After Madame Bonnet’s presentation of the construction of an unoccupied bee hive, she took us over to the colony to see the bees at work. To prepare us, her assistants passed out bee bonnets to protect our faces. Madame Bonnet told us that bees are attracted to the breath as well as to perfume. I was glad that I hadn’t splashed on my morning after-shave.
Some of the visitors declined to don bonnets. Brave souls were they!
Madame Bonnet gave lots of fascinating information about bees. She talked about caste hierarchy in the hive. The queen bee spends her day laying eggs in the hexagonal cells of the combs that the worker bees have built. Worker bees—all female—buzz within the hive creating a draft that maintains a constant temperature in the brood chamber (around 35°C – 37°C). This permits the eggs to develop. The workers perform many other tasks, including gathering nectar and pollen.
Drone bees are male bees that develop from infertile eggs. Their main task is to mate with the queen, and they do little else. While this sounds like the good life for a male, there are two drawbacks. The first is that a successful coupling with the queen leads to the death of the drone. The second is that surviving drones are driven out of the hive and left to die at the end of the mating season. Nature can be cruel…sorry, fellows!
Madame Bonnet opened up one of the hives so that we could see the bees at work. A sheet of rigid, clear plastic prevented the bees from flying out and allowed us to peer in.
After Madame Bonnet’s presentation, we walked back to the beekeepers’ office. A tent and a table had been set up nearby so that we could sample honey.
Tomorrow…a taste of honey!
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