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Interesting Facts About Honey Bees

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Honey Bee Facts to Know

Do you know a lot about bees? Bees have been the subject of study for hundred of years. Still, they continue to amaze us all. Researchers have unraveled many honey bee facts that answer some of our questions about their behavior. However, we will still have some mysteries to solve and and new things to learn.

picture of honey bee at flower

Honey Bee Facts and Myths

There are thousands of facts about honey bees to read online and in books. Many of them are correct but some a just a bit off.

  • The honey bee’s scientific name is “Apis Mellifera” this means honey-carrying bee
  • Honey bees are true insects with 3 major body parts
  • People have been interacting with honey bees for thousands of years
  • Ancient Egypt was an early center of beekeeping, some people used honey as a payment for taxes
  • Honey bees are not native to North America
  • Early settlers brought honey bees from Europe aboard ships
  • The Native Americans called honey bees the “White Man’s Fly”
  • A yard of hives is called an apiary -and another word for beekeeper is “apiarist”
  • The study of beekeeping is called “Apiculture”
  • A honey bee colony is a social organism that lives as a group from year to year
  • Each beehive has 3 different kinds of bees : worker, drone and queen
  • A honey bee colony is a social organism that lives as a group from year to year
  • The colony is a balance of individuals with 1 queen, a few hundred drones (in Summer) and thousands of Worker bees
  • Not every type of bee can make honey – only those in the genus Apis
  • Honey bees also collect pollen to feed baby bees
  • Only worker bees have pollen baskets to collect pollen
  • The winter survival strategy of honey bees is unique to them
  • The colony is a balance of individuals with 1 queen, a few hundred drones (in Summer) and thousands of Worker bees
  • Bees and Wasps are very different but related
  • Only female honey bees have stingers: workers and queens
  • A worker bee’s barbed stinger becomes embedded in mammal skin– most honey bees that sting die
  • Honey bees only sting as a form of defense
  • Each bee colony has a distinctive scent that allows members to recognize each other
  • Not everyone is allergic to honey bees-some pain is normal
  • Honey bees gather nectar from millions of blooming flowers
  • Honey bees have specialized body parts to perform tasks-pollen baskets, proboscis, honey stomach
  • Honey bees do have a nose – her antenna functions like a nose
  • Bees use their acute sense of smell to locate food rich flowers
  • For a long time-researchers didn’t understand how bees could fly
  • Honey Bees beat their wings 200 times per second – this is what creates the buzzing sound we hear.
  • The home of a honey bee family is called a beehive
  • The size of the bee family varies throughout the year
  • A summer honey bee colony may contain 40,000-60,000 members
  • Baby honey bees develop and emerge from their cells are full-grown adults
  • Foragers are older female worker bees that collect food and water
  • Honey bee workers live 6 weeks in Summer but up to 6 months during Winter
  • Bees do not eat only honey – What do Bees Eat?
  • Some bees die everyday in a bee colony of 50,000 workers, you can expect that 500 bees die of natural causes each day.
  • Honey bees dance to communicate the location of rich food sources
  • Bees communicate with chemical messengers called pheromones
  • Honey bees need rest and often sleep inside the hive
  • Female worker bees do all the work in the hive
  • The hard work of honey bees is celebrated in many bee quotes.
  • A single bee will make about 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime
  • During Summer, the bees work themselves to death. Over Winter, less physical wear is required, and the Winter bees have larger fat bodies.
  • Bees can fly up to 15 MPH. On very windy days, bees may not leave the hive to forage
  • Some bees are even scout bees that look for new homes for the colony
  • Bees can easily travel up to 2 miles foraging for food.
  • A single bee visits 50-100 flowers during a foraging trip
  • Worker bees change jobs over the course of their lives
  • Honey bees are important to modern agriculture. The value of honey bee pollination exceeds that of honey production by a large amount
  • Depending on foraging conditions, about 13-30% of a bee colony’s foragers will be collecting pollen
  • An average colony of honey bees collects 50-60 pounds of pollen each year
  • An average colony can consume 44-65 pounds of pollen each year
  • Bees can travel long distances to gather nectar and pollen
  • Bees can easily travel up to 2 miles foraging for food.
  • Honey bees are sold by the pound. A 3 pound package is the most popular way to buy bees and start new colonies
  • A starter package of bees holds about 10,000 worker bees and a queen – enough bees to being a new hive
picture of honey bee closeup honey bee facts

The Honey Bee Queen

The honey bee queen is a vital member of the colony. She is the only single member that is essential to the colony. We know a lot of queen bee facts but here are a few of the most well-known.

