HIVE MIND According to biologists, not A.A. Milne, bears attack bee hives for the larvae, not the honey. (Photo by Pierre Ratte)

By Pierre Ratte

What? Winnie the Pooh sits on a throne of lies? A.A. Milne didn’t tell the truth? How can this bee?

Apparently bears don’t attack hives for honey. Waking from winter’s slumber, bears want protein. Inside a beehive are larvae. That is what bears want. Getting all sticky and messy with honey is a by-product of chowing down a hive’s larvae cache.

Fun facts: Honeybee queens lay ~2,000 eggs per day. After three days, the eggs turn into larvae. They remain larvae for about six days, growing from 0.1 mg to 120 mg, developing into pupa for another eight days until hatching as bees. About 28,000 larvae and pupa have a protein equivalent of an 8-10 pound serving of steak. Fertilized eggs hatch as female worker bees; unfertilized eggs hatch as male drones.

Jobs of honeybees include 14 days of hive chores for worker bees, including: cleaning, guarding, undertaking, nursing, building combs, controlling temperature and dehydrating honey. After hive chores, worker bees “graduate” to foraging. Their first flight can be tentative. Queen bees’ duty is laying eggs; drone bees’ only job is fertilizing the queen.

Nectar is 70% water, honey is 17% water. By continually flapping wings, worker bees dehydrate liquid nectar to sticky honey. Evaporating water also cools the hive. Bee-wings flap spectacularly fast, about 230 times per second, enabling flight at 15 mph as far as 5 miles to forage, 10 miles round trip. In winter, bees cluster and shiver their muscles to generate body heat and hive warmth.

In its lifetime a honeybee produces ~0.8 teaspoons of honey. It reportedly takes ~2 million flower visits to make a pound of honey. About 20,000-80,000 bees form a colony. Worker bees live 6 weeks, drones 8 weeks and queens up to 5 years.

A. A. (Alan Alexander) Milne wrote Winnie the Pooh in 1926. He wrote The House at Pooh Corner in 1928. Winnie was a black bear in the London Zoo from 1915-1934. Pooh was the name of a swan. Christopher Robin was the name of Milne’s only son. Other characters were named after Christopher’s toys.

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