Bees, Wonderful Bees
Who doesn’t love the taste of golden, sweet honey? Honey is a treasure chest of hidden nutritional and medicinal value. Its antibacterial and antifungal properties have been noted since the early days of the Egyptian pharaohs. Locally produced honey is purported to alleviate allergies by acting as a natural vaccine. Honey is loaded with antioxidants which may boost memory and aid in absorption of calcium in older folks. It has long been used as a cough suppressant and to soothe a sore throat.
Here is an interesting fact: all of the honey produced in this country is made by honeybees that have been imported into the United States, mostly from Europe. There are up to 4,000 species of native bees in North America, but most of them live as solitary insects, often underground.
The European bees (Apis mellifera) were brought to this country for honey production and also for pollination of crops such as alfalfa, apples, cucumber, squash, sunflower, okra and many others. Native bees also aid in pollinating these crops, but the advantage of the European bees is that they can be easily transported, hive and all, directly into the fields. Bees to go!
Which brings us right here to Elachee where we have two active bee hives on display in Visitor Center. Pull up a chair and watch the action as the bees fly in and out of the two hives via pipes that connect them to the outdoors.
You may be lucky enough to spot the queen bee, the only bee in the hive that can lay fertilized eggs. The drone bees are on hand for the sole purpose of mating with the queen. The queen controls the activity in the hive by emitting a pheromone that keeps the female worker bees sterile and also signals the colony that all is well.
Busy as a bee? Watch the activity in the hives and you will understand where that phrase originated.
Sterile female worker bees carry out day to day workings in the hive. You can see worker bees busily engaged in caring for the brood of developing larvae. Still others may be seen vigorously flapping their wings to ventilate the hive. Some workers are tasked with guarding the hive, while others are the garbage collectors. The food gatherers come and go with the baskets on their hind legs loaded with golden pollen from their forays among flowering plants.
A whopping 85 percent of Earth’s plants either require or benefit from animal-mediated pollination, with bees comprising a large segment of the pollinator population. At Elachee we have a lovely pollinator garden at on our Visitor Center grounds, maintained by the Hall County Master Gardeners. Thanks to their hard work, our honeybees can feed on flowering plants such as coreopsis, rudbeckia, coneflower and wild verbena, as well as the flowering plants and trees of Chicopee Woods.
Come watch these fascinating insects at work here at Elachee. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to visit the pollinator garden and the beehives; you will be mesmerized by the workings of these incredible creatures