10 Interesting Facts About Honey Bees

By Sharon Omondi on October 29 2019 in Environment

Honey bee on blue aster flower.
Honey bee on blue aster flower.

Honey bees are flying insects that are native to Eurasia. They are popular for playing a major role in agriculture through pollination, providing sweet honey used by most people, and a unique working culture. Some bees such as the Africanized bees (killer bees) are much more aggressive and dangerous. Below are 10 unique facts about these bees;

1. Queen honey bee is capable of laying up to 2,500 eggs per day

Queen honey bee’s sole responsibility is to lay eggs. Within 20 days of her getting out of her queen shell, the bee goes out to mate which is a once in a lifetime venture. During mating, she gathers sperms from 12 to 15 drones to ensure her colony is genetically healthy and diverse. After mating, the queen bee lays 1500 to 2500 eggs daily which amounts to over 1.5 million eggs in her lifetime.

2. Honey bees communicate through a complex symbolic language called the waggle dance

Honey bees have one of the most complex languages in the world. They utilize all the one million neurons in their little brains to communicate using an intricately choreographed dance known as the waggle dance. The waggle dance enables the bees to direct each other to places where they can find food as well as other forms of communication. Besides the dance, the bees also use odor cues as they have over 170 odorant receptors within their bodies.

3. One colony of bees may be inhabited by approximately 60,000 bees

The population of the honey bee colonies ranges from 20,000 to 60,000 bees. Every bee has a specific function such as queen’s attending workers, construction workers, foragers, nursing bees, foragers, and guard bees. Foragers are in charge of bringing in food whereas guard bees provide security at the entrance of the beehives. The queen’s attending workers bathe and feed the queen honey bee. Some bees primarily take care of the young bees who are known as the nursing bees. Construction workers are responsible for building the beeswax.

4. Bees maintain the temperature of the hive at a constant of 93 degrees Fahrenheit

During the cold season, the bees form tight groups around the queen to keep her warm and protect her from the cold temperatures experienced outside the hive. On the other hand, during summer when the temperatures outside the hive are quite high, the bees flap their wings resulting in the circulation of cool air in the hive. Hence, the bees ensure the temperatures in the hive do not fluctuate at any given time or season.

5. The food consumed by the honey bees is defined by their roles in the colony

The queen only feeds on royal jelly which is a milky substance that is produced by mixing honey, nectar, digested pollen, and a chemical provided by the nursing bees. This food makes the queen honey bee very fertile. On the other hand, the worker honey bees (usually female) feed on fermented pollen and honey. The food which they consume helps in shrinking their ovaries since they will not need them as the queen bee is the only bee tasked with laying of eggs.

6. Honey is believed to have medicinal properties

Honey is used to treat open wounds as well as preserve dead bodies. The ancient Babylonians buried their dead in honey. Besides, one of the greatest men to have ever lived called Alexander the Great was also embalmed in a coffin filled with honey.

7. Honey rarely gets spoilt

Honey which is harvested from the honeycombs and utilized by humans rarely gets spoilt. The reason for this is that honey is hygroscopic and also has a low pH. Being hygroscopic means it contains little or no moisture content which is usually the breeding grounds for bacteria and microorganisms. Thus, with a low pH of 3 to 4.5 and low water content, honey does not get spoilt. The oldest honey to have ever been discovered was 5,000 years old. However, it should be noted that if the honey is exposed to moisture then it will get spoilt. Thus good storage of the honey is important.

8. Male bees comprise only 15% of the population of a colony

In most animal families, males are the dominant species. However, in the case of the honey bees, the females are the dominant species. The male bees, called drones, come from unfertilized eggs and comprise only 15% of the total bees in a hive. The primary role of the drones is to provide sperm to the queen bee. After mating, they die. Besides, males that have not yet mated live in the colonies during summer and spring doing nothing other than eating and resting. However, when winter comes these males are kicked out as a way of conserving the little food available and increase chances of survival of the other bees.

9.Bees maintain very high standards of cleanliness

Bees are among the cleanest animals that ever existed. They keep the hives very clean to ensure that the food is not contaminated and that no dirt poses any threat to the nursing young ones. It is only the queen bee that is allowed the luxury of defecating inside the hive. Even so, there are designated bees responsible for cleaning after her. Besides, some bees are assigned the “undertaker” role which involves carrying away any bee that dies within the hive. Thus, bees work diligently to ensure that the hive is super clean.

10. Foragers visit about 2,000 flowers daily to obtain food

Honey bees feed on pollen and nectar which the foragers collect from flowers and transport them to the beehive. On one trip, a bee visits 50 to 100 flowers which translates to 20 trips per day given that they visit 2,000 flowers daily. The total distance covered by the bees in their daily trips is slightly above 500 meters. The foragers work so hard that they can only exist for 3-6 weeks as they get worn out and die. During their trips, honey bees use the sun and polarized light (in the absence of the sun) as their compass direction.

More in Environment