Written by Debbie Cochran
Photos by Judith Lesnaw
The spring blooms spill over the sidewalk in colorful confusion as I work in the garden. Early morning sunlight shines through the tangle of rose bushes. A plump pair of robins play tug-o'-war with an earthworm frantically burrowing into the soft earth.
Honey bees hang in the air, visiting individual flowers. I sit back on my heels and wait patiently for one of my visitors to finish her work in the daffodil I’m tending. I watch her land on the delicate petals, her fuzzy body blending into the yellow blossom.
The bee turns and twists, rubbing her feet back and forth, back and forth. Stomp, stomp, stomp, rub, rub, rub. She pauses for a moment and I can see the tiny hairs all over her body covered in yellow pollen. I smile as she continues her antics, reminding me of a small child playing gleefully in a backyard sandbox. I know she’s not playing, this visitor of mine. She is, in fact, working very hard. True to her reputation, she is “busy as a bee,” collecting pollen to take back to her hive.
In general, honey bees are peaceful creatures, busy doing what God created them to do. They don’t sting unless threatened, and I’m willing to share my flowers with them. If a honey bee does sting, it dies. So they usually save stinging for the important things in life: protecting their queen and their hive.
The honey bee sticks out her long tube of a tongue and drinks the sweet nectar from the fluted cup of the daffodil. She isn’t just enjoying a sweet summer snack. The nectar will be welcomed back home. Her fellow workers will use it to make honey, which is fed to the larvae (baby bees) and used as food for the hive in the winter.
Finally, her work complete, the honey bee tiptoes to the top of the daffodil, then flies over the garden wall. She has gone back to spread the good news. She’ll do a waggle dance to share her find with the other bees. The intricate dance will tell the location of the flowers to her fellow workers, so they can go find the flowers, too. I expect more visitors soon.
I turn over the dark dirt in my garden and breathe in the green smells of growing things. Lacking the high energy of the average worker bee, I take my time with my task.
As I watch the bees go about their daily business, I continue with mine. A few honey bees browse the apple tree, traveling from blossom to blossom. As they dip into each flower, their fuzzy bodies dusted with pollen, I am thankful they are so industrious in helping my garden grow.
Without honey bees, many fruit crops are unable to reproduce. Farmers often keep bees near their orchards and crops to encourage this process. While the honey bees gather pollen and nectar for their own needs, they are also tending to the plants’ needs. Honey bees are indeed good stewards.
© 2013 Judith Lesnaw
- Honey bees live in colonies containing 10,000-60,000 bees. About 100-200 of these are male drones.
- The queen bee lays as many as 1,500 eggs in a week when the conditions are right.
- The thousands of other bees are all female worker bees. These bees have an average lifespan of 21 days. During that time, they feed the larvae, clean the hive, make honey, and build wax comb. They are the only bees to visit flowers.
- Honey bees have ultraviolet vision, enabling them to see which flowers are full of nectar.
- Honey bees pollinate more crops than any other insect. Without honey bees, farmers would produce 1/3 less fruit and vegetables.