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The inhabitants of the hive are:
- the bees (also called workers) who work for the colony.
- The queen, who is the mother of all the bees and spends her life laying eggs. She only gets out of the hive to mate during her wedding flight or when forming a swarm with half the colony.
- The males, also known as drones, who’s only function is to mate with females from other colonies.
The trades of the bee
The bee works several jobs along her life. She starts as a nursemaid, then she produces wax and cleans up the hive. Later on, she becomes a guardian and finally a pollen and nectar gatherer.
The bee’s food
Bees collect pollen and nectar from flowers. Pollen is fed to young bees. Nectar is the sweet juice produced by flowers. Bees pump it and store it to produce honey.
Bees store honey for cold and flowerless times.
The bee’s enemies
Woodpeckers during winter, bears in cold countries, moths, and sometimes man…
The language of bees
Bees communicate by dancing. The pattern of the dance tells the location of flowers from the hive. They can add nuances by rubbing their wings during the dance. They also communicate by smell through pheromones.
Dancing, rubbing of wings and smell are the main three modes of communication, but some information can also be passed on by the antennae.
An organized society
A hive’s population is about 50.000 bees. A bee’s lifespan is only six to eight weeks during the nectar collecting season. A bee will live several months during winter, when the colony suspends as the temperature lowers and flowers disappear.
Inside the hive, functions are distributed according to how old bees are.
The oldest treat in the world
Honey is considered the oldest dessert in the world. Bees are among the oldest living beings on Earth. The fossil record shows that bees were around 40 million years ago. During climate change periods, they sometimes declined, but they managed to adapt and survive.
For a long time honey harvesting was a dangerous business for man. But quite early on, pre-historic men started using smoke to calm the bees down.
Beekeeping remains part breeding and part hunting-gathering until the nineteenth century. It’s only then that we started understanding the organization of the hive and helped its growth with newly designed hives. By the end of the nineteenth century honey extraction from combs is done by centrifuge rather than by pressing.
Gatinais honey got its renoun in France very early, notably thanks to Kings of France who loved visiting the region. Later, during the nineteenth century, technical breakthroughs helped beekeepers in the region reach a very high quality of production. It was the beginning of extra-fine honeys of the Gâtinais, usually the most expensive type, with rich sainfoin and crimson clover flavors. Nowadays flora has changed quite a bit, and sainfoin is rare. But the tradition lives on and the Gâtinais keeps on producing high quality honeys, looked after for their sweetness and delicacy.
At the Living Museum of Beekeeping, to honor the tradition, we still grow sainfoin.
© Living Museum of Beekeeping