:: SPECIES

The species most common to South Africa is the African Honey Bee, being one of the most sought after by beekeepers or apiarists, for its superior and prolific honey production, disease resistance and manageability.

The most hardworking creatures on this planet, these amazing little workers have a lifespan of about six weeks and generally die from exhaustion as a result of their concentrated and unrelenting toil. At a rate of about 190 times a second, or 11 400 strokes a minute, the supremely efficient wings of a honeybee which allow it to fly for miles and lift weights heavier than its own body, will often fail them before their little bodies do. Their wing muscles become paralysed at temperatures below 6 degrees C, although they are still able to move their legs.

As they cluster around the hive, there is continual motion, becoming less active towards the edges. Moving backwards and forwards, flapping their wings, moving their antennae and swaying from side to side the bees in the center are ceaselessly in motion, warming themselves and producing heat for the other members of their cluster.

On the outside of the cluster, worker bees can be seen doing the “Figure of Eight” dance as they move gradually towards the center, carrying their messages of potential food sources or new locations for their swarm. A small cluster, not quite as big as a football, can contain as many as 20 to 30 thousand bees.

Left to get on with their lives in peace, the bees are harmless creatures – it is only when they are disturbed or think they are being attacked that they use their stings.

BEES can become a deadly threat this time of the year. Two dogs have been killed in separate incidents over the past two weeks in Johannesburg.

Bee-keeper, Terry Winchester warned that people also faced the danger of being attacked if bees were antagonized.

He said that their aggressive behavior was the result of the excessive heat experienced in Johannesburg lately.

Bees normally become more aggressive when the mercury rises. Chaos breaks out if the honeycombs melt and fall inside the hive.

Hives at risk are those inside buildings and roofs where heat is trapped and there is no air movement.

A swarm which lived in the ceiling of a Hurlingham house stung a Labrador to death while the family was away.

Another dog was stung to death by a swarm while the families were trapped inside their Parkhurst house.

“Bees are very courteous creatures. They will first try to communicate that they don’t want you around before attacking,” said Mr Winchester.

Bees will show their aggression by first flying around your face and then bumping into you. Only if bumping does not work, will they resort to an all-out attack.