by Christina Zink
Being a beekeeper is a rewarding job. Honeybees are fascinating creatures and their social structure is much more complex than some can imagine.
The female honeybee has many roles in a working hive. She puts on the hat of a nurse bee when first born then grows into a guard bee by adolescence and finally becomes a forager bee that gathers nectar and pollen for the hive. A honeybee only lives six weeks and literally works herself to death.
The male honeybee only has one role in the hive and that is to mate. They are called Drones and mate with virgin queens in midflight. The Drone has no stinger and they consume resources, that the worker bees provide, but offer no help. Come Fall the worker bees toss the Drones out of the hive in order to save their food stores for the winter.
The honeybee’s main job is to take care of their queen. There is only one queen per hive and they can live up to 5 years. The worker bees do everything from making the wax hexagon-shaped comb to filling each cell in the comb with nectar and pollen to fanning the nectar and turning it into honey, capping each cell for honey storage and young bees, to feeding the young, each other, and the queen. They are protectors of their hive and control the temperature of their home. Honeybees communicate with a waggle dance to let others know where to find food. They flap their wings to send signals to others for finding their way home to alerting of predators. They sting as a last resort to protect and pay the ultimate price in the process of certain death. They are fearless creatures and yet gentle at the same time.
Beekeepers grow to love these creatures and admire the work they do. Beekeepers are in awe of the social structure and can watch them for hours on end. The beekeeper learns from these creatures and just when they think they have it figured out, the honeybee has something else to teach them.
Being a beekeeper is not an easy job as the main thing for a beekeeper is to keep their bees alive and healthy. They check the hives regularly and act accordingly with food if needed, treatment for pests, separating large hives for more room, and always prepping for the next season. With many things against the honeybee and the beekeeper, it can be a daunting task. When a hive is lost it can be devastating to the beekeeper. There are pests, pesticides, predators, and sometimes just bad beekeeping practices that can destroy a hive. Taking care of these creatures is definitely a job but most beekeepers enjoy spending time with their bees and doing everything they can to help them ensure their survival.
Beekeeping isn’t for everyone but for those who do it, it is a fascinating and rewarding job!
But it’s often said “if you enjoy what you do, you never work a day in your life.”