I like watching the honey bees in my backyard. It’s impressive to see a bee come back to the hive weighed down with pollen. I’ll get a picture of that soon enough. But today — five minutes ago — I noticed a row of bees near the entrance of Hive #2 fanning their wings.
Just sitting there together, not moving, but fanning their wings like crazy. I’m guessing they were trying to cool down the hive, get a breeze blowing through it. At first there were three bees in a row. Then one flew away but the two remaining kept at it.
Maybe they’re just a couple of baby bees drying off their newly-minted wings. As usual, I don’t know, but I’m going with the cooling-the-hive theory.
More bees seemed to appear as I got closer to take the photos, but they also seemed happy to ignore me.
And the two cool bees kept doing their thing.
November 2018 postscript: The bees are ventilating the hive to regulate the temperature for brood rearing or to help evaporate water from the nectar to turn it into honey, or both.
Is there any concern about where the bees get the pollen from? For example, if the soil is full of lead and bees get pollen from flowers that grow in that soil, does the pollen contain any amount of lead?
Does the quality of honey (via pollen) differ between bees from a city and those in the country?
I was concerned about that too. There is so much lead in urban soil and so many flowers growing in that leaded soil, will the lead eventually show up in the pollen and subsequently the honey?
No. At least I haven’t found any research that speaks of lead content in flowers and pollen.
Honeybees do better in urban areas, though, because there is more biodiversity within cities compared to mono-culture rural areas where single-crop fields are usually sprayed with loads more pesticides than anything found in cities.
So even if there is some lead in urban soil, the amounts that make it into the honey, if any, are probably negligible. Bees have been dealing with lead, a naturally occurring compound, for millions of years; I suspect they know how to filter most of it away. It’s not the same for pesticides.
The character of the honey is always affected by the pollen source. Honey made from citrus pollen is apparently delicious. But it’s all good to me.
I can’t remember where I read it, but I did read a study about lead levels in the pollen of plants that grow in leaded soil. Conclusion: Very little lead makes it into the pollen.