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Honeybee Tidbits
(Courtesy of 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 solitary bees.

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...

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