Holly Honey Bee Story

Hi kids! I'm Holly honey bee and I want you to meet my family. First, I want to tell you a little bit about me. I live with a lot of other honey bees in a colony. We all work to gether to help our queen and raise the young bees. Each of us has a special job to do. Guarding the hive is exciting and I like to do it the best. I remember the time that a skunk came snooping around. They like to eat both bees and honey! All of us got ready to go on patrol. But, just at the last minute, that old skunk changed its mind and went a different way. Whew!

People think I look a lot like my cousin, Kimiko bumble bee. Really though, Kimi that's what I call her for short is bigger than I am and has more hair. She has black-and -yellow stripes on her abdomen that really stand out. My black-and-brown stripes are kind of dull compared to Kimi's, but I still look striped.

Kimi builds her house in the ground and decorates it with grass, moss and leaves so the nest will be soft and warm. Kimi likes to eat pollen and nectar just like me, but she can do something I can't. If her tongue is not long enough to reach the nectar, she'll just bite into the flower! It's called nectar-robbing, and boy, is she good at it!

We honey bees use special dances to tell each other where to go for food. Kimi's family doesn't use the dances so they each have to find their food on their own. Imagine, each bee has to taste every plant to tell if it is good or not! That sounds like a lot of labor to me, but it works for Kimi.

I wish honey bees were like bumble bees when it comes to defending the hive. Honey bees can only sting one time and then we die. But bumble bees can sting over and over again. Wow, it would be great to be a guard bee in a bumble bee society!

There's another important thing I want you to know. When winter comes, only Kimi's queen will live. Just about all of Kimi's family will die. I'm lucky. My queen and all of my sisters live together through the winter if it doesn't get too cold.

Let me tell you about my hot-headed distant cousin, Yasmeen. She is a beautiful yellow jacket. Her abdomen is very black-and-yellow, but it looks like someone chopped it off near her middle. She hardly has any hair on her body. She's real shiny and smooth. I just wish her attitude matched her looks. Yasmeen is always telling stories about the silly things human beings do when she goes to picnics and trash cans for food. Yasmeen also likes to eat insects, spiders, meat and apples!

She has a very quick temper though. When Yasmeen gets angry, she will fly fast straight at you. And, boy can she sting when she's mad! Like Kimiko bumble bee, Yasmeen can sting again and again. She won't lose her stinger like I do when I sting.

Do you remember that I like to build my nest out of wax that I make myself? Well,Yasmeen builds her nest out of a kind of paper she makes out of plant stems. I like to put my nest up high, usually in a tree. Yasmeen likes to build her nest undergr ound!

Yasmeen and I are sure different. We don't like the same food, we live in different places, we run our families differently, and we don't even look and/or act the same! But, we are distant cousins I guess because we have a lot of the same kind of body parts. And you and I both know you can't pick your cousins!

I have another distant cousin, named Juanita. She is a paper wasp and is more closely related to Yasmeen, but she is my cousin too. Juanita likes a lot of the same things as Yasmeen.

She eats insects and spiders. She likes to build her nest out of paper, too. But look for Juanita up high, like under the eaves of a house.

Juanita is longer than her yellow-jacket cousin, and certainly longer than me! She is quite slender and her black or dark brown coloring really suits her. She has thick yellow or orange markings on her abdomen. Juanita hardly has any hair, but has a shiny body. I think she's kind of pretty.

Juanita and Yasmeen cannot carry pollen like Kimi and me. They don't need to since they eat insects and spiders! Oh, there's one other thing. Juanita is not as quick to "fly off the handle" as Yasmeen. She'll sting when she gets mad, especially when someone gets too close to her nest. But, most of us get pretty touchy when our home is threatened.

Okay, there's just one more member of my family that I want you to meet. To be honest, I don't even know her very well myself yet. She's relatively new to the Untied States. In fact, she just got to Texas in 1990. She likes to travel though and she arrived in Arizona in 1993. Abby is an Africanized honey bee, so she and I are pretty closely related. We look so much alike that people can't tell the difference between us just by looking. Special tests have to be made to tell for sure.

I won't have any trouble recognizing Abby. She's a little bit smaller than me, and boy, does she have an attitude! That's what I go by. I use her attitude as a way to tell if I've come upon Abby's family or a family of my kind of honey bees. Abby doesn't care very much about where she lives. Just about any place protected from the wind, rain, and cold will do. She'll even live in an old tire or overturned flower pot.

The biggest difference between Abby and me is that Abby has a really short temper. She'll come out in full sting if somebody gets too close to her nest. She's fast and she always calls for help from her sisters. And, Abby will stay mad for a long time. I cool down in just a few minutes, but Abby will stew about things for over a half an hour. Abby is usu ally just like me when we are out on flowers getting food. We both mind our own business when we are left alone. I guess I'll learn to live with my new cousin. But, I sure don't have to like her!

Well, now you know the members of my family. All of us honey bees, bumble bees, yellow jackets and paper wasps are important to keep nature working as it should. We can hurt you if we sting you, but the more you get to know us, the better you will under stand us. After all, we think you are pretty neat! Thanks for letting me tell you about my family.

From the AFRICANIZED HONEY BEE CURRICULUM, San Diego County 4-H Office. 1994.

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