Alberta’s honey bees are nature’s super-pollinators, collecting nectar from our abundant crops and native plants to produce honey that’s expertly and sustainably harvested by our beekeepers. These little insects are small but mighty!
Based on prehistoric drawings found in caves, the earliest evidence of humans gathering honey from wild colonies is from up to 15,000 years ago.
Beekeeping in pottery started around 9,000 years ago in North Africa, and depictions of domestication of bees first appeared in Egyptian art around 4,500 years ago. Modern archeologists have found honey jars in Egyptian tombs – still sealed with honey preserved inside – from thousands of years ago.
In medieval Europe, monasteries and abbeys kept bees to harvest beeswax to make candles. They also used fermented honey to make mead (honey wine) in areas where grape vines wouldn’t grow.
A Queen Bee, the life of the hive, can lay up to 800,000 eggs during her lifetime.
Worker honey bees are always female, and in a hive, they outnumber the male (drone) bees about 100 to 1.
A single honey bee weighs only .00025 pounds (.1134 g), so you would have to gather 4,000 honey bees together to equal a weight of one pound (454 g).
Bees communicate through dances, vibrations and chemical signals. When scout bees find new sources of pollen, nectar or water, they return to the hive and perform a ‘round dance’ or a ‘waggle dance’ that helps the other scout bees find their way to these resources during their next flight.
A bee typically visits 50 to 100 flowers to collect pollen and nectar. They carry pollen in hairy receptacles or ‘pollen baskets’ on their legs. Nectar is stored in a special honey stomach, or ‘honey sack’, so it can later be transferred to the honey-making bees.
According to the Canadian Honey Council, to make one pound (454 g) of honey, bees will tap about two million flowers and fly 50,000 miles (80,000 km).
A honey worker bee flies between 19 and 33 kilometers per hour. She can go faster than that when she’s not carrying nectar or pollen.
Honey bees are efficient workers, only flying as far as they must. That’s typically between one and six kilometers from the hive, but some bees have been observed flying up to 16 kilometers to forage.
During her lifetime, a worker honey bee collects enough nectar to produce just 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey.
With Alberta’s commercial honey producers managing 25 billion bees, that’s over 5,800 bees for every person living in our province!