Back before retiring, I would always receive calls in July about bees, with most of the calls concerning either a swarm of bees settling on the side of a house or taking up residence inside a wall.
Although the honeybee is only one of many thousands of species of bees, it is probably the most desirable bee in the world.
The honeybees, which were introduced into New England about 1638, were called white man's flies by the Native Americans.
Honey is the only natural sweetener known that needs no additional refining or processing to be used.
There are only 64 calories per tablespoon in honey. Honey will not spoil but does crystallize (turn to sugar); however, if you set the opened container in hot water, the honey will un-crystallize. Do not boil or microwave honey because this kills the enzymes.
We all know that the colonists used honey in foods and beverages; however, they also used honey for medicinal purposes; preserving fruit and in the making of cement, furniture paste, polish and varnish.
Honey, combined with cinnamon, is said to be good medicine for heart disease, arthritis, bladder infection, cholesterol, colds, upset stomach, indigestion, sore throat, weight loss, bad breath and skin infections.
For you wives out there, honey and cinnamon are also said to stop hearing loss. I don't know why but after Mary Alice heard this, she immediately served me cinnamon tea, with two teaspoons of honey.
How is honey made?
Well, the bees gather nectar and pollen from flowers.
The tiny drops of nectar secreted by flowers are the main ingredient in honey. Of course, honey is the primary staple in the honeybee's diet.
When searching for food, the bee's body and legs catch and hold pollen grains.
As a bee moves from flower to flower, some of the first plant's pollen grains are dusted off and cross-pollination is completed.
Bees have a sense of color but cannot distinguish as many colors as man does. They tend to confuse blue with purple and violet and orange with yellow. They are red color-blind and unable to differentiate the red from black; therefore, many red flowers are not bee flowers.
When a red flower, such as a poppy, attracts bees, the explanation is that the poppy reflects ultraviolet, which bees can see and man cannot.
Smell is more influential in flower selection than color.
After a foraging bee visits a flower, with an abundant supply of nectar, the bee returns to the hive and does a circle dance that attracts other bees.
These bees will approach the dancing bee and place their antennae (where the bee's sense of smell is located) close to the gyrating bee.
After familiarizing themselves with the specific odor of the plant, the bees fly out of the hive to locate plants with a similar odor. When they do, they return to the hive and do a dance of their own, enticing more bees to visit the same species of plants. This is repeated until most of the bees in the hive are visiting the plant.
A colony of honeybees can contain from 7,000 to 70,000 bees.
In the active season, each worker bee (during its four to six week life span) produces only 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey and about 1/30th of a teaspoon of beeswax.
Together the worker bees of a hive can travel 55,000 miles during June through August.
A single hive of bees can produce from 100 to 200 pounds of honey a year, which means that the bees have traveled approximately 5,5000,000 miles to do so.
Honey also is mentioned many times in the Bible.
Exodus 3:8: "So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey."
Abe Lincoln said, "If you want to gather honey, don't kick over the beehive."
I've heard it said, "If you don't have money in your pocket, you better have honey in your mouth."
While looking for information on honey, I was surprised to find that the honeysuckle plant was named from the idea that bees extracted honey from the plant; however, the book stated that the plant is entirely useless to the honeybee.
Bower retired after 34 years as a wildlife conservation officer for the state Game Commission. He has published several books about his experiences.' Questions and comments may be sent to him at 153 Redington Ave., Troy PA 16947.