Veteran beekeeper Howard Kerr told the Blount County Beekeepers Association that bees are extraordinary animals and worth a lot of study.
Howard has devoted nearly 50 years to doing just that. Here are a few of the points he made:
- While worker bees have barbed stingers, the queen has a smooth stinger. That’s what she uses to fight other queens. Because it’s smooth, she doesn’t lose it when she uses it. Worker bees lose their stingers when they used them and thus can live for only a short time after that.
- When you buy a three-pound package of bees, you’re getting about 10,000 bees. There are about 3,300 bees to a pound.
- The only purpose of a drone is to mate with a queen (not necessarily of the same hive). The mating is done in the air, and once the mating is finished, the drone dies.
- You are what you eat; so are the bees. An egg gets hormone-rich royal jelly for about three days, but then the nurse bees most of the time stop feeding that. If a bee continues to get royal jelly, she could develop into a queen.
- Bees use landmarks to find their way around, especially when they are returning to the hive.
- Bees have something called “flower fidelity,” which is what makes them such good pollinators. They will work the same type of flower over and over. Consequently, they are more likely to carry the pollen from one flower to another. Other insects work a variety of flowers at the same time, and they are less likely to be good pollinators.
- Bees are not smart (“People don’t like it when I say that,” Howard said), but they are “highly programmed.”