University of Illinois Extension Service)
Honeybees belong the the family Hymenoptera.
Honeybees and a number of ant species have highly developed social organizations
in the animal kingdom. The vast majority of bees are solitary - not so the
honeybee. Bee pollination benefits many plants, such as pumpkin, squash, apple,
peach, cherry, and strawberry. Of the 4000 different bee species in North
America, honeybees are the best known; however, most pollination is by wild
When the bee is gathering nectar, pollen collects
on the small hairs of its body. To carry it safely, the bee stows it away in
sacks (baskets) on its hind legs. A bee can carry its own weight in pollen and
nectar, and still fly... barely. Some food will fuel the bee's own activity, but
most will be saved for the communal hive.
It takes the nectar from five million flowers to
make one pint of honey. Each bee may visit hundreds of blossoms in a day and
work a twelve hour shift. They make about ten journeys a day, with each trip
lasting roughly an hour. Their maximum range is approximately two miles. There
is no rest for the weary here - and most worker bees live for only about a
month. They simply wear out.
All bees are affected by pesticide use. Bee
enemies include bears, skunks, fungi, and mites. The Death's Head Hawkmoth is
able to intrude a hive, by using camouflage and produces chemicals that mimic
the scent of the beehive. Additionally, it makes a sound that would normally
only come from a queen bee. The moth then plunders the honey cells unchallenged.
There are no killer bees in Illinois because they
cannot survive the winter. Because some people react to stings, bees can cause
panic among property owners. This often happens when the bees swarm on the
branch of a tree in or near their yard. Swarming bees have left an established
hive and are in search of a new home - this is how bee hives naturally
propagate. Left alone, the bees will move on to find a new home. However, if
removal is needed soon, a beekeeper will usually come to pick up the bees. A new
colony of bees can cost more than $50 to buy, so the chance to catch a free
swarm is not an opportunity for the beekeeper to waste.
Bees have bee busy for millions of years now, and
they're not about to stop anytime soon...