We're Buzzing About Honey Bee Awareness Day!
August 18th is Honey Bee Awareness Day, so we thought we’d celebrate with fun some bee factoids! Come along and learn about these vitally important insects!
- Honey bees pollinate 80% of the world’s plants, and 1/3 of all fruits and vegetables consumed by humans. Over $15 billion worth of crops in the United States rely on bees for their pollination. Without honey bees to help in this process, many crops would suffer and possibly disappear.
- Bees belong to the order Hymenoptera, which also includes wasps and ants. Females of these species often have a special egg-laying organ called an ovipositor, which in many cases is modified into a “stinger” that can inject venom. Bees and wasps will use their sting to defend their nests, and in honey bees the barbed stinger usually breaks off after stinging, leading to the death of the bee. Though painful to humans, honey bee stings are usually not dangerous unless the person who’s been stung is allergic.
- Honey bees are one of the first insects ever to be domesticated, and are now found on every continent in the world except Antarctica. Beekeeping to cultivate honey, also known as apiculture, has been around for thousands of years. In the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the famous fictional detective takes up beekeeping after retiring.
- Honey bees live in hives, where a colony is made up of a single breeding female, known as the “queen”, breeding male “drones” and sterile female “workers”. A single colony can contain many tens of thousands of bees.
- Many honey bee populations in North America and Europe are currently experiencing “Colony Collapse Disorder.” This occurs when most of the adult worker bees in a hive disappear, leaving behind food supplies, immature bees and the queen. The causes are not well understood, though it is believed to be a combination of many factors, including use of pesticides and antibiotics, as well as disease and starvation. If this process is not stopped and reversed, many of the crops that rely on bees could be in serious trouble.
- Honey bees communicate with each other through “dancing”. By flying in a particular pattern, called a “waggle dance”, they can relay information about the location of food and water sources to other bees. Bees also use their antennae for social interactions, and almost always use the right antenna for such communications.
Bernie’s Bonus Fun Fact: This extra tidbit concerns bumblebees, not honey bees. A popular story concerning bumblebees is that their wings are too small to support their bulk for flight, and that based on the laws of aerodynamics they should not be able to fly. This is actually a myth – through a process called “dynamic stall”, bumblebees can produce more than adequate lift with their wings to support their weight in flight. There you have it – science has the answer!