PLAINVILLE – Elders learned about bees and beekeeping in June thanks to an expert.
Newtown resident Paula Wolf gave a presentation at the Plainville Senior Center, much to the delight of approximately 25 attendees.
The discussion started with why pollinators like bees are important to the world.
“About 90 different food crops in the United States depend on pollinators,” Wolf said.
Bees have wax glands and this is what they use to create the hexagonal phenomenon known as a honeycomb. People consume honey not only in tea and desserts, but also to help relieve seasonal allergies.
Wolf showed photographs of plants that had and had not been pollinated to demonstrate why pollination is essential for plant reproduction.
“Plants can’t move to find a mate,” she added, “so they need a little help from the environment. Bees move pollen from the male part of the flower to the female part.
Almost 80% of all flowering plants require animal pollination. If it’s not by bees, it’s by birds, bats, butterflies or any other of the 200,000 species of pollinators.
Wolf delved into the lifestyle of bees, from how the queen is crowned and the different divisions of labor in a colony to how she gets fired if she doesn’t do a good job.
“Most of the hive is made up of worker bees,” she said. “About 15-20% are male bumblebees.”
The queen determines the sex of a bee in its process of laying eggs in different parts of the hive. Fertilized eggs become female bees, while unfertilized eggs become male bees.
“If she messes it up, the other bees say we have a bad queen and they kill her and make another queen,” Wolf pointed out.
There are approximately 2.6 million bee colonies in the United States. Beekeepers manage thousands of hives, moving them to different farms to pollinate crops as needed.
“Once the bees have finished pollinating, how do they get them back to the truck?” a woman asked.
“Bees know what time it is and they return to their hive every night,” Wolf replied.
The audience had a lot of questions and she was happy to answer them all.
“Are they social in their hives? Do they know all the other bees? one person asked.
In short, the answer was yes.
“They communicate through pheromones,” Wolf explained. “The bees closest to the queen clean and feed her and as they do so they collect her scent so everyone in the hive will know who the queen is.”
Wolf is a board member of the CT Backyard Beekeepers Association. For those interested, the association offers the public the “bee school” or beekeeping courses for beginners. Monthly meetings are held in Weston.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at email@example.com.