Question(s) for Summer (and other times!)

Do bees eat honey? If not why do they make it?
Bees do consume honey, but just not as much of it as you would expect. Honey is primarily made for times long past a bees lifespan. When there are no flowers, when winter means months of no flying for forage, and when the needs of the colony outstrip the forage that is available. So where does all that honey go? The biggest draw on stored honey isn’t winter…surprisingly, but feeding the young. A frame of brood larvae will need a full frame of honey and pollen to develop properly. That can be as much as 8 pounds of honey! With a standard brood frame containing 6900 frames, at 90% capacity that equals 6200 developing bees to feed! And you thought your grocery bill has high? With a queen laying a max of 1000 eggs at peak season, and bees hatching out daily, the consumption rate is significant.
Keep in mind too, that bees are driven to grow in numbers to the point of swarming. This is when one colony splits and makes a separate colony due to congestion and over population. (see our article here on this fascinating behavior!) So a massive surplus of honey is always a desire for the bees to create, but mainly because it enables them to make more bees.

Can bees sense if you are scared?
They sure can. Bees are very sensitive to pheromones. The queen produces an abundance of pheromones and it is the β€œfingerprint” of that particular colony, and the β€œglue” that keeps them as a collective and social community working together for survival.
When an intruder, be it a beekeeper, or skunk, or bear approaches a colony the natural apprehensiveness of potential stings makes us wary and anxious and well…..scared.
Bees use this reaction to identify potential honey thieves, and will respond with defensive behavior. Head butting: flying into your face and bouncing off your head is an initial reaction. This causes most people to wave their arms, and become more frightened. Your fear pheromones become stronger, and this confirms to the bees that you are up to no good.
They then will sting, and each sting has a pheromone marker that tells bees where you are and to β€œattack” here. So then the stinging goes into high gear until you, or the skunk, or the bear leave, taking your fear smell with you.
An experienced beekeeper isn’t apprehensive, or nervous, or anxious. This lack of β€œfear” pheromone does not trigger the defense mechanism of the bees, and this translates into less stings for us. Remain calm, and carry on. (This can be easier said than done because the pain is very much real.)

Why don’t vegans eat honey?
Vegetarians do, but vegans consider honey production exploitation and it contravenes the rigid values they follow. I’m not here to debate if this outlook is incorrect, but I find a lot of vegan sites do make sweeping and uninformed generalizations about beekeeping practices. That being said, everyone has the right to make the choices they are comfortable with and in the end, it’s more honey for the rest of us.

Why does smoke calm bees?
Beekeepers use a tool called a smoker that can puff gentle clouds of smoke when they are inspecting their colonies. This does not calm them, but it does distract them. Millions of years of evolution has refined a behavior they developed to increase the chance of survival in the event of forest fires. When bees smell smoke they stop what they are doing and gorge themselves on honey, in case they need to abandon the colony to an encroaching blaze. This gives you some time to do what needs to be done and them close the hive back up. This reaction is temporary, but a subsequent small application of smoke repeats the behavior. (They do get desensitized so being efficient in handling them is good practice.)

Why are bees better than people?
I’ve never met a bee I didn’t like. On the other hand, the more people I meet, the more I like my dog.