A honeybee flitting among flowers in a garden may be a typical summer sight. As common as this is, an important process is occurring through the work of the honeybees. Flowering crops such as nuts, fruits, and vegetables are dependent on pollination to continue their life cycle. Honeybees are involved in the pollination of about three-quarters of the flowering crops in the United States. This service amounts to the pollination of about $14 billion worth of crops every year in the United States.
Some plants self-pollinate, meaning that they do not require outside assistance from pollinators for this process. Many plants require cross-pollination, however, which involves pollination from the wind, birds, and insects. As honeybees delve down deep into flowers to drink nectar, they typically become covered with dry pollen. Honeybees also collect pollen in pollen baskets. As the bees move from flower to flower, they take pollen with them, effectively pollinating the various plants. As a result of the pollination, plants will go on to produce fruit to continue their lifecycle.
- Insects are the most active and important pollinators. Honeybees like white, blue, and yellow flowers.
- A honeybee may visit as many as 1,000 flowers in one nectar-gathering trip. This process may take up to four hours.
As honeybees visit various flowers, they drink as much nectar as they can hold in their bodies. Once full, the honeybees return to their hives to pass off the nectar to other honeybees. This frees the honeybees to return to the field to gather more nectar. The bees in the hive will transfer the nectar to honeycombs, where it needs to sit while the water content evaporates. The water in the nectar evaporates, which concentrates it. When the concentration reaches a specific level, the honeybees will seal the newly formed honey in the honeycombs with beeswax to preserve it.
- The water content of nectar must be reduced to approximately 17 percent to make honey.
- Worker bees fan their wings above the honeycomb to help hasten the evaporation process.
For more information about flowers, honeybees, and honey, please visit these websites:
- Gardening for Honey Bees (PDF) – Plants and flowers need honeybees for pollination. The plants you place in your landscape can attract honeybees. This website provides suggestions for plants to use to attract pollinators.
- Bee Basics: An Introduction to Our Native Bees (PDF) – Learn about bees that are native to the United States in this report published by the USDA Forest Service.
- Helping Agriculture’s Helpful Honey Bees – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration provides information about honeybees, including how they pollinate and potential problems for the species.
- What’s the Buzz on Bees? – Learn about Colony Collapse Disorder with this information presented by Fairfax County, Virginia.
- Beekeeping: Florida Bee Botany (PDF) – Beekeepers have a number of challenges as they strive to keep honeybees healthy and thriving.
- Honeybee Information – The Missouri Department of Conservation presents an overview of honeybees, including information about their natural habitat and life cycle.
- Facts about Honeybees – Learn about the differences between Africanized honeybees and European honeybees, including their origination in the United States.
- Identification of Bees and Wasps (PDF) – Use this identification guide to learn the differences between bees and wasps.
- Bees & Honey – The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture works with beekeepers to check for diseases and pests.
- Beekeeping: Some Frequently Asked Questions (PDF) – Beekeepers can learn helpful information about how to manage honeybees and keep them healthy on this website.
- Apiaries and Beekeeping Frequently Asked Questions – The State of New Hampshire offers support and information for beekeepers about managing apiaries and honeybees.
- Beekeeping Information – Beekeepers must monitor pesticide use and levels around apiaries to keep honeybees healthy.
- Colony Collapse Disorder – The Colony Collapse Disorder affects bee colonies when the worker bees abandon the queen, leaving behind only immature bees and nurse bees. CCD seems to be declining in recent years.
- Colony Collapse Disorder Progress Report (PDF) – This report published by the USDA offers information and statistics about CCD in the United States.
- Getting Started: Beekeeping Basics – Honeybees are insects with five eyes and the ability to fly up to 20 miles per hour, according to facts presented on this Web page.
- Creating a Wild Backyard – Bees – Learn how to attract honeybees to your backyard with the plant species that you include in your landscape.
- The Buzz on Native Bees – A variety of different kinds of bees are responsible for pollinating about 75 percent of the plants in the United States.
- Pollinators: A Key to a Colorful World (PDF) – Bees work as tireless pollinators, some species working with colonies and others working individually to pollinate plants.
- Africanized Honey Bees: Prevention and Control (PDF) – Africanized honeybees have the nickname “killer bees” due to news and health reports connected with this species of bee.
- Honeybee Information – The honeybees commonly seen flitting from flower to flower are worker bees, assigned the task of gathering nectar to make honey.
- How Bees Make Honey: Producing Honey is a Strenuous Team Effort for Bees – Honeybees use a team approach to make honey, with some bees gathering nectar and others processing it in the hive to make honey.
- Honey Bee Nutrition – Honeybee diets must consist of carbohydrates from nectar, amino acids from pollen, lipids, vitamins, minerals, and water. For optimal health, honeybees need these nutrients in the right amounts.
- All About Honey Bees – Many different kinds of bees exist; however, only honeybees produce honey.
Featured image: mylittle3andme.co.uk