Our honeybees are the healthiest around, arguably the healthiest in the state. That's because we give our bees thoroughly tested probiotics that fend off diseases, mites, and flush out chemicals that the bees ingest. You won't find Roundup in the bellies and thus the honey of our girls. Keep reading to learn more about our most important manufacturers: the bees.
The Honey Trail
Each day our honey bees leave the hive to forage for pollen and eat nectar, which is turned into honey. A booming hive can make up to 400 pounds of honey in just one season, although due to urban sprawl and modern agriculture's takeover of the foraging environment, hives these days create more like 200-250 pounds of honey per season.
Bees compact all their pollen (pure protein) onto their legs in globs referred to as their corbiculae, or pollen baskets. They transport nectar (carbohydrates) for honey production in what are called their honey stomachs. The bees do this hard work each and every day during the season. We never over-harvest our bee's supply, and take special precaution to ensure our bees have plenty left to feed their broods in addition to us.
Here at Raw Honey MKE honey bee health is our main priority. And healthy, happy bees mean delicious, clean honey! Read more below about the life-cycle of a honey bee and our special attention to honey bee health to get in the know.
LIFE CYCLE PT 1
The honey bee metamorphosis begins when the queen lays an egg. She lays a single egg in each cell that has been cleaned and prepared by the workers to raise new brood. The cell must be spotless. If she chooses a standard worker-size cell, she releases a fertilized egg into the cell. That egg develops into a worker bee (female). But if she chooses a wider drone-size cell, the queen releases an unfertilized egg. That egg develops into a drone bee (male). The workers that build the cells are the ones that regulate the ratio of females:males by building smaller cells for female worker bees, and larger cells for male drone bees.
3 days after the queen lays the egg, it hatches into a larva. Healthy larvae are snowy white and resemble small grubs curled up in the cells. Tiny at first, the larvae grow quickly, shedding their skin 5 times. These helpless little ones have crazy appetites, consuming 1,300 meals a day. The nurse bees first feed the larvae royal jelly. Later they’re weaned onto a mixture of honey and pollen. Within just 5 days they are 1,570 times larger than their original size. At this time the worker bees seal the larvae in the cell with a porous capping of tan beeswax. Once sealed in, the larvae spin a cocoon around their bodies.
At this stage the larva is now officially a pupa, taking on the familiar features of an adult bee. The eyes, legs, and wings take shape. Coloration begins with the eyes: first pink, then purple, then black. Finally, the fine hairs that cover the bee’s body develop. After 12 days, the now adult bee chews its way through the wax capping to join its sisters and brothers.
LIFE CYCLE PT 2
Complexity of Adult Bee
A honey bee colony typically consists of three kinds of adult bees: workers, drones, and a queen. All honey bees of various jobs are female save for drones, which are used for mating. Several thousand worker bees cooperate in nest building, food collection, and brood rearing. Each member has a definitive task to perform, related to its adult age. But surviving and reproducing takes the combined efforts of the entire colony. Individual bees (workers, drones, and queens) cannot survive without the support of the whole colony.
In addition to the thousands of worker adults, a colony normally has a single queen and several hundred drones during late spring and summer. The social structure of the colony is maintained by the presence of the queen and workers, and depends on an effective system of communication. The distribution of chemical pheromones among members and communicative “dances” are responsible for controlling the activities necessary for colony survival. Like other creatures, bees need sleep to be efficient lest their dances become lax and inexact, conveying lacking messaging as to wear forage material is located or who is to do what.
The bee's brain goes through various "programs" of labor activities dependent primarily on its age, but vary with the needs of the colony. Reproduction and colony strength depend more so on the queen, the quantity of food stores, and the size of the worker force. As the size of the colony increases up to a maximum of about 60,000 workers, so does the efficiency of the colony, and thus honey stores. Learn more about microbes and honey bee health below.
MICROBES & HONEY BEE HEALTH
Importance of Probiotics
Microbes are a diverse type of unicellular organism comprised of bacteria, viruses, fungi, protists, and archaea. For honey bee colonies, microbial activity can be broadly divided into three categories: benign bacteria (commensal), pathogenic (disease-causing), and beneficial (probiotic). Some of the beneficial bacteria actually stop pathogenic microbes and fungi from growing, while others aid in the bee's digestion, much like in humans and other animals. It is thought that some microbes may even play a part in honey bee gene expression and affect social immunity within the colony.
In so far as nutrient absorption, microbes play an important role in honey bees as they gain a majority of their nutrients from pollen. As a food, pollen is resistant to enzymatic digestion, meaning bees must reply on their symbiotic bacteria to help them digest the pollen and protect their broods from harmful pathogens. Nectar on the other hand, goes through very complex enzymatic chemical processing within the honey bee's body. Read more about this process in the Production tab.
Since many of the beneficial bacteria bees used to pick up from their environments are becoming scarce while mites, fungi, and pathogens are exhausting bee colonies, we administer a well tuned natural probiotic supplement. It works a natural digestive health aid by replenishing the beneficial bacteria in the gut and digestive tract of the honey bee, maximizing nutrient absorption and improving overall immunity to fight off disease