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Dieren en planten

Winged insects   Bees   Solitary bee   Honey bee   
  • Dut: Honingbij
  • Lat: Apis mellifera
  • Eng: Honey bee
  • Ger: Honigbiene
honey bee, foto fitis, sytske dijksen

Honey bee

Honey bees are insects which make honey and wax. They are held by beekeepers in hives or chests. A colony can consist of 50,000 animals: most of them are workers, a few hundred are drones (males) and one is the queen. Dunes and salt marshes are suitable food areas for honey bees.

  • Salt marsh honey
    Beekeeper work, Foto Fitis,

    Active beekeepers can also be found on the Dutch Wadden Islands. They bring their bees to the salt marshes in the summer, where they drink nectar from the sea lavender. Sea lavender honey has a characteristic, somewhat briny taste and a slightly green-yellow color. It is a good remedy for colds. This honey is for sale at several places on the Wadden Islands.
    The number of bee colonies allowed in the Slufter on Texel is limited. The State Forestry has decided that no more than 50 colonies may be allowed within this area.

  • Black bee

    The black bee can be found on Texel and Terschelling. A population of these bees was also found in the Amsterdam Dunes in 2005. This species is the original West-European bee and used to be found throughout the Netherlands. Because of their reputation to sting, beekeepers preferred working with other species. The gentle Carnica species from the Caucasus is a popular strain. There are even special well-tempered breeds developed such as the Buckfast bee. The black bee mixed with these breeds and the pure form is now only found in a few places in the Netherlands.

    The black bee has been preserved on Texel thanks to the transportation ban for bees from the mainland in 1985. The Texel beekeepers also agreed to only keep black bees. Special programs have been started in various European countries to bring back the black bee.

  • Colony collapse disorder

    Beekeepers are very concerned. For years now, they have been losing bee populations due to a mysterious disease which seems to be occurring throughout the world. Since 2006, honey bee populations in the Netherlands have been declining strongly. Around 50% of the hives have died. Beekeepers speak of the colony collapse disorder. "Entire populations enter the winter as healthy insects but when we open the hives in the spring, although there is no noticeable damage there is no bee to be found", according to affected beekeepers.

    Up till 2007, the Wadden Islands had not yet been affected with the mysterious disease. But unfortunately in 2008, Schiermonnikoog was the only place still free of major death.

    It is still unknown what the cause is of this worldwide problem. Deterioration in nature, increasing population, the lack of variation in the bee genes and the use of herbicides probably contribute to the problem. The bees are also affected by other diseases and plagues, such as the varroa destructor and the Nosema fungus. The colony collapse disorder is most likely caused by a combination of factors, whereby the parasitic fungus and the blood-thirsty mite play a major role.

  • Police state?

    One used to think that a bee hive was a peaceful community, whereby only the queen laid eggs and the workers voluntarily gathered food. The workers supposably offered themselves up because they were half sisters and it was to their advantage to help the queen. This belief appears to be wrong. Workers of honey bees also lay eggs, but strong social control makes sure every laid egg is consumed immediately by another worker. Other species of bees and wasps live in such a 'police state', so that no chaos is created in the colonies and the workers can concentrate totally on working hard.

  • Giving directions

    Bees form new colonies in the spring. The queen mother flies away with around half of the old colony, while a daughter takes over the old colony. The flying swarm forms a kind of ball at a temporary place within twenty minutes. From here, several hundreds of scouts start to look for tree hollows or other suitable places. It is always a riddle how a bee hive finds such a suitable place for a new nest. Some biologists think that a group of bee scouts use odors to indicated where the best new place is. Others believe that the scouting bees make it clear where they must go by flying in a specific direction. Studies have clearly shown that the odor gland is not involved, but that the bees only pay attention to how the scouting bees fly through the swarm of bees.