September is National Honey Month. This annual celebration, which began in 1989, coincides with the end of honey harvest for the majority of beekeepers in the United States, and when bees generally begin preparations for winter. There are more than 4,000 species of bees native to North America, and many people are surprised to learn that the honey bee (Apis mellifera) is not one of them. Honey bees were brought over by European settlers in the early 1600s, spread across the continent by the mid-1800s, and are essential to maintaining food production today.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), honey bees pollinate more than 100 U.S. crops and help provide one out of every three bites of food Americans eat. In Ohio, honey bees are key pollinators for pumpkins, squash, melons, cucumbers, apples, raspberries, and blueberries, just to name a few. Without the industrious honey bee, our dinner plates and kitchen cupboards would look pretty spartan. In addition to honey, beekeepers sell pollen, royal jelly, beewax, propolis, and venom for various nutritional and medicinal supplements. Because honey bees are social and live together in hives, they can be transported from farm field to farm field to provide critical pollination services.
The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service indicates that Ohio honey production from producers with five or more colonies totaled 1.2 million pounds in 2020. Ohio’s 16,000 honey producing colonies averaged 75 pounds of honey per hive. Nationally, 148 million pounds of honey were produced in 2020 with an average yield of 54.5 pounds per hive.
Did you know this about the honey bee?
• A honey bee can fly up to 15 miles per hour and beats its wings 11,400 times per minute (which makes the buzzing noise).
• A honey bee visits 50 to 100 flowers in one trip.
• The three types of bees in a hive are workers, drones, and one queen. The queen is the mother of all the bees. The drones are males whose only job is to mate with the queen. The workers are female but infertile and perform many jobs such as cleaning the hive, gathering nectar and pollen, raising young, and making honey.
• A group of honey bees living together is called a colony.
• A honey bee worker only makes an average of one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.
• Honey bees are insects and have six legs. They go through complete metamorphosis: egg, larva, pupa, adult.
• Honey bees communicate by dancing which alerts the other bees where nectar and pollen are located. The dance explains direction and distance.
• A populous hive may contain 40,000 to 60,000 bees during the late spring or early summer.
• Honey is an entirely natural product with no additives or preservatives. Its color and flavor are dependent on the blossoms visited by the bees.
Bees are truly amazing. You don’t have to be a beekeeper to help honey bees and enjoy honey. In your landscape, grow an array of blue, purple, and yellow flowers that have a sweet scent and bloom at different times from April through October. Trees, shrubs, and herbs are also excellent sources of nectar and pollen. For ideas, visit ohionativeplantmonth.org/native-plant-list to discover those that support honey bees, native bees, and other pollinators. Provide a clean, shallow water source to reduce the time a bee needs to spend searching for water. If you love honey, consider supporting local beekeepers by shopping at ohio.org/wps/portal/gov/tourism/home/made-in-ohio. The National Honey Board has delicious recipes for you to try at honey.com/recipes.
Check out what’s new in the world of conservation by visiting Delaware Soil and Water Conservation District’s website at soilandwater.co.delaware.oh.us and find us on Facebook.
Bonnie Dailey is deputy director of the Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District. For information, go to https://soilandwater.co.delaware.oh.us/.