Honey Bee Facts

Michael Bryan

Michael Bryan

Published: 15 Oct 2021

Modified: 11 Nov 2021

honey bee, honey bee facts

The role of honey bees in human civilization is surprisingly yet notably huge. It was thought that Ancient Egyptians harnessed bees for their honey and also their ability to pollinate crops to increase their yield. Aside from being great pollinators, honey bees are popular for their honey and beeswax. Honey is a natural sweetener and a priced ingredient for all sorts of delicious products, may it be food or others. In addition, candle and soap making also utilize beeswax, providing the means for other industries to grow and provide essential products to consumers worldwide. Truly, honey bees are amazing creatures, and if you want to know more about them, just keep reading this list of honey bee facts.

  1. A honey bee (also spelled honeybee) is a eusocial flying insect within the genus Apis of the bee clade, all native to Eurasia.
  2. Honey bees communicate through the use of pheromones.
  3. There are only 8 out of 43 honey bee subspecies that are recognized.
  4. Honey bees represent only a small fraction of the roughly 20,000 known species of bees.
  5. Bee pollination adds approximately 14 billion dollars annually to improved crop yield and quality.
  1. Modern humans also value wax for use in making candles, soap, lip balms, and various cosmetics.
  2. Honey bees appear to have their center of origin in South and Southeast Asia (including the Philippines), as all the extant species, except Apis mellifera, are native to that region.
  3. The average per capita honey consumption in the US is 1.3 lbs.
  4. Honeybees have 2 pairs of wings.
  5. The average forager makes about 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.
  6. Foragers must collect nectar from about 2 million flowers to make 1 lb of honey.
  7. An average beehive can hold around 50,000 bees.
  8. Most species have historically been cultured or at least exploited for honey and beeswax by humans indigenous to their native ranges.
  9. A honey bee has 5 eyes.
  10. Male bees in the hive are called drones.
  1. Honeybees fly about 20 mph.
  2. Worker bees consist of female bees (except the queen) in the hive.
  3. Losing its stinger will cause a bee to die.
  4. Honey bees have been here for about 30 million years.
  5. These bees carry pollen on their hind legs in a pollen basket or corbicula.
Table of Contents

Honey bees don’t waste time, so they are very fast.

A worker bee’s normal speed is about 15 to 20 mph or 21 to 28 km/h when flying to forage, and about 12 mph or 17 km/h, when returning with nectar, pollen, plant resin, or water. They fly much faster when carrying something to get to the hive.

They like their hive to be near flowers.

Honey bees naturally prefer to live in gardens, woodlands, orchards, meadows, and other places where flowers are abundant. However, they can still thrive in domesticated environments that humans have designed for them. Honey bees create their nests inside tree cavities or under the edges of objects to hide their precious honey from predators.

bee hive, garden
Image source: Pixabay

They can fly as far as 12 km to forage food.

Approximately, 75% of foraging bees would fly within 1 km while the younger bees would only fly within the first few hundred meters, but foraging food sources are limited only within 3 km. However, bees usually fly as far as 12 km or 8 miles.

They pack nectar into their honey stomach and rear legs.

The hive feeds on the nectar and pollen that foragers collect. They are older worker bees with huge flight muscles, that gather nectar and pollen, and store them in an elastic pouch in the gut known as a honey stomach. Some collect pollen grains and pack them in baskets that are on their rear legs.

How to know if it is a honey bee or a wasp?

Bees and wasps would look similar in the wild that is why people get into accidents because of this problem. The easiest way to tell honey bees and wasps apart is to check the shape of their thorax or abdomen. Honey bees don’t have a thin middle section between their thorax and abdomen, like other insects. The image below shows a wasp, compare it with the next image of a honey bee!

wasp on a flower
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

People should be careful not to get stung by bees.

Honey bees can sting a person or a predator, which is quite painful and even life-threatening to a small percentage of the population who are allergic to their venom. However, it is a form of defense mechanism in order to protect themselves or their colony. Stinging is also very dangerous for the bees since they die after using their stingers.

The European honey bee ranges in size from 13-16mm and can vary in color.

Compared to the honey bees from the US, European honey bees can grow 13 to 16 mm and can vary in color, but they usually have a yellow abdominal banding and fine visible hair all over their body. They also have slightly longer antennae compared to their head, in addition to their light brown wings with visible dark veins.

European honey bee, flower
Image source: Rawpixel

There are millions of honey bee colonies in North America.

Ever wonder if honey bees are being endangered or threatened? The answer is no, in fact, they are almost triple the number of people in the US alone. Approximately, there are 2.8 million bee colonies in the US and around 30,000 bees per colony. That is roughly a billion honey bees in Canada and in the US.

Bees are very important to us.

Bees are essential to our crop production worldwide because they do the pollination for plants to produce fruits and vegetables that people and animals need for survival. Without bees, we would have a hard time getting fresh produce from farms and forests. Bees and humans have come a long way in history, with humans domesticating bees not only for the pollination of crops, but also for their honey and wax.

The western honey bee was one of the first domesticated insects.

The western honey bee was one of the first domesticated insects, and as primary species, beekeepers to this day maintain it for both its honey production and pollination activities. With human assistance, western honey bees now occupy every continent except Antarctica.

Most beekeepers tend to harvest honey from their hives 2 to 3 times a year or per season.

