Monday, June 8, 2009

A Swarm of Honey Bees

Reports on the rapidly disappearing honey bees, (aka Colony Collapse Disorder) has been on the news since 2006. For the last three years, I honestly have no idea what they were talking about. Lola's flower garden always have a lot of honey bees and bumble bees, and a few aggressive and antisocial yellow jackets. Maybe because I do not use pesticides or herbicides. So what's killing them world wide? It depends on who's talking. Could be the chemicals? Genetically modified crops? Radiations from cell phones? Global warming? Nobody really knows for sure. I do know that they like honeysuckles, Echinaceas, Iceland poppies, and the Benary's Giant zinnias I got from Johnny's Selected Seed.

The honeysuckles and Echinaceas are perennials, and the poppies are reseeding themselves. So I only have to plant zinnias to bring them back this year. Well, nothing in this group are blooming yet but the honey bees are already swarming on my neighbor's tree across the street. Not knowing what to do, she called pest control and an apiarist from Greenbluff, a farming community just a few miles from Spokane, collected the bees and gently put them in a hive. He did it so carefully and easily, it was so amazing to watch him handled the swarm with bare hands. Must have lots of experience doing it.

Honey bees belongs to a social group of insects that lives in colonies with a queen and thousands of workers. The workers are all female but the queen is the only one who lays eggs. She mates with several male bees called drones to collect their sperms, and lays thousands of eggs. If she fertilized the egg the larva will hatch as a female bee. The female bee does nothing but work to support the queen and her colony. Drones are the result of unfertilized eggs. The drones are not physically able to work because their bodies lacked the structure to carry pollen or nectar to make honey. Their only job is to mate with the queen. The act requires them to lost part of their anatomy and so they die shortly after the job is done.

Swarming happens after the workers in an overcrowded hive, raised a new queen by feeding a young female with "royal jelly". The new queen stays in the hive. The old queen who has been forced out of her home takes about half of the workers, and swarmed to find a new home. This reminds me of an art exhibit I saw in Santa Fe, New Mexico, many years ago. It was all about refugees. Life-size, black and white photographs of refugees from all over the world. Some children were clinging to a big tree. I'm not sure if the bees got the idea from humans or is it the other way around? I'm just glad somebody gave the bees a home. I hope a few will come back to visit and graze on their favorite pesticide-free flowers in Lola's garden, and the refugees on those photographs, also found peace and a home somewhere.


  1. Very nice post and I love the picture, come and visit me when you can.


  2. Lola,
    Hello from Walla Walla.
    I did a post last week on my other blog about Colony Collapse Disorder but the bees here in the valley seem fine. My raspberry bushes always attract high numbers of honey bees.
    I talked to a bee keepers at the farmers' market and they haven't had any problems so far.
    A very good post,

  3. Great Photos and good information about the flowers and what attracts bees as well as everything else you have, please come and visit mine when you can. I enjoy flowers however, I just don't have the "green thumb". It's poetry and drawings I did.

  4. Very interesting information about honey bees! I don't recall ever hearing that before, but it's pretty fascinating.

  5. I was happy to see all the bees. Unfortunately, where I live I see the numbers dropping significantly! I can now walk barefoot through the clover without worrying about getting stung. I would not have tried that a few years ago. I hope they make a comeback.