I became interested in beekeeping in the early 1980s. I had zero experience in beekeeping, but what I lacked in experience, I more than made up for in enthusiasm. I read every book I could find to try and learn the ancient art of beekeeping. (The Internet was not available to me in the ’80s.)
Today, I still love to watch these amazing creatures dance from one flower to the next on their assigned rounds for the greater good of the colony.
The honeybee colony consists of a queen, who is mother to the rest of the hive, and worker bees that number between 10,000 in the winter and 50,000 or more in the summer, when flowers are blooming.
In the summer, the hive also includes as many as 1,000 drones — male bees — which are killed off at the end of summer by the workers.
In addition to the adult bees, the colony contains a variable number of immature bees — eggs, larvae and pupae.
All of the immature bees are housed in the cells of the honeycomb and are referred to as the brood. Packed into the other cells of the honeycomb are pollen and honey, the food of the bees.
This whole unit constitutes a colony, which is regarded as normal only when all of the different stages are present.
For more information on honeybees, check out Bee Briefs on the UC Davis website.
Fun facts about honeybees
• Bees pollinate 80 percent of the world’s plants, including 90 different food crops.
• One in every three or four bites of food you eat is thanks to bees.
• The honeybee is responsible for $15 billion in U.S. agricultural crops each year.
• Bees maintain a temperature of 92-93 degrees Fahrenheit in their central brood nest, regardless of whether the outside temperature is 110 or -40 degrees.
• The honeybee is the only insect that produces food eaten by humans.
• The Green Thumb is a column by Tracy’s master gardeners. University of California-certified master gardeners are available to answer gardening questions from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 953-6112 or firstname.lastname@example.org.