Last Reviewed and Updated on August 18, 2022
Bees and especially honeybees are one of the most important insects in the world. But how much do you really know about these insects? Discover some of the most interesting facts about bees; we are sure quite a few will surprise you.
1. There are about 20.000 species of bees
Starting off this list of facts about bees is the fact there are many, many different kinds of bees. When you think about bees, you most likely have the honeybees in mind. But honeybees represent only a small portion of the bee family. There are well over 20.000 different kinds of bees living all over the globe (except Antarctica).
2. Majority of bee species are solitary
The most known bee species live in colonies but over 90% of all bee species are actually solitary animals.
3. Bees are the most important pollinators
They are the most efficient pollinating insects. You might have heard that we would be in trouble if bees would go extinct, even that we as well might go extinct soon after them.
Bees pollinate around 80% of the world’s plants, and many crops that are important to humans. If there were no bees, the pollination of plants would be reduced drastically and this would have major consequences on us as well. Humans wouldn’t go extinct, but we would be in serious trouble.
4. Honeybees divide work depending on the age of the bee
Bees in colonies have a caste system determined by the age of the bee. Some of the roles overlap as far as tasks go.
Newly emerged bees can’t fly; their role in the colony is to be cell cleaners – this role isn’t essential as bees of all ages clan cells.
Young adult bees serve as nurses tending to the larvae and young bees for about a week. They also care for other bees as well as the queen.
Middle-aged bees’ main focus is nest building and maintenance, processing nectar, and guarding the nest entrance.
The last transition is to the forager role. Once a bee becomes a forager, it will focus solely on foraging for the resources needed by the colony – pollen, water, propolis, and nectar.
5. In colonies, all worker bees are female
The worker bees are all female, and they are all sterile – they can’t reproduce. In a single colony, all of the bees are usually sisters – they are all offspring of one queen bee. We say usually as combining two different colonies into one is possible.
6. Only female honeybees sting; male drones have no stinger
Male bees are called drones, and unlike the female worker bees, drones don’t have a stinger and thus can’t sting. Males also don’t collect honey. They aren’t even capable of feeding themselves, they rely on worker bees to feed them. Their sole purpose is to mate with the queen and after mating, they die.
7. If a honeybee stings you, it will most likely die
A female honeybee has a barbed stinger that is great for stinging other insects repeatedly but doesn’t bode well when it comes to the skin of humans and other mammals. After the bee stings a human, the barbed stinger gets caught in the skin. Once the bee flies away, the stinger (along with some of the internal organs) usually rips away from the bee, and the bee will die.
Honeybees are the only bees with a barbed stinger. Other stinging bees have smooth stingers and can sting you repeatedly without issues. Lucky for us all, usually bees are pretty docile.
8. Queen bee can sting a human multiple times
Unlike the worker bees, a queen bee’s stinger isn’t barbed, so they are able to sting mammals without consequences.
9. A queen honeybee only mates once in her life
A queen bee only mates once in her life and at the time she mates, she can mate with several males. The sperm is stored in a special organ she has, and from there, it is drawn for the rest of her life to lay eggs.
The average productive lifespan of a queen bee is 2 to 3 years, and she can lay about 1500 eggs per day during the warm months of the year.
10. Honeybees communicate with each other by movement
One of the most interesting facts about bees is the way they communicate. They perform something the beekeepers refer to as a waggle dance. By performing this dance, a bee shares information about the direction, distance, and quality of patches of food, water, or a location for a new nest with other members of the colony.
11. Wallace’s giant bee is believed to be the largest and the Perdita minima the smallest
Wallace’s giant bee (Megachile pluto) is believed to be the largest bee of all known bee species, with the larger females reaching lengths of 1.5 inches / 38 mm.
A mining bee Perdita minima is believed to be the smallest bee species, as they are less than 0.08 inches / 2 mm long.
12. Vulture bees collect carrion instead of pollen
Not all bees collect or feed on pollen or nectar. Vulture bees, also known as carrion bees, feed on carrion. Yup, these bees collect flesh from dead animals. And much like honeybees, the vulture bee produces a honey-like substance from the food they collect. Carrion honey.
13. Blue carpenter bees are blue
One of the most fun facts about bees is the colors they come in. Most bees you see have a brownish-yellow striped body, but that is not true of all bee species. Two wonderful examples are the blue carpenter bees and blue banded bees that are mostly blue or have blue stripes.
14. Bees have 5 eyes
Bees have two easy-to-spot compound eyes on each side of their heads. Compound eyes are made up of thousands of tiny lenses. With this set of eyes, the bee sees images.
In addition to that, they also have three simple eyes at the top of their heads. These eyes are also called ocelli. These eyes don’t see images but detect light and changes in light. They help the bee detect and evade danger – like a shadow from a predator flying above the bee.
15. Honeybees have hair on their eyes
Their compound eyes are covered with thousands of little hairs. It is thought the hair on their eyes is involved in the collection of pollen as well as an adaptation to the environmental temperatures.