25 Surprising Facts About Honey Bees (You’ll Be Amazed!)

Did you know honey bees have hair on their eyeballs? Just look at the picture!

Everyone has seen honey bees in their own backyards foraging for nectar and pollen. We all know they are collecting the nectar to take back to the hive to be processed into honey. But that is about all most of us know.

Here are 25 isolated pieces of information about honey bees that most of us do not know. I find them fascinating, hope you do too.

1. Honey Bees Have Hair On Their Eyeballs

Honey bees are one of the very few lifeforms on earth to have hair on their eyes.

Most honey bee aficionados concur these hairs help the honey bee stay on course in windy conditions.

In one experiment investigators removed the hairs from the honey bee’s eyes and the honey bee lost the ability to navigate effectively.

There are a few more speculations regarding how the honey bee benefits from eyeball hairs, however, the overwhelming belief speculates there is a strong hair/wind relationship.

2. Honey bees are the only insect in the world that produces a product that humans eat.

Insects are eaten around the globe, sometimes as a delicacy, but honey bees are the only insect that makes a food eaten by humans.

Honey will never spoil. Honey has been found that is over 2,000 years old.

Honey is the only substance that contains everything needed to sustain life, including water, (although I know some guys that think pizza is a strong contender :-).

3. It takes 12 worker honey bees their entire life to produce one teaspoon of honey.

Putting 1 teaspoon of honey in your morning coffee would take 4,380 honey bees their entire lives to provide a 1 year’s supply of coffee sweetener.

To receive the maximum health benefits of honey, one must consume about 6 teaspoons of honey daily (10 teaspoons of honey daily is the maximum recommended consumption).

Consuming honey at the recommended quantity to receive maximum health benefits takes 20,280 honey bees their entire lives to produce a one year’s supply of honey.

4. Only infertile female honey bees make honey.

Only the worker bees in the hive make honey and all worker bees are female.

Drone bees (male bees) do not make honey; their only reason for existence is for mating with a Queen bee.

Queen bees do not make honey; her only job is to lay eggs.

5. Honey bees fly the equivalent of 75 times around the world to produce 50 pounds of honey.

To produce that amount of honey would require the honey bees to have flown 2,250,000 miles, the equivalent of 75 times around the earth or about 5 round trips to the moon. No wonder their wings wear out!

Harvesting 50 pounds of honey is fairly conservative harvest estimate for one beehive.

6. Honey bees have “pollen suitcases” on their legs.

While a foraging honey bee is out collecting nectar to make honey, they also gather pollen and stuff it into their “pollen suitcases” on their legs to be taken back to the hive and processed into bee bread for rearing their young.

Pollen also collects on the honey bee’s hairy body and is transmitted to other flowers on the bee’s foraging trip for pollination of the next flowers the bee visits.

A bee will only visit the same kind of flower on any one foraging trip.
Pollen still sticking to the hair on the bee’s body will be removed and stored by “grooming bees” in the hive, along with the pollen in the bee’s “pollen suitcases”.

7. All “worker bees” are female and are born to work.

A worker bee larva develops into a full grown (although somewhat small) adult while still in the birthing cell.

She must chew out of the birthing cell by herself and the first job on her schedule is to clean up her birthing cell and ready it for the Queen to lay another egg in that cell.

8. Worker bee’s job description changes as she ages. The Drone, Guard, and Queen bee’s job description do not!

The two types of broad categories of worker bees are hive bees and foraging bees.

Hive bees have various jobs as they age such as maid bees, nurse bees, construction bees, processor bees, and even heater bees to keep the developing eggs warm.

A guard bee is a guard bee for their entire life! It’s in their DNA.

There are many job categories in the hive but a foraging bee is the last stage of life of the worker bees.

9. Drone (male) bees are euthanized every winter!

The Drone bee’s only job is to fertilize the Queen bee, which occurs in the spring.

By fall the opportunity to mate with a Queen is gone and he is only hanging around the hive consuming resources, so the worker bees drive him out of the hive into the wild for certain death.

The drone bee is the result of the Queen bee laying an unfertilized egg in a brood cell. There are about one Drone bee for every 100 worker bees in the hive.

10. A Drone bee’s penis breaks off and glows after the first time he has sex! Ouch!!

On completion of copulation, the drone does a “backflip” to disengage from the queen but this maneuver breaks off the Drone’s endophallus (penis equivalent).

Oddly, the endophallus begins to glow within the Queen bee’s sting chamber. This glowing endophallus becomes a beckon for other drones to find and mate with the new Queen bee too.

11. The Queen bee only has sex one day in her life.

The virgin Queen leaves the hive, flies to a “drone concentration area” high in the air and mates with multiple drones in mid-flight.

The average number of drones to mate with the queen in her mating flight is about 12 drones, but can be up to 40 different drones.

The Queen bee stores the drone semen in an internal organ for later fertilization. She will collect about 5 million sperm to fertilize the 2,000 eggs she will lay daily.

12. Honey bees really do have knees.

Did you ever hear the expression “that’s the bee’s knee”; an expression to express a person’s high degrees of appreciation?

The difference between a honeybee’s knee and a human’s knee is the skeletal type.

A human has an internal skeletal system with all bones within the body.
A honeybee has an exoskeleton with all bones on the outside of the body.

Whether or not a bee has “true” knees depends on your definition of “knee”.
If the definition is “an articulation between a Femur and a Tibia”, then the answer is yes.

If the definition is “an articulation between a Femur and Tibia with a Patella embedded in a tendon crossing that joint” then the answer is no.

