Special to the Journal
Honeybees are social insects and live in colonies. Each colony is a family unit, comprising a single, egg-laying female or queen and her many sterile daughters called workers. The workers cooperate in the food-gathering, nest-building and rearing the offspring. Males are reared only at the times of year when their presence is required. A colony of bees is considered a super-organism because no one bee is “in charge” and yet all of the bees are “in charge.”
It is commonly thought that the queen dictates decisions although her only job is laying eggs for the rest of the colony to raise. The queen will lay 1,500 to 2,000 eggs every day. These high numbers are needed in the spring and summer in order to bring in all the nectar and pollen needed to make honey and raise the young bees. Also, during this time of the year, worker bees only live four to six weeks, literally working themselves to death.
Bees reproduce or increase their numbers in two ways. The primary method is by the queen laying eggs and her young raising the new bees, and secondary by swarming. Swarming means the colony decides they are too crowded in the hive; consequently the old queen and approximately half of the worker bees leave the hive to set up house in another location. A new queen is raised by the workers left behind.
People are frightened of “swarms,” although they shouldn’t be. Bees are significantly less aggressive in a swarm due to the fact they don’t have a home, they don’t have food stores, and they don’t have honey to protect. Once they find a new home and begin making comb, laying eggs, storing food and honey they become a little more aggressive when disturbed.
When a swarm is discovered hanging on a tree limb, the side of a house, or other site please call a beekeeper to catch them so they can be saved. Don’t let a pest controller or other person kill the swarm: bees are much too important to the human food supply to allow them to be destroyed by an uninformed person.
New beekeepers are needed all the time. Parties interested in learning more about bees and beekeeping are welcome to attend the monthly meeting of the Bell-Coryell Beekeepers Association every third Thursday at 7 p.m. at Trinity Worship Center in Copperas Cove. For more information, contact Bell-Coryell Beekeepers Association President Dennis Herbert at 254-742-8465.