50 Facts about Honey Bees
Are bees really that busy as they say? There is always something new to learn about honey bees and how they operate. Here are some fascinating facts that will wow your mind as you learn more about these buzzing insects;
- Honey Bees Live in Colonies
A colony is a group of bees that live and fly together. One colony can contain around 20,000 to 60,000 bees. The colony is divided into three groups;
Queen: This is the adult-mated female bee in the colony, which runs the whole hive. The queen’s work is to lay eggs that will scion the next generation of bees in the hive. She also produces chemicals that guide the honey bees’ behavior.
Drones: These are the male bees born from unfertilized eggs. Their prime purpose is to mate with every new unfertilized queen.
Workers: The worker bees are female bees. Their role is to collect pollen and nectar from flower, clean and circulate air by beating their wings. The workers will fly around outside the hive in order to build and protect it.
- Honey Bees have 170 Odorant Receptors
Compared with only 79 in mosquitoes and 62 in fruit flies, honey bees have the highest number of odorant receptors. A honey bee has 170 odorant receptors that enable it to recognize its kin’s signals, social communication within the hive and recognition of odor for finding food. Their sense of smell is so precise and 50 times more powerful than a dog, that they can recognize different floral varieties when looking for pollen and nectar.
- A Honey Bee can produce a Twelfth Teaspoon of Honey
In her lifespan of 6-8 weeks, a worker bee produces an average of 1/12th teaspoon of honey. This is about 0.8 gram (0.0288 ounce) of honey. They have such a short lifespan because they rarely sleep! Doesn’t this fact clarify so much sense to the saying: “as busy as a bee”?
- A Honey Bee Gathers Nectar from Two Million Flowers.
In order to make one pound of honey, 556 worker bees must fly on around 2 million flowers to gather nectar and pollen. In one collection trip, 50-100 flowers are pollinated.
- Honey Bees are highly Valued Pollinators
Did you know that approximately one third of the fruits and vegetables we consume is the result of honey bee pollination? They allow plants to grow seeds and fruits by transferring pollen between the male and female parts. They are also super-important pollinators in floral plants.
- Honey Bees are Splendid Boogiers!
Honey Bees perform a ‘waggle dance’ to share information about the best food sources. They move in a figure-eight and waggle their body to indicate the direction of the food source, distance to patches of flowers and to new-site locations with other members of the colony.
- A Queen Bee Can Lay up to 2500 Eggs in One Day
During the winter season, a productive queen will form a new colony by laying eggs within each cell inside a honeycomb. She lays one egg after every 45 seconds resulting to around 2500 eggs in a day.
- The ‘Buzz’ of a Honey Bee is created by Their Wings
The sound of a honey bee is called a buzz. This is their trademark sound, which is created as a result of rapid beating of their wings. They flap their wings 200 times per second, creating vibrations in the air that result into the sound perception called buzzing.
- Honey Bees Sleep in Shifts
Honey bees rarely sleep; they work the whole day and night. When they want to sleep, they take shifts inside the hive. Their sleep pattern changes with their age. The younger bees will sleep a lot less while the older bees will sleep more than the younger bees. Older bees need more sleep because it helps their memory.
- The Male Honey Bee Dies after Mating
A drone has a reproductive structure called an endophallus. He inserts it tightly into the queen’s reproductive tract, by averting it using a contraction of his abdominal muscles and haemostatic pressure.
Ejaculation then takes place immediately with an extremely explosive force, which leaves the tip of his endophallus behind, inside the queen. His abdomen also raptures, he falls to the ground and dies soon after.
- Honey Bees Carry a Load Half of Their Own Body Weight
Honey bees can carry an average load of 20mg of nectar and 130mg of pollen while flying. All these loads are half of their own body weight. Luckily, they have adapted to this by sucking nectar and water, which are stored in one of its stomachs. Meanwhile, nectar is carried by scooping it in a special sac behind the bees leg.
- Honey Bees are The Official State Insect of Maine
Honey bees are the most beneficial insects, helping in plant pollination and production of honey used for both domestic and commercial purposes. Apart from raw honey, they also produce byproducts like wax and propolis which are of great value to the world.
- Honey Bees have two stomachs
Honey bees have two stomachs. One of them is known as ‘hymenoptera’, which serves as a reservoir for liquids like water and nectar. The other stomach is for storing food after eating.
