Local scholars share importance of honeybees
Published: Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 30, 2013 22:09
As the nights get cooler and flowers and plants die off as winter gets closer, USU students and Cache Valley locals may come into contact with some of the area's small, buzzing residents. Regardless of the circumstances, entomologist Jamie Strange said it's important for individuals to always stay calm.
"This time of year, as the honey bees are running out of food in nature, they can get a little persnickety," Strange said. "If you get a bee around you and it starts buzzing around your face, the best thing you can do is walk slowly away. Don't swat at it, just walk away. Swatting is always a bad thing to do around bees because they sense that motion very quickly and that recruits other bees to come at you."
Strange, in conjunction with the Stokes Nature Center, hosted a backyard forum on Saturday to talk about the processes associated with beekeeping and honey harvesting, as well as the scientific processes and reasons bees produce the sticky, sweet substance.
"Bees make honey because bees need to have a carbohydrate source to survive the winter," Strange said. "This time of year, as they're thinking about winter coming on, as a collective they want to have as much honey on hand as they can. This time of year, things get very combative in nature as everybody is trying to provision themselves for the winter."
Strange has worked with bees since the mid '90s when he was still an undergrad. He went on to complete a master's and Ph.D. in honey bee studies, treating honey bee diseases and studying reproduction.
Bees produce honey by combining the nectar found in certain flowers and plants with their own enzymes. At the time when it is taken from flowers, Nectar is about 18 percent sugar. Through a process of adding enzymes and evaporation of water, Strange said the solution becomes honey when its content is 82 percent sugar. Some of the honey is stored for the winter, but part of it is used as a food source for new generations of bees.
Honey bees begin winterization of their hives in early spring and summer.
“They never stop," said Nancy Williams, a local beekeeper and assistant professor of journalism at USU. "They are out there sunup to sundown."
Because they are constantly active, Williams said worker bees have a short life expectancy.
“In the heat of the summer, the bees only live four to six weeks because they work themselves to death,” Williams said. “They are always busy using the collected pollen and nectar to raise the baby bees.”
Maintaining a hive year-round is more work than one would think, Williams said. Keeping animals away from the hives is a job in itself.