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Make a bee line!

Honey Bee Education Little Keepers

Have you heard the term “making a beeline”?  It means to make a straight line to your destination without delay.  As honey bees forage and fly from flower to flower they are constantly calculating a vector (straight line) back to their hives. It's a complex process that scientists don't yet fully understand.  However, research has shown that in addition to this calculated vector, honeybees use the sun as well as a mental map area landmarks to help them navigate. I wish I had this ability with my car keys...or even my car in a parking lot...

Before the invention of Pokemon Go (or any video games) there was bee hive hunting! It used to be a common practice of beekeepers (and honey hunters) to follow bees back to their hive in order to add “wild” bees to their apiary or add honey to their pantry.  They would put out a food source such as sugar water and wait for the bees to come in to feed.  The beekeeper would then monitor the direction that the honey bees would fly when leaving. Those headed back to the beekeepers hive would be ignored, while those heading off in a different direction would indicate another hive was nearby.  A compass bearing of the bee’s direction of flight would be taken, and off the beekeeper would go in search of the hive. As bees can forage up to a 3 mile radius from their hives, it could be a long walk!

While this is no longer a common practice of beekeepers, it might be a fun adventure on a nice spring or summer day! Even if you aren't interested in trekking across the countryside, it's still an exciting little project to set out some sugar water (1 part water to 1 part sugar) and see if there are any honeybees living within 3 miles (or less). Lil 'keepers find this to be especially fascinating! If they're a bit older you can even break out a compass and a map for the start of basic orienteering...

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