In order to enjoy the sweet taste of honey, it takes a lot of busy bees! Bees are incredibly smart and organized, and each one knows its place in the hierarchy:
All honeybees are social and cooperative insects. A hive’s inhabitants are generally divided into three types.
- Workers are the only bees that most people ever see. These bees are females that are not sexually developed. Workers forage for food (pollen and nectar from flowers), build and protect the hive, clean, circulate air by beating their wings, and perform many other societal functions.
- The queen’s job is simple—laying the eggs that will spawn the hive’s next generation of bees. There is usually only a single queen in a hive. If the queen dies, workers will create a new queen by feeding one of the worker females a special diet of a food called “royal jelly.” This elixir enables the worker to develop into a fertile queen. Queens also regulate the hive’s activities by producing chemicals that guide the behavior of the other bees.
- Male bees are called drones—the third class of honeybee. Several hundred drones live in each hive during the spring and summer, but they are expelled for the winter months when the hive goes into a lean survival mode.
Bees live on stored honey and pollen all winter, and cluster into a ball to conserve warmth. Larvae are fed from the stores during this season and, by spring, the hive is swarming with a new generation of bees. (Source: National Geographic.com)
Fun Facts About Bees
- A Honey Bee is the only insect that produces a food that humans consume (Honey).
- A Honey Bee’s wings move up to 200 rotations in a second,which creates the famous buzzing sound you hear.
- A Honey Bee will visit 50 to 100 flowers in a days work of gathering pollen and nectar.
- The bees in the hive that do all the work are called Worker Bees and they are all females.
- The average life span of a Honey Bee is about 42 days.
- The Drone bees in the hive are all male and they are for reproductive purposes only.
- The Drone Bees (the males) do not have the ability to sting because they were born with out stingers.
Why Are Bees So Important?
Honey bees are so much more important than just for the production of honey! They are imperative to our whole food system:
More Than Honey: Honeybees and Our Food System
The importance of bees to humanity’s long-term survival is impossible to overstate, yet their numbers are plummeting. In the past five years alone, the United States has lost 31 percent of its total bee population.1 Each year – because of climate change, mites, pesticides, colony collapse disorder (CCD), and other reasons that scientists haven’t been able to pinpoint – losses continue to escalate. Last year, beekeepers across the country reported the second highest loss of bee colonies ever.2 Some states, such as Oklahoma, lost up to 63.4 percent of their bees. While the reasons behind the numbers aren’t so straightforward, losing half a colony of honeybees is as devastating as losing half the food we eat.
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