Australian Honey

The Story Of Australian Honey

The honeybee is the most amazing creature in the insect world. The bee’s body is delicate, her life is short and enemies are many. Yet these daunting drawbacks are shrugged off as the bee goes daily about her task of collecting nectar and pollen to take back to the hive so that future generations of bees can thrive. And the bee is willing to die to defend the hive. Throughout history, man and animals have plundered beehives for a taste of honey, but the honeybee has survived and adapted to climates and conditions far removed from their beginnings.

Honey History

Over 4000 years ago in ancient Egypt, hieroglyphics show the story of the bee’s life. The had discovered the delight of honey. In the 4th century BC, Aristotle wrote of the bee. In England under Saxon rule, some landlords accepted honey as part-payment for rent from tenants. The bee had truly earned a valuable place in society. In the 1800s, minster and teacher Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth invented a new kind of beehive: a rectangular wooden box in which he stood a row of frames. Each frame provided a place for bees to build the wax cells that form the honeycomb.

Introducing Bees To Australia

This hive is used by all Australian beekeepers today, but the honeybee is not native to Australia. The colonists who came to Australia in it’s early days tried to introduce many of them to their new country. In the early 1820s, the honeybee was brought to Australia aboard the ship Isabella. She arrived in our waters in 1822 and adapted so successfully that other bee species were introduced from Italy, Yugoslavia and North America.

How Bees Make Honey

Bees need two different kinds of food. One is honey made from nectar, the sugary juice that collects in the heart of the flowers. The other comes from the anthers of flowers, which contain numerous small grains called pollen. Most bees gather only pollen or nectar. As she sucks the nectar from the flower, it is stored in her special honey stomach ready to be transferred to the honey-making bees in the hive. If hungry, she opens a valve in the nectar “sac” and a portion passes through to her own stomach.

When nectar “sacs” are full, the honeybee returns to the hive. Nectar is delivered to one of the indoor bees and is passed from bee to bee until its moisture content is reduced from about 70% to 20%. This changes the nectar into honey, which is placed in storage cells and capped with beeswax in readiness for the arrival of newborn baby bees. Pollen is mixed with nectar to make “bee bread” and is fed to the larvae. It takes 300 bees about three weeks to gather 450 g of honey. On average, a hive contains 40,000 bees.

Types of Bees

The Queen Bee: The Queen is the centre of the hive, accompanying every swarm that you see. The Queen is also the largest bee and her body is specially formed for egg laying, so that the eggs can be placed a little above the centre of the cells in the honeycomb. When the colony needs a new Queen, extra royal jelly is fed to chosen larvae in the cells. The first young Queen to emerge from the pupa destroys all other developing Queens in the cells, then sets out on her mating flight after five to twelve days. The new Queen, closely surrounded by worker bees who feed and groom her, can lay up to one egg every minute day and night.
The Drones: Drones are the future fathers of the bee colony. Shorter than the Queen, drones are larger than the workers. They have no accomplishments other than being patient. They cannot make wax, have no proboscis for collecting pollen or nectar, and have no pollen pikes on their legs. They are never called on to defend the hive, so they have no need for a sting. The swiftest drones will catch and mate with the Queen, but their life is short. After mating, they will float back to earth and be dead by the time they reach the ground.
Worker Bees: Worker bees have two heavy spoon shaped jaws which work sideways. The jaws are used for collecting pollen and chewing wax. The abdomen has two important organs: the wax glands and the sting. Wax glands are special cells on the under side of the last four segments of the body. Wax is discharged through these special cells in tiny scales, which are then moulded and used in comb building, capping and the cells.

Life In The Hive

In her lifetime, the Queen can produce more than one million eggs. After the eggs are hatched, all the larvae are fed on royal jelly from the nurse bees’ head. This rich food helps larvae to grow strongly. On the eighth day, the larva spins itself a silken cocoon and during the next week or two makes the great change from pupa to adult. It gnaws its way out of its cocoon and, as it gains strength, joins the workers in their task of foraging or engineering, nursing the young, converting nectar into honey, cleaning the hive and waiting on the Queen.
Numerous bees storing honey in the beehive

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