October 14, 2014
National Honey Month has officially arrived, giving the sweet stuff and its producers national attention. Think you know everything about honey and honeybees? Think again because even beekeepers do not claim to and researchers are only beginning to unravel the whole story. Here are some honey facts that may pique your interest.
Approximately 20,000 species of bees have been identified but honeybees are the only ones that engage in honey production. There are currently only seven recognized honeybee species and 44 subspecies. Some other bees make and store honey but only members of the genus called Apis are considered honeybees. These bees have been creating honey for 150 million years or longer.
Humans have long coveted pure manuka honey and other varieties. A Valencia, Spain, cave painting dated approximately 15,000 years ago depicts a figure stealing honey from a hive. When honey is stored in an airtight container it will not spoil. Pharaohs of ancient Egypt placed honey and other prized possessions in their tombs. Sealed vats of honey discovered in the tomb of King Tut, which was more than 3,000 years old, contained honey that was edible.
The largest bee is the queen and she lays up to 2,000 eggs each day, which is twice her body weight. Stingerless drone bees have the sole job of mating with virgin queens to make new bees. Worker bees are charged with making honey. To make just one pound they must gather nectar from approximately two million flowers, which requires more than 55,000 miles of flying. This makes it easy to understand why the average worker bee makes just 1/12 teaspoon of honey in a lifetime.
During a single trip to collect nectar, honeybees visit 50 to 100 flowers. Bees enjoy eating honey as much as they like making it. Two tablespoons of the sweet stuff is enough fuel to support a honeybee flight around the globe. The European honeybee may develop wanderlust because it is not native to our country. Europeans brought the insect here in 1638.
Under the United States Department of Agriculture, the National Honey Board established National Honey Month in 1989. Every September, the media gives more attention to manuka honey and other varieties in an attempt to increase public awareness of the importance of honeybees and their work. In addition to producing honey, these bees are responsible for 80 percent of the pollination of vegetables, seed crops, and fruit in this country.