Saturday, March 22, 2008

What It's Like To Bee Watched By More Than Twelve Million Eyes

This weekend, we will be hauling two million five hundred twenty thousand bees!!
We are taking them from an almond grove in California to an orange grove in Florida, and in the process, I learned something new; all kinds of crops rely on honey bees for pollination; almonds, apples, avocados, blueberries, cantaloupes, cucumbers, sunflowers, watermelon and many others.

In fact, some farmers rent colonies of bees to pollinate their crops and just as with this shipment, bees are often transported to different locations around the country to do their thing. I learned from the internet that without the pollination from honey bees, there would be one-third fewer crops in the world than there are now! Pretty interesting.

We've never hauled "live" freight before and apparently, bees are a bit high maintenance while traveling. They don't like to be hot, they are happiest when traveling at night, they don't like to stop for more than thirty minutes at a time and they get agitated very easily.

We have been told that they like to be kept cool, which is why the truck has to keep moving during the daylight hours. They generate a lot of heat and when left sitting without any air flow, they can die. We were also instructed that if it gets too hot, we should hose them down. Completely soak them. The shipper told us, "you can't drown 'em, so don't worry that you're watering them too much". Okaaay.

They are kind of wild during the day, swarming around their hives, squeezing through the protective netting and following the truck when it starts moving. When you get close to the truck, you can hear a weird drone, sort of an eerie killer bee movie sort of hum. At night, they become docile and don't move a whole lot. Hundreds of them are bunched up on the netting and from far away it just looks like a blotch of something, until you get closer and have that "Oh shit! Those are bees!" reaction.

I wanted to bee informed about my cargo, so when I did a little Googling, I came up with these interesting facts. Check 'em out:

Bees have 5 eyes.

Bees fly about 20 mph.

Bees are insects, so they have 6 legs.

Male bees in the hive are called drones.

Female bees in the hive (except the queen) are called worker bees.

Losing its stinger will cause a bee to die.

Bees have been here around 30 million years!

Bees carry pollen on their hind legs called a pollen basket or corbicula.

An average beehive can hold around 50,000 bees.

Foragers must collect nectar from about 2 million flowers to make 1 pound of honey.

The average forager makes about 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.

Average per capita honey consumption in the US is 1.3 pounds.

Bees have 2 pairs of wings.

The principal form of communication among honey bees is through chemicals called pheromones.

Bees are important because they pollinate approximately 130 agricultural crops in the US including fruit, fiber, nut, and vegetable crops. Bee pollination adds approximately 14 billion dollars annually to improved crop yield and quality.

And finally, the question that I know must be on all of your minds… honeybee one word or two?

Well, many people notice that dictionaries list "honeybee" as one word. However, entomologists use the two-word naming convention "honey bee." Both are correct!


Anonymous said...

How funny that this should be your blog for the day. We just watched the Bee movie today with the grandsons. Lots of interesting facts in the movie as well. You and Ed might enjoy that movie. BEE safe while traveling. Love ya,

Don Olney said...

I've often wondered what sort of things you guys haul? Now I know at least two million five hundred twenty thousand things! I spent some of my early life as an entomologist, so found this entry especially interesting.... I'm going to send the link to my old high school science teacher. You didn't mention that honey bees are mysteriously disappearing at an alarming rate - threatening our food supply. Click here for more info. said...

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