The children gathered together on the mat with green, red, yellow and blue squares, some children were giggling; some sat wide-eyed starring at the table with unfamiliar items on it, in at Meadowville Library. The man at the table, Terry Rosvall, a bee keeper, prepared to share some tips on how to “bee-happy.”
A strange looking wooden box on the table was a mystery.
The bee keeper pulled a drawer out of the mysterious box and said,” Bees like to live in hollow trees, this is a hive and it’s made to look like a hollow tree.”
The drawer had rows and rows of tiny holes that were filled with honey and covered in a wax-like covering. Rosvall explained how the honey generated by the bees in the tiny holes.
“It takes a lot of bees to make honey,” the bee keeper said, “and a lot of honey to make the wax. It takes about ten pounds of honey to make a pound of wax, he said.”
A special knife was held by Rosvall who demonstrated how the honey was scraped from the hive trays. Each child got a close-up look at the drawer as Rosvall walked about the room so all could see.
There are three kinds of bees in a hive, Rosvall explained, female bees who are the worker bees inside the hive, the male bees who actually go out and gather the nectar and pollen, and the queen.
The queen’s only job is to lay eggs, Rosvall said, she lays 2,000 eggs a day.
During the winter there are only about 10,000 bees in hive, Rosvall said, during the summer, there are about 60,000. It’s not good to be a male bee in the winter, the bee keeper explained, when winter arrives the females kick out the males. In the spring new ones will be born.
The nectar goes into a honey stomach where it is stored for a short time and mixed with special enzymes. But between the honey stomach and the bee’s digestive stomach is a one-way valve, a check valve of sorts. If the bee needs some fuel, some of the nectar can go through this valve, but once through, it can’t go back. Nothing from the bee’s digesting stomach or the bee’s intestines can return to the honey stomach.
When the bee enters her hive, the contents of the honey stomach—and only the honey stomach—are transferred to other bees through trophallaxis before it is ultimately stored in the comb.
Bees need to be warm and the temperature inside a beehive is 90 degrees, even in winter. The warm temperature also helps thicken the honey. When the nectar is first brought to the hive, Rosvall explained, it is 60 percent water and we call it runny honey. The warm temperature in the hive helps remove the water and condense the honey and when the honey gets to 18 percent water content it’s ready.
Each hive has four sections, each with drawers in it. Honey is harvested from the top two drawer-sections and the bottom two are left to be food for the hive. “I want my girls [the bees] to be healthy and well fed,” Rosvall added.
A queen bee lives about five years and the worker bees only live about a month, the bee keeper said.
Rosvall had many bee keeping tools of the trade on hand like a “smoker,” strainers to filter the honey, a bucket used for additional filtering and with its spigot to fill jars with honey. Squeals of delight could be heard when the bee keeper suit was donned by Rosvall.
For more information on bees or bee keeping, the local libraries have several books. Rockwood Park has a Bee Club that meets the second Monday of the month.
Bees are hard workers and they sweeten our life as they not only make honey, but pollinate plants.
The next time a bee buzzes by and in a hurry, it is helping to bring one pound of honey from a million flowers to your table.