Honey Comb Crunch

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Published on: Dec. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 27, 2010

sun at any time of day. Bees returning to the hive do a thing called a waggle dance. In that dance they recruit other bees and tell them the direction from the comb to the nectar source.

"They can fly directly to that source, and that is where we get the expression 'making a bee line.' They will fly straight on until they cover the right distance, then look around and find the right plants. They can also smell a nectar source; their sense of smell is 100 time more sensitive than a dog's, and they can follow an aroma in the air for a long distance." The color of flowers, which stand out from the greens and browns of nature, also help them locate blooming plants.

The amount of time bees need to pollinate an orchard can be short. "It depends on the length of the blooming period," Meyer says. "When apples are in full bloom here in Missouri it may take only three days to set the number of apples the grower needs. The hour I take my bees out of the orchard, the grower may begin spraying his trees to protect them from insect damage." Warm weather accelerates the blooming period of plants, and the warmer it is, the less time it may take the bees to do their work.

The mites that are damaging bees hit Missouri about four years ago. "Some beekeepers lost up to half of their bees," Meyer says. "Almost all the feral bees, which at one time outnumbered those held by beekeepers by about two to one, are gone. We have lost as much as 75 percent of the honeybee population in four years. If you have clover in your yard, watch it for bees. You are not going to see many."

There are two kinds of mites affecting honeybees. They were discovered in Russia in the 1940s. "It's going to take ten years of genetics to produce a lot of bees than can see these varroa mites and kill them," Meyer says. "Most bees just ignore them and the mites multiply tremendously. They feed off the bee larva first, so none of the bees develop and the population decreases. In winter, a whole cluster of maybe 30,000 bees will just dwindle down to a few thousand, and then the cold will kill them."

Bees seem to develop a resistance to the second mite, called a tracheal

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