10 Characteristics of Bees

Bees possess an intricate body that includes the head, thorax and abdomen – along with an impressively developed tongue capable of gathering nectar and pollen from flowers.

Bees can be distinguished from most Hymenoptera by their distinctive, branched hairs, which often appear woolly or crinkled at higher magnification and can make identification more challenging.

1. They are adaptable

Bees are highly efficient pollinators and therefore possess excellent adaptations for their environments, including having tongue length tailored specifically to visit various flowers while their antennae help detect fragrances.

Human eyes are highly sensitive to ultraviolet light, enabling them to locate the sun even on cloudy days and detect markings on flowers that only become visible under ultraviolet lighting. Furthermore, humans’ eyes can detect polarized light which aids navigation.

Bees consist of three body sections–head, thorax, and abdomen–and six legs. In addition, they possess a long tongue called a proboscis for eating and drinking purposes. Fertilized eggs develop into female bees; unfertilized ones become male drones (drones). Female bees make honey while tending their colony while male drones don’t. Male drones do not forage for food or build nests whereas only female bees possess stingers which they use against invaders when entering their territory whereas male drones (drones). Female bees produce honey while male drones (drones) do not.

2. They are solitary

Leif: Most bee species are solitary insects, so the social lifestyle often associated with honey bees, bumble bees and stingless bees living in colonies with queens and workers is actually the exception rather than the rule.

Solitary bees search for suitable nest sites such as hollow stems, rotting wood or the ground where they dig long tunnels to build nests. Inside each cell they line with pieces of leaf or flower petals before filling it with pollen and nectar stored as food before laying an egg.

Solitary bees often sting when humans wander too close to their nests or startle them with sudden movements, so if you come across one please do not make sudden movements and move slowly away; doing this may mean the bee will not feel threatened and leave you alone; otherwise seek medical assistance immediately if it stings you.

3. They are social

Researchers have long theorized that bees with corbiculae – pollen baskets on their hind legs – demonstrate complex social behaviors through their structure and form, or morphology. Yet recent studies of solitary bees indicate environmental influences may also contribute to their social behavior development.

Honey bee colonies feature a queen bee who produces all the eggs but no offspring; workers, however, are responsible for collecting pollen, making honey and protecting against intruders; this division of labor results from genetic mutation known as caste polymorphism.

Female bees possess an acute sense of smell and use odor receptors on their antennae to sniff out the best flowers for foraging. While bees tend to be most defensive when protecting the hive or their food reserves, they will only sting you if threatened by you or an attack occurs.

4. They sting

Bees have barbed stingers that only allow them to sting once, said Mussen. When bees sting someone, the barb holds itself into their skin while pumping venom sacs into a hole created in their body through their bite.

Bees use their eyes to recognize colors, patterns and movement. Their three simple eyes sit atop their head while large compound eyes rest at either side. Their eyes also possess the unique ability to detect light polarization properties which enable it to see things which remain invisible to us humans.

Some bees, such as honey bees, carry pollen on their legs while other types such as bumble bees and sweat bees transport it internally through their bodies. Bumble bees tend to possess longer proboscises which make them more likely to sting in response to threats.

5. They are carnivorous

Bees typically consume pollen as food source; however, one tropical bee species’ larvae have taken to eating decayed meat instead. A new study published this week by mBio has documented this adaptation which makes these bees less efficient at gathering protein from flowers.

Bees consume both heterotrophic (microbial) and autotrophic (plant) proteins by feeding on fermented pollen, placing them at an elevated trophic position compared to strict herbivorous consumers, according to their authors.

UC Riverside researchers studied the gut bacteria of 14 bee species from six major extant family groups. Their researchers discovered that bee gut microbes played an integral role in how they fit into food webs; furthermore, bees fed significant amounts of pollen-borne symbiont-produced meat from within their own guts.

6. They are pollinators

Flowering plants have relied on pollination by bees for millions of years to aid with their reproduction. When visiting flowers to collect nectar, bees unwittingly transfer pollen cells that serve as male sperm cells from one flower to the next – this process is known as pollination and without it plants would never produce food that wildlife and humans rely upon as sustenance.

Bees carry pollen between flowers by rubbing it off their bodies with their feet, which have special hairs designed to collect it. Their thorax also serves as an important storehouse of pollen that they store safely for future use as honey production.

Most bees are polylectic, gathering pollen from various types of flowers. But some bees may also be oligolectic – only collecting pollen from closely related flowers.

7. They are nocturnal

Under cover of darkness, bees can more easily find flowers with generous nectar and pollen supplies that don’t compete for these resources from other bees, butterflies and moths.

Bees possess five eyes: two compound eyes on either side of their heads and three ocelli at the top, which don’t see colors but instead are sensitive to light. Nocturnal and crepuscular bees tend to have larger ocelli than diurnal ones.

Nocturnal foraging is enabled by the compound eyes’ ability to detect ultraviolet patterns on flowers and detect floral volatiles such as 2-phenylethanol and 1-octanol, making them easier than their diurnal counterparts to identify. At least some moonlight is necessary in order to navigate in the dark – hence why such foraging often takes place in tropical environments and regions with low solar elevation at night.

8. They are omnivorous

There are over 20,000 species of bees, but most people are familiar with honeybees and bumblebees. Other bee species found throughout Central and South America include stingless bees that live in perennial colonies with social structures similar to humans’ social orders.

Bees use their senses of smell and sight to find nectar, detect UV patterns in flowers, as well as magnetic fields for foraging success.

At some point in the past, bees evolved from carnivorous wasps and began feeding on floral offerings as their food source. Their bodies quickly adjusted to this new food source while flowers gained pollinators to pollinate their blooms. Through co-evolution between bees and flowers, both parties gained: bees gained access to tasty sources of protein while flowers gained pollinators support.

9. They are nocturnal

Nocturnal bees feed on flowers that open at night to produce nectar, while also being able to avoid competition from bats and moths during the daytime.

Bees possess eyes comprised of compound-shaped lenses containing thousands of lenses that help it detect light and distinguish colors. On top of the compound eyes are simple eyes known as ocelli which detect light sensitivity to help the bee distinguish hues.

Ocelli and compound eyes work together to give bees visual discrimination at low light intensities that humans cannot see, using flower colour and surroundings to locate food sources. Nocturnal foraging typically peaks 30 minutes prior to sunrise and ends once the sun has fully risen into its position in the sky; research was conducted with two species, Megalopta genalis from Central America and Xylocopa tranquebarica from India.

10. They are solitary

Solitary bees differ from domesticated honeybees and wild bumblebee species in that they do not form colonies or produce honey. Instead, female solitary bees build individual nests for themselves in places like hollow plant stems, rotting wood or the ground.

Female bees search out an ideal space and build their nest using circular cuts from leaves (or, in certain species, flower petals). Once complete, they fill it with pollen-rich nectar mixture before placing their eggs inside it.

Once her eggs hatch, the bee immediately sets to work protecting its young by building tunnels and burrows for their shelter, guarding its nest from intruders, foraging for food, and guarding her offspring. In contrast with social bees, female solitary bees do not meet their offspring – one reason solitary bees tend to be less aggressive; additionally they typically live for six weeks before passing on.

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