“Do all bees make honey?” That is a question people often ask us. The answer is, “No.” There are more than 20,000 species of bees and only one bee, the honey bee (Apis mellifera), makes honey.
The fact that the honey bee is the only bee that makes honey is not the only fun fact about honey bees. There are many more.
Fun Facts About Honey Bees
A colony of honey bees has between 20,000 to 60,000 worker bees. The worker bees are all female and will live for about six weeks in the summer and up to four months in the winter. They never sleep and pretty much work themselves to death. Hence the saying, “busy as a bee.”
Honey bees will flap their wings more than 11,000 times a minute. That’s what gives off the buzzing sound as they fly around.
A worker bee will visit 50-100 flowers to collect pollen and nectar on each collection trip. The average worker bee will produce 1/12 teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.
Honey is the only product produced by insects that people eat. And honey is the only food that has all the substances necessary to sustain life, including water. Plus, honey never spoils and tastes great.
Only the worker bees sting. The male bees (the drones) don’t have stingers and the queen rarely leaves the interior of the hive. She has a stinger that isn’t barbed but the likelihood of a queen bee stinging anyone is pretty slim. Once the bee has stung a person or animal, the bee dies. Needless to say, bees really don’t want to sting anyone.
The worker bees have barbed stingers and even after the bees have flown off to die the stinger will continue pumping until it is removed from the skin. So, the faster you can get the stinger out, the less of a reaction you will have to the sting.
Worker bees make honeycomb which is made of hexagonal shaped cells made from wax. The wax is produced in the wax cells on the worker bee’s abdomen. The bees need to consume eight pounds of honey to produce one pound of wax.
A colony of honey bees has one queen bee. The queen bee can live for five years. She can lay up to 2,500 eggs a day. She has complete control over whether she lays a fertilized egg (female egg) or an unfertilized egg (male egg). What happens if the queen bee dies? Unless the workers raise another queen or the beekeeper brings in another queen, the hive will die.
One way honey bees communicate with each other is by “dancing.” When scout bees find pollen sources they head back to the hive and let the foragers know where the source is by doing a little dance.
A second way bees communicate is by releasing pheromones. Pheromones are chemical substances that when released will affect the other bees. Alarm pheromones tell the bees to defend the colony. Forager bees can release a pheromone that will slow the maturing of young bees so they remain in the nursery longer. An unmated queen will release a pheromone to signal to drones in the area that she is ready to mate.
Pheromones are not just for communicating, though. After mating, the queen’s pheromone changes and it will inhibit the rearing of new queens in the hive and suppress the ovary development of the worker bees causing them to remain sterile. This is because there can only be one queen bee in the hive.
Bees maintain a temperature of 92-93ºF in their brood nest regardless of the outside temperature. In order to stay warm in the winter, the bees will remain in the hive all winter in a tight cluster. In order to cool off in the summer, the bees will hang out on the outside of the hive and use their wings as fans in the hive.
The queen’s pheromone is distributed throughout the hive by the worker bees. This pheromone tells the workers that all is well with the queen and they can continue their work.
5 Fun Facts About Honey Bees:
|A colony of honey bees
has 20,000 – 60,000
|Honey bees flap their
wings more than 11,000
times a minute
|Worker bees will visit 50-100
flowers to collect pollen
& nectar on each collection trip
|The average worker bee will produce
1/12 teaspoon of
honey in her lifetime
|The queen bee can live
for 5 years, and can lay up to
2,500 eggs a day.
Every hive has its own unique scent. This is partly how a returning bee can tell what hive he needs to return to on a honey bee farm where there are many hives fairly close together. This is also how the guard bees can tell if the returning bee belongs in their hive.
Male bees (drones) don’t have stingers and don’t do any work. Their one job is to leave the hive and mate with a queen from another hive. This ensures that their queen’s genetics will continue in the bee population. Right after mating, the drone dies.
As winter approaches and the workers are putting the finishing touches on their winter preparations, they will kick out all the drones. Since the drones don’t work, they don’t get to stay in the hive for the winter. They end up dying from starvation or exposure.
During the winter, the bees will eat the honey that they made and stored all summer long. This is why it’s important to leave plenty of honey for the hive if you harvest honey in the fall. You can also harvest honey in the spring when the nectar flow begins and the bees are not dependent on the honey stores for food.
Honey bees are responsible for pollinating over 80% of fruits, vegetables and seed crops in the United States. This fact alone shows why it’s important to learn how to raise bees and become a small-scale beekeeper.
Next time someone asks you, “Do all bees make honey?” you can share all kinds of fascinating facts about honey bees with them.
What are some of your favorite fun facts about honey bees?