Bees belong to the third largest insect order which also includes wasps and ants. The bee’s eyes, like those of other insects, differ greatly from human eyes. They consist of a pair of compound eyes made up of numerous six-sided facets (28,000 in some dragonflies, 4,000 in house flies) plus three simple eyes. Despite this, their vision is believed to be sharp only for a distance of about 1 m.

Bees, however, are capable of seeing ultraviolet light, which is invisible to humans. The bee is capable of navigating, even on a cloudy day, by cloud-penetrating ultraviolet light. Honey bees also use the sun as a reference point to communicate to other bees the angle of flight to be followed to arrive at newly discovered nectar-bearing flowers.

Bees are in danger of disappearing from our environment. Farming practices continue to disturb the natural habitats and forage of solitary and bumblebees at a rate which gives them little chance for re-establishment. The honeybee is under attack from the varroa mite and it is only the treatment and care provided by beekeepers that is keeping colonies alive. Most wild honeybee colonies have died out as a result of this disease.

Bees belong to the same order as wasps.

Like wasps, bees have mouth parts with a tongue longer than the wasps better suited for gathering nectar from a greater variety of flowers. Bees have feathery body hairs, also known as plumose. Females have brushes on their legs, and they use them to remove pollen that sticks to these body hairs. The pollen is then stored under the abdomen or on the hind legs. Bees are subdivided into several families on the basis of how their wings are veined, and other criteria. There are many unique species of bees, with some living below ground, and a few that even eat wood. One of the most fascinating bees, the giant Indian bee (Apis dorsata) builds a single comb as large as 5′ by 3′ attached to rocks, trees or buildings. Bees are very hard working creatures with a very rigid social order. Colonies kept in hives yield an average of 50 pounds of honey for the beekeeper. Unlike other bees, honeybees do not hibernate during cold weather.

Bees are world-class navigators. Honeybees communicate direction and distance from the hive to nectar sources through a sophisticated dance “language”. In 1973, Karl von Frisch received a Nobel Prize for deciphering this bee language, which consists of a circle dance and a tail wagging dance. It accurately tells other bees the angle from the sun and the distance to the nectar. Bees use the sun as a compass. Even when the sun is obscured by clouds, bees can detect it’s position from the light in brighter patches of the sky. Bees also can see ultraviolet designs in flowers like an airplane circling an airport sees the landing lights on a runway. Honeybees also have a built-in clock that appears to be synchronized with the secretion of nectar from flowers.

Honey Bee, Carpenter bee, Bumble bee, Africanized honey bees

Picture of Honey Bee Collecting Pollen

Bee pollen

Bee pollen is the male seed of a flower blossom which has been gathered by the bees and to which special elements from the bees has been added. The honeybee collects pollen and mixes it with its own digestive enzymes. One pollen granule contains from one hundred thousand to five million pollen spores each capable of reproducing its entire species.

Bee pollen is often referred to as nature’s most complete food. Human consumption of bee pollen is praised in the Bible, other religious books, and ancient Chinese and Egyptian texts. Research studies document the therapeutic efficacy and safety of bee pollen. Clinical tests show that orally ingested bee pollen particles are rapidly and easily absorbed–they pass directly from the stomach into the blood stream. Within two hours after ingestion, bee pollen is found in the blood, in cerebral spinal fluids, and in the urine.

Bee pollen rejuvenates your body, stimulates organs and glands, enhances vitality, and brings about a longer life span. Bee pollen’s ability to consistently and noticeably increase energy levels makes it a favorite substance among many world class athletes and those interested in sustaining and enhancing quality performance.

Bee pollen contains most of the known nutrients, including all of those necessary for human survival. When compared to any other food, it contains a higher percentage of all necessary nutrients. Bee pollen is approximately 25% complete protein containing at least 18 amino acids. In addition, bee pollen provides more than a dozen vitamins, 28 minerals, 11 enzymes or co-enzymes, 14 beneficial fatty acids, 11 carbohydrates, and is rich in minerals, the full spectrum of vitamins, and hormones. It is low in calories. Bee pollen proves to be quite useful for activity enhancement and sports nutrition. It produces an accelerated rate of recovery, including a return to normal heart rate, breathing, and readiness for the next event. Bee pollen improves second and subsequent performances.

Humans not receiving bee pollen show declining performances. It provides energy, stamina, and strength, and enhances performance levels. Bee pollen should not be confused with the pollen that is blown by the wind and is a common cause of allergies. Allergy-causing pollen is called anemophiles; it is light and easily blown by the wind. Bee pollen is heavier and stickier, and is collected off of bees’ legs by special devices placed at the entrance to hives. It is called entomophiles or “friends of the insects,” and will rarely cause allergy symptoms.

How Bees Make Honey

Honeybees use nectar to make honey. Nectar is almost 80% water with some complex sugars. In fact, if you have ever pulled a honeysuckle blossom out of its stem, nectar is the clear liquid that drops from the end of the blossom. In North America, bees get nectar from flowers like clovers, dandelions, berry bushes and fruit tree blossoms. They use their long, tubelike tongues like straws to suck the nectar out of the flowers and they store it in their “honey stomachs”. Bees actually have two stomachs, their honey stomach which they use like a nectar backpack and their regular stomach. The honey stomach holds almost 70 mg of nectar and when full, it weighs almost as much as the bee does. Honeybees must visit between 100 and 1500 flowers in order to fill their honey stomachs.

The honeybees return to the hive and pass the nectar onto other worker bees. These bees suck the nectar from the honeybee’s stomach through their mouths. These “house bees” “chew” the nectar for about half an hour. During this time, enzymes are breaking the complex sugars in the nectar into simple sugars so that it is both more digestible for the bees and less likely to be attacked by bacteria while it is stored within the hive. The bees then spread the nectar throughout the honeycombs where water evaporates from it, making it a thicker syrup. The bees make the nectar dry even faster by fanning it with their wings. Once the honey is gooey enough, the bees seal off the cell of the honeycomb with a plug of wax. The honey is stored until it is eaten. In one year, a colony of bees eats between 120 and 200 pounds of honey.

Bee facts

*Bees from the same hive visit about 225,000 flowers per day. One single bee usually visits between 50-1000 flowers a day, but can visit up to several thousand.

*Queens will lay almost 2000 eggs a day at a rate of 5 or 6 a minute. Between 175,000-200,000 eggs are laid per year.

*The average hive temperature is 93.5 degrees.

*Beeswax production in most hives is about 1 1/2% to 2% of the total honey yield.

*About 8 pounds of honey is eaten by bees to produce 1 pound of beeswax.

*Honeybees are the only insects that produce food for humans.

*Just a single hive contains approximately 40-45,000 bees!

*During honey production periods, a bee’s life span is about 6 weeks.

*Honeybees visit about 2 million flowers to make one pound of honey.

*A bee travels an average of 1600 round trips in order to produce one ounce of honey; up to 6 miles per trip. To produce 2 pounds of honey, bees travel a distance equal to 4 times around the earth.

*Bees fly an average of 13-15 mph.