- A Honey Bee will die after Stinging
A honey bee has two barbed lancets on its stinger, that if it stings you with it, it is unable to pull it back. Due to this fact, not only the stinger is left behind, but part of his abdomen, digestive tract, muscles and nerves are also left. This results into a massive abdominal rupture that kills the bee.
- Honey Bees Have 5 Eyes
Honey bees have thee simple eyes called ocelli and two large compound eyes. They use their ocelli eyes to detect light intensity. The other two large eyes are used for detecting movement.
- Honey Bees use the Sun for Navigation
They use the sun to fly in a compass direction. When navigating, honey bees keep the angle between their line of flight and the sun constant by keeping the sun as a fixed reference point. The position of sun enables a honey bee to indicate to the others the exact direction where she found the food.
- Only Female Bees Have Stingers
The worker bees and queen bees are the only ones with stingers, because of the ovipositor, that is part of their reproductive design. Queen bees rarely sting because they use their ovipositor to lay eggs.
- Every Honey Bee Colony Has its Own Distinct Odor
Pheromones released by the honey bees together with compounds building up the nest wax, such as fatty acids and carbohydrates make up the volatile mixture of odor. A honey bee’s odor helps it to determine their own colony, distinguish between nest mates and foreign bees hence intruders from other species.
- Honey Bees Have Facial Recognition Software
Studies have proven that honey bees have the ability to recognize human faces and remember them for at least two days. It is said that they have a better memory to remember faces than some humans.
- Honey Bees Detest Human Breath
The sense of smell of a honey bee is very sensitive that carbon dioxide released from human breath may smell threatening to them, stimulating them to sting. To avoid being stung, avoid heavy breathing around bees.
- Honey Bees are Awesome Flyers
Honey bees are capable of flying at an average speed of 15 miles per hour and 20 miles per hour if they are not carrying any load on their body. According to research, their ‘Short-Amplitude High-Frequency wing strokes’ determine their flight. They are able to fly at these speeds because they flap their wings over 200 times every second.
- Queen Bees Have a Lifespan of up to 5 Years
Compared to other insects or honey bees, the queen bee has a longer lifespan. She has a longer lifespan because she is the one to scion other generations of bees. In her 2-3 years of life, she may lay up to 2000 eggs per day, making her lifetime to have produced over 1 million offspring. As she ages, her productivity declines though she can live up to 5 years.
- Only 4 Species of Honey Bees Can Make Honey Out Of 20,000
The Apis melifera, meliponines, Apis lithohermaea and Apis nearctica are the only species of honey bees kept for the production of honey. They are members of the genus Apis, which are the true honey bees.
- The Population of Honey Bees has been on the Decline for Over a Decade
Studies have proven that beekeepers lost about 33.2% of a bee colony over the course of one year. The decline of honey bees’ population is due to parasites and diseases, pesticide exposure and climatic changes.
- Honey Bees are Neat Freaks!
In every hive, there are worker bees whose job is to make sure the hive is clean 24/7. This involves cleaning used cells, clearing debris in the hive and cleaning other bees, by removing dust and stray hairs from them. They also have to attend to the queen bee by grooming her. Honey bees are so clean to the extent that they leave the hive in cold winter months, only to take a short cleansing flight.
- Honey Bees Manufacture Bee wax from their Abdomen
Honey bees have eight wax-producing mirror glands on the plate of each segment of their body, situated on their 4 to 7 abdominal segments. Worker bees use their glands to convert the sugar contents of honey into wax. The wax then oozes through small pores to produce tiny flakes of wax on their abdomens.
- Honey Bees are Math Genius!
Honey bees have an incredible sense of time, distance and direction. They use the amount of optical information they experience during a flight to measure distances. Although it has a sesame seed sized brain, studies have shown that the honey bee can calculate the most efficient route faster than a modern computer.
- Honey Bees are Absolute Bomb Detectors!
Honey bees have 170 odor receptors, which enable them to have a strikingly acute sense of smell. Scientists have discovered that their powerful sense of smell, are able to detect and track down hidden terrorism explosives. It is said that their sense of detecting scents of explosives at concentrations as low as two parts per trillion, is the same as finding a grain of sand in a swimming pool.
