Honeybees at the COC


The Canadian Opera Company is delighted to be part of the ever-growing support of honeybees, Currently we host seven hives onthe roof of our opera house, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. Follow the honeybees' progress on Parlando, with visits and posts from beekeeper Fred Davis!

NEW - Our bee blog has moved!

Visit Parlando for more updates about our honeybees.


Queens, Drones and Workers - oh my!

There are three types of honeybee: the queen, the worker, and the drone.

There is only one queen per hive. She grows one and a half times larger than the other bees, lives 40 times longer than the workers (up to seven years), and can lay between 1,200 and 2,000 eggs a day, which may be her weight in eggs. Ouch!

Contrary to what might be expected, the queen is selected by the worker bees. Once the current queen dies or becomes less productive, the workers select a worker bee larva to be the new queen. All larvae are fed royal jelly to begin with. Later, their diet is changed to pollen and honey, with only the virgin queens being exclusively fed royal jelly.

When the virgin queen reaches maturity, she ventures out of her cell and seeks out other emerged, and even unemerged virgin queens to fight them to the death. She then ventures out of the hive to breed in a short series of intense sessions with drones (some from other hives to avoid inbreeding). Multiple matings occur in flight and she collects sperm which she stores internally for the rest of her life, using it to fertilize those eggs she chooses to. She then returns to the hive, and if she is accepted by the hive, she becomes their new queen (if the old one has died) or fights the old queen to the death. Sometimes the old queen has already died, driving the workers to quickly bring forth a new queen from her cell. Or the old queen might have been killed by the hive to make room for a new, more egg-productive queen.

During laying, fertilized eggs become female worker bees who cannot reproduce. Unfertilized eggs become male drone bees, who are used for breeding only. The queen decides which egg she will fertilize as she lays it. Each egg is laid by the queen in an individual cell in the wax honeycomb, which is produced by the worker bees.

The workers are the female bees. They live several months during the winter season. But if they are born in the summer, their life span is only up to six weeks long as they literally work themselves to death. Most of the bees in the hive are workers. Workers have a remarkable promotion cycle. As young workers they clean the hive and feed the larvae. When they can no longer produce royal jelly, they move to building the honeycomb. As they get older still they act as receivers, taking nectar and pollen from returning foragers. They also guard the hive. And later still, an older worker will graduate to leaving the hive and becoming a full time forager. All this in about six weeks. Workers indeed!

The drones are the male bee and there are very few of them in the hive. They are fed by the workers and are kept on standby for mating duties with a virgin queen. As they are of no use in the winter, they are expelled from the hive in the fall. They also die after mating. Yikes!

Posted by Gianna Wichelow / in Did you Know? / comments (2) / permalink


Other Urban Hives

Surprisingly, we're not the first opera company to have honeybees on our roof, as Paris Opera's two houses have had bees on their roofs for about 25 years... but we're probably the second! Let's hope a lot more opera houses get on board with bees. Click here to see the bees of the Paris Opera.

Actually honeybees are not native to Canada. They are European in origin, and were brought to North America by the early settlers.

Other urban bee hive locations include:

Six Fairmount hotels in North America, including the Royal York in Toronto

~ Royal Lancaster Hotel (London, England)

~ Vancouver's City Hall and Convention Centre

~ The South Lawn of the White House (Washington, D.C.).

~ Chicago Cultural Centre

~ Chicago City Hall

There are also an estimated 300 personal rooftop hives in Manhattan, N.Y.!

Posted by Gianna Wichelow / in Did you Know? / comments (3) / permalink


COC Honeybees Meet the Press

Yesterday, the COC honeybees met members of the media at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. General Director Alexander Neef (at the podium on the right) introduced beekeeper Fred Davis (on the left).

Alexander Neef examines a piece of honeycomb, made from beeswax by the bees.

A close-up of the bees' work:

Suited up and on the roof, beekeeper Fred Davis removes a frame from one of the hives.

... and introduces the bees to the media...

... and to Alexander Neef, with Toronto's City Hall in the background.

Close-ups of the frame covered with bees, all quietly working away:

Come back often and visit our blog to keep up to date with our honeybees, with progress reports from beekeeper Fred Davis!

Posted by Gianna Wichelow / in Arrival / comments (7) / permalink

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Honey Nutritional Information

Read the nutritional guidelines for the FSC Honeybees Honey!