What is going on with the bees?
Bees are in trouble and the problem is not just one thing. It's a multitude of issues such as climate change, environmental changes, pesticides, introduced species that prey on bees such as Varroa Mites, African Hive Beetles, and introduced diseases from other countries that have all found their way to North America.
Bees were already having to fight off wax moths which invade the hive and eat the honey and pollen and diseases America Foulbrood, Nosema and Trachea Mites.
We believe it's all these things combined that are overwhelming bees.
Varroa Mites are like a dog tick on a bee that drink the bees' blood. Just like a mosquito, these mites can transfer diseases through their dirty mouths when they bite which makes the bees very sick.
Recently it's been found that a sick male drone bee might infect a virgin queen when he mates with her which is why queens keep dying so quickly.
When a queen dies there's no new babies born to do the work and the bees have to try to make another queen. We have experienced this problem in the summer of 2015 where our bees could not kept their queens alive and they were requeening all summer. This means there's not enough bees to make honey to survive the winter. We didn't take honey that year and thankfully the bees survived the winter.
Pesticides - Neonicitoides in particular are a problem for all insects, both good and bad ones. It's been found that the pesticide in a powder form that is coated on corn seed can get airborne when planted and this has caused poisoning of hives through air, water, soil and the growing plants. And it has killed birds that eat the dead bees.
There is supposed to be a three year ban on neonics but we know for certain that in 2016 farmers are still using the product on corn since it's still being sold and not being properly regulated "for emergency use only".
African Hive Beetles originally came to North America via Florida and since US beekeepers do a lot of transporting of bees from the east to west coast and back for pollination of crops, this gives an opportunity for bad bugs like African Hive Beetles and Varroa Mites to hitch a ride and infect other hives. Currently the hive beetles have crossed the border (they have wings and can fly) and are in Niagara Falls, Exeter and some have been in Quebec.
These areas were under quarantine for some time but in 2016 a decision was made to lift the quarantine because blueberries and cranberries on the east coast need pollination and there's not enough bees that live there to pollinate all the crops. This may cause the spread of the beetle quicker as beekeepers transport bees to the east coast.
Are Honey Bees Native to North America? No! They're not. But they've been here a very long time. When the Pilgrims came and
landed at Plymouth Rock they brough bee hives with them on the boat. Unfortunately, some of those hives also had the disease American Foulbrood so that got spread around as well.
There are hundreds of native bees that pollinate flowers and crops. These bees might make tiny amounts of honey or no honey at all. Most of these native bees live in very small colonies or they are solitary bees. Many of them cannot sting or have very small stingers. But none of them produce honey that people can eat.
What does it mean when a bee head butts someone?
Bees are not completely predictable but they can and do often warn a person or creature if they are feeling threatened. Head butting is a sure sign that you are too close and a sting is likely to follow. If you feel a bee, wasp or hornet give you a head butt you should immediately back away.
How do bees communicate?
Bees communicate with each other in various ways. They use different chemical signals to send messages to their hive mates. The Queen releases Queen pheramones which help to keep the bees working and organized.
Her scent also lets them know she is in residence. Bees have a defensive posture that they can use when guarding the hive and they can also release attack pheromones. Bees also do several kinds of dances to communicate the exact location of a good source of nectar and pollen so that other bees can find it.
Where does beeswax come from?
Beeswax comes from the bees themselves. As a bee matures while working inside the hive they will begin to secrete wax.
There are 8 glands or pockets on the bees' stomach. The wax leaks out into these pockets, at first as a liquid and then when it cools it turns into white wax. The wax sits in the stomach pockets until the bee uses its leg to pull a piece out. The worker will chew the wax and mold it with her mandibles to build the honeycombs.
Can all bees sting?
No, not all bees can sting. The male bee, called a drone, has no stinger at all. The worker bees are female and they can sting, but young bees who are working inside a hive may not have developed their venom glands yet so would be unable to sting.
A worker bee can only sting a human or animal once and then will die. Their stinger has tiny barbs that catch in flesh and so when they sting their bottom gets torn off. The Queen can sting but it is rare for a Queen to sting a person. She can sting multiple times.
What is a Killer Bee?
Killer Bee is a term that has been given to African Honey Bees. You may be wondering how African honey bees ended up in North America. Many years ago a scientist in South America was doing experimental breeding with African honey bees. African honey bees are well known for being fantastic honey producers. The only problem is that they are also very enthusastic about protecting their honey--they're aggressive and don't hesitate to sting.
The scientist was trying to breed African honey bees with South American bees to try to take advantage of the honey producing genetics, but create calmer and more placid bees by crossing them with South American bees.
But the scientist took a day off and a person who was taking care of the bee yard saw these little entrances on the front of the scientist's hives. These entrances were designed to prevent the African queen bees from leaving the hive to breed in the wild. But the person didn't know and removed the special entrances.
The African queens did leave the hive and breed with wild bees. Very quickly this bee species spread through South America, into Mexico and from there the southern parts of the USA. So far this bee has not been seen in the northern and more colder parts of North America. The term now used to describe these hybrid bees (bees who have bred with domestic and wild North American bees) is "Africanized Bees".
Why does the honey in the store say "100% Canadian Honey" but in the small print it says it may be blended with honey from Brazil and Argentina? Beekeepers have been working very hard for years to try to get the labelling changed to better reflect the reality. Often Canadian honey which is prized for its flavour around the world, is mixed with cheaper honeys from other countries. Beekeepers have had to lobby government for many years to win a labelling change and it hoped that soon this will be changed. That would mean that 100% Canadian Honey will be just that.