- Honey Bees Have Existed For Over 30 Million Years
Honey bees (genus Apis) fossils were discovered in Europe 35 million years ago. However, it is believed that they first evolved in eastern Africa some 40 million years ago. They then spread northwards into Europe, later on eastwards into Asia. The earliest evidence shows that our Neolithic ancestors of Spain were the first mankind to ‘interact’ with bees between 6000 and 8000 years ago. Earliest evidence also proves that ancient Egyptians were the first to ‘keep’ bees a long ago as 2400 BC.
- A Queen Honey Bee Preserves Lifetime Supply of Sperms.
Queen bees will mate with 5 to 45 drones once in their early lives. A lifetime supply of sperms are then stored in a specialized organ called spermatheca. The stored sperms remain viable for several years and are used by the queen to fertilize millions of eggs. Queen bees are able to store sperms for this long because; honey bees sperms have subset proteins that allow physiological adaptation to storage.
- An Emergency Queen can be produced by a Hive.
Honey bees notice the absence of their queen within a span of one hour. After a few hours of agitation, emergency cells are constructed on existing worker larvae. The worker larvae is built for a new comb and fed royal jelly to enable its fast growth and development into a queen.
- Not All Honey Bees Live in Hives
Most honey bees don’t live in hives because most of them are solitary. It is said that the only honey bees that can live in a hive, are the advanced social bees. Some honey bees construct their nests out of mud, abandoned beetle burrows in wood and burrows in the ground. They simply love to live in hollow spaces.
- Honey Bees are attracted to Caffeine
Honey bees are lovers of caffeine and can get hooked to caffeine like people. As a result, plants have adopted a protective measure of changing their natural behaviors so they can get more of the drug. Studies reveal that honey bees love caffeine because it boosts their long-term memory.
- Honey Bees Have Personalities.
Just like humans, honey bees have different personalities and maybe even feelings. They are thrill-seeking when in an adventure to find food or new locations, agitated when queen less and pessimistic. Some honey bees like the bumble bees are docile whereas others like the Africanized honeybees can be daring.
- A Honey Bee’s Brain Defy Time
Honey bees brain ages in reverse. You will find that older honey bee’s brain will stop aging when it starts doing jobs that are typically reserved for younger members. This discovery has actually convinced scientists that an onset of dementia can be slowed.
- Honey Bees Stings Have Some Benefits
Some honey bees like the melittin, have a toxin in its venom that may prevent HIV. Bee venom has an inflammatory hormone, with molecules that increase your body’s level of glucocoticoid. Due to these properties, its sting may also ease pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis, nerve pain, multiple sclerosis, swollen tendons and muscle conditions such as fibromyostis and enthesitis.
- Honey Bees have Four Stages of Development
Metamorphosis in honey bees begin when the queen lays an egg in each cell that has been prepared by the workers. After three days, the eggs will hatch into larvae. Nurse bees will then feed the larvae royal jelly, which makes them grow rapidly. The larvae then develop into pupae. In this stage, the eyes, legs and wings take shape. After 12 days the pupae are now adult bees, as they are now ready to start their responsibilities.
- Honey Bees Fly an Equivalent Distance of 1½ Times the Earth’s Circumference
In their lifespan of 6-8 weeks, worker bees have to fly approximately 90,000 miles, equivalent to 1½ times the earth’s circumference in search of quality pollen and nectar, to produce one pound of honey.
- Honey Bees are not born with Knowledge of How to Make Honey
Worker bees teach younger members how to make honey at an early age. They are first made to fly miles away from the hive, and then taught how to gather nectar and pollen from blooming flowers. Young honey bees then fly with the collected nectar back to the hive.
In the hive, worker bees make them chew up the nectar and then deposit them into honeycomb wax cells. They then fan their wings vigorously over the nectar to dehydrate the liquid inside in the cells. This will transform a slightly thin liquid into very thick honey. Once they have mastered this art, they officially start producing honey like other worker bees.
- Honey Bees Have 4 Wings
Honey bees belong in the hymenopterans family, therefore have four wings. Their wings are arranged in two pairs, connected by a row of hooks called hamulus on the back wing. Although their wings help in flight, the fore wings are much larger than the hind wings. Apart from flight, the fore wings are also used as a cooling mechanism. The hind wings are used for flight and fanning away heat from the hive.
