10 Fascinating Bee Questions With Answers

Foraging Honey Bees

Foraging Honey Bees

 
 

How Many Kinds Of Bees Are There?

There are almost 20,000 species of bees. These species include sweat bees, bumble bees, large and small carpenter bees to name a few. There are only approximately 44 sub species of bees that are actually honey bees though. That is less than a quarter of 1% of all bees are honey bees. A rather small selection.

 

Do Bee Stings Hurt?

Most bees do die after they sting something. For honey bees, this is only true with worker bees though. Worker bees are female bees that do the majority of work for and around the hive. They clean the hive, make wax, make the comb, feed the young, control the temperature, make new queens, kick the males out, etc. One of the most serious tasks they are given is defending the hive and this is a task they will give their lives for when they sting.

Drones, or male bees, do not have a stinger. The male drone is only there to fertilize a new queen bee. They will actually meet in an area which the queen will look for. When a drone fertilizes a queen he will die, in a very similar way the worker bee dies when they sting. The queen bee will be fertilized by 10 to 15 drones before returning to the hive.

Edge of eye sting, swelling through face quadrant including sinuses.

Edge of eye sting, swelling through face quadrant including sinuses.

 

What Is A Queen Bee?

A queen bee is the bee that lays all the bee eggs, creates the attitude of the hive as a whole, and keeps the hive alive. The worker bees will actually create the queen bee by feeding her royal jelly. This is a high protein food that allows maximum growth and it doesn't have inhibitors like bee bread that is fed to most bees. This allows her to grow to full maturity as well as her reproductive organs.

The queen bee takes longer than other bees to complete metamorphosis, a total of 24 days to emerge from her cell. If there are more than one queen at a time, the first to emerge will generally go to the other cells and sting the queen that is still in the cell to death. Then there is a mating flight and she will return to take over the bee colony. If a colony is particularly aggressive, a beekeeper can replace the queen and change the attitude of the whole colony because the queen bee controls the other bee's attitude with pheromones.

An interesting side note about a queen bee is that the queen bee can sting as many times as she wants because her stinger is smooth while worker bees have a barbed stinger. Luckily, the queen bee is one of the most docile honey bees.

A marked queen honey bee.

A marked queen honey bee.

 

How Is Honey Made?

Honey is made from honey bees traveling to flowers and finding nectar. This is a sugary liquid that the bee will drink and store in their crop, which is an extra stomach that the honey bee has. While there the nectar is mixed with enzymes in the crop and it changes the pH and the chemical composition. This is the beginning of the liquid being transformed for long-term storage.

When the honey bee flies back to the hive, it will regurgitate the liquid from its crop to another honey bee. This will continue until the liquid that was once nectar is at honey comb within the hive that is prepared for the storage of honey. The liquid is then regurgitate into the comb and the colony of bees will flap their wings to evaporate water from this mixture. Generally, when the moisture content is less than around 17% water content the bees will seal the cell off with bee's wax. Honey can survive indefinitely when stored away from water and air.

 

What Goes Into Making A Pound Of Honey?

One pound of honey is created from tons of work by many honey bees. To make one pound of honey bees will travel over 50,000 miles, I do say bees because one bee will produce roughly 1 1/2 teaspoons of honey in its lifetime. That means that with one pound of honey there are 64.04 teaspoons, so it takes 47 honey bees to make one pound of honey and it takes their whole life to accomplish this.

In the 50,000 miles they will have visited over 2.6 million flowers to collect enough nectar to transform it into one pound of honey. And the total distance traveled to collect all of this nectar would be a little more than around the world twice. All of this is a great feat just for one pound of honey, but if a bee hive colony makes between 60 pounds to 100 pounds of honey in a season....

 

Do Bees Poop In Their Honey?

Bees are surprisingly clean, the bees will not poop in their honey. They will hold their poop until they can leave the hive for a cleansing flight, even during the winter. If they do need to relieve themselves inside of the hive before they can fly, this is a process which will occur as far from their food sources as possible.

Some people think that bee poop would not smell because of the sweat food they eat, but if you are ever be a hive when the weather warms enough for a cleansing flight after a long cold - you will know that is not true.

 

How Is Bee's Wax Made?

I generally laugh about bee's wax and say it is the bee's sweat. What actually happens is when bees are between 12 and 20 days old they develop an gland that is specialized to create wax from in their abdomen. The gland takes sugar from honey and converts it into a flaky wax secretion or sweat. This wax is then chewed into softer more malleable substance and used to create honeycomb and caps. With the information that you have gained about honey production, imagine that it takes six pounds of honey to make one pound of bee's wax.

Honey bees secreting beeswax flakes.

Honey bees secreting beeswax flakes.

 

Should I Be Concerned When The Bees Cluster Around The Entrance?

Most of the time there is nothing to be concerned about. This is generally called "bearding" in which the worker bees are attempting to cool the bee hive off. They are creating a breeze through the hive and can mass around the entrance. It reminds me of a giant grizzly beard at times because the mass is so large.

Depending on the style of bee hive a beekeeper has, there may be very little for them to do in a situation like this but to let the bees handle the situation themselves. Some solutions would be creating a gap in the cover, removing the bottom board in a screened bottom board, and that is about it.

 

Will There Be Trouble Between My Dogs and Bees?

Generally, I would lean towards no there won't. But each bee hive is different and I would not be able to guarantee being conflict free. If the dog stays away from the hive, there should be no issues since honey bees will defend themselves and their hives but besides that are pretty docile creatures.

I have seen dogs go to the entrance of a bee hive and smell it and the bees did nothing to them at all. But then I have seen a raccoon about ten yards from a hive that got harassed. It generally seems like if there is a history of trying to rob the hive or disturb it the bees will not continue to let such behavior go but until that point things are pretty easy.

 

What Do Bees Do In The Winter?

I live in Ohio, so I am assuming this would mean during cold Winters. In my area, bees ball in the hive or die. Some even die while balled occasionally. To describe what balling is, the queen is in the middle of this mass of worker bees. The mass changes to allow colder bees to come in and warmer bees to move to the fringes. The bees will get into honey stores and feed the queen and keep her alive. To generate heat the worker bees will disconnect or unhinge their wing muscles so that they can work these muscles to generate heat but not flap their wings. These clusters as some will call them will begin to form as the temperature hits around 57 degrees Fahrenheit.