Honey Bees

When most people think of bees, the honey bee is what comes to mind. Honey bees are very social, and they live in hives that can house up to 80,000 bees! The hive is run by the queen bee, who produces all the workers in the hive. Their main diet is nectar and pollen from flowers, and as such, they play an important role in pollination, especially for crops. These bees are much smaller than their fellow pollen-collector the bumble bee, and have a slender, more wasp-like build than their bumbling cousins. They have a fuzzy thorax (the middle portion of their body) and their abdomen, which has the characteristic “bee stripes”, is slightly pointed, rather than rounded.

The official state insect of Wisconsin, honey bees have become quite popular recently. This is due not only to their role as pollinators but also to their namesake, honey. They are actually the only species of bee that produces honey! This honey is produced when a bee ingests nectar, processes it, and then stores it in the comb within the hive.

Controlling Honey Bees

Most people who fear bees do so because of their painful sting. When the bee stings, the stinger and several others parts of the bee’s anatomy are torn from its body. It soon dies, a fact that offers little relief to the person who is stung. Honey bees don’t often create hives in buildings, but it can be a nerve-wracking and potentially costly experience when they do. It can even be problematic if a colony takes up residence on the property of someone who is allergic. A natural indication of nest activity will be continuous flight to and from a hole in a building, wall void, tree, etc. Loud buzzing can also be heard near the entrance. Removing honey bees from your home is time-consuming and can be labor-intensive, and should only be done by professionals.

Hives in Your Walls

Have you ever noticed a steady stream of bees on the outside of your home? Have you heard buzzing on the inside? This may be a sign that you have a honey bee colony living in your wall. Honey bees are a protected species, and therefore sprays cannot be used. The bees need to be extracted from your home. This is done by first locating and removing the queen, and then removing the colony. After the colony is removed the wall must be opened to remove the honeycomb. Removing the comb helps prevent other honey bees, and potentially other insects or animals, being attracted to that area. This is typically a large project and should not be done by anyone other than trained professionals!

DID YOU KNOW?

Honey bees as we know them are actually not native to North America! It is believed that they were originally brought over from Europe! Variants from Italy, Russia and Austria are particularly popular with beekeepers.