Bees are amazing insects. We have relied on bees to pollinate many of our crops and it’s estimated that honey bees pollinate a third of all the food crops consumed by humans. Despite their uniqueness and close association with human beings, there are many facts about the bees that you may not know about.
Below are 10 fascinating facts about bees:
- A Single Colony Can Contain Up To 60,000 Bees
Yes, that’s right, one colony can have up to 60,000 bees. They are very organized with each member of the colony playing their specific role. There are construction workers who build beeswax foundation, where the queen bees lay eggs and it’s also the place where workers store honey. Nurse bees are responsible for caring for the young ones. The queen bee also has her attendant workers who feed and bathe her. There are guard bees who keep guard while the undertakers carry away the dead bees from the hive. Foragers are responsible for collecting enough pollen and nectar which is used to feed the whole colony.
- Worker Honeybees Are All Females
All the workers in the hive are females. The males only make up about 15 percent of the population in most colonies. You can recognize males from the stinger. Their only job is to mate, and they don’t even feed themselves. In the fall or at the end of the mating season, the males (also known as drone bees) are kicked out of the hive to avoid drainage of resources and also because they are no longer useful.
- A Queen Bee Stores A Lifetime Supply of Sperm
A queen can live for 3 to 5 years but the worker bees only live for 6 to 8 weeks. However, the queens biological clock ticks faster. She must mate within 20 days after emerging from the cell and if she fails to do so within those days, she will lose her ability to mate. If she is successful, she mates with 12 to 15 males (drones) to ensure diversity and genetic health of her colony. The queen does not need to mate again, and she stores the sperm in her spermatheca throughout her entire life and uses it to fertilize her eggs.
- The Queen Lay Around 2000 Eggs Each Day
The queen can start laying eggs 48 hours after mating. She is a prolific egg layer and her own body weight can mainly be produced in eggs in one day. She has no time for anything else besides laying eggs and the worker bees take care of all her other daily needs like her feeding and grooming. In her lifetime, she can lay up to one million eggs.
- There Is Just One Queen Per Hive
There is only one queen in a hive. Even though the hive can produce more than one queen, they will fight to the death until there is only a single queen remaining. The larvae that produce a queen depend on what the workers feed them. The larvae that become queens are fed on royal jelly only. The royal jelly has many nutrients and vitamins and is secreted through the worker bees’ heads and fed into the larvae through their worker’s antennas. Other larvae that are destined to be workers or drones are fed on honey and fermented pollen (bee bread). If the queen dies, the workers will create an ’emergency queen’ by changing the larvae diet and feeding them exclusively on royal jelly.
- Honeybees Are Very Clean
They are clean and neat freaks when it comes to maintaining their hive. They will immediately clean the hive if they detect any amount of dirt. It’s only the queen who has her bathroom inside the hive because she never leaves the hive and the workers take care of any mess the queen might leave as she lays eggs. Almost all honeybees are very careful, and they’ll make sure they die outside the hive when their time comes.
- Honeybees Use Complex Language to Communicate
Honeybees use very complex language. Their brain, which is only a cubic millimeter, pack close to a million neurons which they use exhaustively. Foragers share detailed information with other foragers after finding flowers and navigating back home. They also use their complex language to perform different roles. In 1973, Karl von Frisch won a Nobel Peace Prize for cracking the honeybees’ language code which was given the name ‘the waggle dance’.
- Beeswax Are Produced from Special Glands On The Abdomen
The beeswax is made by the youngest workers in the colony and then used to construct the honeycomb. The wax droplets are produced from the eight paired glands on the base of the abdomen and when exposed to air, they harden into flakes. The workers soften the flakes using their mouths for them to be effective construction material.
- The Colonies Have a Distinct Odor
Each colony has a distinct odor and that is how they determine whether the workers belong to their colony or not. Beekeepers assimilate the colonies by putting workers from different colonies in a single container. This way, their smell will mix. They will then not recognize each other as enemies and they will work together again to produce honey.
- One Honeybee Produce 1/12 Of A Teaspoon in Its Lifetime
There is power in numbers and it takes 556 honeybee workers and about 2 million flowers to make one pound of honey. To feed and sustain the whole colony during winter, the workers must produce 60 pounds of honey from spring to fall and it’ll take tens of thousands of workers to do so. One worker will pollinate 50-100 flowers in a single day before heading home.