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Observing Bees

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In Pennsylvania, there are 300 native species of bees. This little insect is critical to our food system because most of the things we eat rely on pollination. At Asbury Woods you can observe bees gathering pollen from flowers in our gardens, and even see an observation hive in a glass display in the Andrew J. Conner Nature Center.

Perhaps the most famous of bees is the honey bee. This bee collects pollen in the summer to make honey, which is its food source through the winter. In a honey bee colony, there are three different types of bees:

  • Queen – With only one queen per colony, her job is to lay fertilized eggs to make more drone and worker bees. When another queen be born, the older queen will leave with about half of the worker bees and establish a new colony.
  • Drone – Their role is to mate with the queen. They have no stinger to defend themselves since they stay in the hive. Once they mate with the queen, drone bees die. A queen mates with 10-20 drones in her lifetime, which is critical to genetic diversity in the hive. In the summer, drones help keep the hive cool by flapping their wings.
  • Worker – Worker bees are sterilized females that go right to work after emerging from her cell in the honeycomb. The first job is to feed eggs and larvae, as she matures she’ll take on the role of maintaining the hive. Once ready, she’ll be experienced enough to leave the hive to forage for nectar and pollen. In the summer, worker bees live for an average of 15-38 days.

Summer is the best time to watch bees land on a flower and cover themselves in pollen. You can observe bees in the Carrie T. Watson Garden, Celebration Garden, in the meadow, and even at our hives by the Chestnut Grove. For an up-close view, head into the Nature Center, where you can see an enclosed hive in action.

While honey bees are most famous for the sweet treat they produce, people also make use of honey and bees wax in other ways. Honey is can be drizzled on toast or in tea, but it’s also used in body products and healing salves. Beeswax is used to make body creams, soaps, and candles. You can find locally made honey and bee products in the Squeaky Frog Gift Shop, located inside the Nature Center.

Bee a Champion

Over the years, bee populations have faced challenges like colony collapse disorder, reduction in food sources, and habitat loss. You can help bee populations succeed by:

  • If you see a colony forming in an undesirable place, like outside a door, or even in your house, call a local beekeeper. They will safely relocate the hive.
  • Reducing or eliminating pesticide use.
  • Plant more native species around your property
  • Offer shelter with a bee block or by drilling holes into a dead tree

If you want to learn more about the social life of bees, watch our educational video.