While I was at the Whidbey Island Farm Tour espousing the virtues of bee keeping I realized that most people didn’t know the basics about bees. This every day insect is really an alien in the garden.
So some basics about bees are in order:
A. Each colony of bees is called a hive. (Unless it’s flying around in a large group than it’s called a swarm, more on that later.)
B. No matter how high the boxes are, all those bees comprise one hive.
C. Each hive has only one queen. (If all things are going right.)
D. Most of the bees are related to the queen or each other. (There’re always a few bees who go to the wrong hive with their honey load.)
E. There are only a few boy bees in a hive, called drones. They are larger bees whose only job is to mate with a virgin queen. They don’t do any work in the hive. When winter comes all the girls throw all the boys out the door.
F. The queen gets to breed one time and then spends her life in the hive. (Unless she swarms but that’s another story.)
G. All the worker bees you see in your gardens are girls.
H. You can tell how old a bee is by what job they are doing in the hive. (Their first day on the job is spent cleaning their own cell to get it ready for the next bee. If only the kids came that way!)
I. It takes three bees their whole life to make one teaspoon of honey. (Makes you appreciate that honey in your tea!)
J. Bees swarm when they decide it’s too crowded. They take off with half the worker population and the queen. (This leaves a very sad beekeeper.)
K. No… Everything is not going great with bees. We still have the same major problems but we just don’t make the news now.
L. There are two kinds of mites that attack bees. (As of this posting)
a. Varroa mites are like ticks and attach themselves to the outside of the bee.
b. Tracheal mites are found in the in the trachea of the bees.
M. Nosema is an organism that causes dysentery in bees.
N. The hives themselves get attacked by bacteria and fungus.
This is enough to get you started on those basic questions. If you are a bit more curious I have other articles to go a bit more in-depth.