Thursday, April 19, 2012

Today's Trivia – Honey Bees

"Unique among all God's creatures, only the honey bee improves the environment and preys not on any other species."
- Royden Brown -

- Honey bees represent only a small fraction of the approximately 20,000 known species of bees. Currently, there are only seven recognized species with a total of 44 subspecies.

- With more and more urban development and the growth of cities, there is less and less foraging available to bees.

- Honey bees account for 80% of all insect pollination. Without such pollination, we would see a significant decrease in the yield of fruits and vegetables.

- Honey bees are the only insects that produce food for humans.

- Bees collect 66 lbs of pollen per year, per hive.

- The honey bee uses pollen as a food. Pollen is one of the richest and purest natural foods.

- Honey is used by the bees for food all year round. There are many types, colors and flavors of honey, depending upon its nectar source.

- The bees make honey from the nectar they collect from flowering trees and plants. Honey is an easily digestible, pure food. It is 80% sugars and 20% water.

- All honey bees live in colonies where the worker bees will sting intruders as a form of defense, and alarmed bees will release a pheromone that stimulates the attack response in other bees.

- Secreted from glands, beeswax is used by the honey bee to build honey comb. It is used by humans in drugs, cosmetics, artists' materials, furniture polish and candles.

- Collected by honey bees from trees, the sticky resin propolis is mixed with wax to make a sticky glue. The bees use this to seal cracks and repair their hive. It is used by humans as a health aid, and as the basis for fine wood varnishes.

- Honey bee larvae are initially fed with royal jelly (a secretion from the glands in the hypopharynx of worker bees that is made of digested pollen and honey or nectar), later switching to honey and pollen.

- When worker bees decide to make a new queen, either because the old one is weakening, or was killed, they choose several small larvae and feed them with copious amounts of royal jelly in specially constructed queen cells. This type of feeding triggers the development of queen morphology, including the fully developed ovaries needed to lay eggs.

- Although sharp pain and some swelling and itching are natural reactions to a honey bee sting, a small percentage of individuals are highly allergic to bee venom. "Bee venom therapy" is widely practiced overseas and by some in the USA to address health problems such as arthritis, neuralgia, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and even MS.

- Honey bees are not native to the USA. They are European in origin, and were brought to North America by the early settlers.

- Honey bees are not aggressive by nature, and will not sting unless protecting their hive from an intruder or are unduly provoked.

- Honey bees represent a highly organized society, with various bees having very specific roles during their lifetime.

- There is only one queen per hive. The queen is the only bee with fully developed ovaries. A queen bee can live for 3-5 years. The queen mates only once with several male (drone) bees, and will remain fertile for life. She lays up to 2500 eggs per day. Fertilized eggs become female (worker bees) and unfertilized eggs become male (drone bees).

- The vast majority of bees in a hive are worker bees, and all workers are sterile females. These bees live for 4-9 months during the winter season, but only 6 weeks during the busy summer months (they literally work themselves to death).They take on a series of specific chores during their lifetime: housekeeper; nursemaid; construction worker; grocer; undertaker; guard; and finally, after 21 days they become a forager collecting pollen and nectar.

- The worker bee has a barbed stinger that results in her death following stinging; therefore, she can only sting once.

- A hive consists of 20,000 - 30,000 bees in the winter, and over 60,000 - 80,000 bees in the summer.

- In cold climates honey bees stop flying when the temperature drops below 10°C (50°F) and crowd into the central area of the hive to form a "winter cluster". The worker bees huddle around the queen bee at the center of the cluster, shivering in order to keep the center between 27 °C (81 °F) at the start of winter (during the broodless period) and 34 °C (93 °F) once the queen resumes laying. The worker bees rotate through the cluster from the outside to the inside so that no bee gets too cold. The outside edges of the cluster stay at about 8–9 °C (46–48 °F). The colder the weather is outside, the more compact the cluster becomes.

- During the winter, honey bees consume their stored honey to produce body heat. The amount of honey consumed during the winter is a function of winter length and severity but ranges in temperate climates from 30 to 100 lbs.

- Male bees are kept on standby during the summer for mating with a virgin queen. Because the drone has a barbed sex organ, mating is followed by death of the drone. There are only 300-3000 drones in a hive. The drone does not have a stinger. Because they are of no use in the winter, drones are expelled from the hive in the autumn.

- Honey bees have 6 legs, 2 compound eyes made up of thousands of tiny lenses (one on each side of the head), 3 simple eyes on the top of the head, 2 pairs of wings, a nectar pouch, and a stomach.

- Honey bees have 170 odorant receptors, compared with only 62 in fruit flies and 79 in mosquitoes. Their exceptional olfactory abilities include kin recognition signals, social communication within the hive, and odor recognition for finding food. Their sense of smell is so precise that it could differentiate hundreds of different floral varieties and tell whether a flower carried pollen or nectar from meters away.

- The honey bee's wings stroke incredibly fast, about 200 beats per second, thus making their famous, distinctive buzz.

- A honey bee can fly for up to six miles, and as fast as 15 miles per hour.

- The average worker bee produces about 1/12th teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.

- A hive of bees will fly 90,000 miles, the equivalent of three orbits around the earth to collect 1 kg of honey.

- It takes one ounce of honey to fuel a bee’s flight around the world.

- A honey bee visits 50 to 100 flowers during a collection trip.

- The bee's brain is oval in shape and only about the size of a sesame seed, yet it has remarkable capacity to learn and remember things and is able to make complex calculations on distance traveled and foraging efficiency.

- It is estimated that 1100 honey bee stings are required to be fatal.

- To make one pound of honey, the bees in the colony must visit 2 million flowers, fly over 55,000 miles and will be the lifetime work of approximately 300 bees.

- A honeycomb cell has six sides.

- Honey bee workers perform a series of movements, often referred to as the "waggle dance," to teach other workers the location of food sources more than 150 meters from the hive. Scout bees fly from the colony in search of pollen and nectar. If successful in finding good supplies of food, the scouts return to the hive and "dances" on the honeycomb.

Below is an inside view of a honey bee hive. It includes remarkable close-up footage of the honey bee’s “waggle dance”.


  1. Interesting about the bees not being native to USA. I wonder what was the main pollinator for flowers before the bees came?

    1. I know. I'd have to look it up and see. It's strange considering how much we really on bees for pollination.