Busy As A Bee

Last week the Urban Garden Project team visited an urban bee hive with some youth from the neighborhood. It was a truly inspiring morning where we sat rapt and happy, with 20 kids asking endless amounts of questions about how these little creatures live, build their homes, collect pollen and move about.

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There are so many intriguing things about how bees organize themselves.  It is inspiring to see how hard they work, and what beautiful and delicious things they create.

The hive.

Here are just a few of the amazing things we learned about bees:

  • The hive is made up almost exclusively of female bees.
  • The only boy bees in the hive are called Drones. They don’t do any jobs around the hive, no foraging, cleaning or repairing for them. Their sole purpose is to mate with the queen bee when she is ready. Come the winter, they have outlived their purpose and are cast out of the hive.
  • A bee’s lifespan is only a matter of weeks. Depending on the season and how hard they work the average is somewhere between 3-8 weeks.
  • Bees do different jobs depending on their stage of life, these jobs are things like cleaning out the dead bees, repairing the honeycomb, and foraging for pollen. Foraging is the task that bees do at the end of their lives.
  • Pollen is different colours depending on the plant it comes from. Apparently poppy pollen is purple!
  • Bees have special pocket-like things on their legs that help them carry the pollen back to the hive. They look like they are wearing little coloured leg warmers, its great.

Smoking the hive to encourage the bees to return inside.

The bees sitting on their honeycomb.

It was such a humbling and intriguing time, sitting quietly by the hive, feeling only slightly nervous and watching them take off and land endlessly. We sampled some of the honey straight from the comb and it had such a special taste, it was almost minty.

Scooping out some honey for us all to taste.

Scraping some honey out of the comb to taste.

Other food team folks recently ran a workshop on preserving herbs in honey. To see some of their tips and recipes visit the Adventures In Local Food Blog.

The outcome of the honey preserving workshop.

Thank-you to the Halifax Honeybee Society for hosting all of us and showing us the wonder that is a beehive. If you’d like more information or are interested in joining the society check out their website.

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