13. A bee’s life expectancy is dependent on the “type” of honey bee they are.

Have you ever hear the old saying “You are what you eat”? Diet is what differentiates a Queen Bee from a worker bee or a drone.

An egg intended to be raised as a Queen is deposited in a special “Queen Cell” and is exclusively heavily fed “Royal Jelly” by the worker bees.
A Queen bee lives between 2 and 5 years.

An egg intended to become a worker bee is also fed Royal Jelly at first, but is quickly switched to a diet of honey (and maybe a little pollen) until emerging from their birth cell as an adult worker bee. A worker honey bee is a sterile female bee.
Worker honey bees live between 25 and 50 days in the summer but can live up to 300 days in the winter

An egg intended to become a Drone bee is also fed honey by the nurse bees, but they are also fed substantial amounts of pollen.
A Drone honey bee lives for about 90 days. Most drone honey bees are driven out of the hive in autumn and left to die. More drones are hatched in the spring in preparation for mating with a Queen bee.

14. Worker bees work themselves to death in the summer. Literally!

The first job of a newly born worker bee is to clean up their own birth cell as soon as they emerge as a fully formed adult.

Chronologically, worker bees complete several job assignment positions before they reach their final job of nectar and pollen collection.
In the course of this nectar and pollen collection assignment, they work so hard they actually wear out their wings and can no longer fly.

Like some human cultures, honeybees that can no longer fly, leave the honeybee community to die in solitude.

15. Honey bee’s reaction to motion is faster than a cat!

A cat has motion detection capabilities about 5 times faster than a human. That is why a cat’s reflexes look so quick.

A honey bee’s motion detection is 6 times faster than a human’s.

Research reveals the honeybee sees motion in as little as 1/300th of a second. A human can detect motion in about 1/50th of a second.

Let’s explain it in terms of watching a motion picture:

High Def motion pictures are at 25 frames a second, so to humans, this appears as uninterrupted motion.

High Def to a honey bee would be so slow it would be like looking at a stack of photos one at a time.

16. Honey bees can’t see red

Unlike humans, honey bees see colors in the ultraviolet light spectrum so they do not see the color red. Red appears as black on the ultraviolet spectrum.

The honey bee’s favorite color flower is violet with a substantially reduced attraction to purple and blue flowers coming in a strong second.

Not surprisingly, violet-colored flowers are the most prolific producers of nectar with purple and blue flowers being the second most prolific nectar producers by a significant amount.

17. Honey bees and hummingbirds collect nectar from different flowers.

Honey bees are not attracted to red, but hummingbirds certainly are, that’s why hummingbird feeders are red.

While colors help keep the competition down between bees and hummingbirds, flowers do much more to keep them from competing with each other.

Flowers developed tubular shape blooms specifically to fit a hummingbirds long beak.

Flowers also make nectar at sugar concentration specific the the bee’s or hummingbird’s preference.

Now that’s the way to be ecologically friendly! Thanks flowers.

18. The number of honey bees living in one hive is the same as the number of humans living in a large town in the United States.

There are about 30,000 to 80,000 honey bees in a hive.
There is only one Queen bee at a time in a hive (kind of like a Mayor).
There are only a few hundred drones (male honey bees) in a hive.
Most hives have about 100 worker bees for every drone.

A Large Town is considered to be between 30,000 and 80,000 residents. To be considered a City requires a population of 100,000 or more residents.

Charleston South Carolina has about a beehive full of people.

19. A honey bee stays home if the temperature is above 100 degrees Fahrenheit or below 50 degrees.

Honey bees do not usually fly when the temperature drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. They will fly in much colder weather for water or cleansing runs.

This is a little curious to me since they keep the internal temperature in the hive at a balmy 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

20. The honey bee is an immigrant to the United States.

Honey bees are not native to the Americas. They were introduced to the United States by settlers in the late 1600’s.

That’s why you see bees identified as Italian bees, Russia bees, German bees, and certainly keep an eye out for those African bees! Really hard workers, but a little on the cranky side.

21. Honey bees are insomniacs!

Honey bees sleep in small cat-naps sometimes lasting only a few seconds. You can’t tell if a honey bee is asleep by seeing if their eyelids are closed because they have no eyelids.

Researches consider the honey bee to be asleep when they are motionless and all their muscles relax. Sometimes so relaxed they fall over.

Researchers have observed some honey bees that have fallen asleep on a flower! Kind of like falling asleep at your desk. Now that is a workaholic!

23. You are more likely to be stung by a honey bee if rain is approaching.

Honey bees do not like the rain and become cranky when rain is approaching, therefore they are more likely to be more aggressive when a storm approaches.

24. Honey bees have personalities, just like humans!

Honey bees display differences in how they view life. Some are more optimistic and some are more pessimistic, according to some bee scientist.

“Robber” bees (a bee from another hive that is trying to steal honey), displays a nervous behaviour, similar to a shoplifter, that attracts the guard bee’s attention. Bad news for the robber bee because shoplifting is a capital crime in a beehive!

25. A honey bee’s nose is its antenna!

Honey bees have a keen sense of smell but it detects odors through its antenna.
Beekeepers try to be odorless when working with their bees. Different odors can attract or aggravate bees.

The beekeeper is trying to be stelth when servicing their beehive so they would never wear cologne or perfume to the hive location.

Happy Beekeeping

Paying It Forward

Robert Donaldson

I am Elizabeth's father, a physical therapist, and someone who has completely landscaped our family home's nearly 1/2 acre lot after losing our home and landscape to the Thomas wildfire in 2017. All landscaping was done to accommodate our wildlife friends, especially the birds and bees.

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