The honeybee (Apis Mellifera)

The honeybee (Apis Mellifera)

It’s incredible to think that every jar of Sinah Common Honey represents the nectar from one million flowers, equivalent to about 40,000 ‘bee miles’ flown – all from a three-mile radius of the hive.

The genus name 'Apis' is Latin for 'bee' and 'mellifera' means 'honey-bearing', there are 28 sub-species of honey-bee recognised from Africa through Asia and to Northern Europe.

The honeybee has survived for millions of years because it has a unique capacity to store vast amounts of reserves to be able to survive through the winter. They are seen as the highest form of insect life, living in a well-organised colony without the need to hibernate. Indeed, in winter they can survive in the hive at high temperatures while outside the temperature may be several degrees below zero!

Over winter, honey bees cluster together and using their bodies to generate heat. This cluster is about the size of football, with bees taking turns to be on the cold outside. The typical maximum population of a colony is between 35,000 and 50,000 bees.

In any hive there are three types of honeybee: a single queen; thousands of female worker bees and, in the summer, hundreds of male drones. The drone bee does no work, and in the early autumn the workers evict them and they die.

It is amazing to see how colonies of bees stick together; despite the vast distances each worker must travel in order to serve the hive. It is now known that bees use the position of the sun to help them know where they are and where they need to go back to; there is now some evidence of sensitivity to the earth’s magnetic field too.

However in the last few decades the honeybee as well as other insects and birds have been disappearing from our fields and hedgerows. This is extremely worrying; biodiversity of the ecosystem as well as the future of our agriculture is at risk. Without bees, it is estimated that 80% of varieties of the foods we grow and consume could disappear. Local small-scale bee-farmers are crucial to the future survival of this species; a species that is battling against pesticides, disease and parasites.

BeesJohn Gedenhoneybee