When is Honey Bee Day?
Mark your calendars for Saturday, August 19, 2023, as we celebrate World Honey Bee Day.
What is World Honey Bee Day?
Introduced in 2009, this special day pays homage to the remarkable honeybee and those who nurture their hives. While World Bee Day falls in May, this dedicated occasion recognizes the vital role of over 16,000 bee species, encouraging us to embrace the wonders of honey bees and support local apiaries.
My First Encounter with Beekeeping
Growing up in Maryland we were lucky enough to have fruit trees, berries and vibrant vegetable and flower gardens. As kids, we were outside most of the day, from playing in the dirt to helping with the gardens. From an early age, my brothers were always playing with insects. So much so that my oldest brother became an Entomologist & they opened Eco-Care Pest Management
together in Howard County.
When I was in high school, my brothers decided to add honey bee hives to our backyard. They encouraged me to be involved in helping with the bees & learning the art of processing honey.
When I graduated & started attending the University of Maryland, College Park, my experience with beehives led me to the Entomology Department’s Apiary Building. Here, in the heart of the campus, I was tasked with caring for the bees, extracting honey, and bottling and labeling it for the University.
Thanks to my early interaction with honey bees, commemorating this national day holds significance. It’s a time to reflect on the vital role these incredible insects play in our ecosystem and to encourage others to join in appreciating and protecting these pollinators.
Why honey bees are important?
Honeybees are an integral part of our food chain. We need them for our survival. Without them pollinating flowers, plants, and trees, many nutritious plants wouldn’t reproduce. Honeybees pollinate $15 billion worth of crops in the United States each year, including more than 130 types of fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Honeybees also produce honey, worth about $3.2 million (2017) according to the USDA-National Agricultural Statistics Service.
What are some interesting facts about honeybees?
- One honey bee colony can have a population of 20,000 to 60,000 bees.
- A colony has one queen. If the queen dies, the hive or the beekeeper will replace her. The hive also consists of male bees called drones and female worker bees.
- A honey bee can fly up to 15 miles per hour.
- Honey bees beat their wings 11,400 times per minute. This beating of wings makes a buzzing noise.
- A honey bee visits 50-100 flowers in one trip
- Honey bees use the sun as a directional marker when leaving and returning to the hive. The returning foragers do a waggle dance on the vertical comb surfaces in a circle or figure eight pattern which shows the other bees in which direction, and how far to fly.
- A healthy bee hive can produce up to 200 pounds of honey per year
Why do bees make honey?
Honey bees create honey and store it as food because it provides the energy for bees’ flight muscles and provides heating for the hive in the winter. Fortunately, the bees will make more honey than the colony needs, so it is necessary for beekeepers to harvest the excess, which they bottle.
How does the honey get made (and yes it is bee vomit but in a good way)?
Step 1: Nectar collection
Worker bees collect nectar or pollen from flowers. A healthy mix of nectar and bee saliva is stored in the bee’s honey stomach, which is separate from the food stomach. This sac has a valve that opens and closes as needed. Hungry honey bees can open the valve and transfer nectar to their food stomach. In the bee’s honey stomach, the complex sugars in the nectar begin to break down into simple sugars.
Step 2 & 3: Nectar transfer & processing
Worker bees return back to the hive and they pass the nectar by mouth to multiple bees for about 20 minutes. During this process, new enzymes are being added, further converting the nectar into honey. Then it is deposited into the hexagon-shaped beeswax cells.
Step 4: Honey dehydration
At the start of the drying process, the honey contains 70% water. The bees fan their wings to evaporate the liquid from the nectar. Once the honey is about 17% water, it is ready and the all natural stable ingredient that the bees create & use for food. Honey’s flavor & color vary based on the nectar collected. Orange blossom honey is light in color and certain wildflower honey is a dark amber color.
What are the health benefits of honey?
has shown that honey contains a wide array of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants. The amount and type of these compounds depend largely on the floral source.
Cough suppressant – honey has been used for centuries to alleviate symptoms of the common cold and research
supports this approach.
Wound care – honey has been used since Egyptian times for healing wounds due its natural antimicrobial, antifungal, & antiviral properties.
Cognitive decline – newer research
is showing the potential of honey to help enhance the defense system of brain cells, hence preserving brain functions and cognitive ability.
Ways to Celebrate World Honey Bee Day
- Collect and spread local wildflower seeds to promote honey bee pollination.
- Replace your usual sweetener with honey for the day. Taste the difference!
- Give the gift of honey to a friend, neighbor, co-worker or family member.
- Share your sweet honey stories on social media tagging #WorldHoneyBeeDay.
Ways to Help – Support Local Beekeepers
- Saturday August 19th – Beekeepers of Northern Shenandoah at Sky Meadows State Park to celebrate Honey Bee day
- Buy local honey: you can find local honey at the farmer’s markets in the region, here are two to get started- Quail & Hound Farms & StallardRoad
- Local Beekeeper Associations:
No matter your choice of celebration, have a refreshing summer drink infused with honey and take a moment to savor the fragrant blooms around you!