Genre = Science
In this book about bees you will find many social, biology, craftwork, and economics examples and understandings. Bees may be the centerpiece, what is important in this book is how bees interact with the society and how to interact with bees. Honeybees are not native to North America, they were brought to North America by Europe and spread by swarming. Too many bees in a hive will urge the bees to swarm. Swarming is a procedure whereby bee raise a second queen and then split from the hive. Although swarming is not very predictable, Hubbell tries to prevent swarming by making room in the hive for more bees. Bee swarming used to be regarded as a good thing for the beekeepers had enough bees to swarm. Now, beekeepers try to prevent swarming.
Queen bees emit a pheromone which is received by the its drones (males) and workers (female). Honeybees will attack bees from other hives as they have different pheromone. Queens job is to kill competing queens, mate with drones, and then produce more bees. There are justifications to requeen a hive, and the process is delicate. A hive seems to depend on the queen for guidance, so when the hive is not producing enough honey, it seems safer to requeen. If not enough honey is produced before winter, the bees are likely to die, while requeening can make the hive productive. To prevent the bees from killing the new queen, Hubbell uses a contraption to separate the queen form the other workers while being able to share the pheromones. After some time, the bees will acquire the pheromone and will not be aggressive towards the new queen. Worker bees can actually lay eggs as well when there is no queen bee. When the queen bee is in the hive, she exchanges chemicals with other bees which communicate that the queen bee is present causing the ovaries of worker bees to remain undeveloped.
Bees have four interesting qualities which allow them to behave and survive the way they do which are recollection of place, metabolization, eyesight, and hearing. Bees seem to remember everything precisely in about five square miles. Should their hive be moved slightly, Hubbell states that the hive is lost to the foragers. They need about a week, in a vastly different place, to forget the prior location of the hive. Bees generate heat by metabolizing fiercely. Many calories are packed into even a little drop of honey. Those calories are efficiently converted into heat. Bees go for the highest concentration of sugar and are less sensitive to sweet tastes. Bee’s vision is structured to detect broken surfaces and movement easily at the cost of making it difficult to see stationary objects. Bees perceive colors different such as being able to see ultraviolet but not the long wavelengths of the color spectrum. As Hubbell states, a plain white flower to humans appears as shimmering deep blue to a bee. The pedals on flowers are nectar guides visible to bees, but invisible to humans. Bees are not disturbed by very loud sounds, but are disturbed by vibrations in the ground.
Bees have many dangers such as diseases, mice, insecticides, and having the beehive knocked over. Overmedicating the bees to prevent disease can be too disruptive. During winter, honeybees are more docile and are less aggressive against attackers. Mice like to nest in the warm hives during winter and the bees cannot fight them back. There is a measure against mice, such as reducing the size of the entrance during winter, but that means the bees cannot get rid of their dead which causes ventilation problems. Hubbell chose to accept the problem of mice rather than the problem of ventilation. This allowed her bees to be generally healthier after winter. Agricultural work which uses pesticides kills bad insects as well as good insects. Hubbell and other beekeepers created an organization which asked those who use pesticides, to inform the organization when the pesticides will be used. With even a day’s forewarning, beekeepers can now take steps to prevent massive loss to their hives due to pesticides. There still are losses, but they are more manageable loses.
Many beekeeping practices require intervention in the beehive. These interventions make many disruptions, some radically disruptive to the hive. Hubbell gave up many practices in order to have fewer disruptions to the hive. She watches what the bees do, and then tries to create conditions which help the bees and then leaves the bees alone. Hubbell recognized that with less disruption, the hive produces more honey. Hubbell accepts that ‘bees know more about making honey’ than she does. Beekeeping practices need to vary per every region. Rainfall, when winter comes, when spring comes, soil, and types of flowers vary per region and so have different needs. What works for some regions may not work for other regions. Hubbell learns from the bees themselves what the bee need.
Beekeeping is labor intensive, requiring multiple people to complete certain tasks. As there are people who have a very bad reaction to bee stings, Hubbell prepares her helper for the stings. Hubbell stings the help with honeybees and increasing the number of stings over time. The effect reduces the reaction to the stings, and makes the help stay calm around bees as they will be used to stings. Jittery people attract more stings. For many maintenance and honey extraction tasks, Hubbell needs to calm the bees before doing the task. By sending smoke into the hive, the bees change their priority from aggression against attacker, to potential retreat from their home.
This is a marvelously written book which provides lessons for more than just beekeepers. Bees facilitate better flower growth within the communities which they locate. The product bees are known for most is honey, but not all honey is sweet and edible. Some types of honey are poisonous to humans and have been used as weapon coating in time of war. The honey depends on the flower which the bees obtain the nectar from.
Pages to read: 132
1st Edition: 1988
Ratings out of 5: