10 Amazing facts about bees
#1 Bees have been on Earth a very long time!
In 2006, researchers at Oregon State University discovered a bee preserved in amber that is 100 million years old! The bee is around 45 million years older than any bee fossil found before, and the oldest known bee that's ever been identified. The discovery of the bee may help to explain the rapid expansion and diversity of flowering plants around that time. The bee species found in the amber has been extinct for a long time, with features that resemble wasps like a double spine on the middle tibia and narrow hind legs. It also had branched hairs all over its body which is a main feature characteristic of pollen-spreading bees.
#2 There are thousands of different bee species
There have been over 25,000 individual species of bee recorded and around 4000 different types of bee exist across the world, but sadly the number is going down mainly due to habitat loss. In the UK there are around 250 different species buzzing around, but some are becoming extremely uncommon. You can read about some of the more common bees you might see in your garden in our recent blog but if you are lucky you might occasionally spot something rarer!
#3 It takes a lot of bees to make a jar of honey
How many exactly? Well, it takes 12 bees to make a single teaspoon of honey and that's not one teaspoon a day, or even a week. It may seem unbelievable but it takes the whole of a bees lifetime to make just one twelfth of a teaspoon of honey! To make a jar of honey it takes thousands of bees all working hard together. It's no surprise that we use the phrase 'as busy as a bee'. Next time you open a new jar of delicious Just Bee honey remember all the work hours thousands of bees have put in to make it!
#4 The buzzing sound is made by their wings
Bees have wings that can beat around 250 times a second and this is what creates that familiar buzzing sound as they vibrate the air around them. To film bees in slow motion and create footage that is detailed and smooth wildlife photographers use a very fast camera that can shoot more than million frames a second! Only when it's slowed down can you see the beauty of how a bee moves its wings in flight. Check out this incredible footage by michiganshooter on YouTube of honeybees in ultra-slow motion.
#5 Bees have an incredible sense of smell.
Have you ever wondered how those bees found the wild-flowers you planted for them in your garden or window box? It's very likely that they smelled them before they saw them. A bee has a sense of smell that is fifty times more powerful than a dog. It's also so precise they can recognise different types of flowers by scent alone when they are buzzing around collecting nectar and pollen. You might also be surprised to learn that bees are able to detect scents with their mouths, antennae and even tips of their legs!
#6 Bees use the sun to navigate
Bees use the sun as a compass to navigate around. Keeping the angle between their line of flight and the sun constant using the sun as a fixed reference point helps them return to nectar and pollen sources time and time again. The position of sun also enables a bee to indicate to the others the exact direction of where they found the food. A bees eyes are also sensitive to polarized light, which can penetrate through thick cloud, so bees are able to still use the sun for navigation even in poor weather.
#7 Most bees are solitary
While we tend to imagine that thousands of bees living in hives within a large colony as the norm, most bees aren't as social as you might think. The vast majority of bees in the UK (around 90%) actually live in solitary. Other than honeybees and some bumblebees, all other bees prefer to live alone. Being loners, solitary bees fly around by themselves which is why swarms of bees are rarely seen in our gardens unless you live near some honeybee hives!
#8 Worker honeybees fly a very long way in a very short time!
In their very short lives of six to eight weeks, a typical worker will fly over 90,000 miles searching to the best quality pollen and nectar. That's the equivalent of flying around the earth's circumference one and a half times! Reaching speeds of up to 20mph in the right conditions these speedy bees are continually buzzing around doing their important and amazing work.
#9 Beekeeping has been around a long time!
The earliest examples of beekeeping date back at least 4,500 years to the Neolithic period. There is evidence that people were collecting and using honey a long time before that, at least 150,000 years ago, but they were collecting wild honey by climbing trees! Domesticated beekeeping however was a common practice throughout the ancient world, starting at least as early as 2500 BC in Egypt and possibly even earlier in China and other parts of Asia. Depictions of beehives, honeypots, and even beekeepers using smoke to calm bees, were found on the walls of the Sun Temple of the Egyptian pharaoh Nyuserre Ini.
#10 Bees have amazing brains!
A bees brain is only 2 cubic millimetres, that's around the size of a sesame seed, but despite being tiny it is absolutely remarkable. In studies it's been shown that bees can distinguish between types of flowers, shapes, patterns as well as learning categories, sequences and combinations! It has also been shown that bees take into account social conditions, time of day, location, and the different sensory stimuli.
Bees truly are amazing complex insects!