This summer, Hurricane Island will be home to nearly 40,000 new residents! We just picked up two 3-pound packages of Apis mellifera ligustica (Italian honeybees) from Sparky's Apiaries, operated by David Smith from Hope, ME. Each package contains worker bees, attendants (a specialized type of worker bee that takes care of the queen), drones, and a caged queen. When we set up the hives, the bees will chew through a sugar plug to release their queen from her cage and she will take off on a mating flight. Except for when the hive swarms, this is the only time she will leave the hive, and from that point on, laying eggs and repopulating the hive is her full-time job.
Apart from the queen and male drone bees, the bulk of the hive consists of female worker bees, who are attending to the queen, cleaning the nest, taking care of larvae, defending the hive, and foraging.Producing honey is no small task. Bees will travel up to 50,000 miles visiting nearly 2 million flowers to forage enough nectar to make one pound of honey. Additionally, it takes a hive to get the job done: a single worker bee produces only 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey her lifetime.
Remember, bees and wasps are different! You can tell if the creature buzzing around you is a bee by observing a few key features: bees have hairy bodies, no defined waist, and flat legs to help collect pollen. Wasps are predators, streamlined to hunt insects, and produce papery pulp nests from chewed up fibers and saliva. Wasps can sting and live to tell the tale, but a worker bee will only sting if it is an absolute necessity--she will die from ripping the sting barb out of her body as she flies away after the attack.
We are excited to welcome this docile breed of bees to the Hurricane Island Community, and are already scheming where to plant new flower gardens around the island to expand their nectar resources. With bees also comes an opportunity for new programs on beekeeping, pollination, colony behavior, and we are excited to start collecting scientific data on our hive health and work with students to conduct new research on bees. Most importantly, we'll be spending time this summer perfecting our waggle dance... Stay tuned!