The importance of the right kind of planting
By planting for honey bees we will be providing the three fundamental things that they need, while also supporting other bee species:
1. Nesting sites
2. pollen – protein food
3. Nectar – carbohydrate food
Honey bees cannot survive without all three. Beekeepers help to provide nesting sites but as trees are felled as soon as they are deemed to be too old we eliminate potential habitats for wild bees to populate.
Pollen and its importance
Pollen is produced by the anther of flowers and is the equivalent of human sperm. Pollen is made up of 6-28% protein, 1-20% fats together with vitamins, starches, sugars and minerals.
This provides the honey bee and other pollinators much needed protein for growth of developing larvae. Adult bees don’t need much but they collect and take it back to feed their larvae.
Worker honey bees secrete brood food to feed to the larvae. A colony of bees require between 15 and 55kg of pollen a year – thats the equivalent of between 7 and 27 bags of sugar!
Nectar, what it is and why bees need it.
Nectar is produced in the nectary bed of the flower which is usually inside the base of the flower, but occasionally externally. It is a sugar solution which contains sugars of various types and includes minerals , proteins, organic acids and vitamins and is used as a carbohydrate to provide energy.
Honey bees take the nectar and turn it into honey by adding enzymes to change the sugar composition and evaporating a lot of the moisture.
One of the most interesting honey bee facts is that each honey bee colony needs up to 120kg of nectar to survive. That’s the same as 60 bags of sugar! This is because the nectar is primarily turned into honey which is used by the colony as winter food when foraging isn’t possible.
Both pollen and nectar levels can vary according to species and time of day and can be affected by the climatic conditions.
What do the plants get out of it?
Through the collection and transference of pollen the plants become pollinated which in turn means that they have the ability to set seed and thereby reproduce. The method of seed dispersal may be through the production of fruit and nuts or pure seed which bursts forth.
For those that produce fruit and nuts, they are reliant on a third party such as birds and mammals to eat and move the seed on, either as a result of being left elsewhere or defecated.
How do honey bees needs differ from other bees?
Due to the fact that Honey bees do not hibernate like all other bees their life span is much longer, in winter a colony of honey bees can be as many as 15,000 strong building up to up to 60,000 in the summer. They store the food unlike others, that use it immediately and create minimal stores for the seasons use as the peak of the colony is much shorter.
Honey bees produce honey to see them through the winter months, learn how you can help them build their stores by becoming a Friend of the Honey Bee.