The true honey bee (Apis mellifera) is a native to Europe, Asia, and Africa. They were brought to the North American continent by the early setters prior to 1638. The specie is a docile bee who doesn't attack unless they are disturbed or frightened.
Honey bees survive the winter on their stores of honey and by clustering. They move closer together and continue to move their wings, legs, and bodies to produce enough heat to keep the compact cluster alive.
Each colony can tolerate only one queen. She remains within the shelter and begins laying eggs in February. The small cone shaped white eggs are attached one to each cell. It takes about three days for them to hatch. As the days grow longer and warmer, the cluster expands and prepares for the division of the colony.
New cells are built, these brood cells are kept open and the larva are fed a diet of "royal" jelly. When the grub -like larva are full grown and fill the cell, it is capped. Then the larva pupates after spinning a cocoon.
Bees swarm when a new queen appears in the hive. The old queen takes about half of the colony and seeks a new home.
In the early days bees were kept predominately for their honey and wax, but today about 80 percent of our field crops are pollinated by honey bees. This is not true for native species of grasses and flowers--they need to be pollinated by native species of bees.
Since about 2005 there has been a drastic drop in honey bee populations, which has been contributed to many environmental factors or just plain sloppy beekeeping. Many apiculturists recommend returning to the ways of the ancestors to restore health to the colonies. The death of a hive is referred to colony collapse disorder (CCD).
Research seems to indicate that the use of systemic pesticides, which stay in the plant for the life, known as neonicotinoids affect the bees' ability to home in on the hive because of an induced dementia leaving the queen and a few workers unable to sustain the colony.
New colonies have been imported from Italy and today in Kentucky there are 4,000 to 5,000 beekeepers managing around 20,000-25,000 colonies of bees, which is a big increase from five years-ago.
Backyard gardeners can do their part to sustain the world of pollinators by planting red clover, lavender, buttercups, and goldenrod in their flower beds as a source of food supply for the production of honey.
Ancient bee beliefs include:
Bees will not thrive if their keepers quarrel over them,
An unclaimed swarm settling on your property is bad luck, and
The bees must be informed when a death happens and be invited to the funeral, black cloth must be hung over the hives to indicate mourning.
Ancient Bee Keeping Advice
Set hive on a plank (not low by the ground)
Where herbe with the flowers may compass it round:
And boordes to defend it from north and north east,
From showers and rubbish, from vermin and beast.