A symbiotic relationship has been established between flowering plants and honeybees, as the majority of crop production relies on insects to cross-pollinate each plant. Honeybees are responsible for 80 per cent of this pollination.
Tiny hairs cover the bee’s body and pollen clings to these hairs when the bee lands on a flower to collect nectar. It is then brushed off when the bee lands on the flower of another plant, successfully pollinating the plant.
Honeybees are highly social insects; they cannot survive as individuals, but work collectively to maintain the hive and ensure survival as a group.
The queen can be recognized by her long narrow abdomen, shorter wings and larger size, relative to worker bees. She is the only fertile female in the hive and is fed, protected and waited upon by house bees. She mates just once, storing sperm for future use when laying eggs. She may lay up to 2,000 eggs in a day. The queen secretes pheromones throughout the hive, assuring the worker bees that she is present, healthy and capable of producing eggs. Her lifespan is 2-5 years, at which point another queen will be raised to continue her duties.
The majority of the colony consists of infertile female honeybees, known as worker bees. Worker bees care for the brood and queen; secrete wax for the comb; collect & store pollen; make honey; and guard the hive. Male bees are known as drones and their sole responsibility is to mate with the virgin queen. In the fall when they are no longer needed, drones are forced out of the hive and will die, in order to conserve the colony’s resources over the winter.
The Terre Bleu apiary was established in our second year of lavender production, adding another dimension to our growing arboretum. The honeybees are a welcome addition to the farm, as they pollinate the lavender plants and allow the vibrant purple fields to flourish.
However, our relationship with the bees is not disjointed. The North American honeybee population has been rapidly declining for a number of reasons, the most prominent being the use of agricultural pesticides, which have proven to be highly toxic to the bees. Our lavender fields are maintained naturally without the use of pesticides, providing a safe haven and highly desirable source of nectar and pollen for the bees.