Honey bees have often been referenced as foraging machines because of the shocking distance they will travel to forage. It may surprise you that one honey bee will only make about one teaspoon of honey in its lifetime, which is why colony health is so important, because only collectively can honey bee hives provide regular production of honey. Tens of thousands of bees must do lots of gathering and flying to make this happen, but bees do whatever it takes to keep their queen and hive thriving. Bees are in it for the long haul. Honey bees are willing to go great distances to get what is required for their hive’s survival, adapt to forage from several sources, and need plenty of water.
What Distance Is Too Great for Honey Bees?
In a tireless effort to gather the food and water resources bees need, they are willing to travel up to five miles from the hive! Think about how tiny a bee is and how far five miles is to them – it is pretty incredible! Bees are no dummies and will always instinctually go to the closest water, pollen, and nectar sources whenever possible. So, even though five miles may be the furthest bees are likely to go, they are not going to go that far unless they need to. Honey bees are anything but lazy, but like any living thing (including humans), we only go as far as we need to in order to get what we need.
Bees typically are able to find enough water and food sources within 1-2 miles from the hive. The growing number of bee enthusiasts and beekeepers dedicated to helping bees out thoughtfully plant native flowers and plants and place water sources closer to the hives so that bees can get what they need in abundance without having to travel such great distances. Honey bees, unlike other bee species, are willing to travel. Other species, most notably the bumble bee, prefer shorter trips and will often stay and make do with what is within a few hundred yards of their hive.
Bees are motivated to get what they need for their hive's survival. Gathering pollen to store so developing bees can have food during brooding. Water is something that all bees require for survival. All bee hives need water to keep the hive cooler in hotter weather, and bees may also use it to crystallize honey. Queen bees will travel outside the hive to mate in order to ensure the species' survival.
Water Sources for Bees
There are many ways that bees can gather water, but it doesn't hurt to help them have more options. It is simple to add a convenient water source for bees and an excellent way to ensure they have plenty at all times. Since bees are unable to swim, they need somewhere to perch as they lap up the water. If you have a pie pan, you can place that outside in your garden or the hive's flight path. Place a few rocks and a piece of sponge to make a perfect water gathering spot for bees. Bees are also able to collect water from morning dew and some pollen as well.
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Bees' Willingness and Ability to Travel Prevent Organic Honey in the United States
With honey bees willing to travel such a large area to get what they need, it is challenging for our nation's beekeepers to label their honey as organic. According to the existing government definition of organic honey, it is impossible to call honey organic because one can't guarantee that bees stay within one area for all foraging. Think about it this way: if you were to see a bee gathering from a flower and then drew a five-mile radius circle on a map, you would immediately notice it covers tens of thousands of acres. The distance makes it challenging for any beekeeper to claim organic honey, which beekeepers continue to deal with as they market their local honey products to consumers. Regardless of whether you are able to put an organic label on honey, it is always best to purchase honey from your local beekeeper instead of at the grocery store. People should take any opportunity to bring value to their community and businesses in the area.
If you want to purchase local honey, have questions about bees in your area, or need help with a bee concern, contact D-Tek for the most experienced beekeepers and technicians in Southern California. D-Tek is a beekeeper-owned company that has been in business for more than 17 years. D-Tek is dedicated to bee colony preservation and is the only full-service bee company serving Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside, and Orange Counties.