The Birds and the Bee for Bees, a Guide to Honey Bee Sex – Part 3: Pupae and Puberty

(Quick sob story: my computer was stolen a few weeks ago, and with it, all the images for this post. I am working on a way to do my silly drawings using a borrowed computer, but it may take a little while. I wanted to get this post up anyway. It’s been on hold for way too long! I will get back to illustrating as soon as I am able!)

This is the third installment of “The Birds and the Bees for Bees”  If you read my last two posts and for some reason you’ve still come back, congratulations (or, perhaps condolences).

In Part one, we learned about the three different castes, or genders, of honey bees. Part 1: Boys, Girls, and Confirmed Bachelorettes. In Part two, we learned a bit more than we were comfortable with about how honey bees actually get it on. Part 2: The Kinky Stuff.

Now we’re up to part three, and we’ll learn about what happens after the mating – how an egg becomes a bee. Stay tuned for the next and last installment, in which we will discuss super-organisms, and how colonies reproduce via a process called swarming! Continue reading

The Birds and the Bees for Bees, A guide to honey bee sex – Part 2 The Kinky Stuff

WARNING:  I try to keep this blog kid friendly, but this post may not be suitable for young ears. It’s also probably not suitable for anyone with a mature sense of humor.

We are continuing our discussion of how honey bees get it on. In Part One, I covered honey bee genders. Now we’re going to hear about the really freaky stuff.

Stay tuned for part three, in which I’ll discuss how baby bees develop (puberty, for bees!). In Part Four, if you last that long, we’ll discuss how the colony as a super-organism reproduces. So here we go: Continue reading

Image Credits: Sarah Plonski, Sarah Plonski.

The March Against Monsanto!

I was recently given the honor of being asked to speak at the Philadelphia March Against Monsanto. I will save the long rant about how industrial farming practices are harming the bees, our environment, and our public health, and how Monsanto and other large corporations are manipulating our government and  pushing forward legislation that will endanger food systems all over the world, as well as our rights as consumers and producers of food.

I had a great time at the March, and I was really happy to see a lot of people with “save the bees” signs. It really show that there are people out there who are trying to make a difference. Here are a few pictures of the awesome bee-supporters I saw there! Continue reading

The Birds and the Bees for Bees, an Illustrated Guide to Honey Bee Sex – PART 1: Boys, Girls, and Confirmed Bachelorettes.

The Birds and The bees - Sarah Plus Bees

WARNING: While I try to keep this blog kid friendly, this post may not be suitable for young ears, unless you’re ready to bring up the talk in a pretty awkward way.

I want to talk a bit about where baby bees come from (hint: it’s not the stork) Assuming that you had the “birds and the bees” talk at some point, you’re probably familiar with how sex works for most species – a male and a female share a special hug and then a baby is born. This applies to honey bees as well, but it starts to get a bit trickier when you go into the details.

Like how bees have three genders instead of the standard two. You also have to consider that bees reproduce on two levels; the organism – the bees that are born every day, and the super organism – the colony as a whole – which divides and splits off to form new colonies in the Spring and Summer.
There’s a heck of a lot of ground to cover, so I’ve broken it down into digestible morsels. (Mmmm, morsels.) In Part One, we’ll learn a little more about what bees have going on down there. In Part Two I’ll tell you a little more about how honey bees get it on, and in Part three, I’ll cover the development of baby bees. I you stick with me all the way to Part Four, I will tell you all about super-organisms, and how colonies reproduce. Without further ado….

Part 1 Boys, Girls, and Confirmed bachelorettes.

Continue reading

My 5 Worst Beekeeping Mistakes, and How To Avoid Them

Your first year of beekeeping is a special time. There’s so much to learn, so many awesome things to see, and a hell of a lot to do. My first year was a lot of trial and error. A lot of things went well, and some things went terribly, terribly wrong. (Like that time I dropped a queen cage into a package, and had to put my hand into a little box filled with thousands of bees). It’s time to come clean about some of the moronic things I’ve done,  and hopefully you can avoid these pitfalls! Continue reading

Honey Bee Q and A, Part 3 – Stinging, Sleeping, and Escaping Birds

This is the third and final installment of my Q and A with a preschool class. In case you missed it, check out “Honey Bee Q and A, Part 1 –  Nectar, Pollen, and Honey”  and “Honey Bee Q and A, Part 2 –  Queens, Bee Bread and Royal Jelly” to get caught up.

Without further ado, here are more questions from preschoolers!

Where do honey bees go to bed?

Bees don’t sleep! How crazy is that? Instead, they go inside the hive and walk around. Sometimes they will pitch in and repair some comb or feed some brood, but bees actually spend about 1/3 of their time just meandering around the hive not really doing anything. That really turns the “busy as a bee” cliché on its ear. Continue reading

Honey Bee Q and A, Part 2 – Queens, Bee Bread and Royal Jelly

Earlier this week, I received a list of questions about bees from a preschool class. Since some of their questions were so good, I decided to post the answers here as well. If you want to read them all, check out my last post “Honey Bee Q and A – Honey, Nectar, and Pollen”. This time, we’ll focus on all the things bees feed their young, and answer a few questions about royal jelly and queen cells. Here we go!

How do bees make bee bread?

I am so impressed that this preschool class  even knew what bee bread was! What a smart group of kids! For those of you who haven’t heard of it, bee bread  is the main food that adult bees eat. To make bee bread, the bees mix honey and pollen together and let them ferment for a little while. Continue reading

Image Credits: Illustration by Sarah Plonski.

Honey Bee Q and A, Part 1 – Honey, Nectar, and Pollen

One of my favorite beekeeping-related activities is visiting schools and events to tell people about bees! Later this week, I will be visiting a preschool to do just that. They sent me a great list of questions from the kids. Since there were so many awesome questions, I thought I would post them here. Keep your eye out for the second installment later in the week.
How do bees make honey?
This is a fairly complex question, worthy of its own post, but the simple answer is that bees gather nectar, which is a sugary liquid that flowers produce.  They drink the nectar, and store it in a special organ called a crop, or “honey stomach”.
Inside the honey stomach, the nectar gets inoculated with special microbes which will ferment it a little, and help give it that unique honey flavor.

Continue reading