Betty is a Honey Bee. We thought you might like to know a little more about what Honey Bees do. Scroll down by hovering your mouse over Billy Bee, scroll back up by hovering your mouse over Betty Bee. Click the pictures below to see bigger versions...
The Honey Bee has been around for about 25 million years and is the only insect on our planet that produces food which can be eaten by humans. Honey Bees collect and carry pollen from one flower to another, which is important - especially if the flowers are on fruit and vegetables. The Honey Bees help these flowers to create fruit and vegetables for us to eat. It is thought that 70% of the food we eat depends on fruit and vegetable flowers being pollinated by Honey Bees and other insects.
Albert Einstein, who was a famous scientist, told us, “If the bee disappeared from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.” Unfortunately the Honey Bee population has fallen by 54% - that's over half - in the last 20 years. That is very scary, so we must help and protect our honey bees to secure our future.
Did you know?
• There are over 20,000 different kinds of Honey Bees on our planet Earth.
• The Honey Bee's average length is 15mm and they have 6 legs, 2 pairs of wings, 2 antennae and 2 compound eyes. Their eyes are made up of thousands of little lenses which enables the bee to see all the colours we can see, except the colour red. They also have a stomach and a nectar pouch. They are a golden yellow colour with brown bands on their abdomen.
• The Honey Bee's wings beat at over 10,000 times a minute and this creates the buzzing sound we can hear when they fly. They can fly for about 10km (6 miles) and as fast as 24km (15mph). They will visit an average of 75 flowers on each trip from their bee hive.
Find out where Honey Bees live.
Honey bees live in a 'hive'. Bee hives can be found in all sorts of different places, eg. a hole in an old tree, or in a roof space. They must be very friendly as they can have a colony of 20,000-60,000 all living together! Each colony has one queen bee and she is the only bee that will lay eggs - up to 2,500 a day. The colony also has worker honey bees and they too are female. They only live for 6 weeks as they work very hard during the summer months, flying around collecting pollen and nectar every day and also keeping the hive clean and tidy. There are other bees, male only, and they are called drones. Their only job is to mate with the queen bee so that she can produce more eggs.
The only bees that sting are the worker bees and the queen, but she doesn’t leave the hive very often. The worker bee will only sting if they are very frightened or upset. They don’t like to sting because they know that once they have used their sting, they will die. The queen bee will live for about 5 years. Throughout the winter, the bees all huddle together to keep warm and to feed on the honey that they have made.
Where do Honey Bees collect the pollen?
Honey bees will fly for hours to collect pollen from flowers, but there only certain plants that can be used as the bees have short tongues. Unfortunately, there are only a few crops that farmers grow where they can collect pollen, so they rely on us planting the right types of flowers in our gardens, parks and wild flower meadows.
The flowers that bees like usually have single petals. Things like flowering herbs, such as mint, thyme and chives. There are plenty of fruit flowers that attract bees, like plum, pear, apple and cherry and raspberry. The bees do not like the fruit , but they love the flowers. They also like plants that grow in our garden. Some of their favourites are sunflowers, foxgloves, lavender, marigolds, cornflowers and poppies. They can get rich food from clover, which is found in among grass.
A worker bee will collect only a few grams of honey in her lifetime and a hive of bees will fly nearly 90,000 miles to collect just 1kg of honey.
How can we help our Honey Bees?
Honey Bees pollinate about one third of all the food we eat. If you like honey, you can help by buying honey that comes from your local area. It will taste better than honey from the supermarkets and, if you buy locally, you will be helping to keep down the costs to local beekeepers.
If you have a lawn in your garden, you could ask Mum or Dad to leave the grass a little longer in the Autumn. This encourages the flowering of red and white clover. The bees just love the rich nectar that these flowers provide and it helps them through the winter months, with extra food
If you have a garden - and space - some shrubs are helpful to bees. In early Spring, a Pussy Willow tree or shrub is a prize bonus for the Honey Bee. A Buddleia shrub flowers later in the year but it is another good shrub to plant as it attracts the bee’s friends, butterflies. However, if you don't have much space, a plant pot with some marigolds or other flowers and herbs, could be just as useful.
What is pollen and nectar?
Pollen is found in flowers and it is a protein - a bit like the proteins we eat, such as meat and cheese. Bees use the pollen to feed their babies and as the baby bees grow very quickly they need a lot of food.
A bee can collect pollen by two different ways. One way is that the bees have long hairs on their legs and tummies, and when a bee rubs over a flower, some of the pollen sticks to the hairs and the bee flies back to the hive. The other way is use their ‘pollen baskets’. There is a large flat space on their back legs which is surrounded by hairs. This makes the basket. The hairs on the inside of their legs act like combs and when the bee flies around a flower they use the combs to pick up the pollen then mix it with a bit of sticky nectar and push it into the basket.
Nectar is something else the bee collects. It is like sugary water and flowers make it to attract the bees. The bees visit the flowers and at the same time spread some of the pollen around. Nectar is also a food for the bees and it gives them energy. They use it to make honey on which they feed during the winter months when there are no flowers around.
When a bee drinks the nectar it goes in to special pouch called the nectar pouch. When she flies back to the hive she gives it to another bee who keeps it in her mouth. Inside her mouth are things called enzymes that break the nectar down. It’s a bit like the saliva in your mouth that helps to break down food when you chew so that you can eat it. The bees then spread the nectar all around the honey combs in the hive, and then they fan it with their wings so that it dries out. When it's all dried out and all the water has gone it is very thick. It is now honey.
So, you now know quite a lot about bees and that the right type of flowers are very important to the bees. Listed below are a selection of plants the bees love that you could plant in your garden or a planter or in a plant pot.
Spring: Bulbs like snowdrops, crocus, daffodils, tulips.
Summer: Aubrietia, Forget-me- nots, Lavender, Calendula (single flowered marigold), Californian poppies, Iberis, Nasturtiums, Sweet peas.
Autumn: Sedum, heathers and shrubs such as Buddleia.
Herbs: Chives, Mint, Sage, Thyme. Rosemary
Fruit: Raspberries, Blackberries, Tomatoes and trees such as Apple and Pear.
Betty Bee would love it if you could plant some of these flowers in your garden - or in a pot on the patio - that you might attract and help her friends the honey bees.