Bee Facts Uncovered

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Get ready to be captivated by some fascinating bee facts. A subject of study for thousands of years, they still amaze us. From their intricate social structure to the golden treasures they produce, they play an important role in our lives. We have learned a lot but there are still some mysteries to solve and new things to learn.

Honey bee worker on flower remarkable bee facts.

Prepare for an in-depth journey into the world of bees. Explore some of the lesser known aspects of their life and the true facts about bees in regards to their value to our lives. We may also expose a few misconceptions that you thought were truth.

Buzzworthy Bee Facts

There are thousands of kinds of insects in the world. But, one of the most popular is the honey bee. Many bee books have been written about them. But, some facts about honey bees and their relatives may surprise you.

  • With over 20,000 species of bees in the world, most are not honey bees. They are only a small part of the many types of bees found worldwide.
  • The honey bee’s scientific name is “Apis Mellifera” this means honey-carrying bee.
  • Honey bees are the only insects that produce quantities of food for human consumption.
  • Honey bees and Bumble bees are social bees that live in family groups. Their hives or nests, may be above or below the ground, while most solitary bees nest in the ground.
  • Bees and wasps are related but very different. Both are insects but wasps are predators that eat meat.
  • Not every type of bee can make honey – only those in the genus Apis. Bumble bees can make a very small amount of honey but not enough to collect.
  • Honey bees are true insects with 3 major body parts. They have a head, thorax and abdomen like all insects.
  • A honey bee colony is a social organism that lives as a group from year to year. Most bee families die out at the end of the season and leave only a mated female behind.
  • For a long time-researchers didn’t understand how honey bees fly. The wings did not seem large enough to support their body.
  • Honey bees can fly up to 15 MPH.
  • Workers bees only live 6 weeks in Summer but up to 6 months during Winter.
  • Pollination is more important that honey production. Honey bees are important to modern agriculture because of honey bee pollination efforts.
  • Most people are not truly allergic to bee stings. Skin redness and swelling are normal reactions that responds to home remedies for bee stings.-some pain is normal.
  • The honey bees known as Africanized or (Killer Bees) were developed on purpose. Researchers were trying to create a hybrid honey bee that would perform well in the hot climate of South America.
  • Bees really do have knees – Have you ever heard that phrase?
Honey  bees flying on yellow background fun facts about bees.

Life Inside the Hive

What really goes on inside the beehive? We know these industrious insects are always busy and everyone has a job to do.

  • The home of a honey bee family is called a beehive. Beehives can be made of many different materials but the comb inside is made of beeswax.
  • Each beehive has 3 different kinds of bees inside: worker, drone and queen.
  • Most of colony members are female workers that collect resources needed for the colony.
  • Needing rest, bees sleep inside the hive. They don’t have eyelids but these periods of inactivity help them be productive.
  • Every member of the colony has a job to do. These tasks change according to age and the needs of the colony.
  • Some workers serve as scout bees. It is their job to look for food and to go out to look for new homes for swarms.
  • It is normal to see different colors of bees in a hive. A queen mates with many different drones – most of the workers in the hive are half sisters.
  • Worker bees build hexagon shaped cells in sheets of honeycomb. Hexagons provide the most storage space for food and brood rearing – using the least amount of wax. And they are very strong -The wall of comb can support 25 times its own weight.
  • Inside the hive, developing bee larvae go through complete metamorphosis and emerge from their cells as full-grown adults.
  • Some colony members die everyday-you can expect that 500 daily deaths of natural causes.
  • Honey bees survive Winter in a unique way. They make and store honey during the warm season. They, consume honey and use their wing muscles to generate heat during the cold weather.
  • The number of bees inside a hive varies over the year. But, a summer colony may contain 40,000-60,000 members.
  • Forager honey bees return to the hive and do dances (such as the waggle dance) to communicate food source locations.
Honey bee flying with pollen.

Facts About Worker Honey Bees

Workers are the female backbone of the colony. They do all the work or tasks that are needed to keep the colony going and growing.

