16 AMAZING FACTS
YOU NEED TO KNOW
Bees play a vital role in keeping life going on this planet. You could call them the VIPs of the insect world – Very Important Pollinators. Most of the food we eat requires a helping hand from the bee, so supporting them with a few well-placed plants in your garden can be a big help. In this guide, we hope to shine a light on the good work our little friends do and introduce you to some bee facts you can impress your pals with.
There are 20,000 species of bees
That's, well...that's a lot of bees. That number does cover bees around the world but is sadly going down every day because of increasing habitat loss and climate change.
In the UK alone, we've lost 13 different species of these fuzzy critters since 1900.
But don't panic – you can help! Do your bit by making your outside space as inviting as possible for all types of insects. Pick up – or make, if you're the crafty sort – an insect hotel that can be hung on a fence or by populating your garden with flowers and plants that bees love.
Not all bees sting
How many times have you run away from a bee, who was just minding its own business, because you didn’t want to get stung? Well, you may have been making a hasty exit for no reason.
One little-known fact is that only female bees can sting – #girlpower – and not all bees die after stinging a person either!
In fact, only the honey bee dies if it uses its sting. This is because it has a barbed sting which it leaves it behind along with its abdomen, muscles and nerves. Sounds like something from a horror movie, right?
With this in mind, it's time to spread the word – bees don't want to harm us! They just want to get their job done, collecting pollen and nectar to feed their entire colony. It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it.
Some of your favourite foods depend on beesBees have a very important role in keeping the world fed – they’re not here to just produce honey (more on that later).
Bees are pollinators. So if you love your fruit and veg – think apples, cranberries, melons and broccoli – you can thank our little buzzing friends for helping them to grow.
Some foods rely on honey bees quite a lot. Blueberries, for example, are 90% dependent on bees to pollinate them and without these fuzzy insects, we'd be in trouble. Or would definitely struggle to enjoy blueberries in our porridge in the morning.
12 bees make just one teaspoon of honey
That sweet treat we call honey, that you love to drizzle onto your toast or stir into green tea, well it takes longer than you think to make a jar.
When it comes to important honey bee facts, did you know that a single bee only makes one-twelfth of a teaspoon worth of honey in its lifetime?
Imagine how much time and how many bees' efforts go into a single jar (it’s actually a whopping 22,700 bees in total – that really emphasises the meaning of ‘busy bee’!).
Bees can’t see red
When it comes to choosing flowers for your bee-friendly garden, you should bear in mind that bees see colours very differently than humans.
Bees can distinguish between ultraviolet, blue and green - but not between red and black. This is why they’re drawn to red coloured clothing in the summer, so bear this in mind if you’re not a fan of them hovering around you.
Their ‘buzz’ comes from their wingsThe famous buzzing of a bee is caused by the rapid beating of their wings. Bees have four wings which beat 11,400 times a minute! We're worn out just thinking about it.
This is also why some flies and wasps also buzz when they’re mid-flight. Bumblebees also vibrate their wing muscles and the middle part of their body - known as the thorax - to help them shake all that important pollen off the flower. Kind of like twerking, but not quite.
Bees produce the only food made by an insect that can be eaten by humansTime for another honey fact! What a treat.
Honey is the only food that can be eaten by humans that is made by an insect – and let’s not forget that the bees also enjoy the sweet treat they create.
While eating a high amount of honey isn’t advised (sorry, but it’s 80% sugar and 20% water), it has been found to have many health benefits including:
Improving heart health
Acting as a blood antioxidant
Bumblebees are pretty intelligentDespite having a teeny tiny brain the size of a sesame seed, the bumblebee is still pretty intelligent. Scientists actually taught some bumblebees how to score a goal with a mini-football in return for a sugary treat (sugar and water). They swiftly learnt how to complete the task to get the reward sooner. Unbee-lievable!
The queen must fight to be crownedEvery hive has a queen bee. To choose a queen, the worker bees make more than one to ensure they get a strong leader. When the queen bee hatches, she will sting and kill the unhatched rivals in their cells. If two hatch at the same time, they will fight to determine who gets crowned. Sounds like something from Game of Thrones to us!
Bees are democraticAnother common belief is that queen bees control their hive, looking over it like a monarch of a country. While they can influence worker bees, what goes on in the hive is controlled by chemical signals and the bees function instinctively. When choices have to be made, however, such as where to nest, worker bees actually vote on the matter. The Ayes have it!
The queen controls the populationThe queen honey bee’s main responsibility is to lay all of the eggs needed to build the colony and she plays a pivotal role in maintaining the hive’s population. She can lay up to 2,000 eggs a day and with a lifespan of two to four years, she’s key to keeping the bees alive. We don't envy her.
All worker bees are femaleThere are three types of bees in a single hive: workers, drones and the queen.
All worker bees are female and are the ones who head out to gather pollen. Drone bees are all male honey bees and they do not gather any of the pollen or nectar. A drone's role is to mate with the queen to keep the population up.
Bees can recognise facesJust like us, honey bees can recognise faces in the same way! They combine key features such as eyes, lips and ears to create a face and some researchers believe we look like strange flowers in their eyes! That's nice but we'd rather they didn't try and land on us.
They can cover 1,500 flowers in a day
In one day, a worker bee can visit 1,500 flowers to collect 0.5g of nectar. They can fly for up to six miles reaching speeds as fast as 15mph! That's faster than your old moped you had when you were a teenager. A bee would need to fly 90,000 miles to create just one pound of honey but when they make their trip, they don’t complete it in one go. Instead, they will leave the hive around 15 times a day and visit around 100 flowers on each trip. For 454g of honey, it will take around two million flowers. Pretty impressive, we'd say. .
Bees sometimes need a little helpWhile they work with military precision, bees sometimes need our help. As well as making your garden bee-friendly with plants, if you live in an area which has little natural habitats for bees `– such as some new housing estates which haven’t planted trees yet – you can add a bee hotel into your garden. These handy little houses provide much-need shelter for our stripey friends.
Solitary bees, for example, can only fly a few hundred metres (not that far in comparison to the honey bee) and as their name suggests, they're loners who don’t have colonies to return to.
So having resting zones can be a big help. Grow plenty of flowers around your bee hotel so your guests can get food on-site and they'll also create an attractive space in your garden.
You can help an exhausted beeIf you have a tired bee on your hands – you'll notice that it stays still on the ground and doesn't buzz – you can help them by giving them a solution of sugar and water to give them a one-time boost.
It's recommended you mix two tablespoons of white granulated sugar with one tablespoon of water. Add the mixture to a teaspoon and place this in front of the bee.
You'll enjoy watching their cute long tongue pop out to lap up the water and the bee gets a little burst of energy to help it carry on with its day.
Fancy making your home and garden a little sanctuary for the buzzing bees? Try out our tips above and create a safe haven for these VIPs.