Facts Worth Knowing about Bees
When it becomes warm again in spring and the first blossoms and bushes begin to bloom, the bees also begin to swarm. There is a lot to tell about bees that is worth knowing and is exciting and interesting.
Like ants and wasps, bees belong to the order of hymenoptera (“membrane-winged”). The bee family is divided into honeybees and bumblebees. It is especially interesting that bees live together in a large colony. There is a queen bee, and she is the only bee that lays eggs, from which the offspring are hatched. Besides a few males (the so-called drones), a bee colony consists primarily of female worker bees that have different tasks. During her life, a worker bee repeatedly takes on new tasks, depending on her age.
At the beginning of her life, a bee looks after the honeycomb cells and prepares them for the queen’s eggs. She then becomes a nurse bee and feeds the larvae (= bee babies) with nectar. Later she can then produce wax with the glands on her posterior and build honeycombs. There are also guard bees, who protect the beehive against foreign invaders, and forager bees, who fly out to transport sweet plant nectars in a honey sack back to the beehive. It is especially interesting that the foragers use special dances to show in which direction the food sources are located. The foragers spit out the nectar in the hive, where it is ingested by the hive bees. The hive bees process the nectar in their honey stomachs and bring it to the honeycombs, where they deposit ripe honey. The honey is used as food for the larvae and is at that same the winter food supply for the bee colony.
The beekeeper can “harvest” a small portion of the honey. To do this, he takes the honeycomb out of the beehive, removes the wax layer from the honeycomb, and carefully extracts the honey. A special centrifugal extractor is used for this purpose. And then all food lovers can enjoy a piece of bread spread with honey. Bees and other insects are very important, especially for agriculture and wildflowers, since fruit trees, grains in the fields, and all other plants need bees for pollination. When insects take nectar from blossoms, they distribute the pollen from plant to plant. It is important so that the plants can bear fruit such as apples, strawberries, wheat, and other grains.
Unfortunately, bee populations have been at risk for years. On the one hand, the varroa mite population is expanding. These mites attack the larvae of the honey bees and feed on their blood. In doing so, the mite transmits pathogens, which can be fatal for bee colonies. Harmful as well are some substances that farmers use to protect plants. Several plant protection products disturb the bees’ sense of direction, so that they cannot return to their hive. The queen and the larvae then lack food, and the bee colony dies.
Planting a buffet for bees, bumblebees, and butterflies
If you would like to do something beneficial for bees, you can offer them a buffet of flowers and other insect-friendly plants. There is a whole range of plants that bees as well as bumblebees or butterflies like. Savory and lavender both look nice and can be used in the kitchen as seasoning herbs. Bees also like herbs such as basil, oregano, rosemary, and mint. If you are tending an herb spiral in the garden or a pot of herbs on the balcony, you will have fresh greens for cooking as well as be doing something positive for insects.
Nasturtiums are an especially beautiful plant for a child’s flower bed. They grow quickly, bloom from July to October, and both the leaves and the blooms can be eaten in a salad – though the leaves taste rather spicy. And of course, bees, bumblebees, and butterflies also like other flowering plants: forget-me-nots, bellflowers, sunflowers, snapdragons, strawflowers, marigolds, mallows, and pinks. If you set out various plants in your beds, tubs, and pots, you will be laying out a proverbial rich table for the insects.
You can also – if you have the space – sow wildflowers on a section of the lawn and then leave it alone for the whole summer. Moreover, you will have less lawn to mow. If you don’t have space on a section of lawn, wildflowers can also be planted in a bucket or tub. This is a great idea for small young gardeners. There should also be drainage holes in the bottom of plant containers. These must be drilled carefully, depending on the type of container. A layer of small stones first goes into the bucket. The little gardeners then shovel a thick layer of potting soil on top of them. Now the next step is sowing. Wildflower seeds can be purchased as a ready-made mixture. You can also select individual varieties and mix, for example, cornflowers (blue flowers), larkspur (violet flowers), and field chamomile (white and yellow flowers) on a plate, or plant three little buckets with one variety each. The seeds should be sprinkled evenly and at some distance from each other on the potting soil, covered with a little soil, and carefully watered. When the wildflowers grow too close to one another, you can thin them out.
If your child would like to hear about what a little honeybee experiences, you can read aloud the story of Hanna Honeybee in Trouble. Or you can bring the gardening fun indoors and while away the time by playing a game together. My Very First Games – Little Garden or My Very First Games – Hanna Honeybee are perfect for young gardeners.