Minden Press-Herald

Wednesday
Oct 01st

To bee or not to be, it’s really a honey of a deal

Recent showers have meant my lawn needs mowing more often than it did a year ago when heat and drought saved me a good bit in mower gas money.

While making the rounds on my mower a few days ago, I approached the water meter in my front yard which is ground level so I usually mow over it. Something caught my eye as the wheel of the mower passed within inches of the lid. Several heads popped out of the hole in the top and my immediate reaction was to skee-daddle away from what I thought was a yellow jacket nest.

Instead of being chased by yellow jackets, I noticed the bugs paid me little attention as they buzzed back and forth going in and out of the quarter-sized hole in the meter lid cover. Parking the mower and easing up for a closer look, I realized the buzzing bugs were honey bees. My water meter had become a bee hive.

The first thing I did was call the water company cautioning them not to send a meter reader out just now; he'd have gotten a honey of a surprise had he lifted the lid.

Then I was faced with a dilemma. How the heck was I going to get these critters out of my meter? After making some calls and talking with folks who were familiar with honey bees, I was contacted by Buford Taylor, bee-keeper from Spearsville who captured the hive of bees that are now gathering nectar in Union Parish.

While waiting for Taylor to arrive, I did some research on these fascinating little creatures and here's what I learned. I already knew that honeybees use nectar from flowers to make honey. What I didn't know is that nectar is stored in their "honey stomachs" which when full, weigh almost as much as the bee does. Each bee has to visit hundreds of flowers to fill their honey stomachs.

They return to the hive and pass the nectar onto other worker bees. Now get this – worker bees in the hives suck the nectar from the stomach of those field worker bees, chew the nectar for up to half an hour where enzymes break the nectar down. The nectar is then spread throughout the honeycombs where water evaporates from it, aided along by the workers fanning the nectar with their wings. Once the honey is thick enough, the bees seal off the cell of the honeycomb with a plug of wax where it is stored. How cool is that!

Once Taylor arrived, he lifted the lid on the meter to reveal a cantelope-sized wad of bees attached to the underside of the lid. Placing the bee-covered honey comb into a hive he brought along, the deal was done in a matter of minutes.

"This will be their new home and they'll adjust to it just fine once I get the hive set out at my house," said Taylor. He also offered some fascinating information on the workings of honeybees.

"There are three classes of bees. There's a single queen, which lays the eggs, the worker bees, some that bring in nectar and others that convert it into honey, and there're the drone bees. Their only function is to eat, sleep and breed the queen." Sounds like a good life except for one thing; after breeding, the drone dies.

One of the more fascinating things about honeybees is in the manner in which bee's wax is produced. Here's what I learned – "Worker bees have a special gland on their abdomen and when they eat and digest honey, wax builds up on this gland. They chew this up and use it to build the hive. Basically, they eat honey and sweat wax!"

Mister water meter reader, you can come check my meter anytime you want without fear of being stung. I'm glad the bees are gone but I'm also glad they hung around long enough to give me an education into the fascinating world of the honeybee.

Glynn Harris Outdoors is proudly sponsored by DSK, Ltd. of Minden.

 

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