Honey bees are some of nature’s most industrious and fascinating creatures. Read on to learn 16 of the most amazing animal facts about honey bees, and prepare to be astonished by these busy honeymakers, and their crucial role in the animal kingdom. These facts were collected from the Backyard Beekeeper’s Association, and honey expert Ruth Tan.
1. On an average flight to collect pollen, a honey bee visits between 50 and 100 different plants. These can range from fruit trees to wildflowers to vegetables to anything and everything in-between.
2. When honey bees “talk” to each other, they do so through an elaborate series of gestures that look like dancing.
3. A single hive of bees collects approximately 66 pounds of pollen per year.
4. Honey bees are native to Europe. In other areas where honey bees are found, they were most likely brought there by human settlers.
5. Every colony of honey bees boasts its own unique aroma that identifies it to the bees. This scent helps bees find their way home from pollen collecting flights, and lets them identify fellow bees from the same hive.
6. The “buzzing” of a honey bee comes from the sounds of its wings, which flap at 11,400 strokes per minute.
7. Honey bees only sting when cornered or provoked. The only type of honey bee that stings is the worker bee, although the queen bee has a stinger which she does not use.
8. Although a bee sting is not dangerous unless you have an extremely sensitive allergy to bee venom, an average adult person could hypothetically be killed by an extremely large dose of the poison: the amount found in an estimated 1,100 stings.
9. Over the course of its entire lifetime, the average honey bee will produce only one twelfth of a single teaspoon of honey.
10. At top speed, a honey bee can fly 15 miles per hour.
11. Cave paintings suggest that the practice of beekeeping and honey collection dates all the way back to the stone age. As humans evolved, we stayed interested in bees, and in the delectable nectar they produce.
12. A queen bee can live up to 5 years, whereas a worker bee often has a lifespan as short as 6 weeks. This is due in part to the fact that the queen bee is taken care of by her fellow hive members, whereas the worker bee literally works itself to death, roaming the countryside in search of pollen it can bring back to the colony.
13. During the winter, the bees in a hive cluster together for warmth, maintaining an impressive central hive temperature of 93 degrees Fahrenheit during even the coldest months.
14. Honey bees are the only known members of the insect world that naturally produce a substance which is an edible foodstuff for man. Honey contains important nutrients, and is one of the only foods in nature which does not spoil, no matter how long it is kept.
15. Scientists believe that the honey bee has been in existence for approximate 30 million years. That’s an insect with some serious history.
16. Honey bees are the engine that drives any ecosystem where they appear. By spreading pollen from place to place, they make ecological diversity, and the survival of flowers, trees, and other plants, possible, accounting for 80% of insect-based pollination. Without these tiny creatures, the earthly environment as we know it would not function. That’s a lot of weight on the back of such a small creature!