BEE A FRIEND
Bees, a source of life!
In keeping with its educational role and as part of its “beeafriend.org” campaign, Maison Saint-Gabriel, presents fact sheets to help you learn more about bees, urban apiculture and, of course, history.
The hive: a very large family!
Bees are social insects that live in communities, called colonies. In a hive, there are between 40,000 and 60,000 worker bees and approximately 1,000 drones (males) living around a central personality: the queen, the mother of all.
The worker handles several tasks during her brief existence (30 to 45 days) for the benefit of the colony. She spends the first half of her life performing tasks inside the hive. Her primary mission is to clean the hive, to make royal jelly to feed the queen and the larvae, and to produce wax to make the honeycombs. In order to control the temperature in the hive, the fanning bees beat their wings vigorously and to ensure safety guard bees check the identity of the bees that enter the hive. From the 21st day of her life until her death, the bee collects nectar from flowers.
In order to become a queen, the larva is fed only royal jelly throughout its development; this is the diet that will enable this bee, and only this one, to become a queen, the only fertile female in the colony. When a young queen must be fertilized, she sets out on a nuptial flight, followed by a cloud of drones. She will mate with the most vigorous ones (about a dozen) while flying until her spermathecal is sufficiently filled to create several colonies. Once settled in, the queen lays eggs constantly (up to 2,000 eggs per day), for the rest of her life (1 to 4 years).
The drones are the only males in the colony. They are called drones because their bodies are more massive than those of the worker bees and they have no stinger. There are not many drones in the hive and they serve primarily to fertilize the queen. Since they cannot collect nectar, they must be fed by the worker bees. Their presence serves to maintain a good temperature in the hive. Unfortunately for them, they die immediately after fertilization and the others are expelled from the hive when the cold weather returns.
The arrival of bees in North America
The first European colonists introduced the domestic bee (Apis mellifère) to North America. At that time, other types of bees or insects were responsible for pollination. The domestic bees quickly adapted and became an integral part of our agricultural system. In the 18th and 19th centuries, most of the 24 farms operated by the Congrégation de Notre-Dame, such as the one at Maison Saint-Gabriel, had hives and produced honey. Under the French regime, honey was basically used for its therapeutic properties, since it was less popular for cooking than sugar imported from the Caribbean or maple syrup.
What if the bees disappeared?
The disappearance of the bees could destabilize the planet’s entire ecosystem and humankind could encounter difficulties producing food. There would be almost no pollination, which would result in the disappearance of many plants. It is possible that, as long as the decline of bee colonies has no immediate impact on the price of our food, little will be done to ensure the survival of bees.
The city a good place for apiculture
Unlike the rural regions which have been contaminated by a new range of pesticides that have a direct effect on the bee’s nervous system, the city is subject to anti-pesticide regulations, which mean that it provides a healthier setting for the bee. The city also has interesting floral areas that flourish throughout the season and provide a varied diet to bees at all times.
Nectar plants in the Farmhouse garden
Nectar plants are an excellent source of nectar and pollen and contribute to the health of our urban bees. There are many kinds of nectar plants and it is easy to include them in gardens. Growing such plants is a good way to ensure biodiversity and healthy bees.