Posted by: Pam B. Newberry | December 15, 2010

A Season of Giving – The Gift of Apiculture

It is said that once you are an apiarist (someone who raises or cares for honey bees for commercial or agricultural purposes) always an apis lover. Apis is Latin for “bee.” As a beginning beekeeper along with my husband, Hobbit King, we are so new, we don’t even have our hives built yet, we are learning how giving the honey bee is to humans and has been for many centuries.

Honey Bee
The Gift of the Honey Bee

Did you know that a worker honey bee will produce 1/12 teaspoon of honey in it’s life time. During the spring through fall, the average worker bee lives about 30 to 35 days. Now consider that most people dip a teaspoon into a jar of honey to place in their tea or coffee as a sweetener. It took 12 honey bees to make that teaspoon of honey. More amazing is the fact that most recipes that call for honey (at least the ones I have encountered) call for 1/4 cup of honey. A whopping 144 bees were needed to make that honey. Consider how many it took to make an 8 oz. jar or larger. 

Now think about the fact that the honey humans eat, and other raiders of a honey bee’s hive, such as bears, are taking the food the honey bees make to eat during the winter. Sure, bees may attack you if you go near their hive. They think you’re coming in to rob them. But, I’ve heard many beekeepers say that for the most part, as long as you leave enough for the bees to live on, the bees won’t bother you too badly (a few stings here and there) and you can have their gift of honey, too. A small price to pay.

I call it a gift because the bees spend their lives foraging, making, and protecting the honey for the colony to live on during the cold. Yet, we move in and take from them. In spite of this, honey bees continue to live in human-made hives, pollinate our crops, and provide us a means to satisfy our ‘sweet’ tooth with their nutritiously sweet food.

Honey bees offer a gift beyond honey that to some is seen as gold. “For all of United States agriculture, the marginal increase in the value attributable to honey bees – that is, the value of the increased yield and quality achieved through pollination by honey bees alone – was $9.3 billion in 1989 and is $14.6 billion today (a 36.3 percent increase). Between 20 and 25 percent of that increase is due to inflation. The rest is a result of an increased demand for pollinated food by an increasing population.” (R. A. Morse and N. W. Calderone, The Value of Honey Bees as Pollinators of U.S. Crops in 2000, March 2000, Cornell University, pp. 2). Imagine, a honey bee is valued as a worker and a provider.

While doing research, I came across some sites that offer all kinds of insights into the world of the honey bee and what this small creature needs to provide its gift. A couple of sites in particular are:

This is a great site! I love all the insights they share and their links as well as support materials.

Very informative article with really good pics!

I also found various sources that provide guidance on how to provide food for the colony. The listing below of herbs (a few are thought of as flowers)begins to give you an idea of what you can do to help provide bees a wonderful meal that not only provides them with the extremely important nectar bees crave, but are also easy to grow and maintain in your garden.

Herb/Flower Propagation Use Degree of Attractiveness
Basil Seed Culinary herb Moderate
Bee Balm Seed, division Mint teas High – may give honey a special flavor
Chives Seed, bulbs Culinary herb Slight
Lavender Seed Sachets, oils, culinary Slight – may give honey a distinct taste depending on quantity available for bees to forge
Sage Seed, division Culinary herb Moderate
Salvia – blue, white Seed Ornamental High
Thymes Seed, cuttings Culinary herb High
Yarrow Seed Tea Slight – may give honey a special flavor
Source: Lord, W. G. (n.d.) Beekeeping: Insect pest management, Department of Entomology. An herb garden for the bees. pp. 4.

Even if you don’t ever expect to become a beekeeper, you can help those of us around you who are raising bees by providing the honey bee colony some of its favorite foods. Did you know that a honey bee can forage up to 27 square miles from its hive. That is a great distance! It brings home the point of why it is so important for those around the honey bee to consider setting a side part of a yard as a “honey bee” haven.

While you are thinking of doing just that, consider also avoiding the use of pesticides or insecticides around the areas where honey bees forge.  In future posts, as I learn more about the importance of protecting honey bees from dangers, such as parasites and maladies caused by pesticides and insecticides, I’ll share what you can do to help.

In the meantime, during these cold months of winter when gardeners think of acquiring seeds and planning their next landscape, think of planting for the honey bee in your yard. Next blog, I plan to share more about the type of garden I plan to prepare for our honey bee colonies. If you know of other plants (even trees) that we should consider, please share your ideas and thoughts in a comment for all to read.


“Bee” Quiz 2 Answers:  1. b., 2. c., 3. b


If you haven’t done so yet, check out the recipes I’ve added to the recipe page. Also, make sure you sign up for an e-mail subscription. Subscribing helps keep you informed of when I have uploaded a new post. If you like what you are reading, please click on the “Like” icon, as collecting statistics helps me know if I’m talking about topics you want to know more about. And, by all means, drop me a note and let me know your questions, thoughts, and concerns…I do love hearing from you!

Here’s to clustering (staying warm and cozy together) like a honey bee colony….

Hobbit Queen


  1. Hello Hobitt Queen! Good luck with your hives. We started three years ago with 2 hives. We currently have 4 and hope to keep adding. We harvested our first honey in 2009 and this year we started playing with wax products–I made lip balm that even my tuba-playing lip balm snob daughter approves!
    My husband and I are really enjoying the bees–we even sit down by the hives on summer evenings to watch them. It’s quite relaxing!
    Good luck with your blog too. I just started mine this summer.


    • Hi Kathy…

      Thank you so much! We are so excited about the starting of our hives. I can’t wait to be able to learn more about wax products, so I’m sure I’ll be asking for ideas and help, too! Thanks for your well wishes and I will check out your blog, too!

      Merry Christmas with Cheers,
      Hobbit Queen


  2. subscribing


  3. Hello Hobbit Queen! Funny you should write this . . . I read an article just recently about all the bee keepers and the bee keepers “club” of the Wytheville area . . . all very interesting and so important. I have considered keeping bees myself next year . . . wonder if they would be happy at our place?


    • Hey There Mr. S! So glad to hear from you!!! I think the bees would absolutely love your place! Yes, we are members of the Mt Empire Bee Association. Good group. In an earlier blog, I mention them. Look forward to more comments and suggestions from you! Cheers, Hobbit Queen


  4. Another extremely interesting post, Hobbit Queen. I never thought of the amount of work it took bees to produce one teaspoon of honey for my tea. It’s a sobering thought. It was also very interesting to learn how they won’t bite you (much) if you leave enough for them to survive on. Altogether it’s an apt subject for this season of giving and caring.


    • Thanks Raya!!! I saw where you had your site up now! Yee Ha! I plan on checking it out real soon and putting you on my Blogroll!
      Hope you are staying warm! Have a wonderful rest of the week and we’ll have to plan to talk via e-mail since our class is now over…Thanks again!


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