The London Beekeepers' Association

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Frequently asked questions

These answers to these frequently asked questions apply to honey bees. Other types of bee have different lifecycles and lifestyles.

What do bees eat?

Bees eat nectar, honey (that they make from nectar) and pollen. Nectar and honey provide energy and pollen contains protein, particularly important for the development of young bees. When it is dry, bees need water. In cities, they may try and get water from ponds and drains.

What is honeycomb?

Bees make characteristic hexagonal cells out of wax that tessellate for raising young and for storing pollen, nectar and honey. Most hives separate the areas where honey is stored and young are raised.

How do bees make honey?

Bees evaporate water from nectar to make honey. Taste, colour and consistency depends on the species of plant that nectar have been collected. Various enzymes secreted by the bee also help give it its characteristic taste and appearance.

Why do bees make honey?

In the same way that we make jam to preserve fruit to consume when fresh fruit is no longer available, bees make honey to preserve nectar for wet weather and the cold winter months. The colony will reduce in size significantly for the winter, but bees do not hibernate - they maintain a temperature of around 30oC.

Why do bees sting?

A bee's sting is its only defence against the colony and its store of honey, from other animals including bees from other colonies, wasps, mice, dogs and beekeepers. Honey is highly sought-after by many animals because it is so high in energy. Since bees usually die after stinging, they generally only use the sting when they believe the colony is under threat.

Are bee stings dangerous?

If you don't keep bees, you're unlikely to encounter them much, so are unlikely to get stung. Beekeepers generally keep gentle bees. If your neighbour keeps bees, the chances are higher but it is still unlikely. Bees only sting to defend their colony.

Bee stings are usually not dangerous, but swelling - sometimes over several days - is common. Use an antihistamine cream and seek medical advice if symptoms persist. Bee stings can be dangerous if you have a strong allergic reaction to them or get stung in an sensitive area such as near the eye. If you do have a reaction, take antihistamines (hayfever medicine) and seek urgent medical advice.

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