When we recently returned from a trip to Oregon to be with family, we were pleasantly surprised to see that our bees were back. Many years ago, we got a couple honey bee hives from a friend who had become allergic to bee stings so had to get rid of his hives and bee equipment. We had a great time learning about bees, and how to care for them and to extract the honey. We have a small orchard and a large vegetable garden and lots of flowers so our bees had lots of work to do and many nectar sources. Extracting the honey in our kitchen was a very messy, sticky job, but the product made all the work well worth while. Then a local bee-keeper started attending our church so we donated our few hives to him. In exchange, he brings us 16 hives each May, does all the work tending them, picks them up at the end of the summer, and we get several gallons of honey after extraction season—can’t beat that.
Our local bee-keeper takes his hives down the west coast in the late winter and early spring to pollinate orchards and then brings the hives back to the local areas for late spring and summer. Not only do these bees supply nutritious, yummy, never-spoiling honey, but they also provide an essential service in pollinating crops. Each year, in their search for nectar and pollen, bees pollinate about 100 crops in the U.S. alone, worth an estimated $10 billion to the economy! Honey bees are one of God’s amazing designs. On the third day of Creation week, God created vegetation, “plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit, with seed in them after their kind” (Gen. 1: 11), but to reproduce, this vegetation would require insects like the honey bee to help pollinate them, so on the sixth day, along with birds, animals and man, God created insects (1: 25).
In addition to the service honey bees provide in pollination, and the yummy, healthy honey (and several other products) that bees provide, maybe the most valuable contribution of the honey bees is the lessons about life—especially our Christian walk—that they teach us. So, for the next several weeks, I would like to share some of those lessons with you. But, first some interesting “bee facts” to whet your appetite:
1) Honey is actually nectar from blooming plants that bees have repeatedly regurgitated and
dehydrated. The flavor and color of honey can differ with each hive. The blossoms the bees tend give the honey different colors and flavors. (Our honey comes primarily from a noxious
weed, Russian spotted knapweed!).
2) Fertilized eggs become female offspring and unfertilized eggs become males (drones).
3) The queen is the largest bee in the colony (longer than both the drones and the worker bees). Worker bees select a two-day old larvae to be reared as a queen. If a queen’s egg production drops or she is injured, she is replaced.
4) A hive cannot exist with two queens, so if a hive becomes too crowded, a new queen will be reared and take a portion of the worker bees with her and leave to start another hive. This group is called a “swarm” and always keeps the queen in the center the thousands of bees as they search for a new home. You might see them in a big cluster on a nearby tree branch as they send out scouts to find that new home.
5) The drones’ (males) only job is to be available to fertilize a new queen if needed. In the fall they are “kicked out” and the hive becomes an all-female society over the winter!
6) Hoping to improve helicopter construction, engineers studied super-slow motion film of bees in flight. After careful analysis of bees’ bodies, they concluded that bees should not be able to fly!
7) Utah is known as “The Beehive State,” but California, Florida and South Dakota produce more honey.
8) To make one pound of honey, bees visit approximately two million flowers and fly more than 55,000 miles! Talk about dedicated workers—a true wonder of God’s creation!
God’s Word tells us to observe His creation and learn from it. For example, in Prov. 6:6,25 it says, “Go to the ant, O sluggard. Observe her ways and be wise. The ants are not a strong folk, but they prepare their food in the summer…” We can learn a lot about how to live our lives by observing God’s creation…like ants and honey bees. Next week we will talk about “Six Weeks to be a Bee”. Stay tuned!