Bees are fascinating creatures. But this goes much further beyond their obvious behaviour and what most people know about them. We decided to put together a collection of facts that boggled our minds.
The nectar of two million flowers produces only half a kilo of honey.
If one bee is to produce that amount of honey it would have to travel 145 000 kilometres. That’s three times the circumference of Earth.
In reality, the average bee’s lifespan (about 6 weeks in their most active summer period) is just enough for it to produce 1/12th teaspoon of honey.
The way bees create their honey hasn’t changed since when the species first appeared. This is the only insect produced food that humans eat.
One collection trip entails visiting fifty to a hundred blossoms.
A honeybee’s range is 10 kilometres from the hive.
A worker bee’s maximum speed is 25 km/h.
The buzzing sound they make is produced by their wings, which beat 190 times per second!
Bees have exceptional memory and learning, despite their brain being the size of a sesame seed. They calculate the distance from the hive by using the sun as a guiding point.
Their optical acuity is simply astounding. Bees actually have 5 eyes. 3 of those are simple but essential as they act as light receptors, helping the bee to keep track of the sun at all times, even during cloudy days.
Their two main eyes are each composed of 6900 facets and are extremely good at perceiving movement. How good? The human eye can perceive movements separated by 1/50th of a second. Bee eyes can detect movements separated by 1/300th of a second! If a bee watches a movie, it would be a very slow slideshow to it.
Honeybees can recognise and remember human faces. Their brains actually make out faces the same way as us – By identifying the shape of parts like eyebrows, ears, nose and put them together to make out the whole face.
The way bees communicate where the good places for foraging are by dancing.
When a honey bee finds a good source of nectar, it returns to the hive and does the “waggle dance“. This explains to the other bees where the spot is by relating its position to the hive and the sun in a particular part of the day.
This dancing is actually incredibly articulate as it explains not only the location but also the fruitfulness of the flower and the potency of the nectar.
In the name of The Queen
The average size of a bee colony is between 20,000 and 60,000 thousand. This depends on the location of the hive and time of year, as bee population waxes and wanes.
The sole purpose of the male bees is to mate with the queen. They don’t do any other work for the hive, hence the term “drone“.
The queen bee has the longest lifespan of up to 5 years, and there is only one such bee in each hive. During the summer months, when the hive has to be the most active, she can lay up to 2500 eggs per day.
Honeybees maintain a constant temperature of 34°C in the hive no matter the season. During the winter they clump together to keep warm and go in almost full hibernation. Worker bees cluster tightly around the queen to insulate her, as she is the most important. In the summer the buzzing of the hive can be heard from a few meters. The reason for this is designated workers that act as air conditioning. They beat vigorously with their wings, fanning the air inside to keep the queen and brood from overheating.
Worker bees serve a variety of different purposes in the hive. What’s fascinating about that is the fact their behaviour is hardwired through brain chemistry. Scout bees will fly far from the hive in search of food. Soldier bees will linger around the hive and protect it with their life. A small per cent of the middle-aged bees serve the role of undertakers, pushing dead bodies out of the hive to prevent it from getting clogged. The brain chemistry is different with each job, but what’s most fascinating is that the brain of regular bees changes each time they take up a different job.
Despite them seeming almost robotic in their organisation, bees actually have personalities. Studies have found that some bees can be adventure seekers, pushing the limits on how far they can fly from the hive, while others are timider preferring instead to gather from the nearest flowers. Some even have displayed a degree of laziness.