- Honey Bees are more Hardworking than You
They are considered to be among the most hardworking species on the planet. This is because they always seem to be in motion with endless energy. Honey bee workers spend their entire day outside foraging food for the hive. In a day, they make more than 100 foraging trips. Meanwhile, there are other workers in the hive whose job is to make sure the hive is cool at all times. They have to work this hard because of their short lifespan.
- Honey Bees Change their Brain Chemistry, When They Change Jobs
Worker bees are divided into groups of scout bees, nurse bees and guard bees. In each of these groups, each honey bee is hardwired to only certain jobs. Scout bees for example, are wired for adventure because their job involves searching for new sources of food, whereas soldier bees work as security guards.
When worker honey bees reach middle age, 1% of them become undertakers. They start removing dead bees from the hive due to a generic brain pattern that has compelled them to do so. However, before taking up a new gig, regular honey bees are able to change their brain capacity. This is because they partake in multiple jobs in their lifetime.
- Honey Bees React Strongly To Dark Colors
Have you ever wondered why beekeepers wear white overalls? The answer is a piece of cake. Honey bees dislike dark colors because they came to realize that most of the honey predators, which come in form of animals, have dark colors. Dark colors make them to be defensive of their sweet honey. Therefore, beekeepers wear white colors to decrease their chances of being and stung by bees.
- Only Female Honey Bees Have Pollen Baskets
Female bees have a special apparatus on the tibia of their hind legs called corbicula (pollen basket). It is a concave region surrounded by coarse hairs. This apparatus is part of their adaptive features, which enable them to hold pollen while flying. Only female bees have this apparatus, because they are the ones to supply the hive with pollen and nectar.
- Queen Bees are Larger in Size Compared to other Castes in the Colony
Mature queen bees have larger body sizes, because of their long abdomen containing several ovaries, enabling them to produce a lifetime’s supply of eggs. This length also enables her to cement an egg into the bottom of a honey comb cell.
- Queen Bees are Not the Boss of the Hive!
How Shocking! Yeah? Although it has a distinguished name, all the important decisions are made by the worker bees. The worker bees feed, groom and clean her. Queen bees are not in total control of egg laying either. Although she decides where to lay her eggs, worker bees play an important role in this as well. She will lay her eggs only after the worker bees have cleaned and polished the cell. Worker bees will also decide if the colony needs drones or not.
- Honey Bees Have a Complex Tongue
Honey bees have a long slender straw-like tongue used for tasting, sucking nectar and exchange food between themselves. The proboscis appears smooth and uniform, but actually it is quite complex. It consists of a tube within a tube. They suck large quantities of liquid like honey and water using the outer larger tube, whereas the smaller inner tube is used for collecting tiny amounts of liquids like nectar. It consists of hairy spoon-like tip that helps it to gather small drops of nectar.
- Honey Bees Are Symbolic In Religion, Culture and Mythology
Honey bees and their hives are the symbols of several religious traditions, cultures and mythology. Religious observances use pollen and honey as religious imageries. The bee was made a solar insect by the Egyptians. They believed it was born from the tears of the sun god Ra, which landed on the desert sand. They appeased spirits of the dead by using bees and honey as offerings.
Ancient Asians in the Middle Eastern considered bees as symbols of purity and represented souls. They referred to bees as “beings of Fire’. In the Christian tradition, funerary motifs used the image of a bee to symbolize resurrected souls. Monastic communities in the Christian tradition aimed to achieve the communal organization that a bee hive has, by having orderly and charitable lives. The bible also uses a number of references to honey and bees; ‘the Promised Land’ for example, is referred to as “land flowing with milk and honey.”
- Temperature Affects Honey Bee’s Behavior
Honey bees will hardly work when the temperatures are below 57⁰F or above 100⁰F. When the temperature is below 55⁰F, they can’t fly. They can only fly when the temperatures are between 55⁰F and 60⁰F. On extremely hot days, they will cluster outside unshaded hives because too much shade makes them irritable, especially in the summer.
- 90% of Honey Bees Species Live In Solitary
Considering the above facts, it is surprisingly an irony that majority of bee species do not live in colonies and are not social as we all thought, 90% of them live in solitary. This means that a single female bee can construct a nest by herself, make a couple of cells and lay an egg in each cell after a mating spree. She will then gather food (nectar and pollen) for her offspring. Examples of solitary bees include cuckoo bees, sweat bees, wool-carding bees, white faced bees and carpenter bees. They are considered as important pollinators due to their advanced pollen collecting structures.