As you might already know, honey bees are under threat worldwide due to parasites, disease, climate change, air pollution, and pesticides. This news has us wondering… what we can do to help the bees?
According to Albert Einstein, “If Bees disappeared off the face of the earth, Man would have only four years to live.” If like us, you want to help our buzzy friends survive, you can start by boycotting products containing neonicotinoids, buying local honey, and planting bee-friendly flowers in your garden. Having your own hive can also help – and that’s because unlike some commercial techniques, natural beekeeping actually supports bee health, prioritising pollination and natural reproduction over honey yields.
September is Bee Aware Month in New Zealand – making this a great time for you to get involved. To learn more about how you can do your part in helping the bees, keep up with Bee Aware Month on Facebook, or visit the Apiculture New Zealand website for more information.
In honour of Bee Aware Month, we’ve put together 21 fun facts about honey bees, plus a bonus recipe for our Apple & Honey Cake! Check it out below.
Did you know…
- Plants like bee balm, lavender, thyme, mint, rosemary, sunflowers, marigolds, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, fennel and goldenrod can attract bees to your garden.
- One beehive of honey bees can produce up to 150kg of honey per year.
- The honey bee is the only insect that produces food eaten by humans.
- The Varroa mite is the honeybees’ biggest enemy in New Zealand. According to NZ Geographic, since its arrival some time before 2000, it has almost completely eliminated wild bees. Wild bees were once responsible for a large percentage of crop and pasture pollination. Now, all industrial-scale pollination must be done with managed colonies. In other words, honeybees in New Zealand are now totally dependent on beekeepers, as are the many plants that benefit from pollination by honeybees, and the species that live on and consume those plants. Anything that affects pollinators has a considerable impact upon the fertility and functioning of the entire ecosystem.
Wonders of science
- Honey bees are scientifically known as Apis mellifera, which means “honey-carrying bee”.Honey bees communicate with each other by doing the “waggle dance”. By dancing mid-air, the bees can tell other members of the colony where to find flowers, water sources, or new nest locations.
- Honey’s low pH (3.2-4.5) makes it almost impossible for bacteria and other micro-organisms to grow – which is why honey never goes bad. It was reported that archaeologists found 2000-year-old jars of honey in Egyptian tombs and they still tasted delicious!
- Bees use their antennae to smell, and can detect nectar 2 kms away.
- Worker bees each produce about 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in their lifetime.
- On one flight from the hive to collect honey, a honey bee will visit between 50 and 100 flowers.
- A honey bee must visit about 4 million flowers to produce 1kg of honey!
- The honey bee beats its wings 11,400 times per minute, generating that trademark buzzing sound.
- A honey bee flies at approximately 24 kph.
Bees in New Zealand
- In New Zealand, we have around 28 species of native bees and several species of honey bee.
- New Zealand produces approximately 7,440 tonnes of honey every year, and about half of that is exported.
- Over $5 billion of New Zealand’s agricultural exports also depend on bees.
- In New Zealand, we have almost 5000 beekeepers. Most are hobbyists with less than 5 hives.
- We have approximately 390,500 beehives in New Zealand.
- Honey is the only food that includes all substances necessary to sustain life, including enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and water. It’s also the only food that contains “pinocembrin”, an antioxidant believed to improve brain function.
- Manuka honey is world-renowned for its antiseptic properties. People pay up to $80 per kg for New Zealand manuka honey!
- Unlike maple syrup, coconut sugar, agave nectar and other sweeteners, honey contains monosaccharides (simple sugars) – making it the safer choice for anyone on the GAPS or SCD diet, and anyone with gut damage.