A bee swarm attached to a sugar gum tree


 The number of bees in a hive varies according to availability of nectar and pollen from less than 5000 to more than 100,000.

  During honey flows foraging bees wear their wings to shreds over 2 weeks and become prey for ants and other insects.

 Foraging bees will make round trips of approximately 4 kilometres to and from the hive.

 Bees communicate to their fellow bees the source and location of nectar so the foraging bees concentrate on one flowering species at a time.

 When a nectar source is abundant, 90% of the honey/pollen will be from that source.

 Each hive has one queen who bequeaths the hive to a daughter.

 A queen bee will lay up to 2,000 eggs a day.

 The queen’s attendant bees groom and feed her, up to 80 times her weight daily.

 Honey bees evolved between 150 - 180 million years ago.

 Bees can carry nearly their own weight in nectar and pollen.

 Bees attempting to enter a different hive will be killed as intruders, although bees returning with nectar may be admitted.

 All bees in a hive share a common odour, emanating from the queen’s pheromones.

 Bees communicate by vibration and chemical cues. They are deaf to most sounds and are mute.

 Beekeepers migrate hives between forest and agricultural crops to ensure year-round hive strength and honey production.

 Honey bees will sting in defence of their life or in defence of their hive (their young are at risk from intruders). The individual bee will then die.

 A cave painting in Spain dated to 15,000 B.C. shows 2 men climbing to a cave containing bees and removing honeycomb in a basket.

 In 3000 B.C. Egyptians kept written records of beekeeping activities.

 Egyptian hives were transported down the Nile on barges to access floral sources.

 Roman law declared that bees were the property of the man who placed them in a hive, not the person who owned the land.

About pollination

 As bees move over flowers, pollen sticks to their bodies and is transferred to the next flowers visited, to pollinate seeds.

 Pollinated fruit and seeds are up to 30% larger and have better germination.

 Many flowering plants or trees depend upon insect pollination before fruit or seeds will form.

 One bee can pollinate 18000 flowers per day.

 Beekeepers move hives several times a year so bees can visit seasonal nectar sources or pollinate crops.

 Flowers provide nectar to encourage pollination. Once this has been achieved, nectar supply stops.

 The world faces continual famines without adequate pollination of trees and agricultural crops.


Anatomy of a worker bee

 About honey

 Bees collect nectar, pollen and water each day to take back to their hive.

> Raw nectar is collected from flowers and mixed with secretions from glands and stored in cells. Moisture is gradually removed by air circulated by fanning and by being continually moved from cell to cell.

 Ripened honey has a moisture level of 12 - 17%.

 Honey originates from vegetation. The sugars in honey are formed by the sun, water and carbon dioxide, in the plant’s life cycle.

 Once the honey is sufficiently ripened, the cells are sealed with beeswax for storage.

 A well-managed hive produces between 60 - 200 kg. harvest per year.

 The less you do to honey, the better the food value.

 The flight time required to produce 1 kilogram of honey is equivalent to 1 bee traveling 4 times around the earth.

 Honey and beeswax have been used to pay tax and as tribute to conquerors.

 Honey is useful to heal wounds because of its antibacterial qualities.

 The source material of beeswax is honey and pollen, processed through special glands in a bee’s leg.

 Bees will provide a honey harvest on one acre of blossom per hive (over three square kilometres).

 A hive can produce 15 - 30 kilograms per fortnight on a strong honey flow.

Try these projects

 Collect examples of floral sources visited by bees in your area and work out calendar of flowering periods.

 Work out how many hives could be productively kept in your neighbourhood.

 Count the number of bees visiting a lavender bush in flower.

 Observe the time of day bees are active and what flowers they are visiting.



 One hive will consist of one queen, up to 2000 drones and up to 100,000 workers.

The Queen

 The queen lays eggs of both worker and drone.

 Queens leave the hive only for mating flights between 5 - 7 days from hatching or with a swarm to found a new colony.

 If more than one queen hatches simultaneously they will fight until only one survives.

 New queens are raised from freshly hatched worker bee eggs fed on royal jelly.

 A queen can live up to 8 years but is normally replaced within 2 years.

The Worker

 Workers are sterile females who nurture the young.

 Bees hatched during periods of hive activity work themselves to death in 6 - 8 weeks. Autumn hatched bees over-winter to raise the new generation in spring.

Their tasks change during their life cycle:

Cell cleaning, feeding larvae

Clustering to create beeswax

Feeding the other bees

Guarding hive/removing debris and predators


The Drone

Drones are male bees.

Hives raise and feed drones as insurance against the loss of a queen.

Drones do not forage.

Drones die after successfully mating with a virgin queen.

Drones are ejected from hives when food is scarce.

Are all bees the same?

Bees are four-winged social insects which collect nectar and pollen and produce wax and honey. Some bees however lead a solitary lifestyle and "honey bees" refers to bees living as a hive and collecting and storing in honeycomb surpluses of honey for feeding the hive. There are 4 known species of Asian honey bee in addition to the European honey bee. The European honey bee is believed to have evolved in Africa and adapted to different environments throughout Europe, becoming individual races that can interbreed with each other.

The scientific name for European honey bees is Apis mellifera, meaning carrier of nectar. The four most important races for apiarists are:

Apis mellifera ligustica - the Italian bee

Apis mellifera caucasica - the Caucasian bee

Apis mellifera carnica - the Carniolan bee

Apis mellifera mellifera - the black bee


Contact us

History of sanctuary

Environmental niche

Queen bees - origin and role

Kangaroo Island queen bees

More about bees

Nectar sources

Honey Types

Honey recipes


Picture gallery