The Honeybee has been around for over 40 million years. They evolved into what they are now about 30 million years ago. They are believed to have originated in Northern Africa. There are over 20,000 species of bee. The Honeybee is but one of them. Humans began using honey as (a super) food somewhere around 7000 B. C. Mead and Mellifera, both made from fermented honey water, are the first known alcoholic beverages. The use of honey in medicine began around 5000 B. C., and the use of bee's wax is almost as old as mythology itself. Truly, we owe a huge debt to the lowly Honeybee.
The symbiotic relationship we humans share with Honeybees has been recognized for many centuries. Beekeeping as a craft and profession has a long history, and through it Honeybees have migrated to all inhabitable parts of the planet. Trade and traffic brought them early to the Americas.
But the Honeybee is not just any companion insect. It is perhaps humanity's most important companion insect. In fact, entomologists tell us that our survival as a species depends upon the Honeybee. Most of the fruits and vegetables humans depend upon for nutrition, fiber and variety depend upon Honeybees as pollinators. Without the Honeybee, humans would have to eat much more meat which is environmentally unfeasible, and nutritional needs would be disrupted. Even nuts and grains would be more rare.
Throughout spring and summer, in the parks and backyard gardens you can see female workers busy collecting pollen from the flowers. You know your garden is tending toward vitality when Honeybees visit without danger. If Honeybees are in danger when they visit your yard, you can bet your garden does not promote wildlife.
[The information gathered here is from an excellent online article: Koning, Ross E. "The Biology of the Honeybee, Apis Mellifera". Plant Physiology Web site. 1994, and also Honeybee.]
Honeybees are amazingly socialized. The structure is highly sexualized according to gender. The entire social structure -- the hive -- centers around one bisexual queen who murders her sisters and her mother and wants to do nothing but collect the sperm of her male drone suitors and lay the egg (one among thousands) of the future queen. We humans usually never get to see this large bee. She has no time to do anything but have sex and lay eggs. She doesn't even have time to gather food. She has other worker bees find the food, prepare it and feed it to her.
The female bees are workers. They build everything, they collect the food, the pollen, they create the royal jelly and other mystical liquids. A partial list of chores for the female worker would include making the honey comb, tending to the larvae, tending to the young drones, tending to the queen. They clean the hive, they gather the pollen and mystical nectar. They prepare the nectar. They defend the hive from intruders. They manage the lazy drones, starving the ones who have no chance of having sex with the queen. Then they lay more drone eggs. In the summer, all that in about twenty days. It's claimed that they work themselves to death. The hive compensates for this by producing large numbers of female workers. A hive can birth as many as 200,000 over the course of a season, a constant birthing of bees.
The male drones do not have stingers and are not nearly as plentiful as the female workers, but there will usually be several hundred waiting around for the chance to copulate with a new queen, if one should happen to emerge. The specifics concerning the queen's mating rituals weave a lurid tale not suitable for young children and middle aged adults. But, suffice it to say, the queen collects the sperm from as many drones as she can -- up to 90 million sperm from multiple partners -- each one being dismembered for the treat. She then places about 7 million winning sperm into a little pouch on her body. She will use these over the course of her egg laying days, which can last up to two years. The male drones that wait to no avail are either starved to death by the female workers, or banished from the hive, only to die outside.
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For the most part, poisons on your plants isn't a good idea, for poisons tend to be indiscriminate in their killing abilities. They kill the bad and the good insects alike. That means poisons kill good insects like Honeybees, Ladybugs and Praying Mantises. Plus, the killing is unfair, creepy, usually overkill and the residue is questionable.
What makes more sense is to plan, produce and maintain what might be called a living garden by integrating the predatory insects into the garden's ecosystem. Let Ladybugs, Lacewings and Praying Mantises keep the pest populations down. You won't have to worry about poisoning yourself and you'll come to notice the subtle meaning to the phrase, "a living garden , a gardener alive."