  • All workers are female and develop from a fertilized egg laid by the queen.
  • The worker bee literally works herself to death in Summer. Her body parts wear out and can’t be replaced. Their hard work is celebrated in many bee quotes and sayings.
  • A single bee visits 50-100 flowers during a foraging trip. Honey bees easily travel up to 2 miles foraging for food.
  • The wings of a beats 200 times per second – this is what creates the buzzing sound we hear.
  • Worker bees have a special structure called “pollen baskets” on their hind legs. Not a real basket, they are instead made of sharp spines that help hold pollen pellets.
  • Honey bee dances help communicate the location of rich food sources. They are called: wag tail, round dance or sickle.
  • Honey bees do have a nose – in function. The antennae of a bee functions like a nose with an acute sense of smell.
  • Bee sees flowers differently than we do thanks in part to the ability to see UV light.
  • Workers visit 2 million individual blooms to collect nectar to make 1 pound of honey.
  • The honey bee’s brain is about the size of a grain of sugar, but they make good use of it.
  • Foragers gather pollen to feed young baby bees. Nurse bees consume the protein to produce special food for young.
  • Bees can make bread. Fresh pollen would spoil – it is converted into bee bread that is easy to digest and lasts a long time.
  • Honey bees have 5 eyes. Two large compound eyes for vision and 3 small ocelli (simple eyes) for light detection.
  • A single worker will make only one twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.
  • About 13-30% of forager bees look for plant pollen on a given day. An average colony collects 50-60 pounds of pollen each year.
  • Only the females bees in the hive have stingers- workers and the queen. The barbed stinger of a worker becomes embedded in mammal skin. She likely dies after stinging.
  • Each colony has a distinctive scent that allows members to recognize each other. This is why a guard bee at the hive entrance will check those coming back to the hive.
  • Honey bees normally poop outside the hive. This helps keep the inside clean and free of disease.
Large queen bee much larger than worker at her side.

All About the Queen

The queen is the only single member of the colony that is essential for survival. Due to her popularity, we know a lot of queen bee facts but here are a few of the most unusual.

  • Queens can sting but they rarely sting humans. Also, their stinger is smooth instead of barbed like the workers. They only sting rival queens.
  • If a colony becomes queenless, the members know it within 15 minutes.
  • Queens live longer. In a strong healthy hive, she may live 2-3 years or more.
  • If her productivity (egg laying or pheromone productions), workers will kill the queen.
  • Workers can make a replacement if the queen bee dies. But, it requires a lot of work. Queen larva are fed approximately 1600 times before the cell is capped. Worker larva are only fed 143 times.
  • Queens do not care for their young but queen bumbles do. In honey bees, workers perform all brood care duties.

Drone Honey Bee Facts

The “boys of the hive” are called drones. They are often ridiculed because they do no work in the hive. But, they are needed to mate with new queens.

  • Drone honey bees are males that develop from unfertilized eggs. This means they are haploid – and have half the chromosomes of workers.
  • Drones have no stinger because they do not need one. They do not forage or protect the hive from attack.
  • In the Fall, most colonies will evict drones and leave them to die in the cold. They are not needed for mating during the cold months. In Spring, more drones will be produced.
Graphic of 3 beekeepers with bees. Facts about beekeeping.

Facts About Beekeeping Traditions

Managing beehives is not a new thing. Early humans learned about the bounty of the hive and the tradition has continued until today.

  • Ancient Egypt was an early center of beekeeping, with honey used as payment for taxes. Cave drawings dating back thousands of years depict man-made hives.
  • Early on, a colony was destroyed to allow honey harvest. Later, people learned how to harvest some of the honey while preserving the bees. This was the true beginning of bee management.
  • Honey bees are not native to North America – early settlers brought them from Europe. Once here, bee swarms escaped and spread across the country.
  • The Native Americans learned quickly that when white men arrived – honey bees were also present. They called them the “White Man’s Fly”.
  • Today, beekeepers buy bees to start new hives. A starter package holds about 10,000 workers and drones with a queen.
  • A yard of hives is called an apiary -and another word for beekeeper is “apiarist”. This comes from the Latin word “apis” which means “bee”.
  • Beekeepers use several different type of beehives. The Langstroth hive is the industry standard dating by to the mid 1850’s.
Single honey bee making honey in comb image.

Bee Products & Uses

Of course we know that bees make honey but wax is also a valuable resource from the hive. Both of these have some unique properties that desire attention.

  • Ancient Egyptians used honey and beeswax in many traditional health care practices.
  • Some people use fermented honey to make mead – an ancient beverage dating back centuries.
  • One ounce of honey would fuel a bees flight around the world.
  • Bees do not use pollen to make honey. Plant nectar is used to produce true honey.
  • Nectar is collected into a special organ called the “crop” or “honey stomach” for the trip back to the hive. Honey is NOT bee vomit as this organ is separate from the digestive tract.
  • One exception to the use of plant nectar to make honey is when the bees collect aphid secretions. This is called “forest honey or honeydew honey“.
  • Honey never spoils it will be safe to eat for a very long time- if stored properly. Protected from moisture honey does not go bad. However, it may crystallize, darken or change flavor.
  • Worker bees make beeswax using special glands on the underside of their abdomen.
Worker honey bee forages on flower.

In Conclusion

All pollinators have value and deserve our appreciation. As we review these facts about bees, it is easy to see that they provide even more benefits that you may have thought previously. Take the time to delve into the world of our important pollinators. You may learn something new.

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