Bees Keep Busy Producing More Than Just Honey (Part 2 of 3)


I'm Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

Last week we talked about how bees make honey. Yet bees also produce other useful materials.

Beeswax is another product, although much less of it is produced than honey. Bees need to eat about three kilograms of honey, or more, to produce less than one-half kilogram of wax.

The beauty industry uses a lot of beeswax as a base for skin care products. Anyone who has ever lit a candle might have lit one made of beeswax. Woodworkers mix beeswax with oils to protect wood surfaces. And leatherworkers use beeswax to protect leather from water.

There is even an old saying, "mind your own beeswax." It means "mind your own business." We never said it was a nice old saying.

The "beeswax" in this case may only be a play on the word "business." But some people do mind their beeswax. It is their business.

Beekeepers use it to make structures called foundations. Bees build hives by adding wax to the foundations. Bees keep honey, food and their young in these structures.

Most people know not to interfere with a busy bee. Worker bees have a sting that can inject poison. But the poison is also a valuable product. In some people, a bee sting causes their throat or tongue to swell up. This reaction can be deadly. But treatment with bee poison can sometimes help protect people who suffer these reactions.

In warmer areas of the Americas, some bees are a special concern. Years ago African bees were brought to South America to improve honey production. But they spread out of control. They mixed with populations of European honey bees raised in the Americas.

Africanized honey bees are very aggressive. They have killed animals and people. In the nineteen seventies, they became known as "killer bees." This may overstate the threat. But Africanized bees must be treated with special care.

Bees face threats of their own. In the Americas, Asia and Europe, mites can destroy hives. The tiny creatures suck the blood of bees. Wax moths are insects that eat wax in the hive. And there are bacterial diseases that attack and destroy young bees.

All these problems add to the cost of keeping bees. But beekeeping remains mostly low cost and very important to agriculture. Listen next week for the final part of our report.

This VOA Special English Agriculture Report was written by Mario Ritter. Our reports are online at WWW.51VOA.COM. I'm Steve Ember.