Interesting facts about the Honey Bee

Did you know...

Honey never spoils. No need to refrigerate it. It can be stored unopened, indefinitely, at room temperature in a dry cupboard. It can ferment though, if it gets too moist.

Honey is one of the oldest foods in existence. It was found in the tomb of King Tutankhamun and was still edible (a little dry) as honey never spoils and it is naturally anti microbial. (Anti fungal, anti bacterial, anti everything nasty) which is why it's also such an incredible healer.

Due to the high level of fructose, honey is 25% sweeter than table sugar . . .

Honey is created when bees mix plant nectar, a sweet substance secreted by flowers, with their own bee enzymes.

To make honey, bees drop the collected nectar which has passed through its gut, mixing with enzymes and a little magic into the honeycomb and then evaporate it by fanning their wings.

Honey has different flavors and colors, depending on the location and kinds of flowers the bees visit. Climatic conditions of the area also influence its flavor and color. NZ's Rata honey is nearly white, Manuka honey is rich ginger-brown and Black Beech honeydew honey is dark brown.

To keep their hives strong, beekeepers must place them in locations that will provide abundant nectar sources as well as water. They must be well fed in cold times and clean of disease/parasites.

In the days before biology and botany were understood, people thought it was a special kind of magic that turned flower nectar into honey.

Honeybees are one of science's great mysteries because they have remained unchanged for 20 million years, even though the world changed around them.

Bees have been producing honey for at least 150 million years.

The true honey bee was not known in New Zealand until 1839, when an English woman Miss Bunby, introduced the European honey bee species we have today, Apis mellifera. The Americas didn't have honey bees until they were introduced by Spanish, Dutch, and English settlers near the end of the 17th century.

According to Te Ara, the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, we have about 28 species of native bees and several species of honey bee – the first from England, the rest brought from various parts of the world. We also have 4 species of Bumble Bee, all imported from England. They thrive in NZ, although most are in decline in England now.

Bumble bees make honey by gathering nectar, but only enough for their season's use. They hibernate in winter and only have small a colony, with a queen and several workers to forage. The queen rears the young.

Did you know that bees have 4 wings?

The honeybee's wings stroke 11,400 times per minute, thus making their distinctive buzz.

A bee flies at a rate of about 12 miles per hour.

How many eyes does a honeybee have? Five.

The queen bee is the busiest in the summer months, when the hive needs to be at its maximum strength. She will lay about 1,000 to 1,500 eggs per day, without sleeping.

In the cold winter months, bees will leave the hive only to take a short cleansing flight. They are fastidious about the cleanliness of their hive.

Honeybees do not die out over the winter, but reduce numbers by throwing out the old, the weak and drones. They feed on the honey they collected during the warmer months and patiently wait for spring by forming a tight cluster in their hive to keep the queen and themselves warm. They may forage on sunny days and collect nectar and some queens will lay, but less.

It takes 35 pounds, or about 16 kg of honey to provide enough energy for a small colony of bees to survive the winter.

Honeybee colonies have unique odors, much like your house smells different from other people's. All the individual bees in a colony smell enough alike so that the guard bees can identify them.

Nurse bees work inside the hive. Their job is to make royal jelly, feed and clean the larvae, queen and drones.

House bees clean away the dead, make wax and comb, heat/cool the hive, receive nectar and make honey, put it into the comb, sealing it with wax.

A honeybee visits between 50 and 100 flowers during one collection flight from the hive.

In order to produce 1 kg of honey, about 4 million flowers must be visited.

A hive of bees must fly 55,000 miles to produce 500 grams of honey.

A honey bee flies at about 24 km/h (15 mph).

One bee colony can produce up to 150kg of honey per year.

An average worker bee makes only about ½ to 1 teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.

At the peak of the honey-gathering season, a strong, healthy hive will have a population of approximately 50,000 bees.

It would take approximately 1 ounce of honey to fuel a bee's flight around the world.

A Cornell University paper released in 2000 concluded that the direct value of honeybee pollination to U.S. agriculture is $14.6 billion annually.

We should appreciate honeybees for their honey and pollination services. 80% of the pollination of the fruits, vegetables and seed crops in the U.S. is accomplished by honeybees.

Honey is the primary food source for the bee. The reason honeybees are so busy collecting nectar from flowers and blossoms is to make sufficient food stores for their colony over the winter months. The nectar is converted to honey by the honeybee and stored in the wax honeycomb.

In New Zealand, we have almost 5000 beekeepers, most are hobbyists with less than 5 hives.

Honey contains vitamins and antioxidants, but is fat free, cholesterol free and sodium free!

Not a spinach lover? Eat honey – it has similar levels of heart-healthy antioxidants!

One powerful antioxidant called "pinocembrin" is only found in honey and propolis.

For years, opera singers have used honey to boost their energy and soothe their throats before performances.

Honey is the only food that includes all the substances necessary to sustain life, including water.

Honey has the ability to attract and absorb moisture, which makes it remarkably soothing for minor burns and helps to prevent scarring.

Honey speeds the healing of open wounds and also combats infection.

As recently as the First World War, honey was being mixed with cod liver oil to dress wounds on the battlefield.

Modern science now acknowledges honey as an anti-microbial agent, which means it deters the growth of certain types of bacteria, yeast and moulds.

Honey and beeswax form the basics of many skin creams, lipsticks, and hand lotions.

Queen Anne of England, in the early 1700's, invented a honey and olive oil preparation to keep her hair healthy and lustrous.

According to Dr. Paul Gold, a Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, "people remember things much better after they've consumed glucose, a form of sugar found in honey."

Beeswax is made from tiny glands on the worker bees abdomen and melts at 62 -65 degrees C.

Honey is nature's energy booster! It provides a concentrated energy source that helps prevent fatigue and can boost athletic performance.

Recent studies have proven that athletes who took some honey before and after competing recovered more quickly than those who did not.

Honey supplies 2 stages of energy. The glucose in honey is absorbed by the body quickly and gives an immediate energy boost. The fructose is absorbed more slowly providing sustained energy.

By Najamuddin Ghanghro & Catherine Gordon.

Urban Bees New Zealand

Phone: 021 288 2606 | Email: