Have you ever seen a lazy bee? I bet you haven’t. My grandpa says that bees are some of the best workers in the world; and he should know. He has two big beehives in the woods right behind his home.
Perhaps you know what beehives look like. They are tall stacks of white boxes that farmers sometimes have by the sides of their fields. If you get close to them, you can see hundreds of bees coming and going in the air.
My brother and I like to watch our grandpa’s bees. Once we followed a trail that many of them seemed to be taking and found that it led to some old cans that Grandpa had filled with water. The bees would land on pieces of wood sticking out of them and walk down to the water for a drink. And do you know how bees drink? They stick out little, long tongues and draw water up through them just like we sip lemonade through a straw.
Bees use these same “tubes” to get nectar out of flowers. When our mother was in high school, she went to Germany one year and brought back some hollyhock seeds. She planted them in Grandpa’s garden; and now the bees get nectar out of the giant blossoms every year.
In addition to nectar, bees also collect pollen from flowers. Grandpa says they mix it with honey to feed to the baby bees in the hive. You have probably seen lots of bees carrying pollen. It sticks to their legs and looks like big yellow saddlebags. As bees go from flower to flower carrying pollen, they help the flowers to produce fruit and seeds. That is why everybody is happy to have bees around.
My dad spent lots of time on our vacation trying to get a picture of a bee flying in the air. Once when he was just about to get a picture of a bee going into a hollyhock blossom, a scary thing happened. A big white spider jumped out of the flower’s center and grabbed the bee behind its neck. It bit the bee and finally ate some of it, but we didn’t watch that part.
Grandpa has told us lots of interesting things about bees that we didn’t know before. He says that when it gets real hot, the bees turn on their “air conditioners.” Several of them line up at the entrance to the hive and fan their wings to force cooler air through it. We also learned that because honeybees are so industrious, the early Mormon pioneers called the land they lived in “Deseret,” which is a word for honeybee taken from the Book of Mormon. My dad says that even today the state of Utah has a beehive, representing industry, in the center of its state seal.
One day when we were visiting Grandpa, he asked us if we would like to see the inside of one of the hives. We all said yes, but we didn’t know how we could do it. Grandpa laughed and said it was easy.
First of all, he started a fire in a little can. It was a special can that he used to blow smoke on his arms. He said that bees don’t like smoke and that blowing it on him would help to keep them away.
Next, Grandpa put a big net over his head. Once a lot of bees had stung him on the face and it got so swollen that he couldn’t open his eyes. I guess he didn’t want that to happen again!
When he was all ready, Grandpa walked over to one of the hives, gave it a squirt of smoke, and lifted off the top board. Then he pulled out a sort of screen that was covered with bees busy making honey in little compartments called honeycombs. Dad took lots of pictures of the bees working so we could remember what they looked like.
After he checked the top layers of both hives, Grandpa took his net off and walked over to where the bees were drinking water. Then he did something really brave. He caught a bee by the wings between his fingers and held it close to his hand and let it sting him! Grandpa said that this was just like getting a shot for the measles. By letting a bee sting him every once in a while, he believes he won’t get too sick if someday a whole bunch of them sting him again.
Every year in the fall, Grandpa takes all of the honey out of his beehives. He strains it and puts it in cans to give to people. The cans are really neat. They have Grandpa’s name on them and I think that’s why it tastes like the best honey in the world!