In the Garden of Deeden: Honey Bees Part 1



Professor Communication and Media

Denise is a devoted organic gardener who challenges herself to live as sustainably as possible in her home in southeastern Pennsylvania. She is a professor in the Department of Communication and Media at West Chester University with a Ph.D. from Kent State University. Her teaching and research areas consist of sustainability, close interpersonal relationships, integrating work and family, and conflict resolution.

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September 6, 2021

In the Garden of Deeden: Honey Bees Part 1


In 2008, I was in a waiting room and picked up a magazine. In it was an article about colony collapse disorder and its plight on the bee population. Given my love of gardening, it seemed natural that I would become a beekeeper. I met with a colleague’s husband who is a beekeeper, got some basics, and then signed up for a seminar through a local beekeeping association. By April of 2009, I got my first package of bees at a local farm. It was fascinating. There were dozens of these packages of bees, and the buzzing was palpable. My partner at the time popped the trunk, and I said, “Oh no.” He asked where they’d be going for the hour-drive home, and naturally I said they’d be in the back seat.

The more I learn about bees, the more fascinating they are to me. In fact, humans could stand to learn some lessons about how they behave and organize their societies. Thomas Seeley studies honey bees and wrote an excellent book called Honey Bee Democracy. Bees are considered eusocial and are considered superorganisms. The first term is considered the highest level of organization of sociality that involves characteristics like cooperative brood care and a division of labor. The latter simply means that the colony functions like a single organism.

A honey bee colony typically consists of 10,000-80,000 or more bees, depending on the time of year. It is a society ruled by females. Of course, there’s a queen who can lay 1500-2000 eggs a day during spring and summer months. Female bees perform all the work of the hive. Some duties include queen attendants, nurse bees, guards, and foragers. Foraging is the last job where they tend to fly 500 miles in about 5-30 days, averaging 1-29 trips each day, visiting 100-1500 flowers to collect nectar for each load. A full load is 85% of the bee’s body weight. They also collect pollen and a full load of pollen is about 35% of the bee’s weight. They do work themselves to death. The hive does have male bees called drones. They do not work but do travel to drone congregating areas looking for a virgin queen to mate. If they succeed, they die afterward. If they do not succeed, their sisters will likely force them out of the colony when resources become more scarce in late fall. Male bees do not have stingers, and female bees only can sting once. If they sting, they will die, so they are not aggressive like other types of stinging insects such as hornets and wasps.

Look for future blogs from me about bees. I’m that person who doesn’t get tired of sharing information about them. Let me close by mentioning that the smell of the hive is intoxicating, and I so enjoy watching them come and go. It’s also been rewarding over the years to watch my neighbors’ curiosity increase as well. Plus, they don’t mind a little jar of honey around the holidays.

(One of the times my bees swarmed, which I captured and put into a new hive – voila – doubling the number of colonies instantly)


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