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Expert beekeeper and conservation staff check our beehive

Cliff and Amanda check the health of our honey bees.

There’s much to admire about bees. The honey they produce is delicious, and these buzzy little insects are partially responsible for producing one out of every three bites of food we eat—one colony can pollinate 300 million flowers in a single day!

A typical honey bee hive contains 20,000–60,000 bees, all with specific roles. The flightless nurse bees are responsible for cleaning the hive and feeding the larvae. Worker bees collect food and communicate important messages to the rest of the colony. Drone bees are the fertile males who mate with the queen to ensure a continuous population for the hive.

Near the entrance to Lands of Change: Australia and Beyond is a Langstroth hive home to our very own bee colony. These specially designed hives contain different levels, or frames; the bees will build honeycomb directly into each frame, which can be easily moved by beekeepers. We’ve partnered with Brevard Backyard Beekeepers, Inc. to aid in the upkeep of our colony and our beekeeper, Cliff, comes to the Zoo twice a month to check on the hive.

Two major indicators of a robust hive are a productive queen and an active food supply, and Cliff looks for signs of both during each checkup. At the entrance to the hive, worker bees should be carrying pollen in “baskets” on their legs. Frames containing honey, pollen and evidence of eggs tell us the queen is doing her job.

Sometimes hives are built in undesirable places, but that doesn’t mean the colony needs to be destroyed. In fact, extermination often doesn’t work—the bees may survive the pesticide application or leftover honeycomb may become a habitat for other insects that damage structures. Cliff works as a live bee removal specialist, transplanting hives to safer areas to benefit bees and humans alike.

The next time you see a bee, remember to stay calm and appreciate one of nature’s finest workers in action!