What can be seen in the surroundings of an apiary
When the temperature is favourable for the nectar flow, it is easy to follow the work of the bees, whether in a field or on the edge of a wood, and without danger of being stung, for as we have said, away from the hive the bee never stings.
We might even come to recognise our own bees, whether it be because they are a subspecies which does not occur in that region, or because on their eaving the hive we have dusted them with a powder of some kind, flour perhaps.
Above all it is nectar that bees seek in the flowers. On arriving at a flower the bee parts the petals and plunges her head into the interior of the flower, extends her tongue and absorbs the droplet of nectar that we would have been able to see before she arrived.
The bee moves immediately to another flower and repeats the process.
It is to be noted that the more abundant the nectar the more foragers there are; that in the same sortie the bee appears to go to a single species of flower; that the bee prefers some species to others, and that she ignores a flower visited previously by another bee.
The bee gathers nectar only from flowers, but also sometimes from the rest of the plant, for example from the stipules of vetch, and, in a warm season, sometimes from the leaves of oak, birch, beech, poplar, lime, etc. Such nectar is called honeydew.
The bees also gather pollen which they use to feed the larvae. The foragers who gather nectar may also collect a certain amount of pollen, possibly involuntarily, but it is known that some workers collect pollen without nectar.
The bees take the pollen with their mandibles and press it into a ball and take that with their front legs to pass it into the baskets in their hind legs.
In certain flowers, such as broom or pink, there is so much pollen that the body of the bee is totally covered with it.
Pollen of more than one colour is never seen being carried by a single bee. It thus appears that the bee at each sortie visits just one species of plant to gather pollen. For the colour of pollen varies from species to species.
Foragers also collect propolis from the buds of certain trees, for example alder, poplar, birch, willow, elm, etc.
Propolis is a resinous, transparent, sticky material. The bees bring it in the form of small pellets in the same way as pollen. They use it to plug the cracks and fill the voids in the interior of the hive.
Finally, certain foragers also go to look for water which they use to dilute the paste for the young bees and probably also for dissolving crystallised honey.
The bees have strange preferences: drops of morning dew, seawater, stagnant water which has received liquid manure in the vicinity of farms.