Too often people tend to think of bees as being all the same. Consequently they lump honeybees in with wasps, yellowjackets and hornets. Honey bees are relatively docile. I’ve spent the better part of two decades in close quarters with them while picking raspberries and have yet to be stung. Like any wild critter they will become defensive around their home the beehive. Even a swarm (the natural way honeybees create a new hive) will be quite docile, though the huge cloud of bees may appear threatening, but its actually one of natures most amazing feats. If you find a swarm of bees or a hive, you can call your local extension service who already has a list of people willing to come remove the bees. Some people will spray them with chemicals to kill them but I would encourage you not to. They play a very important part in our food supply. Below are some interesting acts about the honeybee that you may not have known.
1. Bees are the only insect that produces a food eaten by humans.
2. Honey is the only food that includes all the substances necessary to sustain life, including enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and water; and it’s the only food that contains “pinocembrin”, an antioxidant associated with improved brain function.
3. Honey bees have 170 odorant receptors, compared with just 62 in fruit flies and 79 in mosquitoes. Their exceptional olfactory abilities include kin recognition signals, social communication within the hive, and odor recognition for finding food. Their sense of smell is so precise that it can differentiate hundreds of different floral varieties and tell whether a flower carries pollen or nectar from yards away.
4. The honey bee’s wings stroke amazingly fast, about 200 beats per second, thus making their famous, distinctive buzz. A honey bee can fly for up to six miles, and as fast as 15 miles per hour.
5. The average worker bee produces about 1/12th teaspoon of honey in her lifetime. A hive of bees will fly 90,000 miles, the equivalent of three orbits around the earth to collect a little more than 2 pounds of honey.
6. Honeybee visit 50 to 100 flowers during a nectar collecting trip.
7. A colony of bees consists of 20,000-60,000 honeybees and one queen. Worker honey bees are female, live for about 6 weeks and do all the work. The queen bee can live up to 5 years and is the only bee that lays eggs. She is the busiest in the summer months, when the hive needs to be at its maximum strength, and lays up to 2500 eggs per day.
8. Only worker bees sting, and only if they feel threatened. They die once they sting. Queens have a stinger, but they don’t leave the hive to help defend it.
9. During winter, honey bees do not hibernate. They feed on the honey they collected during the warmer months. To stay warm they form a tight cluster in their hive to keep the queen and themselves warm and maintain a temperature of about 92 degrees.
So the next time you see a honeybee, take a moment to marvel over what an amazing little creature they are.