Bees are arguably the most important living creature on the planet for our environment and survival. Over thousands of years humans have studied bees and over time we have come to depend on them for life to exist as we know it.
There are literally thousands of facts that exist about bees, so we have created a list off the most unBEElievable, interesting and fun.
- A honey bee colony has about 50,000 bees
More than 99% are infertile female bees (worker bees). At most only few hundred male bees (drones) and just one mother (the queen bee).
- Honey bees live in hives (or colonies). The members of the hive are divided into three types:
Queen: One queen runs the whole hive. Her job is to lay the eggs that will spawn the hive’s next generation of bees. The queen also produces chemicals that guide the behaviour of the other bees. The queen can live up to five years.
Workers: these are all female and their roles are to forage for food (pollen and nectar from flowers), build and protect the hive, clean and circulate air by beating their wings. Workers are the only bees most people ever see flying around outside the hive.
Drones: Several hundred of these male bees live in each hive during the spring and summer. But come winter, when the hive goes into survival mode, the drones are kicked out!
- A queen bee will only mate once in its lifetime
This is usually in the first 10 days of its life when it will go on a mating flight to mate with about 15 to 20 drones in mid-air. It will then store about 100 million sperm in its spermatheca for its entire life.
- A queen bee can lay twice it’s body weight in eggs each day
She is busiest in the summer months, when she can lay up to 2,500 eggs a day!
- The drones only purpose in life is to mate with a queen bee
It does not work or forage at all and can not sting.
- Drones do not have a father
But have only a mother and a grandfather. The drone is created from an unfertilised egg and inherits all its genetics from its mother and its grandfather. This is known as parthenogenesis.
- If the queen bee dies the worker bees create a new queen bee.
They do this by selecting a young larva (the newly hatched baby insects) and by feeding it special food called ‘royal jelly’. Consuming the royal jelly turns the larva into a fertile queen.
- Worker bees communicate with a dance
Whilst all bees produce and sense pheromones to communicate, only the worker bees dance to communicate with other workers. This is known as the waggle dance. It’s not actually a dance move at all, rather a clever way of communicating between themselves to tell their nestmates where to go to find the best source of food. When the worker returns to the hive, she rapidly shakes her body from side to side in a figure-of-eight and waggles in a certain direction to tell worker bees which direction and how far food sources can be found. It took researchers two years to decode the waggle dance!
- Each bee has 170 odorant receptors, which means they have one serious sense of smell!
Scent is important for bees. They use this to communicate within the hive and to recognise different types of flowers when looking for food. A study has found that bees are better at learning new odours (smells) in the morning.
- Bees also have extraordinary tasting capability
No wonder they produce something that tastes so good! Honey bees use their front feet, tongue, jaw and antennae to taste with! The antennae on honey bees are very sensitive and important for tasting things. The tips of the antennae have more than 300 taste sensors!
- Bees see blue better than red
This enables bees to see ultraviolet light and use this to help navigate their way around and assist identifying flowers as they pollinate. Yet bees cannot distinguish red colours well at all.
- Bees have 4 wings, 6 legs and 5 eyes
The two wings each side hook together to form one larger pair when flying and then unhook when they’re not flying. There 5 eyes consist of 3 simple eyes and 2 compound eyes made up of around 7000 facets or lenses each.
- A bee flaps its’ wings up to 200 times per second
This produces the familiar bee buzz. This rapid flapping produces a small positive charge that attracts pollen to its furry body from flowers that are negatively charged naturally.
- Bees have adapted to live in almost all locations
Honey bees are often thought of as living in wooden bee hives made by humans, but in fact a honey bee colony in the wild will naturally choose to build a nest in cavities, such as a tree hollow or cave – or around homes, they may even nest in an unused chimney.
Marshes, shingle, sand dunes, soft cliffs, heathlands, wetlands, chalk grasslands, quarries, gravel pits, sea walls and even post-industrial land.
- Honey is produced as food stores for the hive during winter.
Because they are so efficient they produce 2-3 time more honey than they need, so we get to enjoy the tasty treat, too!
- A honey bee will produce about 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in its’ lifetime
Over its five to six week lifetime worker bees will collectively visit thousands of flowers to make just 1 twelfth of a teaspoon of honey. The total amount depends on where the bees live and from which flowers bees are able to forage.
- Bees collect and produce more than just honey
These include many things used by bees and harvested by humans including propolis, pollen, beeswax, royal jelly and bee venom. Check out all our bee products here.