1. The honey bee has been around for millions of years. The Honeybee is the only insect that humans raise for food and medicine and it is the only insect that produces food eaten by man.
2. Honey bees, scientifically also known as Apis mellifera, are environmentally friendly and are vital as pollinators. The Honeybee is responsible for pollinating 70% of the 100 crops that provide 90% of the world’s food.
3. Honey bees have 6 legs, 2 compound eyes made up of thousands of tiny lenses with over three thousand lenses that can detect ultraviolet light (one on each side of the head) and a set of three simple eyes detect light and dark, on the top of the head. A honey bee has two stomachs, the honey sac (or nectar pouch) , where she stores nectar that will be made into honey, and the midgut, where she digests her food. While inside the bee’s stomach for about half an hour, the nectar mixes with the proteins and enzymes produced by the bees, converting the nectar into honey. To prepare for long-term storage, the bees fan their wings to evaporate and thicken the honey (note: nectar is 80% water and honey is about 14-18% water). When this is done, the bees cap the honeycomb with wax and move on to the next empty comb, starting all over again. So, in a nutshell, the honey we eat is flower nectar that honey bees have collected, regurgitated and dehydrated to enhance its nutritional properties.
4. Honey bees have two pairs of wings, their wings stroke is incredibly fast, about 200 beats per second or 15,000 times per minute, thus making their famous, distinctive buzz. A honey bee can fly for up to six miles, and as fast as 15 miles per hour. A honey bee switches from “flight” to “hover” mode before it lands. Honey bees are environmentally friendly and are vital as pollinators./
5. A hive of bees will fly 90,000 miles, the equivalent of three orbits around the earth to collect 1 kg of honey, and it would take one ounce of honey to fuel a bee’s flight around the world. A bee makes only 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime, and to make a pound of honey, honeybees need to visit 2,000,000 flowers. Each cell of a capped honeycomb contains the nectar from about 1,000 flowers.
6. Honey bees have 170 odorant receptors, compared with only 62 in fruit flies and 79 in mosquitoes. Their exceptional olfactory abilities include kin recognition signals, social communication within the hive, and odor recognition for finding food. Their sense of smell is so precise that it could differentiate hundreds of different floral varieties and tell whether a flower carried pollen or nectar from metres away.
7. Honey is the only food that includes all the substances necessary to, including enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and water; and it’s the only food that contains “pinocembrin”, an antioxidant associated with improved brain functioning.
8. The bee’s brain is oval in shape and only about the size of a sesame seed, yet it has remarkable capacity to learn and remember things and is able to make complex calculations on distance travelled and foraging efficiency that is able to calculate foraging distances and energy expenditure, and find out the shortest route to the targeted flowers, a complex mathematical problem that can keep computers busy for days. It has hair on its eyes to help keep its eyeballs clean, the hair catches dirt and pollen.
9. Honeybees also have an incredibly acute sense of smell that has been harnessed by scientists to detect and track down illegal drugs and explosives hidden by terrorists. It is capable of complex visual processing and learning tasks that are commonly reserved for primates. It is able to remember and discriminate, and remembering one human face from another, a capacity likely used for foraging, navigation and identifying flowers. Each honey bee colony has a unique odour for members’ identification.
10. The queen bee can live up to 5 years and is the only bee that lays fertilised eggs that will produce brood. She is the busiest in the summer months, when the hive needs to be at its maximum strength and lays up to 2500 eggs per day. The male honey bees (also called drones), are larger than the worker bee but have no stinger and do no work at all. All they do is mate with a queen bee then die after mating.
11. A colony of bees consists of 20,000-60,000 honeybees and one queen. Worker honey bees are female, live for about 6 weeks and do all the work, bees only sting in defence of the hive. Once a bee uses her stinger she will die. . A honey bee visits 50 to 100 flowers during a collection trip. The average worker bee produces about 1/12th teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.
12. Honeybees are able to regulate the temperature of their hive, in cold weather, the bees huddle together and vibrate their wing muscles to generate heat to keep the internal hive temperature at approximately 35 to 37 degrees Celsius. When it’s hot, they fan their wings to improve air circulation or even collect water for evaporative cooling. A bee, when too cold to fly can rev up its internal wing muscles to increase its body temperature by 20 degrees centigrade or more.
13. Honey bees communicate with one another by dancing the waggle dance and also create airborne sounds to communicate the locations of nectar. They have a highly sophisticated communication system and a phenomenal collective intelligence that has been studied and applied to many organisations trying to learn effective management and leadership styles. It is estimated that 1100 honey bee stings are required to be fatal.
14. During winter, honey bees feed on the honey they collected during the warmer months. They form a tight cluster in their hive to keep the queen and themselves warm.