Honey Bees at Gilroy Gardens
Here's the buzz about our bees!
Gilroy Gardens is proud to have Wayne Pitts as our Beekeeper. That's him pictured to the left (do NOT try that...he's a professional!). He has been a Docent since 2002 and began volunteering because he recognized our Park as a valuable asset to his community and wanted to ensure it would be available to families for years to come.
His love of bees and children inspired him to design, build and maintain this wonderful honey bee exhibit, so families, especially children can learn about the importance of bees in our natural world. Wayne has been keeping bees since 1998 in various locations in Santa Clara and San Benito counties and is very active in numerous beekeeping organizations.
A Little Lesson
Honey bees are a subset of bees from the genus Apis. They are generally distinguished by honey production and construction of honey combs. There are other types of bees that make honey, however only those in the Apis genus are true honey bees. Honey bees represent a very small fraction of about 20,000 known species of bees!
Wayne usually brings the bees in as soon as it's warm enough outside. If it's too cold, the bees will die. The temperature inside the average bee hive is about 95° F.
Honey bees perform a "waggle dance" to communicate the position of the nectar they find. By learning the dance through touch, the bees learn the direction in which the nectar lies. As the bee goes through the center, it waggles its abdomen. The number of waggles tells the other worker bees how far away the nectar is. The direction of the center line tells the other bees the direction of the nectar from the hive.
To navigate, bees use the position of the sun and there is evidence of sensitivity to the earth’s magnetic field. Their eyes are sensitive to polarized light which penetrates through even thick cloud cover so they are able to "see" the sun even in poor weather.
Bees don't hibernate. They over winter as a strong colony clustered together; using their bodies to generate heat. This cluster is about the size of a football, with bees taking turns to be on the cold outside. They don't sleep either. During the night most bees just remain motionless reserving energy for the next day.
To Learn More...
Bees are some of our environment's best friends! Visit the Honey Bee Hut with our live bee hive--near Lakeside Amphitheater--to learn more about these busy creatures. Inside the hut you can read more interesting facts about honey bees and learn how each bee plays a role in helping our environment grow and thrive. If there is a Docent on duty at the hut, feel free to ask them any questions you have. Or...pick up educational bee booklets and trivia from our Welcome Center.