Honey Comb Crunch

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Published on: Dec. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 27, 2010

the winter, but honeybees stay together, their shared body heat keeping them alive as they feed on stored honey. As soon as warm weather arrives in the spring, these bees are ready to fly out in search of pollen and nectar. In the course of this search they pollinate many of the wild foods that wildlife need.

Solitary bees like bumblebees, in contrast, have to rear several generations of young in the spring before they become effective pollinators. They may not peak in numbers until July or August.

To create nests, honeybees use a wax that is produced by their glands. Bees remove this wax from their bodies, and shape it into cells. The cells are filled with honey and pollen that will later be used as food.

To produce honey, bees fly from flower to flower, drinking nectar that they store in a portion of their digestive system called a honey sac. While in this sac, the nectar takes the first step in a process that will turn it in to honey. Bees also gather pollen from flowers, carrying it back to the hive on combs and baskets that are part of their hind legs.

Humankind domesticated honeybees several thousand years ago. A colony of bees includes worker bees, drones and a queen. A hive may number as many as 50,000 bees. The bees usually build their honeycomb in a sheltered site like a hollow tree or cave, or, in the case of domesticated bees, a container devised for that purpose by a bee keeper.

A queen in a hive may lay over 1,000 eggs per day. Eggs are cared for by drones. Young bees pass through stages and do different jobs as they age, first cleaning the hive, then feeding larva, secreting wax and gathering pollen and nectar from the field. Both queens and workers are born from fertilized eggs, but queen larvae live in special cells and eat more of a high quality food called royal jelly. New queens are sometimes produced in a hive, and they or the old queen may leave to start a new colony, thereby increasing the number of bees.

Meyer, whose bees are often used to pollinate Missouri apple crops, says that honeybees are amazing insects, and that even scientists can't fully explain all of their abilities. "Bees know where magnetic north is," Meyer says. "They also know the orientation of their home to the angle of the

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