12. Honeybees

Bienenstock, Bienenvolk, Honigbienen, Bienen

Yeah yeah, the bees. They are a diligent colony, because they have a queen. Like ants. Yeah yeah, the ants. They are a diligent colony, because they have a queen. Like the bees. Yeah yeah , the bees…

Why do we need bees?

As much as people like bee honey:
The bees do their most important work when they carry pollen from flower to flower, thereby fertilizing them. Without this, fruit, berries, rapeseed and other crops would produce much smaller yields or none at all.

The Bee Colony

Queen bee
There is one queen bee per colony.
It lives up to 5 years and ensures the continuity of the colony.

Drone (male)
From March to July, up to 3,000 drones live in a colony. After that, they are pushed out of the hive by the workers. Their task is to mate with the queen and warm the brood. They live for three to seven weeks.

Worker bee
The workers perform many different tasks in the bee colony. These range from cleaning the hive to building honeycombs and collecting nectar. Some of them also guard the hive.

Bees in Oetschwil

A bee in the hive here in Oetschwil

These bee colonies on the forest edge belong to Angelika and Jakob Künzle from Oberhelfenschwil. The enthusiastic professional beekeepers carefully care for their bees and they produce the finest bee honey from the nectar and honeydew collected by the bees. The honey is available in the farm store at family Lieberherr. 500 gr. cost Fr. 14.-


The bee is the only insect that hibernates as a swarm (20,000-40,000 bees). This means that at the beginning of spring there are already enough bees ready to fly out and pollinate. This is an advantage for early flowering trees such as apricots or peaches.

Bees are flower constant, which means that they always fly to the same plant species on one flight. (e.g. apple tree → apple tree / white clover → white clover). In this way, they ensure fertilization by transferring pollen from the flowers. The flight radius of a bee is three kilometers, in exceptional cases up to seven kilometers. For a single jar of honey of 500 grams, the equivalent of about 50,000 flights are necessary to fill the jar. However, the bees themselves consume a lot of energy for the brood and for themselves, so you have to add another 50,000 flights.

If it is very hot in summer and the temperature threatens to rise above 35 degrees Celsius, some of the workers ventilate the hive opening. With large participation, up to 3000 liters of air are circulated per hour.

Honey and bee products

In Switzerland, the honey harvest per colony is about 11-32 kilos. Part of it is flower honey, which comes from the flower nectar. The other part is forest honey, which is obtained from the so-called honeydew. These are excretions of aphids, which the bees also collect and process.

In addition, there are other by-products, some of which have health-promoting effects for humans:

  • pollen from flowers
  • propolis (bee resin)
  • royal jelly (the food of queen bees)
  • beeswax