There is so much about bees that is totally fascinating. Each tiny bee is like a miniature robotics machine of intricate and practical intelligence.
Here are a few fun facts you may or may not know about bees that reveals some of their amazing biology and way of life.
Each beehive has just one queen bee and she rules her hive. She relies on scent and pheromones to wield her power. She is physically larger than all the other bees and lives longer, sometimes up to five years. She is like an egg-laying machine, producing around 2,000 eggs daily.
Worker bees have many jobs that are age-dependent, like nursing baby bees, grooming the queen, making and repairing wax honeycomb or guarding the entry. Mortician bees remove dead bees. Foraging for nectar is the last job for the oldest worker bees, since it is the most dangerous.
Where does the phrase “busy as a bee” come from? Bees never stop working from the moment they emerge until they die and are swept off the deck of their hive. Bees may rest at night but they don’t sleep.
This unrelated 6:59-minute video by Animalogic looks at the amazing world of bees:
Bees only leave the hive when it is sunny. They know the polarity of the sun even when it’s cloudy. It’s how they set their internal GPS. Raindrops can be as big as or bigger than bees, so getting hit by one can hurt or even kill a bee.
Bees have heightened senses. Their sense of smell is 100 times more powerful than human smell to detect pollen and nectar. A bee’s brain is the size of a sesame seed, but they learn fast and have good memory. They have 2 stomachs. One digests food, the other carries nectar. They have 5 eyes. You can see two of them, but 3 smaller ones are in the center of their forehead. Bees also have long tongues like a straw, called proboscis that siphon nectar from flowers.
Bees can be trained to detect land mines, and researchers would like to train them to detect cancerous tumors.
The honeybee is the only insect that produces food eaten by humans. Honey. Making 1 teaspoon of honey takes 12 bees and making 1 pound of honey takes just under 1,200 bees. To make that 1 pound of honey, the bees must visit 2 million flowers and pollinate those 2 million flowers. Doing this takes 55,000 miles of flying, which is like circling the Earth twice.
Over one-third of food consumed by humans is from bee pollination during their nectar and pollen collecting. An incredible 80% of plants on Earth have been pollinated by bees.
Summer worker bees live only 6-8 weeks, but winter bees have different biology and a less exhausting life and can live up to 6 months.
Bees alert other bees in the hive to a great nectar find by doing a “waggle dance.” For close locations they dance in a circle, for locations farther away than a football field, they dance the figure eight. The bee also gives directions based on the angle of the sun. The more excited the bee is, the bigger or richer the food source is.
Scientists are fascinated by bees, and there are countless ongoing studies about them. As we learn more about this glorious insect, we will share it with you here. Bee happy!