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With the Save the Bees movement underway, now is an opportune time to gain more knowledge about these fascinating insects. Here are a few interesting facts you may not have known:
1. They are pollinators
Every time a bee flits through your garden or lands on your flowering apple tree for a sip of nectar, you are witnessing pollination at work – a vital and often unsung service that allows plants to reproduce while we depend on it for one out of every three meals we consume.
Nearly 90% of wild flowering plant species depend on animal pollination to reproduce, including many crops we rely on as food sources like apples, bananas, cranberries, cherries tomatoes and avocadoes.
As bees forage from flower to flower collecting nectar, they brush against each flower’s stigmas, depositing small amounts of pollen on each one. When revisiting an already pollinated bloom, bees pick up this pollen on their hairy bodies and deposit it again onto another stigma on a different flower, thus completing pollination and fertilizing the plant, which allows it to produce seeds and continue its lifecycle.
Bees, along with moths and butterflies, birds, bats and hummingbirds perform this essential yet often unappreciated work of conserving biodiversity and supporting its delicate ecosystems that make our world so diverse and beautiful. Bees play an essential yet often unappreciated role in conserving these pollinators whose presence contributes to keeping ecosystems vibrantly alive on our planet.
As bee populations across North America have decreased dramatically, it’s more important than ever that we act to preserve their numbers and save them. Doing so is easier than you may think – by adding wildflowers and native plants to your landscape you can attract pollinators populations and support healthy pollinator health; additionally turning part of your farm into habitat for bees and wildlife can improve crop yields significantly. For more information on how you can get involved click here.
2. They are scavengers
Many are aware of bees’ many benefits to our world – honey production, beeswax (a renewable fuel source), pollination and development of fruit, vegetable, and seed crops, pollination services provided to farmers; pollination services available through commercial pollinators as well as pollination through colonies. But many do not realize their wider role as environmental scavengers that goes far beyond simply producing honey and beeswax products for us humans.
Bees are known to be excellent scavengers, searching out protein (in particular meat) as well as sugar from fruits and extra-floral nectaria. Their gut bacteria break down protein from carrion they consume before storing partially digested food in their honey stomachs for use as nutrients for their offspring.
Vulture bees provide an outstanding example of nature’s ability to adapt. While most bee species are strict vegetarians, some species such as meliponine Trigona bees flexitarians often stop at flowers to collect some energy-boosting nectar before heading home.
Bees play an invaluable role in New Zealand’s ecosystem by pollinating wild flowers, shrubs and trees – over 270 native tree species have been pollinated so far! Horse chestnuts, rowans, hawthorns, whitebeams native limes and the majestic native holly are just some of those trees they pollinate!
As such, they help enhance our countryside and gardens by adding color and texture to the natural landscape. Furthermore, bees play a critical role in providing pollination services to forest plantations and field croplands so they may survive and flourish.
Bees serve as natural wildlife deterrents, with beehives being used by farmers to deter large herbivores from entering fields and damaging plants. Farmers have utilized beehives as a natural way of deterring large herbivorous animals in fields surrounding their land.
3. They are social
Honey bees are perhaps the best-known species among a vast family of social insects that includes bumble bees, carpenter bees and sweat bees. Honey bees reside in colonies with a queen who lays eggs while worker bees take care of nest construction and foraging activities. Although only around 9 percent of bee species truly socialise this way, their lessons in cooperation and industriousness provide us with valuable lessons.
Bees in hives work together to share food sources among themselves by spreading information about new sources to other bees. When one bee finds an appealing food source, it communicates its location by performing the waggle dance – consisting of two phases — an undulating “waggle phase” and semicircular return phase — which communicates its location to its fellow foragers. The direction and number of circuits indicate where and what size their source may be.
Bees use the sun as their compass and can see polarized light to navigate their environment. Bees are also sensitive to earth’s magnetic field. Bees’ long association with flowers allows them to recognize them quickly, collect pollen efficiently from them, and transport it over long distances efficiently. Their tongue length has also been tailored specifically for each flower so as to pick up as much pollen as possible to transport efficiently between blossoms.
Bees use their stinger to defend against threats, though most bees aren’t aggressive and can actually help control pests like fruit flies. When MSU apiculturist Stephen Buchmann spots an unwanted bee at his home window, he carefully captures it before returning it back into its desert ecosystem.
4. They are predators
Bees play an invaluable role in our environment and ecosystem, not only as food sources but also in biodiversity preservation. Their presence allows biodiversity to flourish; birds prey upon bees and other insects while mangrove snakes consume them as prey. When bees sense predators they respond differently – attacking in larger numbers, pursuing more aggressively for longer, and stopping foraging temporarily until it feels safe again – all essential factors to ensure pollination activities don’t cease unexpectedly.
Other mammal predators include badgers and skunks, who have been observed raiding beehives in search of honey. Bears are also known to consume bee larvae; occasionally raiding apiaries at night in order to gain entry and open the hives so as to gain access and feast upon both bees and honey stored there.
Bees play an invaluable role in pollination of crops as well as wild flowers, shrubs and trees – they help replant forests after fires much quicker thanks to bee pollination which allows vegetation to come back much more rapidly than without bees pollination.
Bees are remarkable creatures and we must ensure their populations flourish. A healthy bee population fosters a more diverse ecosystem by creating microhabitats for other animals and insects to inhabit – in turn helping sustain the food chain that ultimately benefits all of us. So the next time you encounter a bee, remember it’s an integral part of Earth’s ecology, take time to appreciate their abilities, and maybe learn something new! For instance, did you know bees have their own dance move called the Waggle Dance which took Sussex University two years to decode?
5. They are stingers
Honey bees may be among the 20,000+ species of bees, but they’re far from being the only bee species out there. Not all bees produce honey either – buff-tailed bumblebees are an example; while their colonies generally thrive in natural areas without human intervention; some individuals do keep small colonies for aesthetic or practical reasons in gardens or rural landscapes.
Bees play an invaluable role in protecting our environment, pollinating plants to increase biodiversity, landscapes, and gardens. Bees also form an integral part of our diets by pollinating fruit, nuts, seeds and flowers – helping ensure an abundance of variety for us to consume in our diets.
Not just fruit trees benefit from pollination by bees; many others such as horse chestnuts, birch trees, rowans, hawthorns, whitebeams, majestic native limes and pussy willows are pollinated by bees and other insects to provide us with delicious food as well as beautiful landscapes.
Bees can be truly remarkable creatures – they have inspired poetry and philosophical ideas about co-operation and industriousness, while contributing immensely to our environment as pollinators as well as producing numerous beneficial natural products such as honey, wax and propolis. Bees even help protect elephants in Africa by reducing human-elephant conflict and have even been trained to sniff out land mines!