During summer, honeybees are often looked at as pests. However, being a crucial part of agriculture and food supplies, honeybees are miraculous in and of themselves. Considering how important they are as pollinators, here are few things to know about honeybees that may surprise you.
Instead of migrating or hibernating through winter months, honeybees continue to maintain their hive. Once temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, honeybees gather into a winter cluster. Within the cluster, they beat their wings rapidly to keep the hive temperature between 40 and 95 degrees. They use honey gathered over the summer to keep themselves fed, but on warm winter days, you may see them buzzing around or tossing debris out of the hive.
A honeybee’s average speed in flight is 15 mph, and a hurried worker bee can fly up to 20 mph. This helps them travel as far as seven miles in search of blooming flowers and return to the hive in a timely fashion.
Long Live the Queen
While most worker bees live only for a few weeks and drones (male worker bees) can survive for a few months, a hive’s queen bee can live up to five years. If the queen is healthy and produces at least 200 eggs a day for her colony, she is well cared for by the hive.
Bees Recognize People
Honeybees can recognize individual human faces and can remember certain features. Research has suggested that they can recognize a face that provides them sugar water more than one that doesn’t.
Not All Bees Sting
Female bees who are not the queen are worker bees, and they are the only ones with stingers. Male drones never leave the hive, and when they do they are often defenseless. Unlike other insects that bite, honeybees only sting when they feel threatened. After stinging their victims, honeybees do not survive. Unlike wasps and other bees that can sting repeatedly, honeybees lose their stingers, which tears their abdomen and causes them to die soon after.
Bees Travel Far and Wide
There’s likely little in this world that works as hard as a honeybee. To produce just one pound of honey, a bee must visit around two million flowers, which equates to about 55,000 miles. That means the entire hive must work full time to produce 60-100 pounds of honey per year. This large volume of honey allows the bees to survive during winter.
Communication by “Dancing”
Honeybees can communicate to other bees in the hive where to find nectar-rich patches by performing a “waggle dance.” These complex movements reference the directions the bees need to take. This system of direction can also tell other bees the way to water sources or help them plan a new location for their hive should it need to split.
They Pollinate More Than You Think
Scientists estimate that honeybees are responsible for 80-90 percent of the pollination of all crops around the world. From apples to almonds, honeybees are responsible for providing us with most crops. Without bees pollinating plants, many plants would die off, which is why keeping bee populations safe and healthy is critical for our own survival.
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