Beekeepers who are already experts with their work can harvest 2 to 3 times a year somewhere between June and September or whenever the conditions suit them. New beekeepers, however, would often get the lesser harvest in their 1st year because they still need to adjust to the work and the environment to achieve higher yield.

beekeeper, honey harvest
Image source: Pixabay

Other bees can turn into a life of crime.

The beekeepers’ unharvested honey collection will serve as food for the colony during the cold winter months. The excess honey will be left and stored to be used in the next season. However, other bees from other colonies would steal honey in the hives and will bring it back to their own hive.

Honey bees only make honey in certain months.

Bees make honey between June and August, which are the best months for honey production. The best month to harvest them would be late July, August, and up to mid-September. This is to avoid loss because harvesting it on other months would mostly make bees starve to death.

jars of honey, harvest season
Image source: Pixabay

A worker bee gathers in her entire life 0.8 gm (0.0288 oz) of honey.

This seems really small if you think about it. A pound of honey would require 556 workers foraging for pollen and nectar. This shows how diligent workers bees are in keeping the hive alive. Without them, the colony would likely starve to death and then die out.

An estimate of 800 to 1200 bees die every day.

Death during foraging is natural in every way in the natural world. There are lots of factors that can contribute to the number of death in a colony, like predation, weather, and many more. Depending on the size of the colony and the local conditions, the number would probably be between 800 to 1,200.

There is a bee that kicks out dead and dying bees from the hive.

Ever wonder how bees keep the hive clean from dead and dying bees? Well, there are bees whose job is to kick the dead or the dying bees out of the hive. They are easily dragged out by these undertaker bees without putting up a fight. The dying bees would then let the undertaker bees take them away to die.

Only female bees can sting.

Surprisingly, males or drones don’t have the ability to sting us since only females honey bees can sting. So if you ever get stung, remember that it would probably be a worker bee. The honey queen bee can also sting, but it would be less likely since the queen needs to remain close to the hive.

All bees follow their queen wherever it may go.

The queen honey bee is a very important bee in the hive. She is the only female bee with fully developed ovaries. Her roles are to release chemical scents that would regulate the unity of the hive and lay lots of eggs. If the queen bee is removed from the hive, the remaining bees in the colony would know where she is and would follow her.

A typical honey bee colony may have around 50,000 workers.

Honey bees are social insects that live in colonies. Honey bee colonies consist of a single queen, hundreds of male drones, and 20,000 to 80,000 female worker bees. Each honey bee colony also consists of developing eggs, larvae, and pupae.

The queen honey bee is about twice the length of a worker.

A queen honey bee can lay up to 2,000 to 3,000 eggs per day during establishing her colony. She is the largest female bee in the colony attended by worker bees and drones. She is the only female honey bee with fully developed ovaries and she controls other female bees from giving birth by releasing chemical scents.

queen honey bee, honey bee facts
Image source: Pixabay

Honey bees fly up to 15 mph and beat their wings 200 times per second.

Honey bees require a lot of energy because they fly up to 15 mph and beat their wings 200 times per second or 12,000 beats per minute. When bees beat their wings, the air spin around them. They can maneuver their bodies in the air to up, down, forward, and backward. In addition, bees can hover in midair.

They don’t only use tongues to taste things.

Bees have different organs that can make them taste things. Not only do they use their tongue, but they also use their feet, jaw, and antennae to taste what they are gathering. The tips of the antennae are composed of more than 300 taste sensors.

Bees don’t only eat nectar and pollen.

Honey bees eat nectar and pollen, but in times when food is scarce, they may eat insect secretions.  They also eat a little bit of fruit, such as plums and grapes. Sweet things typically attract them because they need sugar to convert to energy for gathering.

The queen bee can live up to 2 to 4 years.

The honey bee queen should certainly live 2 years, but some may even live up to 3 or 4 years, whilst drones live for 55 days on average, and worker honey bees raised during springtime may only live 6 or 7 weeks. Meanwhile, those raised during autumn may live up to 4 to 6 months.

They are great with engineering.

The bees formed their honeycombs into hexagon structures to prevent wastage. The six-sided structure also fits together perfectly, holding the queen bee’s eggs, pollen, and honey that the worker bees bring to the hive.

bee hive, honey bee facts
Image source: Pxfuel

They dance to send important messages.

If you see a bee dancing, it is not for killing time. This dance is like giving signals to other worker honey bees about great locations for foraging food and gathering water, or a place to build a new home.

They cannot see the color red.

Similar to other bees, honey bees are oblivious to the color red, however, they would visit red flowers because they are able to see the ultraviolet patterns in them. Red flowers seem to get a low chance of getting pollinated, but nature sure finds ways to provide these flowers the pollinator’s attention.

Honey bees are responsible for crop pollination in the US.

Honey bees are actively pollinating the crops in the US. They pollinate about 1/3 of the produce eaten by Americans, and that includes, apples, melons, cranberries, pumpkins, squash, broccoli, and almonds, to name just a few.

They form a huge cluster to keep them warm during winter.

Like most animals, honey bees are vulnerable to cold, that is why they huddle together during winter to keep warm. People would usually think that bees survive in man-made hives, but they can make their own habitat and would naturally choose to build in crevices, such as hollow trees or caves, away from predators.

honey bee thermal defense
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Honey bees are most active between 60-100°F.

The activities of honey bees depend on the temperature. Although they can find and collect food at 55°F, they’re likely inefficient in doing so than when they’re working in warmer temperatures. However, they make do with what they have, and because of that, crops in California are dependent on honey bee pollination, since trees bloom in February before other wild bees get out from hibernation.