Bees on foraging trips can travel up to 6 km and beat their wings 200 times per second! Additionally, they use their feet and antennae for tasting!
1. They have five eyes
Bees use their heads as the central hub of all their sensory structures for perceiving the world around them. Their eyes, consisting of multiple lenses or facets connected by tiny ligaments, allow them to perceive color, movement and patterns more readily. Furthermore, three smaller ‘ocelli” eyes located on top of their heads detect light to aid navigation during flight.
These eyes, known as “ocelli”, enable bees to detect the direction of sunlight even when flying through dark or cloudy skies, making it easier for bees to return home after collecting pollen from different flowers.
Bees possess a pair of antennae which serve as primary sensory organs to provide essential information about their surroundings, such as plant scent, location and identification of other bees they encounter.
Bees possess remarkable olfactory capabilities, with each individual bee possessing 170 odorant receptors and possessing an exceptional sense of smell 50 times stronger than that of dogs! Additionally, their communication between individuals through the waggle dance reveals where food sources may lie within relation to where they’re situated in relation to where the sun lies in relation to vertical.
2. They have a waggle dance
The waggle dance is an intricate communication method used by honey bees that relays information about food sources such as their location, richness and distance to worker bees. It consists of a central “waggle run”, followed by two return loops in an eight shape – this tells her fellow bees how close they are while its length indicates distance; angles indicate directionality.
The dance takes place on an exclusive dance floor near the hive entrance where only those bees with valuable information to share gather. When a forager discovers an attractive flower patch rich in nectar or pollen sources, she heads straight for this dance floor to perform her “waggle dance”, whereby she waggles her tail and buzzes her wings to communicate its specific details to other bees in the hive.
Waggle dances can be challenging to execute successfully, and any missteps could send foraging bees in an unexpected direction. But they are an integral part of bee navigation systems; novice workers should observe experienced foragers perform them so as to learn proper techniques.
Researchers found that when an unskilled bee danced on vertical honeycomb stages without illumination, she could still communicate the presence and quality of food sources while failing to convey their position – an essential skill needed by foraging bees to exploit them effectively.
3. They have two stomachs
Though honey bees have been one of the most studied creatures on Earth, we still know much less than we should about their mysterious dances or where mead comes from – there are always new facts about bees waiting to be unearthed!
Bees don’t digest nectar immediately when they consume it; rather, it enters their honey stomach (aka “crop”) to be processed with special bacteria to create honey. Furthermore, this “crop” acts as a reservoir for water storage as well as serving as reservoir for nectar up to 75 milligrams in size!
Bees don’t use lungs; rather, they exchange oxygen with air through small holes on their sides called “spiracles.” Additionally, honey bees use multiple teeth in their mouth to chew food, work wax and biting each other. Honey bees also possess a proboscis which allows them to drink nectar, pollen and water which is lined with special glands that convert this liquid into honey as well as 170 olfactory receptors for more effective breathing.
Like all insects, honey bees possess an outer shell made of chitin material. This layer serves to protect them and prevents desiccation during winter. In addition, their outer shell sheds periodically as they grow and mature into adulthood.
4. They have a stinger
Honey bees are among the most visible species, yet there are thousands more worldwide. Honey bees are fuzzy insects that gather pollen and nectar from flowers to make honey, building nests in trees or man-made hives like those maintained by beekeepers (also called beehives). Bees possess stingers used to defend their colonies against predators that contain barbed ends that lodge themselves into skin when stung; this continues pumping venom even after they die!
Mussen describes bee stingers as looking similar to hypodermic needles with two rows of saw-toothed blades that face outward, “scissoring” into skin upon contact with bees, Mussen notes. Each bee’s venom sac pumps out its toxin into wounds; this includes proteins that cause painful local reactions in vertebrates while in certain instances can even prove life-threatening for those allergic.
Only female honey bees possess stingers and will only use them if their hive is under threat. A honey bee’s lower abdomen tears out as soon as its stinger strikes a victim; whereas, wasps and hornets retain theirs and may sting multiple times before dying instantly from being hit with one. For your own safety, immediately scrape off any stingers from your skin by scraping with the edge of a fingernail to avoid multiple attacks by these insects.
5. They fan their wings
There’s a reason the world is buzzing: Bees vibrate their wings 11,400 times per minute, creating the familiar buzzing sound we all recognize. Honey bees use these vibrations to produce loud swarming noises; however, recent research shows there may also be significant benefits from all that flapping around!
Wing movement helps ventilate hives, keeping them cool in our hot summer temperatures. A bee will line up with her sisters and fan her wings actively to create air currents which bring in oxygen-rich fresh air while expelling warm, stagnant CO2-rich air out through vents in the hive walls.
Honey bees use their wings in an innovative way to communicate among themselves. A bee that discovers a new food source will ‘dance’ back to her nest when returning, alerting other bees of its location and informing other bees how close or far it is; round dances typically indicate sources within 50 meters while waggle dances indicate farther flung sources.
Bees use the coordinated fanning of their wings to decouple wing movement from noise output. For instance, winter bees buzz their flight muscles for heat production throughout winter without experiencing frayed wings in spring – this is because their brains send one signal at once rather than numerous signals that correspond with individual flaps of wings.
6. They have a queen
A queen bee is the keystone of a honey bee colony. As the sole female in her hive that has been mated, her role is to breed, produce fertilized eggs and build up her colony – sometimes lasting several years! Queens may live anywhere from two to five years!
Queen bees tend to be larger than drones and workers due to their long abdomen which contains their ovaries. Furthermore, queens are the only bees capable of producing their own pheromone, which allows them to use this substance to influence colony behavior and guide beekeeping operations.
A virgin queen emerges about one week after its cap is secured and, during an elaborate nuptial flight, mates with multiple drones. After this event, she stores their sperm in her special organ so she can continue producing fertilized eggs throughout her lifetime.
Once mated, a queen may either remain within her original colony to produce more eggs, or take some of her bees with her to leave it and create a new colony – this process is known as supersedure; otherwise if a new queen emerges they must kill off any competing virgin bees before becoming queen themselves.