20 Fascinating Honey Bee Facts
The honey bee is one of the most studied life forms in existence. Numerous books are available on all aspects of bee life. Some researchers have devoted their entire lives to the study of the honey bee. This has yielded some truly fascinating honey bee facts.
In spite of being the subject of countless years of research, we are still learning new things about this amazing insect. Let’s get to know our favorite bee just a little bit better.
Honey Bee Facts
#1 The Honey bee’s scientific name “Apis Mellifera” means honey-carrying bee.
Our honey bees gather nectar from blooming flowers and transform it into honey. They can then move the honey to where they need it inside the hive or take it with them to a new home.
#2 Honey bees have 6 legs, 2 pairs of wings and 5 eyes (2 large compound and 3 small ocelli).
The large compound eyes are composed of many little lenses or facets. They detect color, movement and patterns. The small ocelli located on the top of the head serve as light sensors. They aid the bee in navigation during flight.
#3 Honey bees use their antennae to detect odors. They have a very precise sense of smell.
An acute sense of smell helps bees locate nectar and pollen rich flowers. They can detect a trace of scent even while in flight.
#4 Honey bee wings beat at 200 strokes per second – this makes the buzz sound we hear.
Honey bees can fly up to 12-15 miles per hour. In recent years using robots, scientists have finally been able to understand the aerodynamics of how bees fly and carry heavy loads.
#5 A honey bee colony has about 60,000 bees and 1 queen. The female workers do all the work.
It takes a large work force to perform the duties required by a honey bee colony. Outside the hive, foragers collect nectar, pollen and water. Guard bees defend the hive entrance against intruders. Inside the hive, nurse bees care for young and house bees make honey, build comb and do numerous other activities.
#6 A worker bee, on average, lives 6 – 8 weeks during the summer.
Worker bees literally work themselves to death during the warm season. This is why is it important to constantly have a new supply of young bees being produced. Bees produced in late Fall are different. They will live for 6 – 8 months (over the cold period) to sustain the colony until Spring.
#7 A queen bee might live up to 4-5 years but she is usually replaced by the colony much sooner.
Queen bees have a potential life span of several years. But their level of egg laying and pheromone production lowers as they age. Most queens are replaced by the colony within 2 years or less.
#8 If a queen bee is removed from a hive, the colony will know within 15 minutes.
One of the main methods of communication within the beehive is through pheromones. These chemical messengers passed throughout the hive. As the bees groom each other and touch antennas, they pass pheromones. They can detect the absence of the queen quickly.
#9 A good queen many lay as many as 1,000 to 2,000 eggs per day during Spring.
The only job of the queen bee is to lay eggs. Her “retinue” of nurse bees take care of her every need. She is fed and groomed by her retinue. This leave her free to lays eggs.
#10 Honey bees must gather nectar from 2 million flowers to make one pound of honey.
Honey is sold by weight. (1 pound =16 oz net weight) Bees must visit a lot of flower blossoms to collect the watery nectar that will be transformed into honey.
#11 A honey bee can visit between 50 and 100 flowers during a foraging trip.
The worker bee collects nectar in a special structure inside her body called a “honey stomach”. Some flowers produce more nectar than others so the number of visits required will vary.
#12 Only female honey bees can sting.
If you get stung by a honey bee, it will be a female worker bee who does the job. Honey bees are not aggressive but will sting in defense if they feel threatened.
#13 Larva that “hatches” from a honey bee egg will be fed about 1,300 times per day.
The egg of the honey bee does not really hatch like a chicken egg. The covering actually dissolves. Once the larva is free of the egg, it is ready to grow and requires a lot of food.
#14 Male bees (drones) have no father but they do have a grandfather.
Male bees (drones) develop from unfertilized eggs. Their only function is to fly away from the hive and mate with queens. Because no semen is used to create drones, they have no father. However, they do receive genetic material from their mother. (who had a mother and father.)
#15 Honey bee venom is different than wasp venom. You can be allergic to one and not the other.
Both bees and wasps have venom. They are complicated mixture of chemicals with some similarities and some differences. A bee injects more venom in one shot because the barbed stinger becomes embedded in your skin. The wasp has a smooth stinger that can inject a smaller amount of venom but stings multiple times.
#16 The honey bee is the only insect that produces food eaten by man.
Mankind has been harvesting honey from bee colonies for thousands of years.
#17 The hexagon structure of honeycomb allows bees to make efficient use of beeswax.
Beeswax is produced from wax glands on the abdomen of the honey bee. This wax is shaped into honeycomb. The hexagonal cells of the honeycomb provide room to raise young and store food.
#18 Honey bees cannot see the color red. UV patterns on the red flowers guide bees to nectar.
Bees don’t have a photoreceptor for the color red. But they can see reddish wavelengths like orange and yellow. They can also detect UV light patterns.
#19 Honey bees are most active between 60° and 100°F.
During Winter cold, honey bees will cluster inside their hive. They consume stored honey and generate enough heat to survive. A cold-blooded insect, they are most active at temperatures between 60 and 100 degrees.
#20 A queen bee stores a limited amount of sperm to fertilize eggs
A queen bee goes on several mating flights when she is very young. She mates with 12 – 20 drones away from the hive. Semen is stored in a special structure in her abdomen called a spermatheca. She will never mate again. When she runs out of semen she will not be able to produce female worker bees and the colony will replace her.
There are so many more fascinating honey bee facts that would could explore. Honey bees and humans have a relationship dating back thousands of years. Let’s hope we are able to continue to learn even more about the honey bee.
You can get involved with the world of the honey bee. Have you considered becoming a beekeeper? Or if not, perhaps you could plant flowers in your yard that attract honey bees and other pollinators. There are many ways to help save bees.