Honey Comb Crunch

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Published on: Dec. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 27, 2010

"supers" or boxes. I flinched when he banged one of the shelves on the ground to knock a couple of hundred bees off of it.

He pulled a shelf from one of the hives, showing me the reddish-brown cells filled with honey. He rotated these full cells to the outside of the boxes, hoping the bees would begin building wax cells in the center shelves. He broke a piece of comb projecting from one shelf, and I lifted my headnet just long enough to stuff a piece of comb full of honey into my mouth. It was unbelievably sweet.

Meyer raises his own queens, a job that takes knowledge and skill. He told me that a honeybee has a life of about six weeks, spending half that time inside the hive, and the other half outside the hive, foraging for nectar and pollen. He says that each hive has a distinctive odor, that honeybees have an acute sense of smell, and that it is the odor that allows them to find their hive when they fly in from the field.

Honeybees, domestic and feral, have had their numbers ravaged by a mite that eats through their exoskeleton and kills them. A queen honeybee mates only once, retaining enough sperm to allow her to lay eggs for one three-month season. With the demise of feral bees, queens have a lesser chance of mating, and may produce only drone bees. With no worker bees, the hive is doomed.

Beekeepers in the United States now produce millions of pounds of honey and beeswax, and bees are important for pollinating crops that provide a portion of the food that Americans consume. Honeybees also pollinate foods important to wildlife. These include ragweed, wild beans, wild grapes and blackberries, sunflowers, sumac, clover, mulberries, goldenrod, sassafras, persimmons, ground cherry, hemp and lespedeza.

The mite is a parasitic arachnid. They have largely wiped out feral honeybees, and have killed large numbers of the insects kept by bee keepers. Many of the wildlife foods that would otherwise be pollinated by feral bees are going untouched, a situation that results in less natural foods for wildlife, and farmers can no longer rely on feral bees to pollinate their crops. Beekeepers are trying to staunch the loss of bees with a miticide, buying time while researchers look for non-chemical means to control the parasites.

Honeybees are social insects that live in large colonies. Most bees hibernate during

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