The buzz of bees is a familiar noise in the summer months, and August 19th is the perfect day to celebrate it. That’s because it’s National Honey Bee Day! Once a year, we set aside time to honor some of the littlest creatures with a big impact on the Earth.
If you’ve spent all summer observing the insects around your home, you’ll have no trouble identifying the honey bee. But if you need a little help, they are hairy-looking, oval-shaped, flying insects with dark brown (sometimes looks black) and yellow stripes. You can usually find them around flowers in your garden or maybe inspecting a sweet drink you brought outside.
But don’t forget that these little guys have a stinger for protection! They aren’t typically aggressive but may attack if they feel like they, or their hive, are in danger.
The Importance of the Honey Bee
We should keep our distance from honey bees, not only for our own protection but for theirs too! These tiny creatures play an important role in our world, they help our flowers – and food like nuts, fruits, and vegetables- grow through pollination.
When a honey bee visits a flower, they are looking for nectar, a sugary liquid sitting inside of the flower. As the bee collects the nectar, pollen, a powdery substance on the flower, gets stuck on the honey bee. When that bee flies to another flower, some of the pollen will shake off and help that flower create even more plants.
The honey bee brings the nectar to its hive, where it gets stored in a honeycomb, eventually turning into the honey we know and love. Bees then eat the honey for energy. Luckily they make so much honey that there’s extra for us!
The Honey Bee Social System
Back home in their hive, bees are very social creatures. They cooperate all year round to keep the hive running, protect the queen, and make honey. During the winter months, they stay huddled together to generate heat and don’t leave the hive. There are three types of bees found in a hive:
The Queen Bee
There is only one queen found in a bee hive. Her job is to lay the eggs, creating the next generation of bees. If she dies, there is a process in place to replace her by feeding one of the female bees special food allowing her to turn into an egg-laying queen.
The other females in the hive are worker bees. They do everything to keep the colony running- build, protect, and clean the hive, as well as find flowers for nectar.
Male bees are known as drones. They don’t work, they don’t make honey, and they can’t sting! They are there to help the queen create the next generation of bees.
How to Celebrate National Honey Bee Day
Just like Earth Day, there are many ways to celebrate National Honey Bee Day with kids. First, enjoy some honey (because lessons are always better with a treat)! Then, find ways to learn about bees, whether it’s searching for them outside, reading a book, or visiting a beekeeper.
Learn about Bee Keepers
Beekeepers can be found in the most surprising places, and that’s because bees can be found in a large variety of climates. Where the bees, and keepers, are located will impact the flowers they have access to, how long the honey season is, and even what their honey will look like.
Beekeepers wear protective gear because they get much closer to bees than the rest of us should! This is necessary because they help the bees maintain their hives, check on the eggs, and of course, collect excess honey. They are very knowledgeable about honey bees, so if you can find one near you, they are worth the visit.
Support Your Local Honey Bees
The easiest way to show your love for honey bees is to make sure they have enough food in the spring and summer months. If you have a garden, add some native plants (local to your area). If you don’t have a garden but have a balcony or outdoor patio, plant a few herbs in planters. Honey bees love sage, mint, thyme, and lavender. If you’re stuck indoors, you can crochet one of the bee’s favorite flowers on a bag for the kids.
On top of food, honey bees need to drink clean water on a regular basis (just like us). If you add a clean water source, like a bird bath, you might get other exciting visitors too.
Visit honeylove.org (the managers of National Honey Bee Day) to find more great ways to celebrate the honey bee.