  • A queen bee is capable of laying both fertilized and unfertilized eggs
  • Queen honey bees do not care for their young but queen bumble bees do
  • Queen Larva are feed much more than worker larva The queen larva is feed approximately 1600 times before the cell is capped. Worker larva are only fed 143 times.
  • A healthy queen bee can lay thousands of eggs per day during Spring
  • Queen bees do have a stinger. Queens can sting and more than once
  • The queen’s stinger is smooth not barbed and is used only on rival queens
  • Queen bees mate outside the hive. After a brief mating period early in life, the queen bee will never mate again
  • Sperm from 12- 20 drones is stored inside the queen bee’s body in her spermatheca
  • The queen honey bee gives off special pheromones to alert members of her presence
  • If the queen bee dies, the colony knows this within 15 minutes
  • A honey bee colony can make a new queen with a young larva from any fertilized egg
  • A queen bee can live longer than the other members of the hive – 2-3 years or more
  • When introducing a new queen into a colony, the beekeeper must practice slow requeening .Otherwise, the worker bees will kill the unknown queen

Fun Facts about Drone Honey Bees

The “boys of the hive” are often ridiculed because they do none of the work that keeps the colony functioning. However, drones are very important because without them – queens could not be mated.

  • Drone bees are males and can not sting
  • Developed from unfertilized eggs -Drones bees are haploid – and have half the chromosomes of worker bees
  • Drones have no stinger because they do not need one. They do not forage or protect the hive
  • The only purpose for drones is to mate with virgin queens
  • Drone bees do not mate queens inside the hive-instead mating occurs in mid-air

Basic Bee Facts for Kids

  • Most bees are not honey bees. Honey bees are only a small part of the bee world
  • There are over 20,000 species of bees in the world. Many of these are solitary bees that do not live in large families
  • There are only 7 species of honey bees in the world
  • Honey Bees are insects – they have 3 main body parts: head, thorax and abdomen
  • 5 eyes are found on the head of a honey bee – 2 large eyes for vision and 3 small ocelli for light detection
  • Honey bees also have small hairs on the surface of their eyes. It is believed that these hairs help detect wind direction
  • Honey bees can see light, color and motion
  • Bees develop through metamorphosis. 4 stages : Egg, Larvae, Pupae and Adults
  • Worker bees dance to tell other foragers where to find food
  • Bees construct hexagon cells. Hexagon shaped honeycomb cells give the most storage space using the least amount of beeswax – no wasted space

Products of the Hive Produced by Bees

Of course we know that honey bees make honey but beeswax is also a valuable resource from the hive. The way bees make use of their natural resources is so interesting.

Honey Production and Storage Allow Colony Winter Survival

  • Honey never spoils and will be safe to eat for a very long time. If honey is stored properly and protected from moisture, honey remains edible for thousands of years-perfect for storage in the hive
  • Do bees use pollen to make honey? No-only plant nectar is used to make honey
  • Do bees make honey for us? No, bees make a lot of honey for Winter food
  • Nectar is stored in the honey stomach for the trip back to the hive. Honey is NOT bee vomit
  • Foraging worker bees visit 2 million individual blooms to collect enough nectar to make 1 pound of honey
beeswax comb made by bees

Beeswax Fact -It’s More Valuable Than Honey

Beeswax is used to construct the structure of the hive. Only honey bees can make beeswax. Per pound, it is more valuable than honey.

  • Worker honey bees produce beeswax from special glands on the underside of their abdomen
  • The color of beeswax varies from white to dark brown. Beeswax absorbs stains in the hive and darkens over time
  • Bees must consumer about 8 pounds of honey to produce 1 pound of beeswax

True Facts About Killer Bees

The honey bees known as Africanized or (Killer Bees) were developed on purpose. No, they were not intended to be dangerous. Researchers were trying to create a hybrid honey bee that would perform well in the hot climate of South America.

  • Africanized Bees are now found in most of the Southern States of the US
  • They normally produce less honey than European bees – instead focusing on more swarming activity
  • AHB (also called Killer bees) have the same size stinger as any other honey bee
  • The venom of Africanized Bees is not stronger or more toxic than regular honey bee venom
  • Africanized Bees are more defensive than normal colonies. They respond and attack in greater numbers
  • Killer bees are able to chase someone for more than 1/4 of a mile
  • You can not identify Africanized Bees in the field. They look exactly the same as European Bees to the untrained eye
  • Once disturbed, an Africanized Hive of Bees can stay on alert for 24 hours or more. The least disturbance can set off a stinging action
  • If you are threatened by Killer Bees, the best thing to do is run, run and run some more
  • Unlike European Honey Bees, Africanized Bees are more likely to choose holes in the ground to make their nests

Bees Swarming – It’s a Natural Fact

Swarming is a natural thing for bees. Usually the old queen and about half the work force will leave to find a new home. The original colony retains queen cells to replace the old queen.

This natural process works for the bees most of the time but not always. Not every swarm is successful in establishing a new home.

For beekeepers, having a colony swarm is not always a good thing. It can represent the reward of having a new hive or a loss of the honey crop for the year.

  • Colonies that swarm usually produce less honey. Therefore, beekeepers often try to avoid having their colonies swarm
  • Before leaving the mother colony, worker bees in the swarm fill their honey stomachs with food for the journey
  • Swarms are most likely to leave between 10 am and 2 pm on a warm sunny day
  • In areas with Africanized Bees do not collect swarms

A Final Thought on Interesting Honey Bee Facts

All pollinators have value to our environment and lifestyles and deserve our appreciation. As we learn more about these beneficial insects it is easy to understand their value.

There you have it. Some wonderful honey bee facts for you to share and enjoy. Do you have some to add? If so, I would love to hear them!

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