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Beekeepers gather for sweet talk.

More than 500 of the nation's leading honey producers and packers gathered recently in Indianapolis to discuss everything from bee-killing varroa mites to killer bees at the 45th annual American Beekeeping Federation convention.

O.K., laugh.

Snicker that their theme song is "Bees Buzz Round My Honey, She's Got Hives."

Chortle about the idea that it can be scientifically proven that a bee, shaped as it is, can't possibly fly.

Recall with glee that bearded comic poem:

I eat my peas with honey,

I've done it all my life.

They taste a little funny

but it keeps them on my knife.

But before mirthfully joining in the "Saturday Night Live" comic concept of bees with more zingers than stingers, note that the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that about a third of the human diet comes from plants pollinated by insects.

And 90 percent of the pollination of agricultural crops in the nation is accomplished by bees.

Translation: If it weren't for bees, fruits and vegetables would be harder to find than hives' teeth.

The convention in Indianapolis explored such sticky problems as mites that kill bees and ways of informing the public about the Africanized-or killer-bees. Also, contaminants in honey, apiary inspection, and research reports were discussed.

The $115 million-a-year industry has government support.

"The American Beekeeping Federation encourages the government to keep honey price supports in place and to adequately fund apiculture [beekeeping] research," said Karen Dahl of the National Honey Board.

Not that the beekeepers don't already know a lot about their little buzzing comb climbers.

Who else would know that a honeybee flies about 15 miles per hour and would have to tap 2 million flowers to make one pound of honey?

Say the flowers are one foot apart. That would make a trip to 2 million flowers 380 miles, a trip of 25 hours for a non-stop 15-mile-an-hour bee.

Taking into consideration that a beeline is not straight, that there is time consumed in supping nectar and time needed to return to the hive to shuck pollen off the legs, a bee would need 200 lifetimes to make that pound of honey.

The beekeepers estimate that a worker honeybee makes only one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in her one-season life.

Bee-Wildering Facts

In case you are not one of the approximately 211,600 U.S. beekeepers who already knew these fascinating facts, here are some more trivia questions to ponder while spreading honey on your toast.

Q. How much honey would it take to fuel a bee's flight around the world? (Never mind wondering why a bee would want to fly around the world, or where its luggage would end up.)

A. About one ounce.

Q. How long have bees been producing honey from flowering plants?

A. Ten million to 20 million years. (Nobody knows the location of this 20million-year-old garden, where petunias presumably come equipped with walkers and petal-style Grecian Formula.)

Q. How many sides does each honeycomb cell have?

A. Six. (If you said two-outside and inside-do not continue with the rest of the quiz. You are obviously a cane sugar person.)

Q. What is the per-capita consumption of honey in the United States?

A. 1. 1 pounds a year.

Q. How do honeybees communicate with one another?

A. Dancing. Bees do a dance that tells other bees the direction and distance to nectar and pollen. (Among humans, dancing with the wrong honey can result in directions to the marriage counselor.)

Q. What mythological god dipped his arrows in honey?

A. Cupid.

Which brings us to this bit of bee lore, probably not a major topic at the beekeeping convention:

Bees are busy little souls which have no time for birth controls. And that is why, in times like these,

there are so many sons of bees.
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Title Annotation:4th annual American Beekeeping Federation convention
Author:Cavinder, Fred D.
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Apr 1, 1989
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