Discovering Honeybees

Discovering Honeybees: Bee Approaching Sunflower Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers, Photographer
Bee Approaching Sunflower
Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers, Photographer
I was a bit surprised when I met a local beekeeper who insisted she’d never eat any honey except that produced by bees in the mountains above Cache Valley. It made sense that the taste of honey would be determined by the flowers where the bees collected nectar and pollen. It turns out the Forest Service issues permits to local beekeepers to put hives around Tony Grove

Wanting to know more, I dropped into the Honeyland store in Cache Valley and was soon mesmerized by the active cut-away hive on display. It was a teacher’s dream come true – hundreds of bees – all diligently on task. Wide-eyed, I watched as a bee flew in at the bottom of the screen through a tunnel under the window looking very much like a bike rider with two full paniers She deposited the full sacks of pollen and then she began to dance. This took me quickly to the internet to learn more.. The bees dance is called a “waggle dance” – a straight line calibrated to communicate how far away the food source is, and a circular return arc to orient the path to the food. The waggle dancing bee can direct her sisters to a food source up to five miles away.

  • It takes 550 worker bees visiting 2 million flowers to make 1 pound of honey.
  • Top speed for a bee is 15 mph.
  • Each honey bee makes one twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.

  • I soon returned to the store’s cut away hive and finally found the queen – a bit tricky as she looks like all the others except she’s one and a half times bigger. I watched as she dipped her tail into one hexagonal cell after another. On a good day a queen will lay 2,000 eggs.

    Busy, busy bees working together to set aside enough honey to feed themselves during the winter.

    The poet Dick Paetzke once called honey “the soul of a field of flowers”

    Mountain honey looks and tastes a little different than honey made by bees pollinating Cache Valley alfalfa. Both are incredibly delicious.

    Aristotle got it right: “Honey is the nectar of the gods.”

    This is Mary Heers and I am Wild About Utah.

    Photos: Courtesy & Copyright © Mary Heers
    Text: Mary Heers

    Additional Reading

    Burlew, Rusty, Honeybee Suite,

    Honeybee, National Geographic Kids,

    About The Honeybee, American Beekeeping Federation,

    Utah Beekeepers Association,

    Moab Bee Inspired Gardens, Utah State University,

    Bee Fest 2020, Sponsored by Catalyst Magazine and Utah Museum of Natural History,
    Recorded Facebook Livestream:
    SLC Bee Fest Homepage:

    Huddling for Warmth

    Beaver in snow, Courtesy US FWS
    Beaver in snow
    Image Courtesy US FWS

    When temperatures dip below freezing and wind hurries on its way, we often find ourselves looking for another warm body to huddle near and share heat. Children snuggle into laps and dogs lean close.

    Many animals huddle to stave off the cold. Species that are strong individualists in balmy seasons seek warmth from a group when temperatures drop. Many non-colonial rodents will share a den come winter.

    [Kevin Colver recording: Songbirds of the Southwest Canyon Country]

    Pygmy nuthatches jam themselves tightly together into tree cavities as do flying squirrels. Through the winter, worker honeybees huddle tightly around a central patch of wax comb where developing larvae are growing. The larvae die if temperatures drop below 83 degrees, so a living blanket of worker bees shivers to generate the heat equivalent to a 40 watt incandescent bulb.

    An animal loses heat in direct proportion to its surface area. By huddling together, each animal reduces its exposed surface area. This in turn allows them to reduce their metabolic rate and so conserve energy at a time when food can be scarce or inaccessible.

    Nests or dens occupied by numerous individuals can be much warmer than ambient. A snow covered lodge with at least 2 beaver occupants can be as much as 35 degrees warmer than the outside air temperature. A study of taiga voles showed that underground nests containing 5 to 10 residents remained 7 to 12 degrees warmer than the surrounding soil and up to 25 degrees warmer than the air above. Individuals take turns going out to forage so their nest remains toasty.

    Living in close proximity does have its problems. Disease and parasites are readily transmitted in tight quarters. Local food competition could potentially lead to hunger or starvation. Predators may more easily discover prey in groups. But for many animals, the advantages of huddling for warmth far outweigh the risks during our chilly winter months.

    This is Linda Kervin for Bridgerland Audubon Society.

    Photos: Courtesy US FWS

    Audio: Courtesy Kevin Colver,,

    Text: Linda Kervin, Bridgerland Audubon Society
    Additional Reading:

    Life in the Cold: An Introduction to Winter Ecology. Peter Marchand. 1991, University Press of New England.

    Lives of North American Birds. Kenn Kaufman. 1996, Houghton Mifflin Company.

    The Birder’s Handbook. Paul R. Ehrlich, David S. Dobkin and Darryl Wheye. 1988, Simon & Schuster, Inc.