Amazing Facts About Honey Bees

Honey bees are the world’s leading pollinating insects, helping with crop growth and food production. Bees have special adaptations, such as pollen baskets, to collect nectar to produce honey.

Jul 22, 2023byLisa Szymanski
facts honey bees

Bees are well known for producing delicious honey, but they are also responsible for pollinating just over 30% of the world’s crops. Without these busy creatures, much of the global food supply would cease to exist. Honey bees have incredible adaptations to help them pollinate, from taste sensors on their feet to carrying pollen on their back legs. To better understand these complex insects, this article delves into their anatomy, the ways they pollinate plants, and how they make honey. Let’s explore some amazing facts about honey bees.

The Hair on a Bee Carries Pollen

bee pollen basket
Bees can carry pollen all over their bodies.

Bees belong to the Hymenoptera group of insects, which includes wasps, bumblebees, and ants. There are different bee species across the world, but the most common is the Western honey bee. Honey bees are golden brown in color, with brown to black stripes that cover the abdomen. These stripes are meant to warn predators of their sting. The hard-working pollinators have six legs and hair covering their bodies and eyes. The tiny hairs on the eyes of the honey bee are perfectly spaced to carry bits of pollen, preventing it from sticking to their eyes. They can see colors such as blue, green, and ultraviolet but cannot see red.

The Lifespan of a Honey Bee is Seasonal

honey bee
A honey bee explores its surroundings.

The longevity of a honey bee depends on the season. A worker bee will live for 6 to 8 weeks in the summer as they’re active all day and night, which shortens their lifespan. A winter bee is a worker that matures towards the end of summer and the start of fall and can live up to 6 months. During winter, bee colonies do not hibernate and instead work to keep the hive at around 95 degrees Fahrenheit for the survival of the young. Bees vibrate their wings to keep the hive warm and eat the honey they have hoarded during the spring and summer for energy.

Bees Communicate with Chemicals

honey bee colony
A busy bee colony.

A single hive can contain between 50 000 and 60 000 bees, and all of them need to work together to manage the colony. To maintain communication, bees release a unique chemical called pheromones. The distinct odor is used to attract forager bees to the hive or alert the colony to threats. Bees are known to do a dance to inform the colony of food and preferred hive locations.

All Worker Bees are Females

bee on flower
A worker bee collects nectar from a flower.

An amazing fact about honey bees is that worker or forager bees are female and have stingers, while drones do not have stingers. A drone is a male bee twice the size of a worker bee, reaching 22 mm in length. The worker bee is much smaller, reaching between 11 mm and 14 mm, but is far more active than the drones. The function of a drone bee is to reproduce with the queen; they have no other purpose. Busy worker bees, on the other hand, have the tasks of feeding their queen, collecting pollen, and producing honey. They will travel up to 5 miles in search of food, water, and resources to maintain the hive.

Queen Bees are the Largest Bees

queen bee in hive
A single queen bee rules the colony.

The queens are the largest bees in the hive, reaching 25 mm in length. Queen bees start as worker bee larvae, but the difference between becoming an heir to the throne and a regular bee is in their diet. Future queen larvae are fed protein-rich royal jelly called bees’ milk, whereas worker larvae are fed a pollen-based diet. Within 2 weeks, the new queens will emerge from their cells, but only one will take her place as the hive’s leader. Queens are raised in special royal cells that are vertical and oblong-shaped, but these cells are only built when a new queen is needed. Colonies will raise queen bee larvae when their existing queen dies or is ready to swarm. Once the queen bee is established in the hive and has mated with a drone, she can lay up to 2000 eggs daily.

Bees Eat Nectar to Make Honey

bees and honeycomb
Bees store honey in the cells of the comb.

During pollination, bees transfer pollen from one flower to another, fertilizing plants. Each bee has a special pollen basket located on its back feet that can store more than 30% of its body weight in pollen. To make honey, the female worker bees consume nectar they obtain from flowers. Upon returning to the hive, the nectar is regurgitated from the bee’s stomach into the cells of the comb, where it becomes honey.

Honey Bees are Fast Fliers and Important for Food Production

honey bee pollinating flower
A forager bee is flying to collect pollen.

A bee can fly as fast as 20 mph when foraging for food in warm temperatures. The bees’ double pair of wings helps them get around at top speed. They have taste sensors on their front feet and antennae to detect and collect nectar from flowers.

Bees that pollinate crops can improve the size and yield of fruits and vegetables by up to 60%. The tiny pollinators play a vital role in maintaining global ecosystems and are found on every continent, excluding Antarctica. Owing to habitat loss, pesticides, and competition with other insect species, bee populations across the world are rapidly declining.

Lisa Szymanski
byLisa Szymanski

Lisa is a wildlife enthusiast who enjoys hiking and gardening and has four years of experience volunteering at pet shelters. She is the proud mom of two dogs, a Pitbull named Ragnar, a Boerboel named Blueberry, and four feisty chickens, or as she calls them, the \"queens of the yard,\" Goldie, Gray, Peaches, and Brownie.