Why are bee colonies important?
It‘s almost impossible to imagine a world without bees.
They’re an important component of, well, basically all terrestrial habitats. It’s hard to believe that creatures so small are critical to the survival of many species. But that’s what makes them amazing creatures. Not only do they nourish the environment, but they produce delicious raw honey.
And humans have always recognized this!
It’s estimated that humans have kept honey bee colonies for millennia. But over the last century, there has been a dramatic decline in healthy honeybee colonies. This phenomenon is known as the ‘Colony collapse.’ Continue reading to learn about bee colonies, how they work, and why you should be concerned about them.
What are bee colonies?
Like many of us, not all bees are social.
Bees may be solitary, or they may live in various types of communities. Some species, like honey bees, bumblebees, and stingless bees, live in colonies, but the majority of species are solitary.
The Social Species
The social species of bees live together in large, well-organized family groups. They’re regarded as highly evolved insects that engage in a variety of complex tasks not practiced by the multitude of solitary insects.
Communication, complex nest construction, environmental control, defense, and division of labor are just some of the behaviors that social bees have developed to exist successfully in colonies.
Even in the tropics, most species have a single season colony cycle, and only mated females hibernate. A few species have long active seasons and attain colony sizes in the hundreds
How do bee colonies work?
Several thousand worker bees work together to build nests, collect food, and nurture brood. Each member has a certain duty to complete but surviving and reproducing, on the other hand, is the collective effort of the entire colony.
A bee colony typically consists of three kinds of adult bees:
1. The Workers
Workers are the smallest and constitute the majority of bees occupying the colony. They are sexually undeveloped females. With specialized structures that allow them to perform all the labors of the hive, they clean and polish the cells, feed the brood, care for the queen, guard the entrance, and ventilate the hive, and more.
2. The Drones
Drones (male bees) are the largest bees in the colony. Their main function is to fertilize the virgin queen during her mating flight.
3. The Queen
Each colony has only one queen. Because she is the only sexually developed female, her primary function is reproduction. The second major function of a queen is producing pheromones that serve as a social glue to unify the colony.
A colony normally has a single queen and several hundred drones during late spring and summer.
With all that said, the colony’s social structure is maintained by the presence of the queen and workers and depends on an effective system of communication. The distribution of chemical pheromones among members and communicative “dances” are responsible for controlling the activities necessary for colony survival.
What kills bee colonies?
During the winter of 2006-2007, many beekeepers began to report unusually high losses of their bee colonies with just over 36% of the operations reporting some lost colonies in which all adult bees disappeared. That same year, many countries, including Canada, Portugal, Italy, Spain, Greece, Germany, Poland, France, Switzerland, and the United States began reported substantial losses of their colonies. This became known as Colony Collapse Disorder.
This destruction has serious implications on worldwide ecology and the economy.
There have been many theories about the cause but the researchers who are leading the effort to find out why are now focused on these factors:
- Increased losses due to the invasive varroa mite.
- New or emerging diseases and parasites such as Nosema ceranae.
- Pesticide poisoning from a need to control in-hive insect or mite control.
The decline in bee populations is linked to the loss of natural forage and inadequate diets, mite infestations, and diseases. It can affect a plants’ ability to reproduce. If the bee dies, the flower dies with it, and the ecosystems collapse.
There are small ways in which you can help the bee population remain fruitful.
Some of them include:
- Planting bee-friendly flowers and trees in your garden and neighborhoods
- Ditching any weed killers which can include harmful chemicals
- Stop killing them. Bees are important for pollination and to make delicious honey, so it's never a good idea to kill bees.
OneRoot Honey is bottled from only the purest of sources in the vast Canadian wilderness. Our pristine Northern Canadian Boreal Forest is bee-yards away from cities and pollution and allows us to achieve chemical-free beekeeping. Our bees are healthy without the use of antibiotics.
Visit our store to learn more.