it gets di­verted to a sep­a­rate pouch called the crop, or honey stom­ach ready for


Break­ing it down

The nec­tar is passed from bee to bee un­til it’s acidic enough to pre­vent mi­crobes from grow­ing and the sugar is in its sim­plest form. The last bee in

the chain puts the liq­uid into a cell.

Tuck­ing in

When food be­comes scarce in win­ter,

a colony can sur­vive on its sug­ary stores. Honey pro­vides them with the en­ergy they need to stay warm and

keep the hive healthy.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.