Most of us are aware that bees are incredibly important to the environment. They are invaluable as pollinators and play a key role in helping many plants — including food crops — reproduce. They also help support the health and growth of trees, flowers, and other plants that provide food and shelter to other creatures that are part of the natural ecosystem. Additionally, honey bees produce honey, beeswax, royal jelly, propolis, and venom, all of which are of value to humans as well. But what do you really know about these incredibly important creatures that support biodiversity and help keep our critical ecosystems functioning properly? We’ve rounded up 7 fun facts about bees to help you learn more about these amazing creatures! Read on to learn all about bees!
#1 Honey Bees Have a Strong Sense of Smell.
Honey bees have 170 odorant receptors each, which gives them a strong sense of smell. Honey bees use scent to communicate within the hive and to recognize different types of flowers when searching for food.
#2 All Worker Bees Are Female.
Workers, or worker bees, are a type of honey bee. All worker bees are female. Their roles are to forage for food (pollen and nectar), build and protect the hive, and clean/circulate the air by beating their wings. The average worker bee lives for a mere 5 to 6 weeks and produces approximately 1/12 teaspoon of honey. They are the only bees that most people see outside the hive.
#3 Bees Clean Their Antennae.
Bees’ antennae are used to smell, taste, perceive humidity and temperature, feel, monitor gravity and flight speeds, and detect sound waves. To keep this vital equipment clean, bees have an "antenna cleaner" on each of their two forelegs; these cleaners are made up of a notch in the basitarsus, which is fitted with stiff hairs, and a corresponding spur on the tibia. Bees regularly use these appendages to clean pollen and/or dust off their antennae in order to keep them functioning in tip-top shape.
#4 Bees Can Dance.
Bees communicate by dancing. Inside the hive, one bee will dance while others watch. A special dance called the “waggle dance” is used to communicate flower patch locations. Specifically, the waggle dance is used to tell other bees the distance to a flower patch and which direction to fly to get there.
#5 Bees Have Four Wings (Not Just Two).
While it may look like bees only have two wings, they actually have four – two on each side. The two wings on each side hook together during flight to form larger wings and then unhook when bees are not flying.
#6 There Are Nearly 20,000 Known Species of Bees.
There are nearly 20,000 known species of bees. They are grouped into seven to nine recognized families. The scientific name for honey bees is Apis mellifera.
#7 Honey Bees Can Detect the Earth’s Magnetic Field.
Honey bees can detect the Earth’s magnetic field. This sense is called magnetoreception. Scientists believe that this impressive feat is possible because bees have iron granules in their abdomens. It is theorized that these granules function as magnetoreceptors.
Bonus Fact! Bees Are Found on Every Continent Except One.
Bees are found on every continent except Antarctica. Their work as pollinators and their role in the overall biosphere is vital to the health of many individual ecosystems, the food chain, and our planet.