Busy Bees – Life in the Hive

Bee Collecting PollenWe’ve talked before about leafcutter ants and their amazing societal structure. Read about them here. Today we’re going to talk about honey bees and how life inside the hive works, as well as some interesting honey bee facts that you might not know.

One hive may have anywhere from 20,000 to 60,000 bees. The majority of these bees are female, and there is only one queen. The hive is at its largest during the summer months, when there are more opportunities to collect nectar. During this time, the queen may lay as many as 2,500 eggs per day.

 

Large Hive of BeesHoney bees fall into one of four classes: the queen, a nurse, a forager, or a drone. Drones are all males. They carry only one set of chromosomes and their job is to fertilize the eggs that the queen lays. If the queen lays an unfertilized egg, the bee that hatches will be female. If she lays an already fertilized egg, that bee will be male. She has control over this process. The nurses look after the newly hatched bees and the eggs. Nurses tend to be the younger bees. They are responsible for keeping the eggs clean and feeding honey and pollen to the larvae. The foragers are the ones who you will see out and about. They collect pollen in order to make honey. Bees of any age can be a forager.

 

Two Bees on FlowerForagers collect nectar from around 50 to 100 flowers during one trip out of the hive. They may fly up to 15 miles per hour as they zoom between the hive and the flowers. Some bees have been recorded at flying 20 miles per hour. A bee’s wings can beat up to 200 times a second, and that rapid movement, like a hummingbird’s wings, creates their signature buzzing sound. Each hive of bees has a unique smell that other bees can use to identify them by.

And, as you probably know, their collection of nectar is vital to the well-being on an ecosystem and the planet as a whole. While visiting all those different flowers, they carry pollen on their fuzzy bodies and cross-pollinate different flower plants, which would have not come into contact with one another without the help of the bees. Some cities have made strides in creating intentional spaces for bees to pollinate, such as flowerbeds atop bus stations or creating new park spaces.

And along with being sweet and tasty, honey is special not only for the bees themselves but for humans, too. Honey is the only food made by insects that humans eat, and the only food we know of to contain the antioxidant pinocembrin, which increases brain function.

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